Monthly Archives: April 2021

pool fun

I was at the pool the other night for B’s swim lessons.  I had S with me, and was having a great time walking around the pool deck.  I was doing my best to keep her out of the way of swim coaches, life guards, other parents and swimmers.  She was also doing her best to take a swim.  Unfortunately, despite never being more than 2 feet from her, she prevailed.  It’s interesting and scary how easily a toddler can go in the drink.  Fortunately, since I was right there, I yanked her right back out before she was even fully submerged or inhaled any water.  So, mostly a scary near miss.  (Drowning is the leading cause of death for 1 year olds in the US.)

However, I was wearing glasses and a mask.  I find that the mask causes my glasses not to stay on my face as well and often slide down my nose.  I often wear contacts for that reason if I know I’ll have to wear a mask.  In any case, when I bent over to yank S out, my glasses went into the drink.  I’m currently sitting at -7.00 in my left eye and -4.25 in my right eye.  Needless to say, glasses are not optional for me to see.  I went to the lifeguard, and he said after swim lessons were over, he’d send someone down to get them. They were at the very bottom of the 12 foot deep end.  However, L, who had never gone anywhere near that deep before, ended up diving down and getting them for me.  I was so proud of her!  And also very happy to have my glasses back.


We are off for more Covid tests today.  I’ve honestly lost track of how many we’ve gotten, but I don’t mind now that I’ve been vaccinated.  In past, every time I got a notification from the school that someone in my daughter’s group (which encompasses several classes, not just hers) had a positive test, I would feel panic.  Intellectually I know that Covid poses little risk to me, but I am not impervious to more than a year’s worth of headlines intimating my imminent death.  On this occasion, we have all come down with a cold.  We went for about a year without catching anything, but this is our second cold (and testing round) in a couple of months.  I honestly think it’s good for our immune system to be exposed to germs.  In particular, I’m worried about the overly sterile environment S has grown up in.  Except, of course, we have Penske to keep us in germs.  I don’t feel I’ve added any risk to my lifestyle, so I do think it’s interesting that we’ve started getting sick again.  I assume the girls and school are the weak link.

I have been reading about Ireland with something akin to horror.  Ireland has been pursuing a path as if they wish to eliminate Covid.  This would make sense if they were an island, or effectively an island, like New Zealand, Australia, Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, or Taiwan.  But they’re not.  British colonialism for the win!  Ireland has a permeable border with “the North,” and NI has a fully open border with the UK.  There’s been no coordination between the UK and Ireland whatsoever on Covid measures for political reasons, and in my humble opinion, it’s a complete debacle.

The latest is that Ireland has imposed a strict hotel quarantine.  Again, if they were an island, this would make complete sense.  Ireland has imposed on its citizens one of the strictest and lengthiest lockdowns in the world.  Really, the only one I know of that is more severe is what happened in Melbourne Australia, which was worse.  But Melbourne was able to eliminate Covid through their troubles.  Ireland cannot and will not. In fact, new cases of Covid in Ireland are roughly half what they are in the US, whereas Melbourne was able to drive cases to zero.

There have been many reports of people detained in hotel quarantine, or not traveling due to it, and missing a few death bead moments with a loved one, or missing funerals of loved ones.  A more mundane story was published today covering a Dutch national who thought he was exempt due to the essential nature of his work, but was wrong because he’d been in Belgium within 14 days of his travel.  Upon learning this, he wished only to return home but instead is detained – effectively imprisoned – in Ireland until his 14 day hotel quarantine is over.   Honestly, I think it’s crazy.

Ireland’s multi-month lockdown (nearly six, I believe) restricted people from going more than 5 km from their house except for essential reasons (eg groceries) and enforced it with traffic checkpoints, at which people would be stopped and asked their business.  Can you imagine being restricted to 5 km of your house for six months?  And to what end?  Covid still runs rampant, and Ireland has a substantially higher Covid death rate per capita than Washington state, despite similar population and one major city in each.  Ireland has just loosened its rules and you may now travel within your county.  Irish counties are small, smaller than the ones we have in Washington, so even that is quite restrictive.  Washington and its governor successfully pursued a cautious approach to Covid that limited deaths without extreme removal of people’s liberties.  Inslee followed the science, in that he basically followed CDC recommendations to the letter.  The same is done in Ireland, but they have no CDC, and my impression is that their health board (HSE? I think) is not exactly as competent as the CDC.  (And the CDC obviously has its own problems.  So that’s not a super high bar.)

Honestly, I sometimes feel I have awoken in the twilight zone.  Why do people permit this?   The numbers suggest that lockdowns don’t even work particularly well when you lack firm borders.  For me, the best comparison is California versus Texas.  The two states have similar population, population density, and number of major cities.  California imposed one of the most severe and longest lockdowns in the US.  Texas has been more laid back.  The difference in deaths per 1M is 1730 (Texas) versus 1555 (California).  I would LOVE to know the excess deaths.  Anyone know if / where that data might be available?  I’m honestly not sure how it would change things.

I honestly didn’t intend to turn this into a Covid rant, but I can’t seem to help myself.  Between my cold and pulled hamstring, I’m not doing much myself.  Pondering my future endeavors.  But I’ll save that for the next blog post.


Chauvin and the next time

It’s interesting and more than a little troubling to read the original news release produced by the Minneapolis police describing what happened to George Floyd (news release archive link is from the New York Times):

On Monday evening, shortly after 8:00 pm, officers from the Minneapolis Police Department responded to the 3700 block of Chicago Avenue South on a report of a forgery in progress.  Officers were advised that the suspect was sitting on top of a blue car and appeared to be under the influence.

Two officers arrived and located the suspect, a male believed to be in his 40s, in his car.  He was ordered to step from his car.  After he got out, he physically resisted officers.  Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress.  Officers called for an ambulance.  He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later.

We all know that is not remotely what happened.  Perhaps most egregious is the bald-faced lie about WHEN he died.  The post also notes body-worn cameras were activated.  I can’t help but wonder how that video compares to the bystanders’ video.  Was it ever released?

It’s great that Chauvin was convicted.  I was actually surprised.  The bar to convict him was relatively low compared to what would have been required in Washington state a couple years ago.  I’m not sure if WA has changed its laws; I know they have been working on it.  I *think* there have been changes but I’m not sure.

On Wikipedia, it says the following about Chauvin:

Prior to the murder he had been involved in three police shootings, one of which was fatal. He had eighteen complaints on his official record, two of which ended in discipline, including official letters of reprimand.

I’d like to know more about the eighteen complaints, but apparently the police department “declined to comment”.   While it’s good that Chauvin was held accountable, what would be better would be for the incident never to have happened in the first place.  It’s also striking that Floyd is not the first person who died interacting with Chauvin.  Should Chauvin have been fired sooner?  For me, that would be the most important next question.  Not, how do we hold police accountable when they kill someone unjustly?  But, how do we hold police accountable for more minor transgressions such that the bad apples are removed from the force before they get a chance to kill someone.


Vaccines again

There are basically two routes for vaccinating: age prioritization, or prioritizing by subjective factors theoretically related to risk, such as occupation.  The latter approach is obviously a slippery and dangerous slope to slide down.  Originally, I thought it made sense to approach vaccination in terms of risk, and I also naively thought, who cares who gets vaccinated?  As long as somebody’s getting a shot, it’s all good.  However, that was before I heard about special clinics set up for large donors to hospitals.  Less egregiously, many friends who were working from home or not working at all got priority access to vaccines for various reasons while people over 65 were still struggling to get shots.  Finally, it became clear that the strength of one’s union or one’s connections to the government (best choice: being employed by the government) was the determining factor in terms of whether you got a vaccine or not.  Teachers on the west coast are an extreme example – despite not teaching in person, they demanded and got early access to vaccines.  Most teachers in Seattle have still not returned to school.

In Ireland, where vaccines are still scarce, the government bravely abandoned the special interest approach and has switched to an age-based priority scheme.  The fury of various unions ensued, but for whatever reason, the government there does not seem to be as in thrall to unions as they are here, and they have so far held fast to the scheme.  (Interestingly, teachers are paid better compared to other occupations, and from my observations, better respected in Ireland than they are here.)

All this came to mind for me today when I saw this article in the Seattle Times about how prioritizing teacher vaccines in Oregon over vaccinating over 65s has resulted in many deaths.

Gov. Kate Brown’s highly controversial decision to prioritize vaccinations for teachers over seniors, starting Jan 25. That decision delayed the rollout for seniors 65 and older living outside long-term care facilities by anywhere from two to five weeks.

But the decision to delay eligibility for some 700,000 seniors living independently undoubtedly took a toll, experts say. And the number of fatalities could increase, as deaths trail cases and hospitalizations – both of which are on the rise again.

At least 148 individuals 65 and older have died this year who tested positive for COVID-19 after Jan. 25, according to an analysis by The Oregonian/OregonLive of death information disclosed by the state. They tested positive an average of 27 days after the date Brown originally made teachers instead of seniors eligible. More than half of those seniors tested positive after their actual eligibility date for a vaccine – an average of three weeks afterward.

It’s impossible to say how many of those deaths were preventable, how many people would have sought earlier vaccinations or succeeded in finding one. While supplies continued to improve, there clearly wasn’t enough vaccine on hand to address the entire population over 65 immediately.

But the quantification of senior deaths adds new context to Brown’s decision prioritizing teachers for vaccinations amid her push to get kids back in classrooms. More than 270,000 students are now receiving some in-person learning, or about 47% of those enrolled in K-12 schools.

Oregon and Idaho were the only two states that chose to give priority to teachers over seniors in an effort to get kids back into classrooms sooner.

The timeline left Oregon as one of the last states in the country to begin vaccinating seniors and meant it lagged some states by more than two months. California made everyone over 65 eligible for vaccination Jan. 13, and Washington a few days later — six weeks before Oregon would do the same.

Oh the irony of the statement by Oregon’s governor’s spokesman:

“Every death from COVID-19 is a tragedy, and from the beginning of this pandemic, Governor Brown has taken action to protect our most vulnerable seniors,” Boyle said in an email. “Those decisions have saved lives.”

I think it would have been defensible to vaccinate teachers over 50.  But all teachers, while over 65s were unvaccinated?  Ridiculous.

Is there anything more detestable than politispeak?  Well, a few things, surely, but I have come to despise the meaningless words politicians spout on all topics.  You honestly can’t believe a word that comes out of their mouths.

It’s worth noting that Inslee (governor of Washington) was under enormous pressure to prioritize teachers over the elderly but refused.  He prioritized teachers only when directed to by CDC recommendation.

On a practical level, that meant the earliest an Oregonian living independently over the age of 80 would be considered fully vaccinated – after two doses and a two-week buffer – was March 15. The date stretched to early April for those over 65.

The decision to delay garnered deep criticism given the lethality of the disease among seniors and the domino effect it might create vaccinating the state’s most vulnerable.

Davis said she didn’t begrudge teachers or front-line workers being vaccinated if they were going to be out in public, but if they weren’t going back to school immediately, she said seniors should have been given priority.

The governor defended her decision as prioritizing children, but we all know that (a) the CDC recommended children go back to school whether or not teachers were vaccinated and (b) more than 50% of schools in the US opened prior to teachers getting vaccinated, including the one my own children attend.  I personally felt my risk of contracting Covid from my kids’ school attendance was roughly equal to that of my children’s teachers.  Sending them anyway was an easy decision.

vaccine chase

H will be driving 2.5 hours round trip to get his vaccine today.  (Today he becomes eligible.)  It took me about two hours online just to get that appointment.  Meanwhile, I’ll need my second shot next week.  I’d hoped to find a closer site for my second shot, but now I’m just hoping I don’t have to drive even farther.  I don’t know why there aren’t more vaccines available in King County!

If I were a teacher, I could attend a clinic set up just for me.  (Middle and high schools locally are opening 20% time starting 4/19.)  If I were Black, I could attend one of the local Seattle clinics at which only those of the right race may get their shots.  If I lived in the right underprivileged zip code, I could get my vaccine down the street in Kent, where I used to live.  But if I’m just a Joe slob (of any age) who’d rather not get or spread Covid, good luck.  I can’t help but be curious if it’s like this everywhere, or just Washington.

piano lesson update

Bri finished the final song of Book A of Alfred’s Prep Course, which is targeted at the “youngest” learners.  I’m proud of her!  I’ve spared her the metronome thus far, but I think she does a pretty good job keeping in time.

Alfred has about a million books at each level.  For B, I’m planning to buy the lesson book, the theory book, and the solo book.  For A, we did the lesson book and the Christmas book.  I think it’s helpful to have an additional book beyond the lesson book, just to slow the rate of new material and increase in difficulty a bit.  Since it’s not Christmas time, we’ll do the solo book this time.  I skipped the theory book for level A, in part because Bri couldn’t read when we started, but I think it’ll be helpful as we move on to level B.  We do have a few more Christmas songs to learn before we start the new book, though.

L has been continuing to play on her own, but I’m continuing to hold off on lessons for now, since swimming and school are taking up so much time.  I’m planning to restart lessons this summer, and hopefully we’ll make some good progress.