Another two weeks, another Quarantine post. We’re only a few weeks off from an entire year of this pandemic now, and the end is still a pipe dream at this point. The thing that concerns me the most right now is the news that the South African variant has reached the US, with two cases found in South Carolina. Given the abysmal way the US has handled this pandemic so far, I’m terrified how this is going to affect us long term. I’ve heard Moderna is working on a supplemental vaccine, and Pfizer is “confident” that their current vaccine will protect against this particular variant. Everything is so uncertain, and sometimes it feels like even post-vaccine, things will just continue on in this isolating system, especially if so many people refuse vaccination, allowing the disease to spread and mutate even further. “Herd immunity” doesn’t work on a mutating virus.
I’ll be honest: I’m also very tired of people talking about the economic impact of this disease while refusing to take the steps needed to eradicate it. If we had just shut everything down for a few weeks last spring, and subsequently did the same each time a new wave approached, we wouldn’t be in a position where everything is still mostly or partially closed nearly a year later. It’s like no one is capable of longterm planning anymore. Yes, an event like the Rodeo may bring in $250 million+ each year, and that really helps the city and all its inhabitants, but the solution is not to just go ahead with the event regardless (see more below). The solution is to deal with the disease aggressively with short-term economic effects in order to have economic gains going forward. If anyone truly believes that a year of partial closures has been better for the economy than a couple short full-lockdowns followed by periods of greater reopening would have been, then 1) they know nothing about economics, 2) or about history, 3) or about the practices of countries who have managed to keep disease numbers low with the economy relatively stable. It’s downright irresponsible to pretend we can continue this way, and the longer this pandemic continues, the longer the economy will suffer in addition to our collective physical and mental health. /endrant.
Maybe I’m just feeling a bit gloomy this week. It’s Super Bowl weekend, and people are going to gather and spread the disease further, again, and I’m so fed up with that kind of irresponsible behavior at this point.
Week 46 – January 22 to 28
166,022 cases, 2,027 deaths, 1,459 seven-day rolling average, 15% positivity rate. The numbers are finally declining. The positivity rate is down by 2.5%, the third weekly drop. The seven-day average is down over 500/day, and we’ve had a few noticeably-low-case-number days this week. The hospitals dropped under 1300 patients for the first time this year. It seems like the spike in numbers that very clearly came from the holiday season is finally plateauing off. Still going to be awhile til we recover, though – our reduced numbers are well over where we were at our previous peak in July, and several major local events/festivities are set to go on like normal (sigh). And not all the numbers are good: the local high school this week reported another 18 students and 1 staff member positive for covid just this week, with a new notice every single day.
Speaking of testing positive for covid, I found out this week that my cousin-in-law, Gina, apparently had the virus. She didn’t say anything about it until after she recovered, but she tested positive on Jan 12th. Her symptoms were apparently very mild – she said she felt much worse with flu – and she recovered quickly. Neither her husband (my cousin) or their kids tested positive, so I’m very grateful. On the other side of the spectrum, Laurence went in for a covid test at CVS at the end of this week. It’s unlikely he has it, but he’s complained a few times in the last few weeks about not being able to smell certain things, or things smelling/tasting wrong/different, and then mid-week he felt feverish and achy with a headache and chills. Likely it’s allergy-related, as he has bad allergies at this time of year, but we figured better safe. We should get the results sometime next week. (Photo: Gina and me going to a movie in 2018.)
For the second time in the last ten months, I ate inside a restaurant. It was up in Marble Falls, which is in a county that has had a total of around 2300 covid cases since the beginning of the pandemic (less than 5% of the total population of the county). Despite their low numbers, the restaurant was taking every safety precaution, from masked employees to partitions between tables to QR code menus to condiments handed out in individual packets. (Bonus: It was as delicious as it was safe!) This is how you do things right. Unlike, say, our local Walmart, which I’ve complained about multiple times over the last ten months, and which finally had to close for a few days this week for “deep cleaning and sanitizing.” They refused to give any further reason or to say what prompted the shutdown, but I’m sure they broke enough violations to finally get the city involved. Glad we haven’t been there in ages!
The big thing that worries me right now is the way officials are talking, pushing back the vaccination timeline so much. I’ve noticed this over the last few months, but there have been some big jumps this week, from “general population getting the vaccine in March/April” to “hopefully we’ll get to the general population by the fall” to “we might be able to start vaccinating children maybe early 2022.” We’re all sick of this, and the US wasted most of the last year making things worse (thanks Trumpy), but the prospect of this continuing on and on for another year or more is agonizing. I miss little things so much. Cafes and movie theatres and browsing the library and going to the grocery store without it being An Ordeal. I miss my kids being in school, and having the house to myself for a few hours each day, and having the option to travel. Don’t get me wrong – I know that this is what we need to do, and I’m willing to do it. I’m also incredibly grateful to have a support community in my hiking group that keeps me sane with masked-up, small group, social contact. But GAH I hope this talk of “maybe in a year or two more” is pessimistic rather than realistic.
Week 47 – January 29 to February 4
178,662 cases, 2,186 deaths, 1,335 seven-day rolling average, 11.4% positivity rate (4th week of a good drop!). Hospitals numbers are still dropping as well, another good sign. In our local high school, 6 students and 1 staff were reported positive for covid this week, which is actually down quite a bit for our school. Everywhere else, though, school covid cases in SA have apparently doubled since winter break – alarming given all the news that keeps saying that supposedly kids being in school doesn’t spread the disease. (Why do these kinds of news articles exist?? It’s very clear that kids spread the disease as much as adults, especially teenagers!)
Speaking of kids, there was some incredibly sad news in San Antonio this week. A nine-year-old fourth grader in normal health began to complain last Friday that her stomach hurt, and she was sent home from school. She died of covid three days later, becoming the youngest death from the disease in our community. This is not okay. We are all not okay right now. January was reported as the most deadly month for SA on record, with around 600 total deaths for the month (more than a quarter of our total deaths).
Any yet, we still see mixed reactions to the pandemic here. Fiesta, which was postponed and then canceled in 2020, has been postponed again this year, from April to June. (I guess we’ll see if it gets pushed back further or canceled again as the time approaches. June seems an inopportune time, though – it’s frickin’ HOT in June here, and Fiesta is mostly outdoors!) On the flip side, the Stock Show & Rodeo is not planning to postpone. I have no doubt this is a disaster waiting to happen, but city officials have no authority to stop them as long as they follow state guidelines. Unfortunately, reduced admissions and cleaning teams aren’t actually going to stop spread when “reduced occupancy” is still tens-of-thousands, UGH! That’s too many people in the same place. It’s following the letter of the law rather than the spirit, and sadly, that’s exactly the behavior and attitude that’s going to keep this pandemic going…and going…and going… (Not to mention, there’s a big chunk of those Rodeo attendees who are anti-maskers…sigh.)
In home news this week: Morrigan flew back to Kansas on Friday. Air travel is obviously not the best mode of transportation, but it was our only choice this time. Frustratingly, the person sitting next to him on his first (of two) flights told him, after landing, that her husband tested positive for covid that day. !!! UGH. Regardless of whether Morrigan can catch covid right now – since the whole testing issue got confused last December – so many others on that plane can. This is why we can’t get the pandemic under control!
Beyond that, Laurence’s covid test came back negative, which is pretty much what we expected but still good news. I also had my second vaccine this week, which I was relieved about because there have been a lot of delays in vaccine shipments and the city mass vaccination clinic actually had to push back this week’s appointments (which were all second doses) for two weeks! I’m not sure if the city is just prioritized below the hospitals systems or what (mine is through a hospital system), but I was very relieved! As for side effects, I had a bit of a sore arm again (though not as bad as the first shot), and I spent most of the day after the vaccine with a terrible headache that wouldn’t budge. I have no idea if this was vaccine-related – about a third of people have headaches and fatigue after the second dose – or if it was a very normal-for-me pre-cycle hormone headache. That was the extent of any reaction. In two weeks, I’ll be as protected as currently possible, and I’ll keep an eye out for when I can schedule Jason and my kids for their vaccines, though that’ll be awhile. Likely autumn, from what I’m hearing now.
Super Bowl weekend. Pray for us. Don’t get me wrong – I love the Super Bowl and we’re planning a party just for the four of us in this household. But dammit, I want to be able to host a proper party next year, and each time one of these events occur and people have 50 folks over to their houses to drink and watch the game together, we just get another spike. I’m tired of living in the Land of Instant Gratification.