New data shows that prices have increased sharply within 2021 compared to the previous 40 years. Effect of inflation 7% In December.
- Also, schools are trying to tackle the shortage of bus drivers.
- And, Omicron and at-home COVID testing.
Guest: Nerdshala’ Neil Irwin and Alyssa Widman Nice; and Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo, epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Testing Insights Initiative
credit: Nerdshala Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team consists of Niala Boodhoo, Sarah Keholani Goo, Julia Redpath, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Lydia McMullen-Layard, Sabina Singhani and Alex Sugiura. The music is composed by Ivan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected] You can text questions, comments, and story ideas to Niyala as text or voice memos at 202-918-4893.
- Inflation in December at 7%, highest since 1982
- COVID surge closes mid Ohio classes again
- Rapid nasal COVID tests feared to return false negatives
Niala: Good morning! Welcome to Axis Today!
January 13 is Thursday.
I am Niala Boodhu.
Here’s what you need to know today: Schools are trying to deal with too few bus drivers. Plus, Omicron and at-home COVID testing.
But first, today’s One Big Thing: how inflationary growth is affecting the American purse.
NIALA: Felix Salmon, chief financial correspondent for Nerdshala and friend of the podcast, told us not to worry about inflation last year, but new figures show that prices rose faster within 2021 than in the past 40 years Is. Inflation hit 7% in December. How do we put that number in context? We’re not going to let Felix off the hook, but he’s on book leave now. That’s why we have our other favorite inflation experts to talk them through. Nerdshala’ new chief economic correspondent, Neil Irwin. Hi Neil.
Neil Irwin: Hi Niala, thanks for having me.
Niala: So, I want to start by asking you what I’m asking Felix, is now the time for all of us to worry about inflation?
Neil: I think we’ve passed the time, the moment of worry, uh, if your wages aren’t growing by 7%, and I think a lot of people haven’t raised that kind of thing. Uh, you’re talking about a real drop in your quality of life and what you can afford. And, uh, it’s cutting into people’s standards of living. It’s causing a lot of pain there.
NIALA: What, specifically when we’re looking at prices, where are we seeing the biggest growth when we’re just looking at commodities?
Neil: The biggest and most dramatic increase has been in car prices. Particularly used cars, up 40% from last year or so. It’s just crazy. I mean, it never happens.
NIALA: Neil, what do we need to know about what economists think? Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Do people think that prices, inflation will come down?
Neil: So, yes and no. The good news is there’s reason to think we won’t see this kind of 7% inflation going forward in ’22, ’23. Because you know, some of these adjustments are one-time things. That said, there are things baking in the economy right now that could keep inflation high, maybe not 7%, but more than we’re used to for some time to come. One of them is, we are seeing a massive increase in fares. We’re seeing an increase in wages, which is good if you’re making more money, but it also means that employers will be more inclined to raise prices whenever they can compensate for those higher wages.
NIALA: What data points are you looking at? What should we pay attention to in the near future?
Neil: So I think the most important thing is how widespread the inflation is. If it was only about cars, only oil prices, then it is less worrying across the board of all kinds of goods and services. We saw, uh, in December, in some of these service industries, restaurants, for example, prices had increased significantly. So this is a sign that some of these more widespread price pressures are starting to happen. And there’s no question, you know, if you didn’t get any growth in the last year, if you got 2% growth, and the things you buy are 7% more expensive, you’re worse off. The question is how does it end? Do things kind of balance as 2022 progresses, or does it take longer?
NIALA: Neil Irwin is Nerdshala’ chief economic correspondent. Thanks, Neil.
Neil: Thank you very much.
NIALA: In 15 seconds: How Ohio’s largest school district is dealing with staff shortages.
NIALA: Welcome back to Nerdshala Today. I am Niala Boodhu. We know that schools across the country are facing a staffing crisis. From teachers to chowkidars to bus drivers, staff shortages are forcing many schools to cancel classes or go back online. In Vancouver, Washington classes are now remote due to a lack of bus drivers. One Maryland county asked the Maryland National Guard to drive a bus to 200 people.
Nerdshala Columbus reporter, Alisa Widman, is tracking the shortage in Neese, Ohio. Hi Alisa.
Alyssa Widman NICE: Hi, thanks for having me today.
NIALA: How is this reduction happening in Columbus?
Alisa: The position of the bus driver is perhaps the most important of the staffing positions for the Columbus school district. It is the largest district in the state of Ohio with approximately 47,000 students. On Friday, the situation became so dire that the district was forced to cancel classes. There are several other districts in the suburbs here that have to either move away altogether or simply make changes on a day-to-day basis, alerting families that, “Hey, you have to come an hour before you pick up your kids. Hopefully, or your kids may be late because there aren’t enough drivers in the seats for the buses.”
NIALA: What is Columbus trying to do to recruit more bus drivers?
Alisa: The district has started giving bonus to bus drivers and other non-teaching staff. They are offering $2,000 over two years, paid in $500 increments. But, it doesn’t seem like it’s enough to attract people there. I guess they were hoping this would be a start.
NIALA: Alisa, it’s not just the bus drivers who are facing shortage in terms of district staff, is it?
Alisa: There is also a big concern about substitute teachers in Columbus. There are currently 616 active officiating teachers in the Columbus District. To meet all the absenteeism needs that are happening, they expect that pool to grow by 20%. Many substitute teachers are simply not picking up and filling vacancies like they used to. Things get so busy that sometimes they are filling teachers with just mixing classes, rather than an option designated specifically for a class. So at this point, they remain on course, but can’t imagine it’s an easy situation for families.
NIALA: Alyssa Widman Neese is an Nerdshala Local reporter based in Columbus, Ohio. Thanks Alisa.
Alyssa: Thank you very much.
NIALA: We will be talking about the staff shortage in schools as well as possible solutions over the next few weeks. And we’d love to hear from you – if you’re a parent or teacher who needs to fill in and help out with your child’s school in any way, you can record a voice memo and send it to me (202) 918-4893 .
NIALA: One of the few things that seems obvious at this time in the pandemic is that many of us are confused. About this test, So to get some clarity, we turn back to Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo. [NUH-zoh], an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Testing Insights Initiative, whom we spoke to earlier this week about the Covid case count.
Jennifer, I think a lot of confusion centers around testing at home. How should we think about it now?
Jennifer Nuzzo: So my advice is that home testing remains an important tool. But you know, don’t disregard your symptoms. If you have symptoms or if you have been in contact with someone and you get a negative test result, do not assume that you are safe. If you’re not feeling well, or if you’re feeling down, I think it’s important to stay home and isolate for a few days, until you can test yourself again.
NIALA: But what about people who get a positive test result and then don’t have symptoms or get a rapid positive test result and then get a negative PCR, because I feel like I’ve Have heard a lot.
Jennifer: Yes. That’s why I think you should treat every positive as a positive unless a qualified healthcare professional tells you otherwise. In the case of a rapid, uh, test that’s positive, but later a negative PCR test, really ideally you’d talk to a health care professional, they want to understand, you know, what you’re doing before the test Were, you know, how are you feeling etc. What I hear more often is people who have symptoms. They test rapidly and it’s negative, but they actually have COVID. And that may be because they have less virus in their nose with this type than we’ve seen with other versions of the virus. So I think it’s important, you know, not to ignore your symptoms, even if you get a negative, at-home test, and then try to increase that test result a few days later, or especially Talk to a health care professional.
NIALA: Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo teaches at Johns Hopkins University, where she is also an epidemiologist at the COVID-19 Testing Insight Initiative.
NIALA: One last thing we got before today. We know that vinyl has really become popular again in recent years with sales increasing during the pandemic… but you might be surprised to learn CD Sales actually went up last year too… after a 17-year decline! It looks like this may be at least partly thanks to Adele, whose album 30 had huge vinyl. And CD sales. I’m also going to say this: Gen Z, all things old thinking. Thanks Gen Z!
That’s all for us today! I’m Niala Boodhoo – Thanks for listening – stay safe and we’ll see you here tomorrow morning.