It was a tough week, not as much for me personally as it was for others because I have the privilege of pale skin, but as a whole in our country. This is only compounded by the potential threat of additional covid spread through protests – protests that I believe are absolutely necessary and right, but I also know just how difficult the decision has been for some people to weigh potential exposure against standing up for justice and the rights of all black Americans. I’ve been trying to be mindful as I post this week here and on social media, and I wanted to address that from the start. I hope that you are all safe. From covid, from the police, from homegrown white-nationalist terrorists, from the chaos that is being incited in cities across the country by agitators that don’t care about George Floyd or any of the million others suffering daily under this burden and injustice. Please be as safe as you can be. Get tested if you’ve been out. My thoughts are with you all. (And yes, more than just my thoughts, but I don’t feel the need to air all my personal contributions because this is not about me.)
Especially important in a hard week: If your mental health is at a point where you cannot bear to hear more about quarantine stuff, skip to the bottom of this post for a list of positives and highlights and Nice Things. We all need some of that right now!
This Week in Numbers
We ended last week with 2583 cases and 71 deaths, plus the highest daily numbers of hospitalizations we’ve seen in San Antonio so far.
- Friday, May 29th: 2636, 72 deaths
- Saturday, May 30th: 2825, 73 deaths (highest daily increase to date, re: backlog)
- Sunday, May 31st: 2830, 74 deaths
- Monday, June 1st: 2839, 75 deaths
- Tuesday, June 2nd: 2882, 75 deaths
- Wednesday, June 3rd: 2953, 78 deaths
- Thursday, June 4th: 3018, 78 deaths
Total of 435 cases this week – our highest weekly total ever – and 7 new deaths. Early in the week, we were told that there was a heavy backlog of tests (~6k) from mid-May that were just now coming through, which were reflected in a few days of major number spikes this week. The high case number this week isn’t necessary reflective of current cases. However, the fact that our hospital numbers have remained at record highs is definitely worrisome, especially now that the state is essentially 100% open again.
Additionally, I’d like to address the racial disparity among COVID cases here, especially as our mayor stated outright that any lack of change (regarding equality, police brutality, and other race-based differences in our city) should lay on his shoulders. The disproportion is particularly striking when it comes to this virus. Our city is a majority-Hispanic city, with 64% of the population, while we’re 25% white and 6% black as our three largest racial groups. Our COVID cases, however, split as 67% Hispanic, 22% white, and 9% black, and our death rates are 54% Hispanic, 21% white, and 22% black. THIS IS NOT OKAY. There is a lot of reasons behind the disproportion and I’m not going to go into them all here (that would be several blog posts!), but this is a disparity that needs to be addressed not just in San Antonio, but across the nation.
This Week in San Antonio
My favorite news of the week is that the libraries have announced their initial reopening plan! On June 16th, book drops and curbside pickup of holds will begin. There are a few other services open at specific locations by appointment only as well. As books begin to circulate in and out of the library, hold lists will start flowing again. There still won’t be indoor service at this time, but I’m happy to have the partial opening!
San Antonio passed the 60k mark of tests this week (roughly 2.5 million folks in the general area), and they say they have a 60% recovery rate now, the highest it’s been. (Not sure how they’re counting recoveries with asymptomatic folks, though.) It’s another good sign to counter the continued increase in hospitalizations. The city is also on the lookout for the new spikes that are all but inevitable given the close proximity of those out protesting (masks on – yes for most – but social distancing impossible) and the discovery of the first positive case of an employee at an HEB meat-packing plant (a major congregate setting that will now undergo universal testing).
Metro health began a study this week to try to determine how widespread asymptomatic cases are in the city. They’ve chosen randomized addresses within each city district and are asking those households if they’ll participate in voluntary testing. The goal is to finish by Monday and test the percentage of asymptomatic community spread. It looks like they’ll be testing roughly 700-800 people, a very small sample, but it’ll give them an idea of what they’re facing in the community at large.
In the meantime, the state made new changes and announcements again this week. In the next couple weeks, the few businesses that couldn’t open before can now open up. Most businesses can have 50% capacity, and restaurants are moving up to 75%. I believe all capacity limits have been removed from essential businesses including grocery stores (?), and from salons and beauty care businesses as long as they keep up social distancing rules. Groups outside the home are now allowed to congregate again with a max of ten people to a group.
This Week at Home
Life seems to be moving almost back to normal here. Jason is officially on work-from-home until at least September, but that’s not all that different from normal given the nature of his job. The local grocery store has given up making masks mandatory for customers because of the small percentage of selfish assholes that continue to make trouble. People are using park playground equipment despite signs, caution tape, and other barriers erected to prevent use and a city order of closure. Morrigan interviewed for and got a job at Taco Bell that he’ll begin on Monday. My friend Stephanie came over to hang out a few hours, inside the house rather than out in the yard. I’ve scheduled some appointments next week that aren’t strictly necessary. Everyone is still taking all the precautions, but we’re personally starting to loosen up our home’s restrictions a bit.
Now that it has been 12 weeks of quarantine, the daily COVID briefings from the city leadership are moving to twice-weekly updates. I’m also going to be moving from weekly posts to every few weeks unless things get crazy again.
Positives and Highlights and Nice Things
The world doesn’t feel like a very good place right now. It’s been hard to see that many bright spots, but I’m trying:
- lemonade cold brew, my new favorite drink that I just discovered this week
- finishing Couch to 5K!
- Zoom party for my nephew’s first birthday
- Zoom party for Ambrose’s graduation
- joining and being welcomed wholeheartedly into a slow runner’s community
- making a new PR mile time on level ground (as opposed to mostly downhill) on Global Running Day (pic above)
- hanging out with Stephanie (and watching all our cats run to her when she arrived because they’ve really missed her, especially Jojo)
- a funky giant mushroom in our yard – I’m always so tickled by these things
Take care of yourselves, everyone.
The racial disparity in Covid-19 cases is an issue here too, and we don’t know what’s causing it. Some of it may well be due to socio-economic factors, but it’s also happening amongst doctors of British Asian background, and it’s highly unlikely that a doctor would be living in an underprivileged area. There’s so much about this virus that we still don’t know. Good news that your libraries are reopening!
Here the issues are definitely clear-cut between the socio-economic factors, the health care system’s inherent biases, those biases leading toward more underlying conditions among black individuals that leave them more vulnerable, the health care deserts in the higher-black areas of town, the marketing industry targeting, etc etc. I read a very fascinating article the other day about the emerging research that believes this virus is actually a vascular disease rather than a respiratory one, which is why it’s hitting so many people with heart, cholesterol, and blood pressure issues so badly.
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We’re hearing all sorts of weird and wonderful theories. The latest one is that bald men are more at risk than men with lots of hair! The vascular theory makes sense. People with diabetes seem to be particularly badly affected, which doesn’t really tie in with it being a respiratory thing.
My favorite “conspiracy theory” about covid is that it’s caused by 5G phone networks. OMG people. Ha! But the vascular disease article was fascinating. I found the link for you if you’d like to read: https://elemental.medium.com/coronavirus-may-be-a-blood-vessel-disease-which-explains-everything-2c4032481ab2
Yes, the epidemiologist at my university gave a talk to the faculty last week and mentioned that it’s not really a respiratory illness, but a multisystem illness, which is why we’re seeing the range of symptoms :(. The research is confirming that men are more at risk because of androgens (hence the baldness thing). In our region, the average age of infection is 49, which is also way younger than we were first led to believe. Sigh. Unfortunately, our numbers are back to being in the thousands in Florida, with Miami still the highest in the state. Too many people are ignoring the mask requirement or gathering in large groups.
Our libraries started doing contactless service for holds about three weeks ago, and just reopened today. As a librarian, can confirm libraries are breeding grounds for nasties. Definitely quarantine anything you pick up for at least 2 days. https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/blogs/the-scoop/how-to-sanitize-collections-covid-19/
Definitely plan to quarantine items, though I’m also happy to say that our library system has said that all returns will be quarantined for 72 hours before being re-entered into the system.
As regards to androgens, I imagine that will put those of us with PCOS into a higher risk bracket too. Sigh. I’ve been watching the gender-related data here since the beginning and we’re still sitting around 50/50 or very close. At the moment there are slightly more men with positive cases total, but slightly more women who have died. That changes frequently.
But yeah, no one is paying attention to rules here anymore and I think everyone’s just about given up. No one’s going to take away THEIR summer holidays! And it’s like they can’t keep more than one bit of news in their heads. I suspect that our city leadership cut their daily briefings not because we have this under control (all the warning signs in the data that they put up says things are getting worse), but because the reporters have stopped asking questions about covid over the last few weeks and have started asking unrelated things (or in some cases, stopped showing up at all).