Category Archives: My life

murder in the chop

A really interesting article on what Amazon is doing to contain Covid.  Some of it is really impressive.  The bottom line for Amazon is that they will lose money if illness spreads through their facilities – they MUST keep people healthy.  Capitalism has dictated that they implement effective means to do that, and it sounds like it’s working.  Automated temperature checks, employees encouraged to get a Covid test free at work every two weeks, cameras monitoring people to make sure they’re six feet apart – that’s the kind of thing that should happen at schools.  But probably won’t.

Meanwhile, a second person has been murdered in CHOP, the “autonomous zone” with no police in Seattle.  One Two teenagers have been murdered and a third is in critical condition (age 14).  You don’t need to be a math whiz to be able to figure out that the death toll here is going to dwarf anything the police would have done pretty quick.   Ultimately, the city of Seattle is responsible for these deaths.   The demands – 50% defunding of police among others – are not only unrealistic but also likely would not lead to a decrease in police violence.  (Justice department-mandated police reforms in Seattle, which seem to be working, have led to a considerable *increase* in budget.)  Reform needs to happen, but defunding is not the answer, at least not in Seattle, and at least not beyond what’s going to have to happen due to the impending economic downturn.

To put the above in perspective, the city of Seattle had only 19 gunshot murders in 2019 and 13 gunshot murders in 2018.  This is not Chicago.  Two teenagers shot dead in three weeks in a 5-block area or so is extremely disproportionate and a big deal.

Other coronavirus thoughts:

1.) The King County DOH just cannot seem to report accurate numbers on number of tests, number of positives, number of deaths, etc.  For example, last week before I went on vacation, I was very alarmed to see (a) a jump in the percentage of positives and (b) a jump in the number of deaths.  For the first, the website reported a few days later that they hadn’t been reporting all negatives the last few days, and the percent positive subsequently fell from 6% back to 2%.  Then, after seeing a large number of deaths, I stopped checking the site for a few days, and during my absence there were -1 deaths.  Really?  I can only assume no one came back to life and they’d flubbed the deaths numbers as well.

2.) The local papers are reporting that “less than 1%” of participants in protests locally tested positive for Covid.  This was meant to be reassuring.  However, on the order of 100,000 people participated in protests.  1% of 100,000 is . . . 1,000.  1,000 positives easily explains the surge we’ve seen in the last few weeks and then some.  Furthermore, recent positives have apparently been focused among young, urban residents.  While I doubt the youthful protesters are particularly susceptible to Covid, I worry about the next generation infections, the people they spread it to.

3.) I read that 20% of Americans have apparently been infected with Covid.  I find this very encouraging.  I can only hope that immunity hangs around for a while, or that at least people are less vulnerable the second time around.

daily covid

I enjoyed my Covid news holiday, but here we go again.  My current thoughts:

1.) When all this started, the WHO was saying COVID had a 3.7% death rate.  That is scary.  Very scary.  Given that number and all the uncertainty, I think it was appropriate for the country to shut down.  We could have been facing millions of deaths.

2.) The CDC’s “best estimate” of the fatality rate of Covid for the US is 0.4% for symptomatic cases. (I will have to do some research to figure out what percent of cases they think are symptomatic.) Source.  In my opinion, it is not appropriate to shut down the country for a disease with a 0.4% fatality rate.  The CDC’s estimate of the flu fatality rate is 0.1%.  So, current best estimate is 4x worse than the flu.  Note that the uncertainty is 0.2% to 1.0%.  For the best estimate, fatality rates by age are:

  • 0-49: 0.05%
  • 50-64: 0.2%
  • 65+: 1.3%

3.) Let’s assume 30% of the country contracts Covid with a 0.4% fatality rate.  This is pessimistic since the fatality rate applies only to symptomatic cases, and some unknown percent are asymptomatic.  We would be looking at 360,000 deaths.  That’s obviously a lot.  But consider deaths from various sources in 2017 (last year I found data):

  • Heart disease: 647,000
  • Cancer: 600,000
  • Other diseases in the top 10: 615,000
  • Accidents and suicide: 217,000
  • Total deaths: 2.8 million

I guess I think a 10% bump in deaths in a year is a terrible tragedy but again, not an acceptable reason to shut down the country.

4.) Smoking causes 480,000 deaths annually in the US, including 41,000 deaths caused by secondhand smoke.  16 MILLION americans live with disease caused by smoking.  Yet, we don’t ban smoking.  But we’re willing to ban people leaving their houses and working and going to school, which will save fewer lives (given current data)?

Again, I think shutting down was appropriate for a disease with a 3 or 4% death rate.  I also support an emphasis on PPE (masks) and unemployment protections for the vulnerable.  But its time for the shutdown to end.

Finally, I continue to think that if things go well, we’ll have a widely available vaccine in a year.  Not sooner.  Furthermore, I think the likelihood of that happening is only about 50%.  It’s quite likely there will be a vaccine which is ineffective for the elderly or just ineffective in general.  Or not safe.  When the polio vaccine was initially tested on 10,000 children, it provided no protection against the disease and nine children died.  Many more were paralyzed.  Why?  Because there was a huge rush to try and prevent this horrible disease (polio).  There is obviously huge risk that excessive rushing could result in similar tragedy with Covid.  So I think we need to be very careful about assuming this is all “temporary” and we can just stay home for six more months and then be rewarded for our patience.

Can I spend a few more days not checking Covid news?  Maybe.

reckless experimentation

The protests are in some ways an inadvisable, reckless experiment on how large crowds affect the spread of COVID.  While I’ve advocated for opening up – with protections for the vulnerable – I would not and have not been in favor of large crowds: sporting events, concerts, large races, etc.  And protests.

However, so far, the experiment is going well here in Seattle.  We are roughly 12 days out from the first protests, and there has not yet been a spike.  Maybe masks work?  Photos suggest that while no social distancing has been observed at the vast majority of protests, people are wearing masks, and not just on their chins.  Today, the numbers were a little high, but in family.  My hope is that somehow, magically, outdoor large protests are not causing significant Covid spread.  My fear is that since the protesters are large extremely young that they are getting infected left and right but without significant illness and are not bothering to get tested, and that the spread time will double or triple (to 10 or 15 days) before we see the bump, as we wait for the youth to infect older people, who will experience illness and get tested.  (Median incubation is 5 days, last I heard.  If you’ve heard differently, let me know.)  We’ll see.  So far so good.

You may have read about the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone – a no-go zone for police.  It reminds me of the no-go zones that were set up in Belfast during the Troubles.  These zones help young men (and people who care about young men) who were getting harrassed unjustly by police (or the British military as the case might be).  But it’s the vulnerable that suffer in these situations, without government oversight, in the medium or long term.  I highly recommend The Milkman on this topic.

We are planning a very modest vacation this coming weekend.  We’ll be heading to a VRBO on Whidbey, about an hour away, for four nights.  It’s been about a year since our last trip, and I’m really looking forward to it, but also nervous about traveling with the baby.  We will cook at home and bring our own groceries, so it’ll be a socially isolated trip, but it’ll be nice to socially distance somewhere new for a while.

 

Masks. Again.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Per WHO, masks should apparently have an absolute minimum of three layers, one of which can be cotton, one should be a filter (which can, given lack of options, be cotton), and the third should be polyester.  Are all the quilters going to remake the hundreds of masks they’ve made based on that “WHO-approved patterns” (which had no indication anywhere of WHO approval)?

In any case, I feel like WHO has squandered their last shred of credibility.  Let’s not forget, just recently they were telling us that the fatality rate was 3.7% – now per CDC it’s 0.4%.  Today they can’t decide if it can be transmitted asymptomatically or not.  Frankly, I think our knowledge of coronavirus today is comparable to the understanding of cholera in the mid 1800s.  That is – speculative and with lots of major errors.  But, as with cholera, with a breakthrough likely soon.  Ish.

The mask recommendations are also interesting given the thousands of protesters using single or double layer bandanas.

seattle protests

Seattle protests: young white males packed in cheek to jowl without even a pretext of social distancing.  Meanwhile, it is STILL forbidden to hire a nanny or use childcare if you are “nonessential,” and all playgrounds and pools are still closed.  So. Absurd.

ponderings

An interesting and troubling article suggesting things will not return to normal for decades.

Yes, a vaccine will help, but it’s likely the early vaccine may only be 50% to 70% effective, like the flu vaccine.  It may also have major side effects, like the smallpox vaccine, which may make it a difficult decision to be an early adopter, despite Covid’s severity.

My own perspective is that because we likely aren’t going to be going back to “normal” anytime soon, we have to learn to live with this thing.  That means deciding on an individual level what level of risk you can take.  It may make living in big cities extremely undesirable for years, maybe decades.  It sucks for those who are immune deficient or have asthma or who are already old.  For those of us under 50, it may make sense to get this disease sooner rather than later, though I personally think it’s worth giving the vaccine effort a year.

Increasingly, leading experts believe many Americans won’t make the shift toward long-range thinking until the virus spreads more widely and affects someone they know.

“It’s like people who drive too fast. They come upon the scene of an accident, and for a little while, they drive more carefully, but soon they’re back to speeding again,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.

About 50% of my coworkers, who are largely my age and healthy, had Coronavirus, confirmed by test.  One described it as the worst illness he’d ever had.  Another said, it “wasn’t so bad.”  None of them were hospitalized.  The conversation made me anxious to avoid it but not afraid of it, if that makes sense.  Based on everything I’ve read, this illness is about five times worse than the flu.  The flu is a bad scene, so five times worse than the flu is definitely alarming, but I don’t think it’s worth stopping life for if you are not vulnerable: not over 60, not under 1, not asthmatic or diabetic, not severely obese or suffering from other health conditions.  Because S is under one, we will be very cautious at least until she turns one, or until I read something that convinces me she’s not at risk (unlikely).

The real question for me is whether it makes sense for H and I to stay in Seattle, given neither of us are working here presently.  At what point to we leave this place that we love and move somewhere more rural?