1

FDA Recommends Third Pfizer Vaccine Booster Shot: Only for age 65 and high risk of severe COVID-19

September 17, 2021 — In an all-day meeting that became somewhat disorganized at the end, the Vaccines and Related Biologic Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended, by unanimous 18-0 vote, authorization for third booster doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, officially now called Comirnaty, but restricted to those either age 65 and older or at “high risk of severe COVID-19.” By informal poll, the committee also recommended including in the latter category health care workers and others at increased likelihood of exposure by virtue of occupation. Exactly who is at “high risk” will be left to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who are expected to meet next week. Basic eligibility for booster doses kicks in six months after primary vaccination has been completed.

This unplanned vote was taken after the planned vote on authorizing third booster doses for the general public without age or other restrictions was resoundingly defeated, 16-2. The consensus expressed by the members seemed to be that the data provided by Pfizer with their application was of low quality and based on a study with small sample size of 330 test subjects. The cost-benefit balance was clearer, the committee clearly thought, with older people whose immune systems are naturally and normally less robust. Because vaccines work by teaching the immune system to recognize a virus, the effectiveness of a vaccine is ordinarily reduced with age.

The first vote was a blunt rejection of expressed desire for widespread booster dose authorization sought by Pfizer and the Biden administration. While the FDA is not obligated to follow the recommendations of its advisory committees of outside experts, it is extremely rare for them to be overruled.

Most of the questions from the committee were directed to guest experts from the Israeli Ministry of Health and the Weizmann Institute. Israel leads the world in vaccinating its population, approximately three months ahead of the US and the UK, and made the decision to authorize third booster doses beginning in July in phases, first to age 60 and older and eventually within a few weeks down to age 16 and older. The Israeli experts said that the virus reproduction rate, known as R0 (“R-nought”), was about 1.3 when booster doses began to be administered, a bad situation corresponding to a doubling of infections every 10 days, and fell to 0.96 by the end of August, a slight day-to-day decrease in total infections. They said that their model predicted that without booster doses the entire hospital capacity of the nation would have been exhausted by the beginning of September.

The Israeli experts emphasized that the vaccines even without a third booster dose remained very protective, but they observed a reduction in effectiveness from 97% after initially completing full vaccination to 85% six months later. While any vaccine more than 50% is medically valuable, they explained that these numbers implied a breakthrough rate of 3% (=100%-97%) rising to 15% (=100%-85%), a five-fold increase. Officially, the committee was supposed to consider only the data submitted by Pfizer with the application, using the Israeli data only for general guidance.

Because almost all useful data on the virus now must be derived from real-world observational studies rather than randomized controlled trials, it is difficult if not impossible to determine whether increasing occurrences of breakthrough infections are attributable to waning vaccine effectiveness per se or to other factors such as the nearly universal prevalence of the newer delta variant of the virus. Such statistical confounding factors left the committee unsure of how to compare risks and benefits. Ultimately, the committee was concerned that booster doses in young people might cause rare but significant adverse effects, such as myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), and seemed to conclude that the data were insufficient to compare such risks to those resulting from COVID-19 infection.

There was a clear expectation that Pfizer would reapply for authorization of booster doses for the general public without age restriction once they had better data.




Sticking With Vax Policy?: McKee’s Mandate Tests His Cojones

Governor McKee's Prickly Challenge

News Analysis

Will RI Governor Dan McKee stand his ground on the August 18 mandate that all RI health care workers must receive their final dose of COVID-19 vaccine by October 1 or face consequences, possibly including termination of employment?

There has been considerable resistance, including a letter drafted by Rep. Arthur Corvese signed by 32 members of the state House of Representatives, “respectfully calling upon Governor Daniel McKee to amend the October 1st deadline… and to direct the Rhode Island Department of Health to develop appropriate guidelines for those individuals to retain their employment while maintaining the public health.” (Rep. Raymond Hull removed his name this morning, according to the Legislative Press and Information Bureau.)

The governor has shown a reluctance to expend political capital in such disputes, dissembling for two full weeks on requiring masks in schools. During that time, he declined to issue a state mandate while also saying that he expected local school districts to comply with guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – which recommends “universal indoor masking” – until ultimately reversing himself and issuing Executive Order 21-87 on August 19. During those two weeks, the governor allowed local school committees and superintendents to fight it out separately with parents and trade labor unions.

Who is resisting nationally?

It is well established that vaccination take-up varies enormously depending upon such factors as education and location.

A study published July 30 by the CDC in their flagship journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report noted that, “Vaccination coverage was highest among physicians and advanced practice providers (75.1%) and lowest among nurses (56.7%) and aides (45.6%). Among aides (including certified nursing assistants, nurse aides, medication aides, and medication assistants), coverage was lower in facilities located in zip code areas with higher social vulnerability (social and structural factors associated with adverse health outcomes), corresponding to vaccination disparities present in the wider community.”

Furthermore, the study said, “The proportion of persons who declined COVID-19 vaccination ranged from 11.1% among physicians to 33.2% among aides. Reported recent COVID-19 infections ranged from 0.7% among physicians to 3.0% among aides. The percentage of aides who were completely vaccinated was lower among those working in facilities located in ZIP code areas with higher proportions of ethnic and racial minorities (43.5% versus 50.5%), lower household median income (40.5% versus 48.1%), higher poverty (42.4% versus 49.2%), and lower high school completion (42.2% versus 49.3%).”

Why is there any reluctance among health care professionals to be vaccinated, as the overwhelming scientific consensus is that COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the US are safe and effective? The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists “recommends that all eligible persons, including pregnant and lactating individuals, receive a COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine series,” countering a frequent objection cited as a basis for hesitancy.

Legal structure for the mandate

Technically, the Rhode Island health care worker vaccination mandate was not issued by the governor but by the RI Department of Health (RIDOH) as a formal emergency rule. RIDOH explains, “The regulation applies to all individuals who work in RIDOH-licensed health care facilities and all licensed healthcare providers, whether they work in a licensed facility or not. ‘Healthcare worker’ means any person who is temporarily or permanently employed by or at, or who serves as a volunteer in, or has an employment contract with, a RIDOH-licensed healthcare facility, and has or may have direct contact with a patient in that health care facility. ‘Healthcare provider’ means any person licensed by RIDOH to provide or otherwise lawfully providing health care services.”

DOH minced no words in their justification for the emergency regulation: “The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, also known as COVID-19, has mutated into a more contagious variant, known as the Delta variant. As of July 4, 2021, Rhode Island had a ‘moderate transmission’ rate of 11.2 cases per 100,000 people, but as of August 17, 2021, Rhode Island’s transmission rate has increased to ‘high transmission’ of more than 187 cases per 100,000 people. New hospitalizations by week have more than quadrupled within that same time period.”

The regulated class presents an especially dangerous threat to the public, DOH said: “Health care workers and health care providers interact with some of Rhode Island’s most vulnerable populations: individuals who are immunocompromised and individuals with co-morbidities. These vulnerable populations are at risk for adverse health outcomes from COVID-19. As COVID-19 positive individuals are often asymptomatic or presymptomatic, health care workers and health care providers may unintentionally spread infection to these vulnerable patients. In order to protect these vulnerable populations, RIDOH is mandating that all health care workers and health care providers be vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 1, 2021.”

The broad scope of the DOH definition of “health care worker” appears to encompass everything from pharmacy aides to emergency medical technicians (EMTs) on ambulances, but this is reasonable given that they are likely to encounter precisely the vulnerable patient population at greatest risk from complications of COVID-19 if infected. It is relatively common for firefighters and police officers to hold EMT certification, leading to claims that a vaccine mandate is a violation of collective bargaining agreements and consequent threat of lawsuits by trade labor unions, but it is difficult to imagine a court giving much credence to such objections.

Reading between the lines, it seems clear that the governor is pressed between opposing forces: the doctors and scientists on one side, and the politicians and unions on the opposite side. The governor could tell DOH to reverse the vaccination mandate, but that could have major fallout, even protest resignations from senior staff, if he tried it. DOH has made clear in the course of their formal rulemaking that they are strongly committed to the mandate.

So far, Gov. McKee has exhibited one great management strength: he knows what he doesn’t know – he takes advice on medical matters from doctors and DOH, and he takes advice on hurricane planning from emergency management experts and the National Guard. There is no legitimate reason for the governor to back down on the vaccination mandate for health care workers, just as there is no legitimate reason for the vast majority of health care workers to refuse vaccination.




Out this September: Looking for some new entertainment? Look no further!

Motif contributor Katarina Dulude rounded up her top picks for entertainment this September, including a few local selections. 

September 2: If spooky season can’t come soon enough for you, check out What We Do in the Shadows, which will be returning for its third season on September 2. This horror comedy mockumentary was created by Jemaine Clement and produced by Taika Waititi, who is perhaps best known for directing Thor: Ragnarok and the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder. The show is based on the creators’ earlier film of the same name and tells the story of four vampire roommates and their familiar living in modern times in Staten Island. Its third season will be available on September 2 on FX and Hulu. It’s worth taking a bite out of this incredibly hilarious and absurdly fun show.

September 3: The latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings takes place after the events of Avengers: Endgame and Loki and follows Shang-Chi, a skilled martial artist, who is drawn back into The Ten Rings, a shady organization, to confront the past he left behind. Director Daniel Cretton described the film as both funny and “a cross between a classic kung fu film and a family drama.” The film will receive a 45-day theatrical release.

September 9-17: Looking for a live performance? The Historical Fantasy of Esek Hopkins by Haus of Glitter will be presented outdoors through the Wilbury Theatre Group at the former home of Esek Hopkins. The activist dance opera is described by co-directors Anthony Andrade, Assitan Coulibaly, ​Steven Choummalaithong, Matt Garza and Trent Lee as “a story of mermaids, revolution and resilience [that] exposes how our BIPOC lineages intersect with Hopkins’ legacy of white supremacy.” Tickets are available here.

September 14: For those who enjoy a good romance, Farah Naz Rishi’s It All Comes Back to You will be released midway through September. The contemporary romance book centers around teens Kiran and Deen. Kiran doesn’t know what to make of her sister’s new quickly moving relationship. Deen is thrilled his brother has found a girlfriend so that the attention can shift off of him for a while. However, when Deen and Kiran come face to face, they agree to keep their past a secret. Four years prior they dated until Deen ghosted Kiran without an explanation. Now, Kiran is determined to find out why and Deen is equally determined to make sure she never finds out. 

September 17: Netflix’s hit British dramedy series Sex Education makes its return this September. For those who haven’t seen the series, it begins with Otis, the teenage son of a sex therapist, who discovers that despite his own inexperience, he is adept at giving sex advice to others. With his best friend and crush, he turns this into a business. The series explores the emotional (and sexual) likes of teens in a way that is funny, awkward and incredibly heartfelt. Much of the third series has been kept under wraps, but it’s clear that a new headmistress will be changing things up at the teens’ school, for better or worse.

September 21: Inspired by the story of Wu Zetian, the only female emperor in Chinese history, the book Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao will be released this month. Described as Pacific Rim meets The Handmaid’s Tale, the sci-fi reimaging follows Wu Zetian, who seeks vengeance for her sister’s death at the hands of an intensely patriarchal military system that pairs boys and girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots used to battle mecha aliens. While boys are revered, girls must serve as their concubines and often die from the mental strain. When Zetian gets her vengeance on the boy responsible for her sister’s death and emerges unscathed, it is discovered that she is an Iron Widow, a special type of female pilot, much-feared and much-silenced. She is paired with the strongest and most controversial male pilot in an attempt to tame her, but after getting a taste for power, Zetian will not give it up.

September 30-October 24: Opening their 37th season, A Lie Agreed Upon will be premiering at The Gamm Theatre on the last day of September. This play, written and directed by Tony Estrella, modernizes Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People. “Inconvenient truths fight alternative facts, minority rights battle majority rule, and individual conscience clashes with economic interest in this powerful reinvention of Ibsen’s masterpiece.” More information is available here.




Portable Magic: New local releases will warm you on cool nights

Whether you’re spending time outside or cozying up with cider and stews this fall, it’s always good to have a book to keep you company. RI authors have you covered with these upcoming releases.

Great for Playing Tourist

Rhode Island 39 Club: Your Passport and Guide to Exploring Rhode Island, by Martin Podkoch, with contributions from Paul Alexander

Fall turns your everyday travels into explorations of the beauty lurking all around, and Podkoch gives readers something to see in every municipality in Rhode Island, including restaurants, forests and, of course, beaches. To create this book, Podkoch gathered stories from 45 Rhode Island writers all around the state and compiled them into this anthology.

While You’re People-Watching

Rhode Island Stories, by Dr. Michael Fine

How often do we walk down a street or through a grocery store, hardly aware of the interiority of those around us? Fine poses just this question in Rhode Island Stories, which explores what brings us together and the individuality that makes up our state. 

“Literature and imagination can build a better world,” Fine says in a quote on his website. “Imagination can help us see one another and envision what we can do together when we stop fighting and start dreaming.”

Educate Yourself

Correctional, by Ravi Shankar

This memoir explores Ravi Shankar’s experiences with the criminal justice system, mass media and the structural racism therein. In this work, Shankar recounts his own thoughts and personal history, and examines race, class and privilege. 

As written in an excerpt quoted on his website:  “I am not judged by them and thereby can suspend my own judgment of myself, halt the recitation of missteps that unreels obsessively in my head. On my bunk with these men for this brief instant in time, playing chess, cards and basketball, sharing stories along with our interpretation of certain statutes and photos of our family, I find myself no more or less human than anyone around me.”

Thanks for Everything (Now Get Out): Can we Restore Neighborhoods without Destroying Them?, by Joseph Margulies

Margulies is a Cornell law professor and civil rights attorney. In this upcoming work, he explores the history of Olneyville through the present onset of gentrification. Including years of research and interviews, this book argues that in order to save urban neighborhoods heading toward gentrifying, low-income residents must be given “ownership and control of neighborhood assets.”

Destruction of neighborhoods and ongoing gentrification is a major issue in Providence and in cities around the country. This book seeks to explore the ways that cities can prioritize a better future and organize around its possibility.

Here She Is, by Hilary Levey Friedman

Sociologist, NOW president and daughter of a former Miss America are the credentials that make Hilary Levey Friedman an expert on pageants, and the way that pageantry has become integral to much of American culture — from television to cheerleaders. This book also explores the ableism and racism baked into these institutions, and the damaging, destructive legacy it has built. 

Here She Is complicates the narrative and explores the complexities of how pageantry has impacted women throughout American history.

Travel Through Space

CONSETLIS VOSS: VOL. 3 — REFORMAT, by Kira Leigh

Consetlis Voss is a trilogy, and its third installment will be released at the end of this month. Exploring power politics through dystopic storytelling, author Kira Leigh crafts a space opera that takes readers into a world that plays with classic tropes and aims to challenge readers. It is “queer, anime-inspired, [and] psychological sci-fi.” The first two installments, “Colour Theory,” and “Pattern Recognition,” were released earlier this summer.




Fall in the Stars: What does the season hold?

When the sun, moving southward, reaches the celestial equator, summer is officially over. A chart erected for the moment the sun enters tropical Libra provides clues to what the season may bring. This year, that magical moment occurs on September 22 at 3:21 EDT. This chart has some powerful energies at work. Saturn and Uranus continue their year-long battle between the traditional and the radical. Saturn is staid and conservative, and colors between the lines. Uranus loves chaos and upset, and when coloring, has no concept of lines. Mars makes an easy aspect to Saturn, which allows the two planets to blend their energies with ease. Saturn and Mars are known as the Greater and Lesser Malefic. Easy for them, perhaps not so easy for us. Things can get ugly this season. Mercury opposes the Moon in this chart. Mercury represents the voice of the people, and the Moon also represents the people. So, discord is in the air and those voices will not be silenced. Saturn is the big dog in this chart and one thing Saturn does is make you work for it. No shortcuts. Do your homework. 

Just before the Last Quarter Moon on the 28th, Mercury turns retrograde and remains so until October 18. Y’all know the drill about Mercury retrograde; get papers signed and initiate all new activity before the retrograde period begins. During the retrograde period, revise, review, meditate and double check all your appointments. Be ready to change your plans because communication snafus are the norm during these periods.

The New Moon on October 6 has retro Mercury snuggling up to Mars, Sun and Moon. Pluto turns direct in Capricorn, kicking up some sludge from the netherworld. A few days later, Saturn turns direct, adding to the fun.  When planets change direction, they are slow and their energy is concentrated. Expect some conversations. The Libra energy is strong, and Libra likes to make nice-nice. You may be able to get over some hurdles in your relationships. The big guys, Pluto and Saturn, speak to the collective and world events, but they often hit home.  Pluto brings up the crap while Saturn tries to keep it all within the confines of social order.  

At the Full Moon on October 20, the Sun/Moon dynamic falls across the Libra/Aries axis. Relationships are on the table with Sun in Libra loving those relationships while Moon in Aries favors independence and going it alone.  Mercury is direct, so conversations clear things up. Jupiter has also turned in direct motion. Jupiter brings expansion and big thinking into our lives, which is an antidote to Saturn’s tendency to contract. During this period leading up to and beyond the Full Moon, a weather event or environmental event is possible. Earth is wounded and she’s fighting back. Fighting Mars squares off with Pluto; don’t expect it to be pretty. Mars has a lot to do with upticks in the virus these days. This can be an explosive aspect with some bad juju surfacing around this period. 

The New Moon in Scorpio on November 4 opposes Uranus in Taurus. Mars has just moved into Scorpio and will square Saturn and oppose Uranus in the lead-up to the Full Moon on the 19th. This will aggravate the year-long tensions between Saturn and Uranus. Expect virus stuff, social unrest and some earth-shattering events. Mars in Scorpio takes no prisoners, and he’s messing with the big guys. Mars will light a fire and stir the pot until it bubbles over. Hang on to your hat. Some events are bigger than you, although you can be caught up in it. Take a breath and try not to become too emotional. You’ll need logic and a cool head to navigate the roller coaster of life. Don’t worry about the things you can’t control. Work on what you can and leave the rest up to the universe.

The New Moon on December 4 is a Solar Eclipse in Sagittarius. Jupiter, the ruler of Sagittarius, can be a benevolent influence. Sagittarius rules religion, foreign relations and foreign travel. Folks may be prone to exaggeration, promising more than they can deliver. At this time, Venus in Capricorn snuggles up to Pluto, bringing up questions of value and worth. While budgets, personal and national, are topics of concern for some, it becomes a question of self-worth. Remember to give yourself a pat on the back. Sometimes getting through the day is a major achievement. 

The season closes with a Full Moon on the 18th, bringing Sagittarius and Gemini to the fore. Venus, still running with Pluto, is turning retrograde. Venus in Capricorn takes care of business and finance. She is not extravagant here, looking for quality over quantity. In love, Venus in Capricorn is slow to start. If the relationships survive the first bumps, it is a good guess that it will last. But remember: When Venus is retrograde, it is a time to rethink relationships. Flaws in relationships surface, and what you could tolerate in another person becomes intolerable.  Venus turns direct in late January 2022. Issues around love and money become clearer then.

We live in interesting times and it is a matter of opinion whether that is a blessing or a curse. We must live our daily lives amid the turbulence around us. This fall season brings a lot of that turbulent energy to the surface. World events may be shattering, but on a personal level, strive to remain centered and focused.




Lunar Notes

Aries: As summer winds down, you become more active. With no heat waves to hinder you, you get out and start moving. You engage in some meaningful conversations with those close to you. Mid-month, those conversations may become more heated. Don’t get angry, but do get your point across.

Taurus: While you are not quite ready to give up summer’s fun and games, you do begin some of that annual fall tidying up and organizing. You manage to juggle that with some interesting conversations and get-togethers with some of your more mystical friends. Your standing in the community becomes important.

Gemini: While you seem light-hearted and full of fun, there is some serious stuff going on with you beneath the surface. This could have something to do with your childhood or something/someone from the past. Don’t let it spoil your fun, you’ll figure it out sooner or later. In the meantime, take the fun when it comes.

Cancer: The Crab is busy these days. Action occurs on a lot of levels, from the serious and very personal to the fun, carefree activities that take your mind off all the heavy stuff going on. You manage to maintain an even keel. Some unusual action from the friend sector holds some surprises for you. A conversation is called for.

Leo: Have serious conversations about money and what is important to you. Your personal relationships come under scrutiny. While some are worthwhile and worth the effort, others no longer serve your highest good. Get it all sorted out before month-end when Mercury goes retrograde. You feel like spiffing up your personal space. 

Virgo: September’s New Moon in Virgo infuses you with the energy to make some changes. This is a good time for you to begin to make those changes; you might not see results for a while, but the energy is there for you to plant seeds of change. There’s a lot going on in your daily routine; figure out what matters to you the most.

Libra: While you are open and up front with everyone, there is much going on behind the scenes. No matter what it is, you so enjoy the lovely conversations and interactions you are having with those around you. There is a mix of the serious and the fun stuff. You take care of business, but also take advantage of the fun stuff.

Scorpio: When Venus moves into your sign on the 11th, don’t be tempted by some luxury item that you can’t seem to resist. Resist! Do take advantage of the many social engagements that come your way. Venus attracts and brings the fun. Don’t ignore other issues that are more serious. Remember to take care of business. 

Sagittarius: This month features interaction with folks from all aspects of your life. The personal, professional and the casual are all thrown into the mix. You think about changing direction or moving to a different space — not necessarily on the physical plane, but mentally and emotionally. Give it some thought. A conversation with a friend helps.

Capricorn: You may be feeling extravagant with Jupiter in your money sector, but Saturn also is there, and Saturn, your ruler, puts the brakes on. Saturn says spend it wisely. Money matters aside, some romance and other enjoyable activities head your way during this period. When you talk, people listen.

Aquarius: September brings you some favorable reviews. Don’t let it go to your head. Saturn in your sign is sure to set you straight if you get too cocky. Jupiter also is there like a guardian angel. It’s like a tug of war with these guys, and you’re in the middle. Keep your feet on the ground and do what you think is best.

Pisces: The ping pong ball bounces back and forth between you and the significant others in your life.  Conversations are deep and probing. Keep a cool head and stay the course. You know what you want and where you stand. Don’t get muddled. Remember to breathe, and be sure to take a breath before you answer.  




Green New Careers: The Sunrise Movement challenges people to imagine their role in a brighter future

The Sunrise Movement, a youth-led organization set on stopping the climate crisis while creating millions of fair-paying and sustainable jobs in the process, recently launched a Green New Careers website. The site invites users to imagine not only a better future that tackles the climate crisis head on, but what role they would play in it.

Paris Moran, Digital Director of Sunrise Movement shared, “We launched Green New Careers to show another future is possible – one that’s not extractive and includes fulfilling, good paying jobs that will revitalize our communities and combat climate change. Sunrise is excited and proud to launch Green New Careers to meet young people where they are and bring them into the political process in ways that our lawmakers often fail to – by being accessible and engaging for the next generation. This is how we build public support for good jobs combating the climate crisis, this is how we build the movement for a Civilian Climate Corps, this is how we will kick-off the Decade of the Green New Deal.”

The site offers information as well as a quiz in which users are able to discover which Green New Career type is best suited to them, whether that be careworker, observer, naturalist, communicator, organizer, builder, grower or analyst. Each type has its own page in which users can learn more about the valuable work they could perform toward a more sustainable and equitable future should politicians take bold climate action. 

“This year, we emerged from an apocalyptic global pandemic only to face the brunt of the climate crisis in the form of deadly heat waves, droughts and destructive storms. The climate crisis is here and the good news is we have the chance to pass one piece of the solution –  a bold Civilian Climate Corps,” said Varshini Prakash, Executive Director of Sunrise Movement. “The climate priorities in the reconciliation package must match the scale and urgency of the climate crisis, and Green New Careers is just one way we’re bringing people into the fight, especially for young people growing up and feeling the despair that comes with seeing your world burn with no solution in sight. We’re hoping that through this we can bring hope and vision for a livable future as we push our politicians to deliver for us.”

All the power and technology to halt the climate crisis already exists. A future in which both the planet and its people flourish is entirely possible. Through its Green New Careers, Sunrise invites us to see that better future. The next step is getting our politicians to see it, too.




Are We Ready?: A roundup of environmental happenings from ecoRI News

An Unenforced Emissions Law Means Diesel Trucks Can Pollute at Will

Your personal vehicle has to undergo an emissions check every two years, but Rhode Island doesn’t inspect long-haul trucks and heavy-duty vehicles for emissions at all, in spite of a 21-year-old law mandating such checks.

In mid-July, 21 years ago, a law was passed to crack down on diesel emissions emanating from Rhode Island’s largest vehicles.

The amendment to the state’s General Law (§ 31-47.2) acknowledged that heavy-duty diesel vehicles contribute significantly to air pollution and diminished “the quality of life and health” of all Rhode Island residents.

“It is in the public interest to establish a program regulating exhaust emissions from heavy-duty diesel trucks and buses traveling within Rhode Island,” the law stated. It directed the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) to tackle the issue and launch such a program by 2003.

As of this month, according to state officials, “the program has not yet commenced.”

According to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, heavy-duty diesel vehicles emit about 20% of all transportation emissions. These emissions include carbon dioxide and monoxide, nitrogen oxides and ultrafine particulate matter. All are associated with a host of environmental and public health impacts.

DMV spokesperson Paul Grimaldi said test methods are now expected to be defined by the end of this year with a program launch no later than 2023.

“Equipment has been ordered and software is currently under development by Opus Inspection,” said Grimaldi, chief of information and public relations with the Department of Revenue, which houses the DMV.

Mushrooms and Mosquitoes Won Summer

Rhode Island experienced the third-rainiest July on record, with most areas receiving more than twice the average monthly precipitation and some areas receiving much more. Local scientists said all that rain likely had an impact on wildlife and the environment, in both positive and negative ways.

In many neighborhoods, it was the mushrooms that were the most visible winners. Mushrooms of numerous species sprouted from lawns, gardens, forests, meadows and elsewhere in huge numbers. Mosquitoes also thrived in puddles and standing water.

Other wildlife didn’t fare nearly as well, however. Butterflies, moths and dragonflies were barely noticed in many areas for much of the month, though that doesn’t mean the insects were killed by the rain. Most were probably just in hiding. They are typically visible only during sunny days, and since July had few sunny days, most species did not make their presence known.

The abundant precipitation provided a significant boost to lawns and wild plants, but many cultivated plants, especially vegetables, struggled to survive. 

The biggest losers were beach-loving humans.

Providence Knowledge District Is Slow to Grasp Climate Reality

For more than a decade, political leaders have seen the overlapping Jewelry District and the I-195 Redevelopment District (aka the Knowledge District) as an area for economic renaissance and development.

The past three years have finally borne the fruits of these political efforts — with at least five multimillion-dollar developments built in these districts and two still under construction — thanks, in large part, to city and state tax incentives and subsidies.

Yet, as dollars are poured into developing the district, the ad hoc preparation for sea-level rise among the various buildings in the area begs the question: How prepared is this burgeoning economic and innovation district to deal with flooding?

Since 2015, the executive director of the Coastal Resources Management Council has been pushing those building in the I-195 Redevelopment District to prepare for at least 3 feet of sea-level rise. But so far, not a regulation exists that requires property owners in the Jewelry District and I-195 Redevelopment District to do so. Instead, these decisions are left to architects and building-project managers. 

Peter Gill Case of Truth Box Inc. and Christine Malecki West of KITE Architects, both of whom have built or are building in the I-195 Redevelopment District, said their decisions to prepare for rising sea levels were not required in any building code, regulation or policy. 

And without these regulations, many of the buildings in the Jewelry District and the I-195 Redevelopment District are more vulnerable.

The Aloft Hotel, for example, which is under construction and sits within 600 feet of the Providence River, has a first floor at an elevation of just 6.5 feet, according to public records. The land on which the building sits will flood with just 5 feet of sea-level rise, according to the Coastal Resources Management Council’s STORMTOOLS. At high tide, 5 feet of sea-level rise overtakes the hotel’s first floor.

For detail on these stories, and to get more of the latest environmental news, visit www.ecoRI.org. Subscribe to ecoRI Newsfree weekly e-newsletter at www.ecoRI.org/subscribe.




Fall’s a Beach: Misquamicut FallFest welcomes the season with style

Looking for a fun way to ring out the old season and ring in the new? Head to the Misquamicut FallFest, September 17 – 19, for music, food and fun. Each action-packed day promises an exciting lineup of outdoor family activities, from carnival rides and games to a Food Truck Rodeo serving chowder and clamcakes, burgers, candy apples, gelato and more. Where else can you take in a panoramic view of Block Island Sound from high up on a Ferris wheel on a crisp (maybe) fall day while slurping a Del’s?

More than 50 vendors will be on hand, offering henna tattoos, face painting, jewelry, candles and other fascinating items and experiences for kids and adults. And speaking of adults, there will be a beer and wine garden situated near the music tent to quench your thirst and gladden your soul.

Charles Trefes, president of the Board for the Misquamicut Business Association, says everyone is invited to share in the enjoyment, rain or shine. He encourages visitors to bring friends and family to the three-day festival, celebrating the beauty of the season and Misquamicut State Beach’s seaside charm. 

Musical guests representing a variety of genres will be performing throughout the weekend and, as in years past, a magician or two will add some surprise.

Sunday’s Annual Classic Car Show, in memory of Big John Hodis, former president of the Misquamicut Car Club, will be held in the main parking lot on Sunday from 11am until 3pm. There, trophies, prizes and giveaways will ramp up the show, hosted by classic car super emcee The Doc and 102.3 The Wolf. All classic and specialty cars are welcome, and drivers and their passengers will receive free tickets to the festival — normally $10 (children under 7 are free, as is parking).

Misquamicut FallFest takes place Sep 17-19, at Misquamicut Beach. For more info, go to misquamicutfestival.org. As of this writing, facemasks will be optional and no proof of vaccination necessary.




Plantastic!: A roundup of vegan restaurants

Cranston

Raffa Real Food, 19 Sharpe Dr, Cranston*

Cumberland

Blackstone Herbs + Coffee Bar, 3 Dexter St (at Broad St), Cumberland

East Greenwich

P.B. Bistro, 241 Main St, East Greenwich*

Middletown

Plant City X, 619 West Main Rd, Middletown

Sprout and Lentil, 796 Aquidneck Ave Unit 3, Middletown

Newport

Root, 6 Broadway, Newport

Pawtucket

Garden Grille, 727 East Ave, Pawtucket*

Wildflour Vegan Bakery and Juice Bar, 727 East Ave, Pawtucket

Providence

Veggie Fun, 123 Dorrance St, PVD

The Grange, 166 Broadway, PVD*

Plant City, 334 S Water St, PVD

PiANTA, 65 Bath St, PVD

Like No Udder, 170 Ives St, PVD

Blush Bakeshop, 408 Atwells Ave, PVD

The Glow Cafe and Juice Bar, 389 Admiral St, PVD

Beatnic (formerly By Chloe), 223 Thayer St, PVD

Smithfield 

Juice Bar & Co., 266 Putnam Pike, Smithfield

Warwick

Celebrated, 901 Warwick Ave, Warwick

Westerly

High Tide Juice Co., 55 Beach St, Westerly*

* Restaurants with an asterisk are vegetarian with many vegan options