Category Archives: Covid

Monday rant #2

What’s a Monday without at least two rants.

I’m finding myself becoming increasingly pessimistic about 2021 lately.

The new South Africa strain.  In case you haven’t read, scientists think it will be resistant to the vaccine.  It has already spread to the UK, so there is no hope of containment.   Assuming it’s similarly contagious as the other strains, it’ll take about three months to spread and take hold, per what I’ve read.  So, in three months, when most of the population hasn’t even been vaccinated against the first strain, this strain will start circulating and taking hold and negate the progress achieved by the vaccine.  Schools will remain closed through 2022, another three or four hundred thousand more people will die, and Covid will continue to screw up our lives.

Furthermore, I am pretty depressed by the snail-like speed of vaccination.  I’ve been tracking things on the New York Times website.  (The article in question is not behind the paywall.)  If there is a better source, let me know.  In any case, as of today, 1/4/21:

  • Washington got the vaccine on 12/14.  Since then, 22 days have elapsed.
  • Washington has received 389,250 vaccines but only given 92,700.
  • That’s 4213 vaccines per day.
  • At this rate, it will take 1807 days to fully vaccinate the state.  That’s 4.95 years.
  • Based on 30 deaths per day, between 6000 and 12000 people in the state are being infected daily.  So people are catching Covid faster than they are being vaccinated.  We will achieve herd immunity by infection before we achieve it by vaccination.
  • Meanwhile, the governor of NY, instead of trying to solve this problem (NY is doing only slightly better than WA) is threatening huge fines if the priority order for vaccines is not respected.

In Israel by contrast:

“Another reason for the swift execution is the Israeli attitude of “organized chaos”. I visited two vaccine centers. The process focuses on speed rather than bureaucracy. Arrived early? Good. If there is a gap they will try to squeeze you in. End of the day? They will announce if there are left over vaccines and first comes first served in order to avoid wasting them. The process is super fast and it takes a few minutes to get in and get out. You don’t sign bullshit papers by lawyers. The nurse asks you a few questions, jab, zei gezunt and arrivederci!  Here is a prime example from today to Israel “organized chaos”. End of the day in a vaccine center. A few doses left and will expire. Nurses go out, spot a pizza delivery guy, call him “pizza guy wanna vaccine?”, jab, and another person has spike mRNA!”

Why is this not happening in the US?  Should I check out the process for getting Israeli citizenship in addition to NZ?

How long before we get a mutation that starts killing young people and kids?

roseola

I think you can evaluate how well you’re doing in your quarantine / anti-Covid efforts by how often you and your family members are getting sick.  If you get Covid and you’ve had no other sicknesses since February, you’re probably just unlucky.  If you don’t get Covid but you’ve had three or four infectious colds or other illnesses, then you’re just lucky.  I thought our family was doing pretty good as none of us had been sick since February, but our streak finally came to an end.  S had a textbook cases of roseola.  We did get her tested for Covid – negative.  I’ve been trying to figure out where she got it from.  Roseola is interesting in that most people get it while young and get some immunity.  If you contract it after that, you’re likely to have limited symptoms.  So, one of us likely got it and didn’t show symptoms and gave it to S.  I’m guessing it must have been one of the girls at school.  It has a 7 to 14 day incubation period, which makes it much harder to figure out.  I came down with mastitis (not contagious) for the third or fourth time more or less simultaneously.  It reminded me how much being sick sucks, especially when you, the parent, are sick while caring for a sick baby.  I ran a pretty high fever and was lying in bed under multiple down duvets shaking like a leaf with cold while S woke up every hour.  Fun times!  Thankfully, though, we all recovered before Christmas.

I have been a little disheartened lately about the future and whether the vaccine will do the trick.  Reinfection so far has been rare, but will that continue?  What if an annual vaccination is required?  I suppose that’s not the end of the world; surely we (humanity) can figure out how to make that happen.  I fear, however, that coronavirus is going to be part of our lives from now until we die.  A major distinction between Covid and, say, measles or smallpox, is that measles and smallpox have no animal reservoir, and therefore, it is possible to eradicate them.  It is not possible to eradicate a disease like coronavirus that has an animal reservoir.  Even if you eliminated it from the human population it would likely pass over again and spread, just as Ebola does periodically.  (And Ebola, obviously, is far less contagious than Covid.)

death math

Can someone explain to me what the hell is taking the FDA so long to approve the vaccine?  There are about 2000 people dying every day.  40% of them live in nursing homes or the equivalent.  Every day that the vaccine is delayed, 800 people die.  Not only that, and equally important or perhaps more important, people in nursing homes have not been able to have normal visitation, in some cases any visitors, in months.  Life expectancy when you enter a nursing home is around six months.  This means many people have lived the last months of their lives in solitude.

If the FDA is truly scrutinizing the data more carefully, great.  If they truly took a four day weekend over Thanksgiving, I’d like to string them up by their thumbs.  Look at the data.  But every employee connected remotely to this better be working seven days a week, fourteen hours a day.  Seriously.

From Fauci:

“Dr. Fauci said the politicization of the pandemic in his own country had led regulators to move a little more cautiously than the British, to avoid losing public support. “In the United States, there is such a considerable amount of tension, of pushing back on the credibility of the safety and of the efficacy,” he said.”

Bullshit.  Follow the process.  Vaccine doubters are not going to be swayed by an extra week of data review, particularly since multiple other countries are beginning mass vaccination.

Reflecting on masks, part N

As far as I can tell, Korea is the only country that has managed to control the Coronavirus.  Australia has managed to eliminate it but failed miserably to control it.  NZ has an easy problem, being a low population island and managed to eliminate Covid, but hasn’t attempted to control it at low levels.  Australia, at roughly the population of California and an island, still has a way easier problem than the US, but has it a lot harder than NZ.  They were unable to suppress even tiny outbreaks without resorting to the most draconian lockdowns in the world (except maybe China) for extended periods of time.  I would not call Australia a success story on the whole.

South Korea, on the other hand, has been living with the virus since the beginning.  They have never, as far as I know, eliminated it.  Their inbound traveler quarantine program appears to work, and for the most part, they have kept schools open.  What works for them?  Korea’s population is 50 million, so not insubstantial.  This is a densely populated country.  Obviously, being effectively an island helps – a lot.

However, the one thing that jumps out at me when I peruse the friends of my Korean friend on FB is that she and her family members are ALWAYS wearing KN95 masks, including their 6-year-old.  (Her 1-year-old does not wear a mask.)  It doesn’t matter if they are in some outdoor location that looks to be utterly deserted, miles from the nearest human – they are wearing KN95 masks.

I just can’t help but wonder if that’s what’s making the difference.  After all, medical personnel wear KN95 masks and manage, for the most part, to avoid contagion even when exposed to many people sick with Covid.  Of course, they often wear additional PPE as well, but still.

I’m tempted to just switch to a KN95 and look around for some that would fit my kids.  But really, while I don’t want to catch Covid myself, I really want it to go away entirely.  I keep hearing all this messaging – “Wear your mask and Covid will go away!”  I don’t know what it’s like in the rest of the country, but where I am, people are wearing masks.  Everyone wears them indoors – 100% – and my observation is that most people wear them outdoors as well.  And it’s not working.  Covid is exploding here right now.  Of course, people may be socializing in their homes without masks.  It’s hard to know.

mask recommendations

Honestly, I don’t even know what to say about the CDC and their mask guidelines.  Today, from the NYT:

Breaking from its tentative recommendations on mask use thus far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday that using masks benefits wearers, which is a step beyond its previous declaration that said wearing masks would only protect those around them.

Let us not forget that when Covid peaked in the US (which despite misleading headlines, was unambiguously during the so-called first wave), the CDC was active dissuading people from wearing masks.  At that time, it was clear to anyone with a few brain cells to rub together that it was nonsensical that (a) masks would only be beneficial in a healthcare setting and (b) that all of Asia was likely dead wrong on the topic.  How many tens of thousands of people died because of this?

The CDC finally revised their stance and started recommending masks, but their updated advice has remained a head-scratcher on two fronts:

(a) They continue to recommend “cloth face-coverings” rather than encouraging the government to ramp up productive of certified PPE.  It honestly boggles my mind.  The WHO actually put out a spec for making your own cloth mask, but it called for three, preferably four, layers and recommended different fabrics for the different layers.  People are going around in one or two layer buffs and masks made of quilting cotton.  Again.  Mind.  Boggled.

(b) They continued to state that masks protect only others, and not yourself.  While there is some intuitive support for this concept, overall, it just doesn’t make any sense to me.  And apparently, that’s because it actually doesn’t make any sense.  See updated guidance above.

Next, the King County Health Department is seriously giving me a headache.  It just came out that they have drastically underestimated the number of hospitalizations in recent weeks due to a data error.  Hospitalizations are, to me, by far the most important data metric.  They are not skewed by how much testing you’re doing and who you’re testing, and there’s no several week lag, like there is for death reports.  Instead of hospitalizations remaining flat locally, they are rising at a rapid clip.   Measures to impede the spread of COVID are ruining people’s lives and literally causing other people to die (due to failing to seek needed medical treatment and delayed “elective” surgery.)  I feel like the least the Department of Health could do would be to report the data accurately and in a timely manner.  Yet over and over again they report major errors.  It’s really unbelievable.  I feel like the governor should fire the whole lot of them and hire the SpaceX data team.

That vaccine can’t come soon enough.

brief risk rant

We took the kids trick-or-treating tonight, and my mind is just boggled that “experts” suggest this is not safe and suggest other obviously less safe alternatives, like *parties* in one’s backyard and other types of gatherings that feature extended contact with others.  I would say trick-or-treating was not even the most dangerous thing we did today.  I’d rank it third, after buying candy in the grocery store for other trick or treaters (We left it on our doorstep in bins for self-serve) and eating “out.”  We’ve been doing outdoor dining once a week, which I generally think is quite safe, but not as safe as trick-or-treating.

I’m just exhausted by the illogic of people relating to evaluating risk.  People have ALWAYS been terrible at evaluating risk – this is blindingly obvious when it comes to baby and child safety in particular – but it’s never had such a huge impact on so many lives.

At least the kids were cute.

Covid reflections

Ah, Covid.  Some thoughts:

1.) When things were first shut down last spring, I, and most people with a cerebral bent, asked, Won’t it just pop back up again?  Interestingly, and depressingly, this is exactly what is happening in Europe.  Apparently Bill Gates’s and everyone else’s wishful thinking is wrong, and this thing isn’t going away until we achieve herd immunity (by vaccine or infection).   This is depressing because most of the major countries in Western Europe have infection rates (as estimated by death count) comparable or higher than the US.

I started tracking European numbers more closely a few weeks ago, and the resurgence has been clear at least since at least mid-August, both in Europe and NYC.  Unfortunately, we’re now experiencing a surge in my county as well.  We are sitting ducks in the Seattle area, because due to Inslee’s over-cautious restrictions, we have no immunity of any kind.  (I estimate less than 6% of our county has been infected.)

2.) I am worried that if Biden is elected, he will attempt to impose national shutdowns.   The debate with Trump was embarrassing to watch, and Trump’s attack on Biden’s son was shameful, but I thought Trump won the most important part – the Covid discussion.  Trump has done many things wrong in managing Covid, but Biden didn’t bring up any of them.  He vaguely said he’s “listen to the science” but didn’t go into specifics.  He could have, for example, said he’d ensure domestic production of N95 masks so that every man, woman and child could go back to (nearly) normal life with appropriate PPE.

Furthermore, I think he is way too old to be president in the best of times, and particularly now.  It kind of made me a little ill when he paternalistically announced Harris’ nomination.  If she’s so great, why not step aside and let her actually run for president?  (You, too, Sanders and Warren – get out of the way of the younger generation.)  Harris is just so energetic, intelligent, vivacious and  . . . young.  She is a much better president for the Covid era than Biden.

3.)  I am continuing to follow along with what’s happening in Victoria, Australia.  For those not paying attention, they’ve been on some level of strict lockdown since this thing started.  Australia, with its secure borders and low population, actually has a prayer of kicking this thing.  But it is HARD.  With the crazy endless “don’t got more than 5 km from your house or you’ll be arrested” lockdown, they are STILL getting new cases.  They are, however, right to continue the lockdown.  Basically, you have two options – eliminate the virus, or live with it.  If you choose the latter option, you should, in my opinion, only take steps needed to protect the most vulnerable (nursing home residents and over 70s) and keep hospitals from getting overwhelmed.  If you choose the former, however, you have to completely eradicate it.  That means getting to zero community spread.  Victoria is now around 10 to 15 cases a day, but they are probably still a month out from zero, at least.  This is one case in which “open up to soon” actually means something – just a tiny number of cases can set off a huge outbreak that takes months to control.  That is why elimination is impractical for most countries.

4.) If you’re not trying to eliminate the virus, “opening up too soon” doesn’t mean much.  Basically, if your hospitals are overwhelmed, you opened up too soon.  That has only happened in a couple areas in the US, mostly New York City.  The root cause wasn’t “opening up too soon” but the stealth build of the virus before people realized it was around.

5.) I continue to think that the closure of schools is the biggest tragedy of this whole thing.  The impact on vulnerable students is impossible to predict, but it will undoubtedly be severe.  It’s shameful.  Here’s a WaPo editorial that summarizes my feelings on this.   Seattle’s big move has been to create a committee to examine equity in online learning.  Here’s a hint: it is not equitable in any way.

6.) Ireland brought its case count down to goose eggs, then opened up.  It’s hard to argue that they opened up “too soon.”  They have two major problems.  (1) An insecure border with Northern Ireland aka the UK which allows Covid to seap in from the UK, where elimination was never achieved.  In many regards, Ireland is quite similar to NZ, but NZ has secure borders.  Ireland has a group called the NPHET which is meant to recommend measures to contain Covid based on “science.”  The group recommended that the entire country go to “Level 5” which means no one can go more than 5 KM from their house.  Everything shuts down.  The government declined and went to Level 3 instead, which limits travel to work and school and says everyone must stay in their county.  (Irish counties are quite small.)   It is going to be interesting to see what direction they go in, as infections are rising quite rapidly, and I tend to agree with the NPHET that to really stop it, they’d need to do the full lockdown, but I agree with the government that this is not worth the economic impact.  However, that is the path that the US has taken, more or less, and it has seemed like Ireland was taking a more conservative approach.

7.) There has been all this discussion about Trump causing a vaccine to be released too soon.  Frankly, I’m not losing a lot of sleep over this possibility.  I’m much more concerned about (1) If we’re going to have a vaccine at all and (2) how effective it will be.  Are we getting a flu-style vaccine which will likely have fairly minimal impact?  Or are we getting a measles style vaccine which could return life to normal?  Well??  It doesn’t seem like anyone knows.