Quarantine Diaries – July 2021

So San Antonio just finished its 72nd week of the pandemic on Thursday, and the weeks since I last wrote (week 67) have been a doozy. To be honest, I would have liked to be able to keep this as a subset of my monthly wrap-up post. There was a bit too much for that in July, though, mostly because a giant chunk of the US population continues to refuse vaccines, and that combined with the delta variant, and we’re having another new surge. Sigh.

The Way the Numbers have Grown
So let me start with a general picture of where things left off in June. At the end of June, we had a total of ~226,500 cases with 3,550 deaths, an amazingly low positivity rate of 1.3%, an average daily case number of ~100, and only 135-140 folks in the hospital. Things had continued to improve or stay steady for the whole month of June.

Because the city stopped twice-weekly briefings toward the end of June, it wasn’t until mid-July that I started to hear rumblings about things going wrong. Let me start with some quick stats, as of Thursday, July 29 (end of Week 72):

  • Cases: ~239,000 (up 12,500)
  • Deaths: ~3650 (up 100)
  • Positivity rate through the month: 1.3% at the end of June, to 3.8%, to 5.8%, to 11.2%, to 13.5%, to 17% now
  • Daily case average through the month: ending at 724/day, with the weeks leading up going from 106, to 265, to 363, to 589, to 724
  • Hospital trends: steady increase through the month with sharp jumps toward the end, ending the month with 695 in the hospital (up ~550+) with ~200 in ICU – Note: Many hospital patients are adolescent/pediatric, far more than before, some requiring oxygen or ventilator, many without underlying conditions

As you can see, everything is much worse than a month ago. There are some mitigating factors, though. First, there was a huge drop in testing (by about 61% in mid-July), so the high positivity rate can be partially explained by this. An example: When our positivity rate was 11% in January, there were 6000 folks who tested positive in a single week. In mid-July, when our positivity rate was 11%, there were 8673 folks tested, and 971 testing positive. So that’s a bit of perspective. However, the increase in daily case numbers and hospitalizations show that there is indeed a surge happening here in SA, and toward the end of the month, we started getting reports that testing centers had multi-hour waits and urgent care facilities were at capacity. So testing is definitely going back up again, too.

The causes of this new surge are easily identifiable. 1) Everything is open, and masking is on the honor system. Very few unvaccinated folks are wearing masks like they’re supposed to, because they were the loudest decriers of masks in the first place. (AKA the honor system doesn’t work) 2) The delta variant has surged into our community, at 20% at the beginning of July. I can’t find current data for SA, but a week back, the data for TX as a whole was around 60%. 3) Vaccination rates have stagnated at only 65% of our eligible population fully vaccinated, which is nowhere near high enough to keep the virus contained. [Good note, though: new reports on 7/31 said that first-dose vaccine appointments had a sudden surge after it was reported that Delta is as contagious as chickenpox and spreads as easily through vaccinated folks, so I guess people who just hadn’t done it before are starting to go in!!]

Honestly, I don’t understand the vaccine hesitance at this point. The numbers are in. Over the last six months, 99.5% of covid deaths were from unvaccinated folks. Over 95% of current hospitalizations from covid are from the unvaccinated. As of 7/23, only 12% of current infections were breakthrough, and that number makes up less than 1% of the total vaccinated population in San Antonio. Clearly, the vaccine works! Frankly, I’m starting to feel like in addition to people believing conspiracies and misinformation, were dealing with a lot of folks who are afraid of needles and will come up with any excuse to avoid them. If only I could convince the giant chunk of my family to get vaccinated…

Around the City
So back in June, San Antonio was at a “low” risk level. By mid-July, that was “mild” with a “worsening” trend, and by the end of the month, we’d moved into moderate. There have been a few impromptu briefings over the last couple weeks to discuss numbers and hospital stress, etc. There’s now talk about city and county workers potentially required to get the vaccine the way they are in some more liberal states around the country. (So far, this is one thing not outright banned from by the state government. My guess is it’ll be contested if it goes through.)

Unfortunately, there’s been a big outbreak here in an assisted-living facility, where nearly everyone was vaccinated. (This might actually be the reason that 12% of current infections are breakthrough.) A bit over 40 people got covid, and one man (last I heard) was in critical condition. However, the others are recovering well, which is a VAST difference to the outbreaks in nursing homes we had last year when no one was vaccinated. Most of our early deaths were from those outbreaks, and as far as I’m aware, not a single person from this outbreak died. AGAIN, VACCINES WORK!!!

(Siclovia 2015)

Two fun little facts: First, the zoo received animal versions of the covid vaccine to distribute, to keep covid from spreading via animals. I didn’t even know they were working on an animal version. Love it! Second, Siclovia has announced a new date for fall! Siclovia is a street festival in SA that happens only twice a year, and it hasn’t happened since autumn 2019. I love Siclovia and I’m so happy to see it back on the books, though I wonder if the current surge is going to get it shut down again.

Around the State and Country
Texas, in general, tends to do worse than San Antonio because the majority of people here are anti-masking covid-is-a-conspiracy idiots, and the governor panders to them. Only about 51% of the population is vaccinated (much lower than SA), and the state positivity rate has risen to 11.5%. Texas is having one of the worst surges in the US, along with Florida and Missouri. Those three states apparently make up 40% of the new cases among the US. Sigh. The country is having such a huge surge that the CDC reversed its guidelines this month and now recommends masking for all again.

(an actual clip of the email from our school district)

And of course, Abbott is making things harder for everyone except the covidiots. He’s banned any form of vaccine passport in the state so that those who choose not to get a vaccine can’t be “discriminated” against. *rolls eyes so hard* Then there’s the limitations he’s put on the public school system. Schools can’t require masks or vaccines, they can’t have funding to offer virtual classes, and now (the newest blow), they are no longer legally allowed to quarantine students or staff after a covid exposure. Covid is supposed to be treated “like the flu or strep throat” from here on out. WTF??? (Note: Our school district said they wouldn’t send out the daily letters about covid cases at individual schools this year, but parents protested, so those letters will return. Good.) Abbott also removed his own rules for rolling back occupancy limits if covid cases in hospitals exceed 15% for seven days in a row. His words: “Texans have mastered the safe practices that help to prevent and avoid the spread of COVID-19.” Me, looking at the above numbers: O RLY?

Headline: Bexar County is a covid-19 hotspot, CDC map shows

On the Homefront
It has been really nice, at least for a short time, to not worry so much about masks. There were a few times when we’ve been out and needed to stop for a second, didn’t have masks, and were still able to stop. We got to eat in a few restaurants. We saw a movie in theatre. It was nice!

However, that’s all gone now. Masks are back on. I was already being super careful about my mask as I’m at risk for secondary infection post-sepsis, but a lot of my friends are starting to get serious about masks again as well. It’s just what we’ve got to do. Of course, it’s really jarring to see things diverging so far. In late July, I went to my chiropractor’s office, to find that I was one of only three people wearing a mask, including one other patient and one receptionist. None of the chiropractors – not even the one who had an active sinus infection – were masked, and they definitely aren’t vaccinated. They all kept masks on after the governor’s permission to remove them in March, but then took them off after the CDC recommended putting them back on. Ugh, I really need to find a new chiropractor’s office! Then I walked into Dunkin the other day, and they actually had their seating area open – only now that things are surging again. Wut? Similarly, despite USAA’s initial decision that all employees would work from home until 2022, Jason’s team had to start going in one day a week this month. And when J arrived the first time, he was the only employee wearing a mask. I guess it’s no mystery why we’re surging.

I know everyone’s just tired of this. Believe me, I know. For the I-don’t-know-how-many-eth time, Jason and I canceled the cruise we had planned for September. The CDC has been keeping an eye on cruise companies/ships, and rating them based on their safety protocols and how many outbreaks they’ve had onboard. Royal Caribbean is one of the worst, and the ship we were on had an Orange rating. With numbers surging, this is not the time. So again, vacation is canceled, though we do still plan to go somewhere during the week J took off work. Not sure where yet, but somewhere we can get to outdoors and hopefully have an active, away-from-people kind of vacation!

Moving forward
Honestly, I’m not sure if I plan to do a monthly update in August, or to do one halfway through, or what. I was really hoping not to have to return to this…

About Amanda

Agender empty-nester filling my time with cats, books, fitness, and photography. She/they.
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