🚗 🚙 Turn your trusty old car into trustworthy journalism Learn more
COVID is still here. And it’s costing the economy.
Sep 12, 2022
Episode 750

COVID is still here. And it’s costing the economy.

Plus, fall vibes!

COVID-19 has been circulating for well over two years, and new research looks at what the disease has meant for the workforce. Kimberly and guest host Amy Scott dig into it. Plus, who’s in charge of investigating a crash in space? Then, is it too early to start talking about leaf peeping and Halloween? Welp, we’re going to do it anyway.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? We’re taking them all. Email us at makemesmart@marketplace.org or leave us a voice message at 508-U-B-SMART. 

Make Me Smart September 12, 2022 transcript


Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.


Kimberly Adams: We should start. Jayk was on top of it anyway. Hello, everyone. Happy Monday. I’m Kimberly Adams. Welcome back to Make Me Smart, where we make today make sense.


Amy Scott: And I’m Amy Scott, in for Kai Ryssdal today. Thanks for joining us on this Monday. We’re gonna do the news and then share a couple of make me smiles and get out of your hair. So Kimberly, let’s start with the news fix. What’ve you got?


Kimberly Adams: Oh, so of course I go space, but space with a little bit of extra political drama – minor political drama, the drama nevertheless. So the Blue Origin, the company Blue Origin, which is the Jeff Bezos company, had a rocket launch that did not go well Monday morning. And it had a serious problem with the New Shepard rocket, which forced the vehicles emergency abort system to jettison the capsule away from the booster. Now there were no people on this rocket, there were no people in the capsule. This was a test flight. And, you know, to the credit of the safety system, the capsule did jettison when there was a problem, and it seems to have landed safely away from danger. So that’s a good test. And according to The Washington Post, the capsule’s parachutes later deployed, and it landed softly in the West Texas desert. So that’s good news. And all of these tests are very important for, you know.


Amy Scott: Right, that’s why you test, right?


Kimberly Adams: This is why you test. Good that this did not happen with people on board. So hopefully whatever the problem is, it will be fixed for the next time. But one interesting thing in the Washington Post story that I didn’t even realize was happening, is that they mentioned, you know, like halfway down the article, the mishap comes as the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have been working to clarify who investigates space flight crashes. And last week, the agency signed an agreement detailing how they work together in the event of a mishap. The NTSB will lead the agency in any commercial space accident, that results in a fatal or serious injury to anyone. If there’s damage to property, and then the FAA would oversee this particular accident because the capsule landed safely and the booster impacted within the designated hazard area, no injuries or public property damage. And it was fascinating to me, because, you know, there’s so much new law and policy and regulations that are going to have to be developed to respond to our increasing activity in space. You know, we just didn’t – an interview that’s going to be running on the tech show about, you know, Apple in their launch and their update of their new iOS and iPhone, that they’ve got a new feature to do SOS alerts using satellite technology as well. And so there’s all of these new gray areas, what belongs to what agency, or do we need new agencies, and I just thought it was fascinating. So on the show page we’ll have this Washington Post article talking about the accident today, but also this joint statement from the NTSB and the FAA, about how they’re gonna handle commercial space accidents.


Amy Scott: It’s like a new frontier of the last frontier, the legal, the legal… Well, I assume that we just had NASA, NASA would investigate? I mean.


Kimberly Adams: NASA is a scientific agency. So NASA is a scientific agency, and we’re talking about commercial. Now they’re both under the Department of Commerce, like the Department of Commerce has like a commercial space division, and NASA is also there, and all these other things live under the Department of Commerce. It’s kind of weird, actually. But NASA has pretty much stepped back and said, look, we’re doing the science stuff. You know, taking people on tours of space, that’s all the commercial folks. Satellites in low Earth orbit? Leave it to the commercial folks. We are focused on Mars, we are focused on the origins of the universe, leaving the rest of it to other folks. And so. I don’t know. Yeah.


Amy Scott: Yeah, that’s really interesting. Good thing we have our Washington based space expert available to translate.


Kimberly Adams: You mean resident nerd. All right.


Amy Scott: I wasn’t gonna say it that way. I got two related items. One I first saw in the Wall Street Journal, but it’s a study out today from the National Bureau of Economic Research, and it estimates that COVID-19 illness has reduced the US labor force by about half a million people. So the labor force would be about 500,000 people, or 0.2% larger if it weren’t for COVID. Which maybe seems small, but I think it’s pretty interesting. What they did, these researchers, who are Gopi Shah Goda at Stanford and Evan Soltas at MIT. And I should say this hasn’t been peer reviewed yet, so, you know, peers, speak up if you see a problem. But they estimate that workers who have week-long absences due to COVID are seven percentage points less likely to be in the labor force a year later. So that illness has an effect. They’re not just talking about long COVID. They also mentioned that COVID-19 illnesses can reduce the labor supply by pushing older workers into retirement. But there are a lot of reasons that people may not come back after an illness and that’s led to foregone earnings. They say at least $9,000 per absence. So pretty interesting research.


Kimberly Adams: Yikes.


Amy Scott: But the other related note is, Ed Yong had a piece in The Atlantic looking at brain fog. Yeah, it’s really interesting and scary. So you guys have done stuff on here about long COVID and about brain fog. But Yong reports that this is a, you know, one of the most common symptoms of long COVID but also hugely misunderstood, even though, he explains, it’s a frequent symptom of a lot of other conditions, including HIV, epilepsy, after seizure. Cancer patients undergoing chemo might experience this, and people with other chronic illnesses, but it’s often dismissed, even joked about. And, you know, basically the TLDR version he posted on Twitter – @edyong209 is his Twitter handle – he says, people with brain fog, quote, struggle with concentration, multitasking and planning, which underlie almost everything. It raises unconscious activities to the level of effortful consciousness and makes easy tasks absurdly hard. So I don’t know if folks out there have dealt with this. We’d love to hear from you. And, and my sympathies. And this clearly needs a lot more study.


Kimberly Adams: Yeah, I mean, we’d love to hear from you with the acknowledgement that it might be challenging. One of the astonishing things to me about that piece, was this idea that there is a definition of what brain fog is, it’s not just oh, I’m more forgetful, or oh, I can’t remember what I’m supposed to be doing, or I lose track of things. No, it’s like your brain changes. And the way that your brain sends signals changes, and listening or reading some of the stories that he highlights in this piece of people, you know, it’s just devastating and debilitating, and, and I can’t imagine the frustration of having it be so dismissed when you know something is different, and you know something is wrong, but no one is taking you seriously. And you know, a lot of the rhetoric around is like, oh, it’s just that you’re getting recovering slowly or you’re not on top of it, you just need to focus harder, and you can’t focus harder. And I also saw that, you know, he was writing that much of the research around brain fog is in dementia patients, and not in these younger people who are experiencing it now. And so just needs like you said, a ton more research. Super fascinating piece. If you can read it, read the whole thing. His thread on Twitter was super informative too. Yes. Smiles. Yes.


Amy Scott: Let’s do some smiles.


Kimberly Adams: You go first, Amy.


Amy Scott: All right, if the thunder stops overhead. We’re in the middle of a storm here, which you might be hearing. Um, so Kimberly, is it too early to talk about Black Friday? It’s always too early to talk about Black Friday. So people have been complaining about Black Friday creep for years. You know, promotions getting earlier and earlier and Christmas trees for sale in August. But Bloomberg columnist Thomas Black said there’s a good reason this year not to focus all our shopping on that extended weekend after Thanksgiving. Supply chain issues. So his argument is we should spread out our shopping, make it easier on the shipping and logistics companies and the retailers, who were staffing up for this crush. If we just spread out our shopping a little it wouldn’t be so bad, which I thought was kind of funny. You know, I’ve heard people protest Black Friday for a lot of reasons, this was a new one to me.


Kimberly Adams: No. You know, that piece was funny, because we’ve been reporting on Marketplace so much about how retailers are sitting on all this inventory, right, that they’re trying to get rid of. And yet here they’re like, oh, but retailers are stocking up for Black Friday. It’s like, well, how much stuff do you need? And I still haven’t seen…


Amy Scott: It’s different stuff, right?


Kimberly Adams: I know, I know.


Amy Scott: The stuff they thought we wanted, we don’t.


Kimberly Adams: That’s what stockpiled, yeah. And I was, you know, talking with one of my relatives about potentially coming for a visit at the end of October, and they were like, oh, great, you can help me put up my Christmas decorations. And I was like, what? It’s the indoor ones. It’s like, so you want to put up your indoor Christmas decorations before you’ve taken down your outdoor Halloween decorations?


Amy Scott: I just can’t. I can’t. But yeah, some of our neighbors down the street have already started the craziness that is their annual Halloween decoration. It’s, you know, September. It’s not even mid-September yet.


Kimberly Adams: Oh, I got a delivery today for a component of my Halloween costume. You have to plan ahead for Halloween. It’s important.


Amy Scott: No, I guess – well, yes. I’m just, you know, speaking of supply chain issues, especially now, if there’s something special you need. I can’t wait to see your costume, by the way.


Kimberly Adams: Thanks, I’m excited about it. It’s one I’ve done before, but I’m doing it more elaborately this year. But speaking of make planning early for things, if you are somebody who likes looking at the fall foliage and the wonderful autumn colors, if you’re in a place where leaves change colors, there’s this really cool map that the Smoky Mountain – oh, gosh, Smoky Mountain National Park, I guess? Yes, I think it’s Smoky Mountain National Park. The tourism site for the Smoky Mountain region has an interactive map that basically uses a pretty advanced algorithm to predict exactly when leaves are going to peak at different parts of the country. I’m clicking around because I’m looking at it. And you can zoom in like really close and get to a county-by-county level to see like what’s green, what’s minimal, patchy, partial near peak, peak, or past the peak. So if you’re planning your, you know, Autumn tours or drives or train rides or whatever for your leaf peeping, you can go to that site and check it out. And it’s cool.


Amy Scott: Oh, this is great. And it’s not just for the Smokies, right, it’s all over?


Kimberly Adams: No, no, no, it’s for the whole country.


Amy Scott: So yes, right now you see the tiniest, minimal change in the northern reaches of the country. It’s starting. That’s exciting.


Kimberly Adams: And it’s always interesting when these maps start to really light up because you start to see the topography of the country revealed in the leaf changes, and I always think that’s fun. So, yeah, if you are planning to shop early for Black Friday, if you want to give hints about your amazing Halloween costumes, or tell us about your planned autumn adventures, you can definitely let us know. And yeah. Are you gonna go look at the leaves anywhere, Amy?


Amy Scott: Oh, I always do but it’s often kind of like by accident when driving a kid to a distant soccer game or, you know, going to see the in-laws, but I always – yeah, I do some leaf peeping. It’s my favorite time of the year.


Kimberly Adams: I’m going to the pumpkin patch and the apple orchard?


Amy Scott: Oh yes, the hayride.


Kimberly Adams: Apple cider. I love, I love some autumn. Okay, that’s it. That’s it. That’s all I got for today, while I wax poetic about the fall. Tomorrow, we’re gonna do some, actually some personal finance, which we don’t do a ton of on the show, without Kai giving the disclaimer of “consult your own financial advisor”. We are going to do – we will of course, a little personal finance for our Tuesday deep dive, talking about being a consumer in our current higher interest rate environment, which so many of us have spent the last couple of decades in this low interest rate environment and some people were not even born when we had higher interest rates. So you know, operating and just existing in this economy is a little different.


Amy Scott: Absolutely. And you can send us your questions and comments about that, or really any topic. Our email is makemesmart@marketplace.org Or you can call and leave us a voice message. It’s 508-U-B-SMART.


Kimberly Adams: You’ve clarified the letters, U and B.


Amy Scott: The letter U, the letter B. Make Me Smart is produced by Marissa Cabrera. Today’s program was engineered by Jayk Cherry.


Kimberly Adams: Our Senior Producer is Bridget Bodnar and the Director of On Demand is Donna Tam. Have the kids picked out what they’re wearing for Halloween yet?


Amy Scott: Oh my gosh. Probably. I should talk to them.


Kimberly Adams: Sorry, I didn’t mean to cause a parent alert.

None of us is as smart as all of us.

No matter how bananapants your day is, “Make Me Smart” is here to help you through it all— 5 days a week.

It’s never just a one-way conversation. Your questions, reactions, and donations are a vital part of the show. And we’re grateful for every single one.

Donate any amount to become a Marketplace Investor and help make us smarter (and make us smile!) every day.

The team

Marissa Cabrera Senior Producer
Bridget Bodnar Senior Producer
Tony Wagner Digital Producer
Marque Greene Associate Producer