I desperately need a break from work, so the Friday newsletter is just a quickie with some links. It’s here, if you want to check it out.
Great writing by Caitlin Flanagan about the Oprah interview with Meghan and Harry.
This week’s, T Magazine has a big profile of Jasper Conran‘s English Gardens. I saw him first!
You all know that I’ve not been a complete COVID hermit for the past few months. We’ve been taking day trips on weekends, which have involved some indoor dining. We are leaving for a two day trip to Philly in a few hours, but I’m a more-than-a-tad worried about the rise in COVID rates in our area. If I get too nervous, we might turn around and go home. The good news is that my vaccinated folks were able to come in our house for dinner last night. I gave my mom a hug for the first time in a year.
30 thoughts on “SL 827”
I promised bj an update on the local fallout of the dropping of the state mask requirement in Texas that went into effect March 10. Here’s how it’s gone:
I’ve been into a number of stores over the past week, and you’d never know that anything had changed. Literally every single business had a sign at the door requiring masks. My husband reports that there was a blip about a week ago where about 20% of people at HEB weren’t wearing masks, but that had tightened up by yesterday. It was easily 99% compliance when I was there yesterday (I saw one guy walk in with his mask on his chin). They now usually have a worker or two at the door with a basket of cleaning supplies and a pack of complimentary masks. The only exception was the local mechanic’s I went to on Monday. Only one of the workers was wearing a mask, but those guys are mostly working in the open air. They still had the mask sign on the door, though, and they had a couple of chairs helpfully set up outside for waiting customers…
The news said that there was a St. Patrick’s day shindig with live Irish music at a local downtown bar. From the photo, it looks like they had at least some covered outdoor seating, and they got some quotes from a couple of customers who had gotten their vaccine and were ready to party. It didn’t look that packed out. Come to think of it, I believe I drove past their outdoor seating–they had a lot of space, and it was just a roofed tent, as opposed to the legalistic four-walled “outdoor seating” you see in some cities. (There are no longer any state-wide masking or capacity rules in Texas.)
Predictably, the state and Austin are fighting it out in court over mask mandates.
We’re planning a fairly normal summer, with maybe a few precautions with regard to who travels and not doing back-to-back camps for our youngest. (Not that there are a lot of camps available…) My husband and I (and hopefully a teen or two) will be vaccinated before summer fun begins.
I would like our local new cases to go down faster, but the number of people in the hospital with COVID has been shrinking rapidly in our county.
I’m less happy with national numbers from the last couple days. Both new cases and hospitalizations have flattened out. Deaths are still going down, but as we all know, that’s a lagging indicator. Oh, yeah, and national positivity is trending up. Meh.
On the other hand, have a look at France:
France has both a steady increase in COVID cases that started in late November (right after they bottomed out from their fall surge) and has been ticking up ever since. However, French COVID deaths have been dropping pretty steadily ever since the beginning of February. Over the last 14 days, cases are up 29% and deaths are down 19%.
Germany is kind of similar:
Germany had a winter surge that peaked just before Christmas, but cases have been trending up against ever since they bottomed out in February. At the same time, deaths peaked in Germany in January and have been falling steadily ever since. Over the past 14 days, new cases are up 41% while deaths are down 38%. It’s like they’re on completely different tracks.
I have no clue if what has happened in France and Germany has any relationship to the current surge in the US NE, but the good news is that it’s at least possible now (maybe due to a lot of vulnerable people now being vaccinated?) for a surge in new cases to be paired with a decline in deaths. (I see that New Jersey cases are up 13% while deaths are down 12% over the last 14 days, with a 4% increase in hospitalizations.)
If you click on the Germany and France images, you’ll get the charts I was talking about.
Good to hear that people still look like they are wearing masks in your neck of the woods. I ventured slightly out of my neck of the woods the other day and encountered a few people who were not wearing masks (at a Home Depot, though still outside).
The Covid Tracker project (which is now using CDC data and not collecting its own) says they are worried about Michigan: https://covidtracking.com/analysis-updates/new-surge-michigan
Both cases and hospitalizations are going up. In an Atlantic article (where the project originated), Covid Tracker said they trust the hospitalization data the most, because it is the most reflective of the current state. For example, Texas shows a blip in cases (and deaths) but, they think that is a result of reporting delays and catch up, not yet real.
I’m seeing the curves flattening at too high levels in WA (and nationally) and, according to the Texas tweet, in Texas and in NY. I see the upward drift in NJ and hope it’s not real.
bj said, “Good to hear that people still look like they are wearing masks in your neck of the woods.”
I can’t speak to bars, which might be more concerning in terms of crowding, loud talking and lack of masking.
“The Covid Tracker project (which is now using CDC data and not collecting its own) says they are worried about Michigan.”
The CDC has cracked and is now saying that 3-foot distancing between students in school is adequate with masking. (They’re still recommending 6 feet between teachers and students.)
I see from my local dashboards and the NYT Texas map that my county has 12 cases per 100k daily (compared to 14 for Texas), positivity is 7ish (could be better) and COVID hospitalizations are still ticking down. The city school system with 15,000 children had 3 total COVID cases this week, with none of them being staff. The suburban school system with 8,000 kids has 4 active COVID cases, with none being among staff.
November and December were pretty bad in the local schools, but this looks good.
After a December peak where 1/3 of all county hospital beds were occupied by COVID patients, currently under 6% of beds are needed for COVID.
Thought you guys might be interested in this detailed breakdown of the most likely Covid transmission scenario here in NZ – involving contagion on both a long-haul flight and a short (less than 1 hour) flight, as well as transmission within the MIQ facility – most likely as the result of the Covid test being taken (airborne transmission from one room to the non-ventilated hall and then into the next room when the door was opened for the nurse to administer the swab).
Ann wrote, “most likely as the result of the Covid test being taken (airborne transmission from one room to the non-ventilated hall and then into the next room when the door was opened for the nurse to administer the swab).”
OH MY GOODNESS!
That article by Caitlin Flanagan does a good job of illustrating why I am not optimistic about Megan Markle’s presidential ambitions.
Babylon Bee claims Biden encourages her…. https://babylonbee.com/news/woman-who-thought-being-a-princess-was-too-hard-plans-to-run-for-president
Is the Babylon Bee not parody? Or is a mix? Or are there people who read it as fact? I ask as a non reader.
BeeJay, it is absolutely parody. They make stuff up in riffing on current events. There has been some attempt to exclude them from ‘respectable’ arenas with the claim that people will be fooled.
Thanks. I have never entirely been sure
NJ has gotten worse.
There’s some weirdness here, because NJ has bumped up to 45 cases per 100,000, while NY has slipped down to 33. Rhode Island is 34 now. Those are the top three states for new COVID cases per 100,000. Michigan is 30, and then every other state is in the 20s or lower.
On a happier note, there are 10 states with daily cases below 10 per 100k: New Mexico (9), Oklahoma (9), Missouri (9), Nevada (8), Arkansas (8), Kansas (7), Arizona (7), California (7), Oregon (6) and Hawaii (5).
(Slips into Voice of Doom robes.)
New York is seeing a surge.
New York’s homegrown COVID-19 variant may be infecting people who have already had the virus — or even been vaccinated, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration said Sunday.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb said it remains unclear if the COVID-19 variant, known as B.1.526, is driving viral surges in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.
New Jersey has halted reopening, asks NYC to do the same: https://www.zerohedge.com/covid-19/new-jersey-halts-reopening-mutant-covid-strains-threaten-recovery
Europe is extending lockdown, due to a burgeoning third wave: https://www.zerohedge.com/covid-19/germany-moves-extend-covid-lockdown-uk-scientist-warns-summer-travel-unlikely-3rd-wave
The Covid data explorer shows the divergence between the EU and the US/UK in cases. It is not certain that that divergence will continue–we’re ahead on vaccination, but if the new variants are resistant to vaccines, it may be a rocky road.
Get vaccinated. Some protection is better than no protection.
Despite the molasses-style rollout and bizarre decision to delay second doses to almost four months, I am so pleased that we got my 75+-yr-old mother and mother in law appointments for their first doses on Wednesday. That will be a partial load off my mind.
My 74 yr old dad, who has a very high risk of stroke, doesn’t qualify yet…he could get the AZ dose at the pharmacy and although I know the AZ stroke linkage is still less than the risk of stroke from Covid itself, he’s waiting.
Jenn said, “Despite the molasses-style rollout and bizarre decision to delay second doses to almost four months…”
It’s working really well for the Brits!
“I know the AZ stroke linkage is still less than the risk of stroke from Covid itself, he’s waiting.”
I’ve heard from a doctor relative that the AZ stroke events were traced to one particular batch of vaccine. If you search for “ABV5811,” you’ll find news reports that Italian prosecutors have seized the batch; that particular batch won’t be on offer in Arizona.
I am really a moderate, which is an uncomfortable place to be when people have Strong Opinions. So, I’m ducking behind my desk, here. Don’t throw things.
Vaccination is helping, but evolutionary processes are driving the emergence of strains that resist vaccines and antibody treatments.
I am worried by reports of “long Covid” than death right now, for myself. That’s likely a personality quirk, that I find long term disability to be scarier than dying. At any rate, if you search for it, you’ll find that there are many people, often previously young and healthy, who are dealing with long-term life-changing medical issues.
However, as a moderate, in the middle, hated by both sides, I do feel that everything can’t remain closed. There’s a time limit, which we’ve exceeded by now.
Yeah those scare me too. My dad had a massive aneurysm 10 years ago which left him with considerable brain damage and which makes the argument for everything on a daily basis – he wasn’t expected to survive, but he did, in part because there was the right medical help available at the right time (here in Ontario our hospitals are having issues.) We don’t want him to have another stroke or long Covid, and if long Covid is anything like he went through, ugh.
But it is his choice and he’s waiting for Pfizer/Moderna for now. Since he and my mum don’t go out (a whole other issue where cognitive gains/declines are involved) hopefully his bubble holds.
Cranberry said, “I am worried by reports of “long Covid” than death right now, for myself. That’s likely a personality quirk, that I find long term disability to be scarier than dying.”
It’s a heck of a lot more likely, for one thing.
I will note, though, that there is a recovery period for brain injuries. In some cases, it may be too early to determine if it’s a permanent injury or if more recovery is possible. I’ve also heard that (anecdotally) some long COVID sufferers are feeling better after getting vaccinated.
“However, as a moderate, in the middle, hated by both sides, I do feel that everything can’t remain closed. There’s a time limit, which we’ve exceeded by now.”
I have personally reached a tipping point. I am worried about the variants. And, cases in our county are trending upwards (mostly young people, the newspaper says). But, 70% of 65+ year olds have received their first shots, and 45% have received a second shot. Vaccines aren’t generally available in our state yet (I’m not eligible, and may not be for a while). When it was suggested that people who were vulnerable should isolate themselves while everyone else goes about normally (focused protection, great barrington declaration) in October 2020, before our winter wave, I thought it was dangerous and unworkable and would result in many more deaths. Now, with the availability of the vaccine, I think “focused protection” becomes more plausible.
I’m an extreme introvert who would see no one but my family on many days pre-pandemic. So if I’ve reached the stage where I think the world is unworkable, it must be a tipping point! I think we have to continue to increase vaccine availability, I think it’s permissible to have “vaccine passports” for air travel and border crossings. I’m inclined to let individual private businesses ask for them, if they chose, too (restaurants, hairdressers, private day care?, private schools?). And, I’d keep mask mandates which I see as a low bar compliance that might help. But I’m ready to let things open up (even if I won’t go).
I’m starting to believe that the 70%/45% might mean that we are starting to reach the number of 65+ year olds who will take the vaccine under the systems we have now. Maybe a higher percentage of 65+ will if they are offered it as part of their routine health care by their doctor? I thought this report about a Trump voter vaccine hesitant focus group was interesting: https://www.npr.org/2021/03/19/978407316/how-do-you-reach-trump-voters-who-say-they-dont-want-the-vaccine-try-doctors
The bottom line was that they didn’t want politicians (even Trump) to tell them what to do about the vaccine, but they were potentially willing to listen to their doctor and to listen to information about the vaccine.
bj said, “I’m starting to believe that the 70%/45% might mean that we are starting to reach the number of 65+ year olds who will take the vaccine under the systems we have now.”
Right, plus some of them have had COVID already.
“Maybe a higher percentage of 65+ will if they are offered it as part of their routine health care by their doctor?”
Yes. I know that my mom is willing to be vaccinated once it reaches Walgreens, but she doesn’t want to do the cattle call drive-thru thing.
There are also people (I don’t know how many) who have opinions on specifically which vaccine they want to take and are waiting for the right one to become available.
Some of my twitter people have been pointing out that walk-ins need to eventually become an option.
I was happy to see this:
“The Texas Department of State Health Services is still asking providers to prioritize appointments for people who are 80 and older, and to prioritize walk-ins from anyone in that age group who shows up without an appointment.”
I’d love to see Texas drop the age requirement a bit more for walk-ins in the next month or so.
The Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine is going to be very helpful for reaching people whose eyes glaze over at the idea of carving out time to go get two different shots.
I’ve also heard it mentioned as being ideal for mobile vaccination team use, given that it needs less finicky handling.
Texas is opening up vaccine eligibility to everybody 16 and up as of March 29. The people currently eligible are healthcare workers, people 50+, people with various health issues (including obesity) and teachers and childcare workers.
I had my first shot March 13, my husband and two teens are now eligible, so that leaves only our 2nd grader not having a clear path to the vaccine. Maybe by the fall? We’ll be signing my husband and the teens up for the waitlist as soon as they are eligible.
Some things I’m looking forward to once my husband is vaccinated: indoor dining, professional haircuts for me and the 2nd grader and taking the 2nd grader to stores occasionally (she hasn’t set foot in a store in over a year). We also just bought June plane tickets to WA for me and the 2nd grader.
Earlier this week, I heard from my husband that one of his grad students teaches online for an Arkansas college and had been telling my husband that (technically!) the grad student is eligible for a COVID shot in Arkansas.
That’s kind of a moot point now, though, with Texas opening up.
Arkansas’ group 1c (which is currently eligible) includes: “People residing in high-risk settings
Includes those who are incarcerated or detained; those living in group homes, congregate settings, or crowded housing; and student housing such as dorms and Greek housing.”
Makes sense, but reading through their list, you wonder who isn’t eligible at this point…I saw an article that said that about 2/3 of Arkansas residents are now eligible.
Quite of number of states are going to 16+ right now.
“Texas is opening up vaccine eligibility to everybody 16 and up as of March 29.”
Wow, that is awesome. It’s so nice to see the US becoming a leader again in care of its people.
“Wow, that is awesome.”
A month or so ago, our county health department waitlist seemed interminable, given the vaccination rate. Nearly 1 in 8 people in the county were on the list, even with limited eligibility. So I was really surprised to be able to get vaccinated as early as I did–I don’t think I spent more than two weeks on the waitlist. I was reading a local news story today, and they say that they’ve worked through nearly their entire waitlist at this point.
The case drop hasn’t been that dramatic in our area (it’s tracking pretty closely with Texas’s rate of 13 new cases per 100k per day), but the drop in local COVID hospitalizations has been extremely drastic–there are fewer than 1/6 of the COVID patients in the hospital that there were at peak. Only about 5% of hospital beds are now occupied by COVID patients. Another thing I’ve noticed lately is that ever since the vaccine campaign really got going, COVID has gotten very uncommon in local schools. There’s an 8,000 kid school district that I follow, and they now have no staff with active COVID and only 3 students (1 in the middle school, 2 at the high school). There are no active COVID cases at the other 8 schools, which work with kids up to 6th grade. And this is with a relatively slow state-wide vaccination campaign…
By the way, I think it’s time to start spending more time publicizing current state eligibility guidelines, so that people understand when they are eligible.
The current CDC radio PSAs are extremely repetitive and don’t have enough specific local information and don’t say enough about vaccination. The ones I have heard have been about social distancing and masking, with a bit of handwaving about how the speaker will get the vaccine when it’s their turn–but no information as to when that may be.
Also, not everybody realizes that the vaccine is free at the point of delivery.
“A new U.S. Census survey found that 6.9 million U.S. residents don’t plan to get vaccinated against COVID-19 because they’re mistakenly concerned about the cost of the shot. In reality, the U.S. government is paying for the vaccine, making it free at the point of service to all U.S. residents—but the survey points to major shortfalls in efforts to communicate that to the public. Those expressing misplaced worry about vaccine costs amount to slightly over 2% of the U.S. population.”
“The Census survey does not provide race or ethnicity data specific to respondents worried about coronavirus vaccine cost. But the worry is surprisingly high among seniors, who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. More than 282,000 Americans over 65 don’t plan to get vaccinated because of mistaken cost concerns.”
“Pennsylvania may have a particular conundrum, with 60% more seniors reporting mistaken concerns about vaccine cost than in any other state.”
“I was reading a local news story today, and they say that they’ve worked through nearly their entire waitlist at this point.”
I got some more information, and there are a fair number of people left on our county health department’s waitlist, but it’s less than 1/3 of what it was at peak. They can work through the current county waitlist in about 5 weeks, assuming nobody signs up (?) and assuming constant supply.
So the new expanded Texas eligibility is coming right on time–it’s time to get more people in the pipeline.
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