August 19: UF In The News, 8/16/21 - 8/19/21

Report shows big spike in mail ballots during 2020 election — The Washington Post, 8/16/21

Fewer than one-third of voters casting ballots in last year’s U.S. presidential election did so at a polling place on Election Day as the coronavirus pandemic led states to greatly expand mail-in balloting and early voting, according to a federal report released early this week.

“The election was a success,” said Michael McDonald, a political science professor at the University of Florida who runs, which tracks turnout back to the 18th century. “There were some people, myself included, that looked at the primary elections last year and were concerned about what would happen in November. Clearly, both voters and election officials rose to the challenge.”

This deadly 'kissing bug' has been mostly ignored. It shouldn't be, this author says. — NBC News, 8/17/21

Norman Beatty, an assistant professor of medicine at UF, shared his expertise on Chagas' disease, a deadly disease that can ultimately destroy a person's digestive system and heart. He has been studying the effects of Chagas' disease since 2015. The disease is caused by the bite of a triatomine bug, also known as a kissing bug, that carries a parasite that is easily transmissible to humans.

Climate change will make heat even deadlier for outdoor workers, study says — The Tampa Bay Times, 8/17/21

Florida’s 2 million outdoor workers — more than 20 percent of its workforce — will be at greater risk of losing their lives and $8.4 billion in total annual earnings. When the heat index rises, it becomes more difficult for workers to cool down, Clyde Fraisse, a professor of agrometeorology UF/IFAS.

“We need to start looking at forecasting, for instance — heat-related or heat indices especially — when you’re going to schedule outside work,” Fraisse said.

Why people who brush still get cavities — FIveThirtyEight, 8/18/21

Turns out, there are specific strains of bacteria — streptococcus mutans, in particular — that are more common in mouths with cavities. And as human diets changed and cavities became more common, those bacteria started taking over our mouths. Robert Burne, a professor of oral biology at UF said, “You can take an animal that naturally develops cavities and feed it a high-sugar diet, and it will get cavities. And if you house it with animals that seem to be naturally resistant to cavities, they will then develop cavities."

As the coronavirus surges in Florida, some vaccine skeptics change their minds — NPR, 8/17/21

As vaccine skeptics have experienced people around them dying from the virus, some have started to change their minds. Phillips Cao, a family practitioner who treats patients at a UF Health clinic in rural Florida, said many older people in the area got coronavirus shots months ago, while younger adults put them off as infections declined sharply in the spring.

"Everybody thought it was kind of dying out or going away, then you had this new variant come in," he said. "It was just ripe for another bad surge."

Can my personal tweets get me fired? — Ladders, 8/18/21

Many Americans are under the mistaken impression that harmful and denigrating social media posts are not actionable due to freedom of speech protections.

“Each semester, I lecture to my students about needing to engage in personal branding when it comes to their online activity,” said Andrew Selepak, a social media professor at UF. “Part of the discussion includes talking about how anything and everything they post to social media will be judged by employers, future employers, grad schools, and even future romantic partners.”

The Chesapeake Bay is awash in drugs — Gizmodo, 8/18/21

In Baltimore sewage industrial pollution and, according to a new report, drugs, leak into the Chesapeake Bay every day. AJ Reisinger, an ecologist at UF who worked on the study, said some of the drugs could have gotten dumped into sinks or storm drains. Some could have also made it to the bay by people merely tossing away drugs in the street.

The secret lives of mosquitoes, the world’s most hated insects — Smithsonian Magazine, 8/19/21

Curators of the Smithsonian's National Mosquito Collection released a 1,300-page compendium detailing the diverse universe of mosquitoes. Lary Reeves, an entomologist at UF who studies mosquito ecology, explained his research on a species of mosquito that lives in Brazil and how the wide world of bugs means nothing is off the table when discovering new mosquito behaviors. “Nothing surprises me anymore about the complexity of mosquito behaviors,” he said. “They do a lot of weird and wild things.”

I spent 5 months trying to coax a cat from my ceiling — The Atlantic, 8/19/21

Writer Bethany Brookshire attempted to adopt a stray cat, and the cat spent much of the first few months avoiding her. Julie Levy, a veterinary scientist at UF, said the ideal window to “socialize” cats to humans is between “five to seven weeks, really early and really narrow." Adult strays might chill out around the person who tames them, but they won’t ever warm to humanity as a group. “It’s not like the cat says, I like people now,” Levy said. “It’s like, Okay, I like you now.”

Got questions about COVID vaccine booster? Here’s some answers. — The Tampa Bay Times, 8/19/21

As the delta variant surges across Florida and the nation, U.S. Health officials say every vaccinated American should get a COVID-19 booster shot. UF epidemiologist Thomas Hladish points to reports of people infected multiple times as evidence that the immunity provided by vaccines lasts longer and is more effective than the natural immunity gained from contracting COVID.