First, I want to apologize for the length of this. I’ve been keeping my quarantine diaries weekly while numbers are skyrocketing here, but the last two Fridays have been holidays. I didn’t exactly want to put up covid news on Christmas or New Year’s! So I decided to just put all three of the last weeks together, and let this post be a bit longer than usual.
Second, I have a lot of thoughts on the insanity in DC this week. I’m organizing them and trying to make my feelings a bit more coherent. That will come, but not in this post. I have no plans to just pretend this sh*t didn’t happen.
Week 41 – Dec 18 to 24
106,793 cases, 1629 deaths, 1208 seven-day rolling average, 14.4% positivity rate (up again). [Note: case, death, and rolling average numbers are from 12/23 because of the holiday on 12/24.] Hospitals are almost where they were this July, and this week, we hit the level of 15.1% of all hospital beds taken for covid patients (12/22). Per the state, if we stay at 15%+ for seven days straight, occupancy limits in restaurants etc will decrease from 75% to 50%. That, more than anything, shows just how inadequate the government measures have been. The whole state is seeing record numbers of cases – here in SA, we had 1717 cases on 12/22, a record high over our previous of 1688 on 7/22 – and yet we’re still allowing all businesses of every kind to be open at 75% capacity or more!! It’s madness. (Especially the church services, which have no limitations or rules of any kind and are statistically the largest spreaders besides bars!)
(emergency alert 12/22)
We also hit the grim milestone this week (12/18) of over 100k total cases in the last nine months, with that number quickly growing. (So far – as of before Christmas – 30% of all our cases have been in December. The month shaping up to be a repeat – if not worse – of July.) Thankfully, school is out. Our local high school only had one day of school in this date range (12/18), and reported 3 more sick students that day. I can only imagine what the daily letters home would be saying if we weren’t now on winter break.
Meanwhile, vaccine distribution continues with EMS and fire first-responders. Several more of my friends who work in heath care got theirs this week. The TX governor also got his vaccine, just like all the politicians in Washington. It’s frustrating when politicians who have either refused to act or have actively called covid a hoax then turn around and get vaccines before people on the front lines. But Jason pointed out that at least in Abbott’s case, he’s made some minimal attempts to slow the spread, including a (very late) mask order for the state this summer. His base is made largely of covid-deniers who refuse the vaccine, so perhaps him getting it early and so visibly will help some change their minds. Of course, the fact that Abbott then plans to reopen the capitol building on 1/4 as if we’re not in the middle of a giant wave is utterly preposterous, so there’s that…
But speaking of the vaccines, the next tier has been decided for distribution: people over the age of 65 or people over 16 who have certain medical conditions that are associated with higher rates of death from covid. And actually – I didn’t expect this – I actually fit into one of those categories, so I might be able to get my vaccine earlier than expected. Huh. I guess we’ll see. It’ll be some time before the first-tier folks all get theirs!
Week 42 – Dec 25 to 31
115,685 cases, 1,538 deaths, 1,121 seven-day rolling average, 19.2% positivity rate (huge increase!). This week’s numbers – except positivity rate – mean just about nothing as 4-5 of the 7 days were holidays where many clinics and city-run testing sites were closed. Plus there were a lot of backlogged cases added and some problems with state reporting. And, as expected from the announcement last week, we hit the 7-days-at-15% covid capacity in the hospital system, so now there are new lower occupancy limits in place where applicable. The city has moved from “moderate/worsening” to “severe” in terms of danger level. They say that the UK mutated strain of covid is in the US, and while they haven’t found it here specifically yet, they would guess it has arrived.
In local news, I’m happy to say that the Spurs decided not to have in-person attendance in January after all. Smart decision, especially after the horrendous aftermath of the boxing match that allowed a “small” percentage of in-person attendance, resulting in a crowd of over 11k people all ignoring social distancing and mask procedures. But the big news this week is all about the vaccines. The state gave the go-ahead for Phase 1b vaccinations to go ahead. Most providers are continuing to give only to Phase 1a folks (health care providers, first line workers) as we still only have about 30% of them vaccinated as of 12/30. But one hospital system has opened up the Moderna vaccine to Phase 1b folks as of 1/4. That’s the category that I fit into, and I’ve signed up to get my first dose on January 11th! Woohoo! Best thing to happen on the eve of the new year!
Week 43 – Jan 1 to 7
128,067 cases, 1,587 deaths, 1,534 seven-day rolling average, 23.2% positivity rate (another major increase all around). Some of that data is still skewed re: holiday closures, but closer than it has been the last two weeks. Remember how we only hit 100k cases on 12/18, and now we’re at 128k? And remember those record-high numbers of 1717 cases on 12/22? This week we had two days of over 2000 cases each. Sigh.
One number that can’t get skewed by holidays/backlogs is hospital numbers, which as of early this week, surpassed our highest levels from July. Personnel is being brought in from outside the city to expand capacity as we’re reaching our breaking point, over 1000 folks so far. Elective surgeries are mostly suspended. On Tuesday night, there were only 42 ICU beds left…in a city of 2.2 million people. Also on Tuesday – and how is this for irony? – some patients were shipped out to El Paso for treatment, the way we took their patients in a few months back. Non-covid patients are being transferred over to military hospitals to make room for covid patients as well.
Then there are the schools, which blithely went back to in-person learning after the two week break this week, despite the dire numbers in our community. Our local high school reported that 11 students and 3 teachers tested positive over the break, and a further 12 students and 3 staff tested positive by Thursday evening this first week back. That’s ONE high school of ~85 in San Antonio, not to mention the middle and elementary schools underneath those. I can’t even find an estimate of total schools in our city. Hundreds, if not thousands…now multiply one high school’s numbers outwards…
Moving on. As I mentioned above, one hospital system here opened up vaccination slots on the 31st for those who qualify under tier 1b. News reports conflict as to whether there were 11k or 17k slots opened, but either way, they were all filled in under 5 hours. Actual vaccinations began this week on the 4th. I’m so excited to be getting mine next week! I know of several friends who are either over 65 or have qualifying chronic conditions (or both) who managed to get slots as well, though far too few. Of course, as the city points out, ~60% of San Antonio falls under the categories laid out under tier 1b. That’s about 1.3 million people…
Now to bring things back to the home level. Every year, my mom’s side of the family gets together on NYE at my grandparents’ ranch. They have a giant bonfire, a chili potluck, and fireworks. Notably, I always leave before the fireworks because that’s a disaster waiting to happen, but otherwise the bonfire is enjoyable. This year, of course, my immediate family opted out. Because yes, despite everything, the bonfire was still on. It got moved to the 1st due to pouring rain on the 31st, but it did happen. There were a dozen or more family members there, not a single one of them wearing masks, all sitting/standing together and serving themselves from the same utensils. This is the same side of the family who have all said they refuse to get vaccinated no matter what (even if it means having to shut down the school that several of them run), and who are quick to point fingers to “antifa” as being behind violent political rallies that are, in reality, verifiably pro-Trump folks. It makes me really sad, because I haven’t seen my grandparents since last year’s bonfire, and I haven’t seen many of my other family members since my cousin’s wedding last February. But they’re all vulnerable, and I can’t take the risk of visiting, not until things are much better or at least most of us can be vaccinated. Sigh.
My vaccine is next Monday. We’ll keep wearing masks and washing our hands. What else can we do?