Aug 17, 2023 - Podcasts

Hawai'i braces for a crushing death toll

At least 106 people are confirmed dead and an estimated 1,300 are still missing, a week after Hawai'i's deadly wildfires which almost completely razed the town of Lahaina on Maui. Hawai'i Gov. Josh Green said this week that there will be no survivors left.

The big picture: Officials continue to recover and identify human remains. And teams involved in recovery efforts for 9/11 and the devastating 2018 Camp Fire in California are aiding in the search.

Guests: Axios' Javier David and USC Davis' Richard John Bold

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Alexandra Botti, Fonda Mwangi, Lydia McMullen-Laird and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can send questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.


NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It's Thursday, August 17th.

I'm Niala Boodhoo.

Here's what we're following today: why cancer rates for young Americans seem to be rising. Plus, the co-working industry is on the upswing.

But first, Hawai'i braces for a crushing death toll. That's today's One Big Thing.

At least 106 people are confirmed dead and an estimated 1300 are still missing, a week after Hawai'i's deadly wildfires which almost completely razed the town of Lahaina on Maui. Governor Josh Green has said that there will be no survivors left – and officials are today continuing the slow, grim work of recovering and identifying human remains.

JOSH GREEN: As of this morning, we've now searched about 35% of the territory. Our hearts are broken, hearts are broken as we see lost loved ones. We're also bringing in a lot of extra support that can help us to figure out who did pass.

That's Governor Green speaking yesterday. People involved in recovery efforts including 9/11 and after the devastating 2018 Camp Fire in California are on the ground aiding in the search. Maui Police Chief John Pelletier described the work of these teams.

JOHN PELLETIER: So I want people to understand the reverence of which we're doing this. It's not just ash on your clothing when you take it off. It's our loved ones. That's the reverence.

NIALA: Many residents are also voicing anger and concern over alleged mismanagement of the evacuation, contaminants in drinking water, and potential scammers looking to grab land on Maui. And three lawsuits have been filed against Hawai'i Electric over the role their power lines played in the fires. We'll have more on this in the coming days.

A new study says cancer in younger Americans is on the rise, especially women. The study, published yesterday in JAMA Network Open, says gastrointestinal, endocrine, and breast cancers are rising fastest, and the ages most affected are 30 to 39. Dr. Richard Bold, physician in chief at the UC Davis Health Comprehensive Cancer Center, is here to explain what we need to know. Welcome to Axios Today, Dr. Bold.

RICHARD BOLD: Thank you very much.

NIALA: Can you summarize... to your mind, what the most important things are from this study, the main findings?

BOLD: The main findings are basically that although historically we've associated cancer with the elderly population, mostly in people 65 and older, we're seeing actually that the incidence of cancer is rising fastest in the younger population, and we're actually seeing declines in our older population. We think the declines are because of effective screening, but we really don't understand why we're seeing an absolute increase in younger people diagnosed with cancer, and particularly in the age group of 30 to 39, an age group that we don't typically see a lot of cancer, but the rise is the fastest in that group compared to all of our other groups. There's some hypotheses related to changes in our environmental factors, perhaps more alcohol consumption, more other environmental exposures like vaping or something, potentially obesity. But we really just clearly don't know why it's affecting the younger population and not the older population. And there's early information that these cancers have a different biology, so we're not sure that the treatment for a patient who's 65 should be the same as the treatment for a patient who's 35.

NIALA: Should this new information change how younger people think about taking care of themselves or getting screened?

BOLD: Absolutely. We have seen changes in our screening guidelines pushing colonoscopy younger in a person's life now beginning at age 45, whereas in the past it had been 50. In addition, the screening recommendations for mammograms are also softening so that women can start getting them at the age of 40, whereas perhaps about 10 years ago, we really didn't think that age groups should go through screening. So we're pushing it younger into a person's life, but we haven't seen anything that really supports screening under the age of 40. The more important lesson is just simple awareness. Recognizing that cancer can affect young people. It's not simply a disease of the older generation. Once a person enters their 20s and 30s, they're healthy, they live like kings and they're indomitable in terms of their health. But cancer can still affect these people. So what we're really saying is that if something doesn't seem right, go see your doctor. Cancer is still a possibility.

NIALA: And so obviously you don't want to unnecessarily alarm people, but what kind of mindset do you think people should have about this?

BOLD: We have noticed that younger people have a longer period from the development of symptoms to seeing a doctor. And cancer is a disease that has symptoms that sometimes can be present and noticed by the patient. And it's something that's there day in, day out. It's not a cold that goes away in seven days. It's not a fever that is easily remedied with Tylenol. These are persistent symptoms in which your body's telling you something's not right. There is a growth, there's a tumor developing, and people can notice those symptoms. I know even in my practice, I've seen patients who have been evaluated by their primary doctor and they're told that some symptom, maybe indigestion, weight loss is just nothing. And with a strong opinion of a person, they've said, I think that this really needs additional evaluation. So that advocacy for your own health when it just doesn't match up is really the best approach.

NIALA: Dr. Richard Bold is the physician in chief at UC Davis Health Comprehensive Cancer Center joining us from Sacramento. Thanks so much.

DR. BOLD: Thank you very much. Pleasure to be with you today.

NIALA: In a moment, another health update, as COVID spikes again, Then, the state of the coworking industry.

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo.

There's been a recent spike of Covid cases in the U.S. More than 10,000 Americans were admitted to the hospital in the week ending August 5th, according to CDC data – that's up about 14% from the week before. But those numbers are much lower than this time last summer when more than 40,000 Americans were hospitalized in the same period.

Experts say a new strain – along with increased summer travel and heat waves forcing more people indoors – are in part to blame.

The new dominant strain, accounting for about 17% of all U.S. cases, is EG.5, which has been given the nickname Eris. It was first identified in China in February and The World Health Organization says the global public health risk of the new variant remains low.

New COVID boosters are set to be available in the fall and are expected to provide better protection against Eris.

Even with the peak of the pandemic behind us, demand for co-working space remains high. The co-working market is valued at more than $14 billion and it's expected to keep growing. That's according to Market Reports World.

Axios' Javier David is here with a check-in on the companies providing these spaces, and what they can tell us about the future of remote work. Hey Javier.


NIALA: So first Javier, WeWork is the anomaly in the co-working space right now. The company, which was once the face of this market, recently said they have substantial doubt that they can survive long term. WeWork was once valued at $47 billion. Can you break down how they ended up here?

JAVIER: Um, lots of parties, lots of grand ambitions that were ultimately very costly, a CEO founder that was incredibly charismatic and very visionary, but ultimately, made a bunch of decisions that the company found it really was unable or finding it at least nearly impossible to extricate themselves from.

NIALA: So that's why WeWork isn't indicative of the state of the industry overall?

JAVIER: Exactly. Much of what is affecting WeWork at this particular juncture is very, for lack of a better term, idiosyncratic. It's stuff that is really specific to them and their business model. The rest of the coworking market is doing quite well, primarily because people are still working remotely, there's a lot of hybrid work going on. A number of large companies have been trying their best to coax people back into the office, but the reality of it is people still kind of don't want traditional office work anymore. And the reality of it is...even regardless of what companies themselves want the commercial real estate market is doing very poorly so it's really not a good time to have big office space where you're paying a lot of money to maintain it, and almost no one is there.

NIALA: So what are your predictions for these co-working spaces in a post-pandemic work world?

JAVIER: I think that workers at still at this particular juncture, especially because we haven't seen the recession that we were all really freaked out about earlier in the year, uh, workers still have the upper hand. And workers, have made it very clear that they are pushing back or at least very reluctant to come back into the office in large numbers. And co-working spaces that are doing quite well in this environment, despite whatever's happening to WeWork, are best positioned to take advantage of that.

NIALA: Javier David is Axios' managing editor for business. Thanks, Javier.

JAVIER: Sure thing.

NIALA: That's it for us today! You can always reach our team by emailing [email protected] or you can text (202) 918-4893.

I'm Niala Boodhoo. Thanks for listening. Stay safe, and we'll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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