© 2024 WLRN
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The Effect Of Climate Change On Seniors, Vaccine Hesitancy's Effect On Herd Immunity, And Stingrays Snacking

Whitespotted blue eagle ray underwater near the sand eating a shell.
Courtesy of Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch
The whitespotted eagle ray uses its jaws to break apart hard shells like clams, oysters and conch to feed.

A new investigation from WLRN looks at how senior care facilities are at great risk of hurricanes and rising seas. Vaccine hesitancy in South Florida. Plus, new technology to track what different species are eating underwater.

On this Tuesday, May 4, episode of Sundial,

Climate Change's Effect On Seniors

There’s been a big focus over the last year on the dangers posed to the senior population by the coronavirus pandemic. But there’s also a more insidious danger facing them in the years to come — sea level rise and hurricanes.

In these uncertain times, you can rely on WLRN to keep you current on local news and information. Your support is what keeps WLRN strong. Please become a member today. Donate now. Thank you.

“What we found out in talking to people for this story is that there are a lot of problems with care for the elderly in Florida and across the U.S. They have a saying about disasters — they magnify the fault lines that already exist. So, when you have seniors who are frail, have co-morbidities, and other problems already, and you put them in a stressful situation, they just don't do as well,” said WLRN’s environmental reporter Jenny Staletovich.

A new WLRN investigation, based on a report from the nonprofit news service Climate Central, examines the steps taken by nursing homes and assisted living facilities to prepare for rising seas and increasingly powerful storms.

An instance of this was in 2017, when 12 residents at the Hollywood Hills nursing facility died in the days after Hurricane Irma. The storm cut the power in the facility, leaving residents in melting heat.

“One big thing that changed after the Hollywood Hills tragedy is a generator requirement so that eldercare facilities must be able to provide power for a certain number of days and hours after a storm. You have these facilities that are installing these very, very expensive generators, but they're on the ground floor … what good is investing in generators if they're going to flood?” said WLRN Broward County reporter Caitie Switalski Muñoz.

You can read more of their reporting here.

Climate Change Effects On Seniors

Vaccine Hesitancy in Palm Beach County

As more COVID-19 variants continue to spread, and daily vaccination rates are drop, the hopes for herd immunity seem unlikely. Now the goal for public health experts is to get the most vulnerable protected from the virus.

“Suddenly there was just such a drastic drop in the amount of folks that were requesting the vaccine. A few weeks back, we had one event on one Saturday where we inoculated over 500 people. Ever since the pause for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine announcement came, that's drastically dropped. This past weekend, we had an event at a mobile home in a local community where only 55 people signed up to be inoculated,” said Chris Irizarry, the chief operating officer of FoundCare, a non-profit healthcare organization in Palm Beach County providing free and income-based services for predominantly lower-income families.

They’ve been hosting free vaccine clinics across the county for the past several months.

“Our organization is well trusted and well respected in the community. We're starting to now ramp up our outreach efforts. This sudden drop only happened this past week. Now, we're obviously moving our organization to a position where we're going to increase our outreach efforts and get people out there to really realize and understand the need for this [vaccine],” Irizarry said.

Vaccine Hesitancy in Palm Beach County
To more fully understand vaccine-induced immunity, researchers are comparing antibody levels in people who received the Moderna vaccine but still got COVID-19 with levels in people who got the vaccine but didn't fall ill.

Stingrays Snacking

The crunching sounds of sting rays chewing through the shells of mussels, clams and sea snails are the center of a new study by researchers at Florida Atlantic University.

They captured these sounds using a camera with a hydrophone, which is an underwater microphone.

Research Footage of "Shell-crushing" in a Large Marine Predator

It's not only an ASMR sensation. It could also help conservation efforts and be useful for future underwater research.

The next step would be to incorporate these microphones into animal-borne devices, something an animal can wear.

"This is something we've been doing with other devices, such as accelerometers, which are basically like Fitbit for these animals. And being able to now incorporate sound in there is a tremendous win for us because we can figure out potentially what these animals are eating as they're kind of swimming around and doing their normal thing," said Matt Ajemian, who led the study and is an assistant research professor at FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.

The white-spotted eagle ray is a protected species in Florida. But the species is classified endangered globally by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

05-04-2021 SUNDIAL SEG C Rays.mp3
Komodo National Park, home to abundant marine life including manta rays, is popular with divers.

Suria is Sundial's fall 2020 high school intern and a production assistant.
Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the former lead producer behind Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also worked on visual and digital storytelling.