5 Stories: An explosive test at sea, new data on COVID’s early U.S. arrival and other stories you missed

PBS NewsHour’s “5 STORIES” features interesting stories from around the world that you may have missed.

On this week’s episode:

A Navy vessel gets an explosive test

The U.S Navy detonated 40,000-pounds of explosives near its newest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R Ford, earlier this month. The “full ship shock trial” was meant to test whether the vessel can withstand a potential hit in combat.

The in-water blast occurred 100 miles off the coast of Florida and was the first shock trial test on any naval ship since 2016. Two more, subsequently closer test blasts will occur near the vessel in coming weeks.

Once the trials conclude, the USS Gerald R Ford will enter a maintenance period. It could be deployed as early as 2022.

New data on COVID-19’s early U.S. arrival

A new study from the National Institutes of Health suggests coronavirus was in the U.S. as early as December 2019 — a full month before the first official case was declared in America.

The NIH’s “All of Us” study analyzed more than 24,000 blood samples taken from participants across the U.S. in the early months of 2020. The researchers found COVID-19 antibodies in several samples taken on January 7, 2020. In order for antibodies to be present at that time, the participants had to have had the virus a few weeks earlier — in December.

Positive samples were found in Illinois, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, but not in Washington state or New York, which were the country’s early hotspots.

The authors don’t know whether participants with positive samples were infected inside the U.S. or during travel, but the results suggest the virus was spreading under the radar before 2020 began.

Lake Mead hits record low

Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States, has hit a record-low water level, now filling only 36 percent of its capacity.

Since 2000, the water level has dropped 140 feet, nearly the height of the Statue of Liberty. If it decreases another 20 feet, the water level will be below the top of the dam’s intake gates.

Lake Mead provides water and electricity for 25 million people in the West. Its water shortage comes as Western states grapple with a severe drought, part of a larger climate change-induced megadrought. If relief doesn’t come soon, authorities warn, water supplies to Arizona, Nevada and Mexico could be cut further.

Canadian Indigenous people regain right to use native names

Indigenous people in Canada now have the right to use their native names on passports and official documents. The move comes as the Canadian government seeks to address the consequences of nearly a century of assimilation practices.

Starting in the late 1800s, more than 150,000 indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and placed in the Canadian residential schools primarily run by the Catholic Church. They were stripped of their cultural practices, given European names and faced widespread abuse.

In the last month, hundreds of unmarked graves have been discovered at two former such schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

In the U.S., Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced Tuesday that her department will review the U.S. government’s role in forced assimilation and possible deaths that occurred as a result of similar practices.

Bubbles help combat pollution

“The Great Bubble Barrier” uses an effervescent technique to keep plastic and trash in rivers and canals from ever reaching the ocean.

The device, now being tested in Amsterdam, uses a tube placed diagonally along a canal floor to pump a curtain of air into the water, creating a diagonal divide. The jacuzzi-like bubbles direct trash upward, and the current helps direct it all into a catchment system on the side of the canal.

That’s important because 80 percent of ocean pollution comes from rivers. So far, The Great Bubble Barrier has collected plastic as small as a sesame seed and larger items like televisions and Christmas trees, all while allowing boats and wildlife to travel freely.