Category Archives: Covid

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?

masks again

I promise at some point, I will post about something other than masks, but I feel vindicated on my early pro-mask stance.  In March, I wrote the following:

Furthermore, I find the anti-paper mask rhetoric in the US irritating.  Paper masks do help prevent contagion, which is why Asian governments recommend them, including China and Korea, the only countries so far to actually control this thing.  My Korean friend is completely mystified by the anti-mask perspective in the US.  Buying them now may not make sense since medical personnel need them more, but I’m skeptical about whether medical personnel can just wear any old paper mask.  Furthermore, many, many people already own masks in their homes which they could wear.  We, for example, have open boxes of masks from when S was in the hospital and H and I had colds.  We wore a mask whenever we held her.  And, she didn’t catch our cold.

I am still mystified as to why everyone in Asia is happily wearing medical masks and we in the US are still walking around like bandits with bandanas over our faces.  Furthermore, the mask recommendation from the CDC is still *very* lukewarm:

In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

So, you don’t need to wear a mask unless social distancing measures are difficult to maintain?  And possibly not if there’s no community-based transmission? It’s hard to blame evil “republicans” for not enthusiastically wearing masks given the weakness of the CDC recommendation.

I am currently following the CDC recommendation, but since I almost never go anywhere where I’d be within 6 feet of people, I almost never wear a mask.  I have groceries delivered, and I don’t go anywhere else most of the time.  I did wear one to the pediatrician with S and I will wear one for my teeth cleaning today.  (I’m very unenthused about going to the dentist, but I put it off due to pregnancy and then S’s health issues, and it needs to get done.)  But otherwise, I don’t wear one.  I see my friend in Japan post pictures of her family, and they wear paper masks any time they are outdoors, even if they’re a mile from the nearest human.   Furthermore, if you’re going to wear a cloth masks, I suspect it’s much better to wear one that’s an actual mask as opposed to pulling bandana up over your face, which leaves tons of gaps and so on.

There was obviously a hamster study that was very encouraging.  I was very disheartened by another study  that suggested even N95 masks would be ineffective given the size of the holes in the mask as compared to the size of Covid virus particles.  I think it’s interesting that the consensus is suggesting that masks do work, meaning that it doesn’t matter that the particles are smaller.  This makes sense if you think about it.  If you threw a bunch of basketballs at a net with holes 1.5x or even 2x the size of the basketball, most of them would be stopped.

Anyway, I want to start going out to parks and things more with the kids, so I think we’re all going to start wearing masks.  I still don’t plan to wear them when I run, though.  I find it easy to maintain 10+ feet from other humans when running and generally am only within 100 ft of a few people at all, so hopefully that’s not really a risk to me or them.  (Pedestrians rarely wear masks outside in my area, excepting older people, especially people of Asian descent.)

Inslee rant

The governor of WA has finally released a quantitative threshold for leaving “lockdown.”  The good news is that he got it from the CDC.  The bad news is that it doesn’t make any intuitive sense.  A few weeks ago, I assumed the CDC knew better than I and believed what they said whether it made intuitive sense or not.  Now that they’ve reversed their positions on many of the nonintuitive things they’ve said, I frankly no longer trust them.

In any case, the threshold for reopening is when new cases reach a level of 10 per 100000 on average cumulative over 14 days.  (in other words, no more than 10/14 cases per 100000 per day.)  Here’s why this makes no sense.  WA is attempting to ramp up testing and positive test percent is finally dropping a bit; we will be punished for doing more testing.  How does this make sense?  Per our DOH website, they think there are 10 to 15 people with Covid for every positive test, meaning they think we’re identifying less than 10% of actual positive cases.  Therefore, the number of positive tests is highly dependent on how much testing is done.  Reopening should be based either on deaths or hospital load (or both).  Not positive tests.

Furthermore, my projections (which admittedly are not exactly sophisticated, but are at least as accurate as IMHE for my county) show we will *never* achieve this threshold.  It’s just math, and achieving the threshold is certainly within the uncertainty, but I’m guessing increased testing plus decreased compliance is driving numbers to asymptotically plateau above the desired threshold.  IMHE does not project number of positive tests.  I’m not sure if anyone does, though one could extrapolate number of cases from number of deaths (which IMHE does project), and then project number of positive tests from that and planned tests conducted.  I figure my model is plausibly accurate through June barring major changes, meaning that if the governor follows the plan, we’ll still be locked down in July.

I had planned to write an uplifting post about how thankful and proud I am to be American, but my frustration with our governor is just overwhelming all my other sentiments right now.

We went to a nearby park yesterday and had a very nice time.  We stayed only about an hour because the baby got fussy, but as we were leaving I observed that they had closed the park to new arrivals and were turning people away.  This strikes me as just utterly ridiculous.  Here are some photos from our visit.  Note the complete absence of people.

Furthermore, when we got home and I went for a run through our neighborhood park, it was mobbed, particularly with obviously unrelated teenagers.  How is it helpful to close large (state) parks, thus cramming people into fewer remaining recreational areas?   Also, teenagers in my area are 100% not compliant, which makes the fact that they will probably close schools in the fall all the more ironic and pointless.

Mask news of the day

Masks work.

However:

Experiments by a team in Hong Kong found that the coronavirus’ transmission rate via respiratory droplets or airborne particles dropped by as much as 75% when surgical masks were used.

Note we are talking about surgical masks.  (NOT N95 masks.)  I was mystified when the US CDC insisted we not wear masks despite people who seemed to know a lot more about controlling the virus using them (ie Korea).  Now I’m mystified by guidance from local health departments that people wear cloth masks when paper ones (albeit not name brand / hospital grade masks) are becoming readily available.

Another quote:

The team’s conclusion comes after months of conflicting information from world health bodies concerning masks. The World Health Organization has questioned their effectiveness outside of medical settings, while governments including those in the U.S. and U.K. initially urged citizens to leave them for health worker use, only to later make a U-turn and encourage widespread mask-wearing.

Covid rant

I haven’t been writing much about Covid, obviously.  This is kind of ironic given that I think about it pretty much all the time.  I guess in general, I just don’t feel like writing about it.  Also, it’s so complex, it’s hard to summarize my hours of daily thinking in a few paragraphs.  Still.  Here are a few thoughts.

  • Because I quilt and spend time consuming quilting social media, I hear a lot about masks.  I am so over hearing about masks.
  • With that said, despite my previous blog post, I am very pro-mask.  I am just anti-cloth masks for medical professionals.  I think it is absurd that a medical professional should be asked to wear a cloth mask, and that it gives a false sense of security and/or excuses the powers that be in the hospital from doing what needs to be done to get proper PPE.  Cloth masks are not in any way proper PPE for medical professionals.
  • I read so much mixed information about whether masks work *at all,* even real ones.  I hope they do.  It makes sense to me that they would, given that the PRIMARY mode of virus transmission is through the air.
  • Which begs the question, why so much emphasis on handwashing?  When all this started, I practically washed the skin off my hands trying to follow CDC recommendations, which, given my allergies and children and pets, called for washing my hands approximately one hundred times a day.  I am not exaggerating.  I’ve gone back to normal (before eating, after using the bathroom) since the kids stopped going to school.
  • Back to masks.  You can now buy actual paper medical masks on Amazon.  They are NOT certified for medical use, so in buying them, you are not taking masks away from medical professionals.  So why are people still into pretty cloth masks?  They are pretty but almost certainly less effective than the boring blue paper ones.
  • If you must make cloth masks, why not buy some fabric that is actually designed to filter out virus particles?  I have been using filti.com, but there are other options.
  • End mask rant.
  • I am very over the IMHE model.  It was a brief, passionate love affair.  At the beginning, I visited it every day, sometimes multiple times a day, and clung to its lovely quantitative predictions as a window into the future.  However, I have since been massively disillusioned.  Locally (in WA), my Google Sheets extrapolations have been more accurate than the IMHE model.  I don’t blame them.  It’s just, given what we know now, predictions are about as accurate as weather predictions.  As in, somewhat accurate for tomorrow.  Slightly accurate for next week.  Not at all accurate for two to three weeks from now.
  • I am living in one of six states that has taken essentially no steps towards opening up.  Many of the other states (like NY) are among the hardest hit.  I cannot see any rhyme or reason for our governor’s conservatism.  It’s driving me nuts.
  • Especially since I observe broad disregard for stay-at-home orders, among people I see locally, among people on social media, and among extended family.  Examples:
    • Neighbors having people over.  They have dinner together outside instead of inside.
    • Family members socializing with extended family.
    • Elderly person going shopping DAILY in a hot spot because they enjoy it
    • People going for walks together, but standing a bit farther apart.
    • The kid on B’s class this morning who reported he spent his weekend visiting his grandparents
  • Stay-at-home means:
    • You stay at home.  Except to go to work if you are essential.  Or to exercise WITH HOUSEHOLD MEMBERS ONLY.  Or to grocery shop when you have to.  (No one needs to grocery shop more than once a week.)
  • It doesn’t mean:
    • Exercising with friends but socially distancing by mostly walking spaced a few feet apart
    • Socializing with friends but it’s ok because you’re outside and/or stay a few feet apart
    • Shopping daily when you don’t need to or can get grocery delivery
    • Socializing with extended family only
  • I personally support cautious reopening in most places.  BUT.  If as long as we’re closed, people should follow the rules.  It strikes as absurd and selfish and ridiculous for people to be deprived of their livelihoods while others flout the rules to socialize.
  • Bill Gates says things are not going back to normal until 70% of the world is vaccinated.  He estimates 9 months to 2 years to a vaccine.  Let’s call it 18 months.  We’re three months in.  15 months to go.  That sucks.
  • Also, it is not practical to remain closed for 15 months.
  • The New York Times reported that 240 million people worldwide are at risk of starvation this year because of social distancing.  Social distancing is not free.
  • I really hate Covid.
  • I wish Trump were not president right now.  Imagine how much better Obama would be handling this.
  • But given that he is, legislators and governors should do their best to work with him, even if that means stroking his ego.
  • I really hope schools open on some level next year.  I don’t think anything will be different in September than it is now, and I think teachers’ unions will fight reopening.
  • I am worried my kids’ school will not survive this.  They attend a small, not particularly wealthy private school (French immersion).   I will be really sad if it goes under.

I could rant a lot more.  And probably will.  But later.

Covid and all that

It’s hard to believe there could be winners in the time of coronavirus, but there are.  Saoirse is definitely a winner.  Instead of her sisters, who entertain and love her, heading off to school until 3:30 every day, they are home all day to keep her company.  It really is a huge win for her and for the sisters in general.  The bonding that happens between the girls and their baby sister every day is wonderful to see.

I always wanted to home school but in a sort of, I’ll never do that for very good reasons kind of way.  Like the way you want to move to rural Alaska and become a homesteader sort of thing.  I thought it would be fun to develop my own curriculum for the kids that would feature music and nature and lots of math.  The practical realities that led me to never seriously consider it include concerns about socialization for the kids.  While I know home schooling kids can enjoy a rich social life, it depends upon the parent to provide interactions with other kids; this is built in for kids who attend school.  I am not a very social person, and I didn’t want that responsibility.  Further, I didn’t think my mental health would hold up to home schooling.  I honestly thought I’d go round the bend if I tried it.  Well, we’re about to see if that will in fact happen.  I think there are probably a lot of SAHMs struggling with their mental health right now.  I’ve been doing OK, but I’ll be very happy when things are “back to normal.”

I am continuing to severely limit my news exposure.  Instead, I consult the World-o-meter daily as well as the King County department of health website.  I pour over these numbers multiple times a day, every day.  I have the King County data plotted in Google sheets and mess around with curve fits and projections based on different X-Y scatter plots.  (This generally happens while I’m pumping or nursing.  If I wasn’t wrangling an infant, this would be happening in Matlab, obvs.)  Dealing with numbers helps me feel in control.  When I do read the news, it seems to be all doom and gloom, and I get whiplash from articles predicting different outcomes.  I conclude that no one really knows.  I do often find the articles to be a bit at odds with the numbers.  If I were the NY Times, I think my leading articles would likely be a bit different in focus.  I do think it’s an interesting experiment in drawing one’s own conclusions from raw data as opposed to media spin.  I wonder how other people’s thoughts on Covid differ from mine based on reading the news.