Category Archives: Covid

travel

First the great news.  My cousin apparently has some genetic variant of lung cancer that is treatable!  It’s unclear exactly this means in terms of prognosis, but it’s unambiguously good news.

We’re on our way to the Big Island on Saturday.  This is also good news.  The not so good news?  Well, naturally I’m anxious as hell and wishing I wasn’t.  Just why?  It’s not rational.  Why can’t I be a laid back person?  I remember loving travel as a kid.  It changed in college / grad school, I’ve grown more and more stressed about it as I’ve aged.  Now, of course, we’ve added Covid preventative measures on top to make it even harder.  To go to Hawaii, you need to be vaccinated or have a negative test.  I think this is great because it makes it unlikely we’ll contract Covid on the plane, but the testing and verification process for the kids is stressful.

I am also not thrilled about wearing a mask on the plane.  As a claustrophobe who struggles with feeling trapped on planes, wearing a mask does not help.  So yeah.  It’s just one more thing.

I just hope I can control my anxiety enough to actually enjoy our vacation.  I’ve actually been doing great overall for the last 18 months or so.  I was pretty stressed out for the first six months of S’s life in an unhealthy way.  I struggled with obsessing over how much she was eating and her weight.  But since then, I’ve been fine, even with H traveling and dealing with all the Covid stuff.  But I haven’t really traveled since the beginning of 2019, and it’s just hard.  I feel safe at home, or near home.  The farther away I travel, the more irrationally unsafe I feel.  Even if my rational brain knows this makes no sense, some part of myself refuses to accept it.

Covid and Hawaii

On 8/23, the governor of Hawaii said the following:

“Now is not the time to visit the islands,” Ige said at a news conference Monday. “It’s a risky time to be traveling right now.” He told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, “I think it’s important that we reduce the number of visitors coming here to the islands.”

One can understand his concern, given that hospital usage was at its highest point of the pandemic so far, at 419 beds.  (I will refer to hospital beds throughout; ICU bed demand correlates extremely well with overall hospital bed demand in Hawaii.)  However, his announcement made little sense on several levels:

  • He waited way too long.  By the time he made his announcement, derivative of the case count had already dipped, and it was clear the peak was near.  In fact, cases on the big island  peaked in late August, less than a week after his announcement.  Hospital bed usage across the whole state peaked on 9/1, at 461 beds.  To make an impact, he really needed to make his announcement three weeks sooner.  It wasn’t exactly unpredictable that Delta would surge in Hawaii.
  • His announcement was predicated on research from UH that suggested that cases would peak at 2000 or more per day in October.  I could eyeball the case counts and tell you there was no way that would happen.  More importantly, the most well-known modelers, like IMHE out of UW predicted cases would peak within the first week of September.  That is indeed what came to pass, with case counts peaking around 9/3, at 895 per day, less than half of the projection, and at least a month early.
  • Perhaps most importantly, IMHE and others project that hospital demands will bottom out in HI on 11/1.  This means that mid to late October is actually pretty close to an optimal time to visit HI, in terms of visiting at a time when Covid is stressing hospital resources the least.

But the governor of HI apparently goes by the seat of his pants, and he’s doubled down on his “stay away” announcement and “urged patience for another two, four, six weeks.”  Clearly he’s not quantitatively inclined.  However, he’s optimistic things will improve in time for the holidays.

OK.

Unfortunately, IMHE does not agree.  Currently, hospital bed demand is about 200 beds.  The current project for Thanksgiving is 165 beds, rising to 217 beds by Christmas and 231 beds by New Year and then continuing to climb.  Logic would dictate asking people to come right. now. or else closing Hawaii’s borders for the next several months.

Full disclosure – we’re traveling to the big island on 10/16.  We planned the trip in February, and we will have to pull the kids from school for a week to quarantine afterwards, but by God, we’re going.  The big island is one to two weeks ahead of the state as a whole in terms of Covid, so I figure our trip timing is pretty much optimal.

If you’ve been following NZ, they gave up on their zero Covid approach yesterday.  With less than 50% of their eligible population (16+) fully vaccinated, they are in for a rough ride over the next six months.

 

the path to herd immunity

The ascension of Mississippi to the top of the deaths per capita table is . . . interesting.  (They’re still only edging NJ by 3%.)  Until recently, it didn’t matter how self-righteous the Covid lockdowners were, Covid stubbornly refused to behave to the desired political message.  TX had only 10% more deaths than CA  this spring right before vaccines became widely available.  In other words, if draconian CA-style restrictions were implemented nationwide, instead of TX-style moderation, we’d have expected to save about 50,000 lives last year – pretty typical for an average flu season.  Limiting restaurants to 50% capacity, blocking large gatherings, shutting churches, and mandating masks is just not that effective.  Australia style DONOTLEAVEYOURHOUSEFORANYREASON rules were quite effective (pre-Delta), but the US has never tried not, not anywhere, not ever.  Not even in the first few weeks.

But the vaccine changes everything.  Vaccines, unlike masks and closing a few tables in restaurants, really work.  Half the country is achieving immunity through infection, which the CDC has told us results in 10 times the deaths along the way.  I believe it.   Only 42% of Mississippians are fully vaccinated.  Same with Alabama.  TX isn’t much better at 50%.  By contrast, NY is at 63%, CA at 58%, and WA at 60%.  I imagine having an extra 20% of people vaccinated will make quite a big difference.  Though I’m guessing we’re all getting to herd immunity eventually one way or another.  We know which is the bloodier route.  Which is the fast route?

antiscience in Seattle

Who’s more anti-science?

  • The Texans who refuse vaccination and won’t wear masks indoors
  • Or Washingtonians who, fully vaccinated, wear masks outdoors while alone and require 50-60 students to quarantine from school for 14 days when a single student tests positive

It’s hard to say which is worse.  The CDC says if students are masked, no quarantine is required when a student tests positive except for the student.  Close contacts do not need to quarantine, vaccinated or not.  However, I just read today that 30 to 60 students are being required to quarantine for 14 days every time a single students tests positive in Puget Sound schools.  It is INSANE.  I posted before that I would guess students in Texas – mask free and engaging in who knows what other risky behavior – will miss far less school than kids in Seattle.

For example: “The Lake Washington School District had to quarantine 53 people after one case was reported at Kamiakin Middle School, spokesperson Shannon Parthemer said.”

I also am tired of feeling like a leper when I go outside without a mask.  I’m not talking about concerts or fairs here – watching a (not crowded) soccer game or a walk through the park.

Biden and his vaccine mandate

Two things happened yesterday:

(1) Biden declared a vaccine mandate for all workers in companies with 100 or more people

(2) LA mandated vaccines for all students 12 and up

Personally, I am strongly supportive of the first, and really on the fence about the second.  The vaccine has not yet been approved for students under 16; it’s still under emergency use.  Children under 18 have extremely low risk from the virus; in the UK, they claim that the risk of the virus is only marginally greater than the risk from the vaccine for that age group.  Since most parents cannot afford private school or to quit work and home school and children must attend school, they might as well go door to door with armed guards and a pharmacist vaccinating children.  CA makes it virtually impossible for parents to opt out of vaccination requirements for school.

On the flip side, I really want this to end, and the FDA is taking its sweet time approving the vaccine.  Having vaccinated kids will mean less hysteria and fewer school closures.  I honestly go back and forth about whether I think this is the right thing to do or not.

On the flip side, for adults, the illness is more dangerous than the vaccine.  The older you are, the more lopsided the risk is.  It’s a no-brainer for any adult to get the vaccine, not only for their own well-being but for the well-being of society.  The vaccine is no longer under emergency use authorization for adults.  And if you really don’t want the vaccine, you can quit your job and go work for a company with less than 100 people.  Everybody is hiring right now.   The only thing is that this is a national mandate, unlike school vaccine mandates, which are usually by the states.

The hysteria over Biden’s announcement dwarfs reactions to vaccine mandate for LAUSD.  That’s obviously in part because it affects more people.  But in general, I am sick of the “suffer the children” mentality in the US.  Adults should be forced to vaccinate!  Kids are required to get all kinds of vaccines, many of which the vast majority of adults have not received.  It’s time adults stepped up and got their jabs and took one for the team.  Children have sacrificed so much for a disease that is – literally – less risk to them than the seasonal flu.  Why?  For the well-being of over-40s.

There are undoubtedly going to be legal challenges.  I sincerely hope Biden prevails.  I would honestly like to see some kind of mandate that forced the vaccine on every single adult over 60.  But this is a great step in the right direction.

Covid in the news

1.) King County has added a new dashboard showing outcomes by vaccinated status.  It’s fascinating, encouraging and disheartening at the same time.  It’s definitely worth checking out.  Highlights:

  • Over the past 30 days, unvaccinated people are 7x more likely to get Covid, 50x more likely to be hospitalized, and 30x more likely to die of Covid.  Normalized by age.
  • BUT 32% of Covid cases, 13% of Covid hospitalizations, and 30% of Covid deaths are among the vaccinated.  Read that again.  30% of Covid deaths in the Seattle area in the last 30 days were among vaccinated people.
  • Note that 78% of people are considered vaccinated in King County.  (Partially vaccinated and not vaccinated are both considered unvaccinated for the outcomes dashboard.)

To me, the high percentage of deaths among vaccinated people indicates that probably the vaccine is not in fact 97% effective among all age groups, or among all people.  I would guess that among exceptionally vulnerable people, the vaccine is less effective.  This to me speaks to the importance of booster shots.  I am extremely displeased with the way the Biden administration is bungling the booster shot situation.

2.) In Israel, the virus czar has indicated that people should expect to receive a second booster (fourth shot) of vaccine.  They have set up their system over there such that your vaccine passport expires six months after your last shot, so you need to get a vaccine shot every six months to stay current and do things that require a passport, like dining indoors.

Israel’s national coronavirus czar on Saturday called for the country to begin making preparations to eventually administer fourth doses of the coronavirus vaccine.

“Given that that the virus is here and will continue to be here, we also need to prepare for a fourth injection,” Salman Zarka told Kan public radio.

“It seems that if we learn the lessons from the fourth wave, we must consider the [possibility of subsequent] waves with the new variants, such as the new one from South America,” he said at the time.

“And thinking about this and the waning of the vaccines and the antibodies, it seems every few months — it could be once a year or five or six months — we’ll need another shot.”

4.) Really interesting article on China.  It’s an opinion piece, but I find it interesting just to learn a little bit more about how China has (mostly) stamped out Delta, something Australia failed to do.  One of the things they did, per the article, in one affected area, was not allow anyone in the city to leave their dwelling for any reason for a month.  It’s a whole different ballgame from what’s possible over there.  But China is the only country with a land border that I know of that has managed to eliminate Covid even temporarily.

5.) The ridiculousness of masking young kids from a likeminded person.

6.) More people starting to realize cloth masks are ineffective.  Many airlines have banned them.  France has banned them.   And a large recent study concluded (on adults) that surgical masks are highly effective but cloth masks, not so much.

The study does not quite claim to be the final word on masks. The authors found that while cloth masks clearly reduced symptoms, they “cannot reject” the idea that unlike surgical masks, they may have only a small effect on symptomatic coronavirus infections, and possibly none at all.

7.) The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation in the UK has recommended against vaccination for healthy children ages 12 to 15.   They state:

The assessment by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is that the health benefits from vaccination are marginally greater than the potential known harms. However, the margin of benefit is considered too small to support universal vaccination of healthy 12 to 15 year olds at this time.

Their recommendation solely considers benefits and risks to children, not to society at large.  i think it’s likely the UK will eventually recommend vaccination for this age group to reduce Covid spread and reduce death of elderly and otherwise vulnerable.  However, the take-home point here is not that this group of experts considers Covid only marginally more dangerous then the vaccine for this age group.

Covid is just not dangerous for children under 18.  Where by “not dangerous” I mean equal or less dangerous than the seasonal flu.  I will almost certainly vaccinate my kids, but I’m really not worried about them, especially L and B.

8.) Australia has given up on eliminating Covid but is still running the country like a police state.  NZ, however, appears to be making good progress on getting back to 0 cases.  It’ll be interesting to see what ends up happening in both countries.  Australia is in a not great place with zero natural immunity and Delta raging.  They are doing a great job vaccinating people, but there is vaccine resistance over there as well.