It’s been a really, really tough week. On Monday, I picked Laurence up after school and he immediately said, “Ugh, I feel like sh!t.” A shudder of “oh no” went through me. The kid wore his mask the entire first week of school, but only about 50% of the kids did, and the masks are more effective at not-spreading a virus you have, rather than not picking one up. He said that he thought it was just allergies combined with lack of sleep the last two nights – headache, stuffy nose, sore throat. No fever, no cough, no other symptoms. Except then by evening, he had a cough, and by morning, he had a fever.
Obviously, he didn’t go back to school on Tuesday. I called it in, making sure the school knew he had covid symptoms and his absences would be excused, because it takes days to get results back from a PCR test, and that’s all that’s available right now. Jason scheduled a PCR test for him around noon that same day. He also ran to the grocery store to pick up any sick-items (gatorade, easy-prep foods, etc), as well as an over the counter covid test. I was surprised any were available, but I guess keeping them behind the pharmacy counter helps? Anyway, we got a two-test kit and did the first one Tuesday morning. It came back negative (whew!). The second one also came back negative, but we still had to wait for the PCR results. They finally came in late last night, and were also negative, woohoo!
Generally, it feels like things are starting to plateau a bit in number here, though depending on the school/mask situation, that may change. Here are this week’s numbers, including a few new ones:
- Cases: 277,776 (+8,806)
- Deaths: 3,817 (+107)
- Seven-day rolling average: 1,126 (-471/day)
- Positivity rate: 13.6% (-3.3%)
- Cases per 100k: 69 (+33)**
- Hospitalizations: 1,365 patients including 394 in ICU
- Vaccinations: 1,391,530 first dose (83.2% of eligible population); 1,121,458 fully vaxxed (67.1% of eligible population)
- Our school: 1 student and 6 employees positive for covid (first letter home came Monday on the 2nd week of school)
**As the positivity rate continues to decrease due to increased precautionary testing (particularly of students and school employees), this second number is one that’s being tracked carefully. It nearly doubled this week. I haven’t been keeping track of this one over time, so I don’t know how it was during our best days, but the city uses this as an indicator of how prevalent the virus is in our community.
Interesting (and alarming) fact from this week: the average age of hospitalized covid patients here is ten years younger than during previous spikes, and people in their 20s make up the largest number of active covid cases. Delta is definitely a whole new thing. I have a friend up in Dallas with three kids under the vaccination age, and her eldest is positive. Every time my sister, who also has three kids too young, writes to us, I’m worried that she’ll say one of her boys has covid. I’ve read numerous articles that say not to expect a vaccine for under-12s until late 2021 or early 2022, rather than the original autumn that they predicted. I mean, we have good vaccine news coming out this week, with the FDA fully approving the Pfizer vaccine for 16+ (and the 12-15 still approved under the emergency auth), but this news about the younger kids makes me really anxious! Especially with the whole school situation. Speaking of which:
Things have not been quite as popcorn-worthy this week in terms of the pending litigations and mask mandates in schools. But there have been a few big developments. First, one I missed from last week: The Biden administration is looking to to stop states that are blocking mask mandates in school under the Department of Education’s civil rights enforcement authority. Disabled students – including those who are immunocompromised – should have equal access to public education, and thus the state can’t force schools not to protect them. I don’t know how long this particular bit of legislation might take to enact, though, so in the meantime, the states/counties continue to battle it out. Which is where:
Second, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) made a hard swerve this week and announced that the governor’s mask ban will not be enforced in any schools across Texas until all litigation is through the court system and resolved. Which may not be for months. They say further guidance will be issued after all legal action is complete. It’s another blow for Abbott, who was counting on them to enforce his ban.
Third, the Texas Supreme Court has backed off a little. Last week, they blocked our temporary restraining order, as well as Dallas’, but this week they refused to block several others, instead telling the state that they need to apply to the lower appeals court first and let it go up the court system. (This is what they should have done with the first few cases!) However, on the 23rd, the governor went back to them again to ask them to overrule our current restraining order, and San Antonio received notice that they needed to reply to the governor’s filing by noon on the 25th. Yesterday, the TXSC once again gave a temporary stay on our temporary injunction, but hasn’t ruled to permanently go one way or another. We continue to wait.
Meanwhile, closer to home: At the end of last week, our school district held an emergency meeting to decide what they should do about masks. The meeting lasted six hours. The president of the school board missed it due to being positive for covid, but the rest was there. Most of the parents who showed up to speak were maskless and anti-mask, and several had to be removed by cops for refusing to follow the meeting rules. Ironically, about 2/3rds of district parents support a mask mandate…but they emailed in their thoughts (about 900 emails total) because they knew people would be maskless and didn’t want to possibly bring the virus home by attending the meeting! At the end of six hours of debate, the board voted 5-1 in favor of a six-week mask mandate in our school district. Hallelujah. The mandate went into effect on Monday. One of their biggest reasons for voting for instead of against is that in the first three days of school, there were already 268 positive student cases, 148 at the elementary school level. That is more than their highest full week of cases last year. Of course, now that the Supreme Court nullified our mandate, the district is in a weird position and sent out an email that says the mask mandate is still in effect but they can’t enforce it. So…huh?
There’s been other litigation this week, too. Due to the FDA fully approval Pfizer, Abbott made another ban – this time banning local governments, publicly-funded businesses, and private businesses that work with the government from vaccine mandates. He also put vaccine mandates on the agenda for a special session, likely because he actually had to erase several statutes of the current health code in order to put through his ban. The one school district here that already put a vaccine mandate in place just gave him the finger and said they’re doing it anyway, and everyone expects another round of lawsuits on the vaccine issue, just like the mask one.
I’m starting to hear a lot more about vaccine mandates. My sister works for Southwest Airlines, and while they have yet to make a full decision, she thinks they’re going the route that Delta Airlines has gone – not mandating vaccines, but demanding 1) a weekly covid test and 2) an extra $200 health insurance premium monthly for unvaccinated employees. Other airlines, like United and Hawaiian, require vaccines. Lots of hospitals and health care businesses are doing it, too, which honestly seems like common sense but given the state of our country, nothing would surprise me. Now I’m seeing all these nurses crying about losing their jobs because they refuse the vaccine, and I’m over here like f–k yeah, please lose your job, I don’t want a crazy like you being my nurse!!
In all seriousness, though, I sometimes feel like I’m caught up in the Twilight Zone. Common sense isn’t a thing anymore. Politicians are debating whether or not personal freedom is worth more than people’s health and lives. A (very small) percentage of health care workers are arguing that even though they’ve had to have all the other vaccines (including the year flu shot, and earlier potential pandemic shots like H1N1), they should have a choice with no consequences. And the general public, who were injecting themselves with bleach last year, have fastened onto the idea of taking horse and cow dewormer to prevent or cure covid. Seriously. Texas has seen a 550% spike in poison control calls related to these dewormers. Why?? How do you even come to the idea (much less the conclusion) that a dewormer is going to kill/prevent a virus?? I keep thinking this can’t be real, and then I see something like I saw this week.
I watched a dead-serious video of a woman discussing the horse dewormer. She was reading the side of the package to explain why this was safe. It said, according to her, “Not for use in horses. Intended for human consumption.” (Like, what? Why would a horse dewormer say it’s not intended for use in horses??) The package does say this, though. Except without a period. The sentence is actually, “Not for use in horses intended for human consumption.” Because, you know, horse meat is a thing in parts of the world, and this product shouldn’t be used in horses headed that direction. The very next line is a warning that humans shouldn’t take it. But this woman skipped that line, and instead continued on about how she called poison control to check, and poison control told her that yeah, the medicine was perfectly safe! In fact, it was originally created for humans, but then they found that it worked in horses. As long as you take the right dose – for your weight, and not a horse’s weight – you’re perfectly fine. (I’m absolutely sure this entire conversation was made up.) Lastly, this woman went on to say that she’d already taken a small dose (for 100 lbs) to see how her body would react, and in a few days, she would take a larger dose intended for her body weight.
This. This is what the US is doing right now. This is why I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone. This is why my youngest son plans to go to college in Canada and eventually immigrate there altogether. We are drowning in ignorance, conspiracy theories, unkindness, selfishness, and mental illness. Sometimes, I get very, very tired.
Other bits of random news from the week:
- our local jail is having another covid surge due to overcrowding, because the state prison system isn’t taking the folks that are supposed to go there
- NaNoWriMo has announced that due to surges in covid, all events this November will be virtual
- the local community college network here is forgiving overdue expenses for over 4,300 students using federal covid relief funds
- 45 of the 107 deaths this week were reported in the last two days, 100% from unvaccinated individuals
- one high school (not ours) is so overcrowded that there are 40+ students in one room, some sitting on the floor because there aren’t enough desks, so no chance of social distancing
All right. I don’t have the energy to add pictures and stuff to this post. Sorry for the long walls of text. I’m just really tired. Remember how I wanted August to be boring?