SL 864

We are in Vermont for the weekend. Skiing for the boys and husband. I’ll be reading books, while guarding the boots and gears at the ski lodge fireplace. Lots of pictures on Instagram.

Hooked on Wordle

Watching: Don’t Look Up! (we liked it). The Great, The Book of Boba Fett, Station 11

Steve’s Reading List: The Earth After Us by Jan Zalasiewicz and Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence

What I’m wearing: Irish sweater, skinny jeans, a rude t-shirt, and Mary Jane Docs.

72 thoughts on “SL 864

  1. Laura wrote, “I’ll be reading books, while guarding the boots and gears at the ski lodge fireplace.”

    I just got back from three days of doing that in Idaho. With the addition of hustling for lessons (they were short-staffed and I needed to keep asking every few hours until a slot opened up) and taking my youngest out to play in snowdrifts and supervising kids on electronics who were taking a break from skiing. We had a grandma and grandpa popping in and out and helping, but there were 5 kids total, age 4 to 16. It worked really well to claim a table and just use it as our base of operations all day. We were a multigenerational group of three households: my parents, my brother and his family, and me and two of my kids. The snow was gorgeous (dry powder) and it snowed the whole time, but there were some iffy road situations both coming and going.

    My two younger kids had a really good time and learned a ton! My husband and college student stayed home in Texas, put together a cat tree, and played with the cat.

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  2. Laura tweeted:

    “Husband said some women on the ski lift were complaining about Covid risk at work. When they are on vacation. There are hundreds of unmasked people in the lodge cafeteria, at the hotels, at the bars. Nobody is checking vaccinations or asking for tests here. Confused.”

    When we were in Idaho this week, there were a lot of times that I completely forgot about the pandemic, as I only saw one masked person our entire time in Idaho. I believe there are pretty stark differences between life in Idaho and life in Washington right now. Admittedly, this was a pretty selective sampling, as I only spent time out and about at the ski village in Schweitzer and one convenience store near Sandpoint.

    Ironically, Idaho currently has the best COVID case stats of any state in the US…

    My guess is that people do not want to wear masks when they are on vacation or having fun and that there may be a “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” thing going on with visitors from more restrictive states when they vacation in less restrictive areas.

    We flew out of Spokane, and the transition from Idaho to all-day masked travel (7.5 hours of airports and airplanes) was pretty shocking.

    I wonder how long the federal masking requirements for airports, buses, trains and ferries will stand, given that a) it doesn’t seem to be doing a lick of good with Omicron and b) 2022 is a midterm election year.

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    1. Before our trip to Idaho, I dutifully photographed our vaccine cards with my cell phone so as to be able to show that the 11th grader and I are vaccinated (the 3rd grader only has her first dose). Nobody asked to see our cards when we were on the road.

      In fact, since we started getting vaccinated in March 2021, nobody at any business has ever asked to see our cards.

      My parents live in one of the WA counties where proof of vaccination is required for entry into restaurants. My parents believe they got COVID in Jan. 2020 and are not vaccinated. They have figured out which local restaurants aren’t actually carding.

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    2. Laura tweeted “There are hundreds of unmasked people in the lodge cafeteria, at the hotels, at the bars. Nobody is checking vaccinations or asking for tests here. Confused.”

      We’re supposed to have mandatory vaccine passes at all indoor dining venues (if you’re sitting down eating, you need a pass – just ordering takeout, you don’t).

      There is a giant hole in the vaccine passport system in NZ. It’s simply a QR code with your name and dob. This does link back to the national DB if anyone checks (think it’s happened to me twice in the last 2 months) – but all that does is verify it *is* a valid code. *Nothing* preventing me from giving a photocopy to my best mate (approx same age/gender) – to use.

      Even the most vigilant of the shops – which actually scan the code, rather than just visually checking it – haven’t asked me for a photo ID to check that the person with the vaccine pass is the same as the person in front of them.

      Anecdotally, there are a lot of people who are unvaccinated, who are just using someone else’s vaccine pass.

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      1. Ann wrote, “Even the most vigilant of the shops – which actually scan the code, rather than just visually checking it – haven’t asked me for a photo ID to check that the person with the vaccine pass is the same as the person in front of them.”

        I believe that the parts of the US that are doing vaccine passports are also often requiring accompanying ID. But this is pretty iffy after years of basically the same folks saying that requiring ID for voting is racist and discriminatory, an insurmountable barrier for marginalized people.

        It’s probably not a coincidence that the voter-ID-is-discriminatory argument has gone underground the last year or so.

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  3. Laura wrote: “Watching: …The Book of Boba Fett, ”

    We’ve been watching Boba Fett as well. Jury is still out, for me. Not liking the flashback structure (I find it hard to tell what is ‘current’ and what is retrospective)
    And, while I like Tem Morrison (#kiwiactor) – I’m finding it a bit hard to reconcile this Boba Fett, the woke govern-by-consent crime lord, with the Boba Fett who is a ruthless (and very effective) bounty hunter.
    Perhaps further episodes will explain this radical transformation.

    Not nearly so good as The Mandolorian, which hooked me in from the first episode.

    Have found it amusing to discuss the movies they nicked the action sequence ideas from, though.

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  4. while here, the teen is getting together with friends for game night and they all plan to take rapid tests before gathering and plan to wear masks if they are indoors.

    not sure if that will happen, but that’s the plan.

    I can’t speak past my small circle for personal gatherings, but people are being cautious.

    i’m not eating in restaurants, so i don’t know what’s happening there.

    but there is lots of variations between people and places.

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  5. i do think omicron will become unavoidable but am hopeful that the precautions will dampen load on hospitals and potentially mean the pfizer pill becomes more available.

    and the teens aren’t afraid — they busy schedules and don’t want to see them disrupted if they can try to do something to avoid it.

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    1. bj said, “i do think omicron will become unavoidable but am hopeful that the precautions will dampen load on hospitals and potentially mean the pfizer pill becomes more available.”

      That’s very close to my point of view.

      On the one hand, my current thinking is that it would be a good thing (given our vaccine statuses) to get Omicron right now. On the other hand a) the hospital situation is probably pretty dicey and b) the situation with therapeutics is poor, but should going to be improving over the next month or so.

      It is a great time to “flatten the curve”–but I’m not convinced that anybody has figured out how to do that with Omicron.

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  6. I dug through my school emails. There were some changes:

    –School is asking that students wear masks–but not cloth masks. Meh. I don’t want to have to buy a ton of disposable masks.
    –School has cancelled the big parent meeting on Monday. Yay!
    –School will be cancelling assemblies and chapel for students until further notice. Yay!

    There were some other details about not assuming that symptoms are due to allergy. They say that they are running out of rapid tests and are saving them for teachers, so please test your students with your own tests.

    Our family is all out of home tests, as we used them up just before our trip to Idaho. I guess it’s time to restock.

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    1. They’re testing for sports here, and I don’t understand where the tests are coming from. Kiddo is being tested every other day for his practices. When the school system acquired 60K tests to try to test everyone returning from holiday, I thought they were coming from the sports cache. But, they are apparently not. And, I don’t understand why the tests are being used so kids can wrestle, rather than for school. I guess there’s more contact and no distancing. But, school is longer and they eat lunch.

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      1. Yeah. If I were in charge, I’d save the tests for checking symptomatic kids…at least as long as there are shortages.

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  7. My employer, which last month was going to ask people to be in the office 2 days a week starting Jan. 10, has gone remote indefinitely. Three local high schools and one elementary school are going back to remote due to lack of staff/number of student cases. Hospitalizations are trending up again. Everyone I know is using N95 or KN95 masks, either alone or as a filter under a fabric mask.

    Sometimes I read this blog and the comments and wonder if we’re living on different planets.

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    1. gelasticjew wrote, “Sometimes I read this blog and the comments and wonder if we’re living on different planets.”

      It’s a big country.

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      1. Big country yes. AOC went off to Florida for a winter vacation, and was photoed dancing unmasked at a gay bar, and hugging people, went back to NY and days later developed COVID and is quarantining.

        So you could read this as a cautionary tale on mask use, or a cautionary tale on celebrities caught in hypocrisy. Or both – why choose?

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      2. ds wrote, “So you could read this as a cautionary tale on mask use, or a cautionary tale on celebrities caught in hypocrisy. Or both – why choose?”

        Or, maybe, a happy story about a triple-vaccinated early 30-something making reasonable risk assessments and having a good time!

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      3. It’s not just different planets – it’s also that people have different people they know and worry about. A coworker I see every day is a recent cancer survivor and has just gotten Covid after being very cautious. It’s been a week now and the fever won’t go away. It’s dangerous for her. My neighbors have a preschooler who spent the first month of his life in the hospital with RSV, and he remains very vulnerable. I have a relative with blood cancer whose doctor told her she would almost certainly be hospitalized if she got it. I have one friend with diminished lung capacity and another who is disabled, both high risk. This is just my own social circle in my small town. And that’s not to mention my relatives who are over 80.

        So it’s hard for me to see the cavalier, “ah well, we’re all getting it anyway” remarks. They may be true and it may not be a tough illness for most of us, but the repercussions will be huge for some. And all of the people I mentioned are affected by every single one of the decisions their kids’ schools/colleges/workplaces make about vaccine and masking requirements, precautionary measures, and closures.

        A coach here, 40ish, with young kids, someone who coached some my friends’ kids, just died of Covid. Looked like a fit, healthy man. The very long obituary made absolutely no mention of the cause of death. We have a 45% vaccination rate in the county.

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      4. af said, “So it’s hard for me to see the cavalier, “ah well, we’re all getting it anyway” remarks.”

        Well, we kind of are. Omicron is incredibly infectious, vaccines aren’t stopping transmission, and COVID has enough animal reservoirs that there is never going to be a time “after COVID.”

        I can see that there is some point in delaying infection so as not to wind up in the hospital during the current surge, or to delay until therapeutics are better understood and more available or in order to be infection-free for some temporary situation–but at some point people without special circumstances need to just get on with their lives.

        And frankly, in my extended family, some of the people most eager to get on with life are people who are very high risk, like my mom who is a 70-something cancer patient with one lung and my 96-year-old grandma. While I can take some basic precautions for them (I bubbled up and tested everybody I could before traveling to see my mom last week), I have to meet them where they are and respect their level of risk. They do not have unlimited time on this earth, and they’d like to have a reasonably normal quality of life for the time they have left.

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      5. Are you certain the coach died of Covid? I ask because in our previous town, there were at least two cases of sports coaches/sports dads dropping dead all of a sudden, before 2020. I think in those cases the cause tended to be heart issues. There is a large “excess mortality” during this pandemic, but it is thought that many of the excess deaths stem from the lack of care for ordinary chronic conditions, such as cancer, heart disease and blood pressure.

        As to, “well, we’re all getting it anyway,” the increase of coronavirus traces in wastewater are astronomical. The Massachusetts population has high levels of vaccination, so if Omicron’s spreading widely in Massachusetts, vaccinations are not a defense.

        https://www.bostonglobe.com/2021/12/31/nation/coronavirus-detected-boston-area-waste-water-reaches-startling-new-highs/?p1=BGSearch_Overlay_Results

        That article was published on 12/31/21. This is today’s information. https://www.mwra.com/biobot/biobotdata.htm Notice that the x-axis now reports up to 25,000 RNA copies/ml, rather than the 16,000 RNA copies/ml of less than 2 weeks ago.

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      6. I’m sorry to hear about those losses, af. And Cranberry, I suspect that we’ll find that Covid is a vascular disease as well – there’s a study I don’t have time to track down talking about microclotting and long Covid. So it could well be lack of screening/check ups/gym time, or it could be that Covid sometimes produces damage that causes people to drop dead of heart attacks – then or later. I get hives thinking about that as both my parents are stroke survivors and I’m at higher risk.

        Re: AOC, I lean to the left philosophically. I acknowledge that 2 years is a long time. But I think that political leaders probably should work hard to live under the kinds of conditions their decisions create for others, and so I get irritated when I see any of our Canadian political leaders partying. Here it’s probably a wash which party (Conservative/Liberal/NDP/Green/Bloc) has the least impulse control.

        At the same time I also watched Don’t Look Up and those kinds of scandals are the distraction, not the substance, so I try to breathe deeply and let them pass.

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      7. “Are you certain the coach died of Covid?” Yes, his mother posted early on that that’s what it was, before the phrase “please respect the family’s privacy” started popping up. He’s not someone I know personally, but friends know him.

        When someone dies of cancer, we say, “please remember to get a mammogram, or colonoscopy,” or “please stop smoking,” or whatever. But if it’s Covid and half the county is unvaccinated, it’s just too controversial to say, “please get a vaccine.”

        Yes, of course people will have to move on. Older people in their 70s/80s and beyond I think are more comfortable with this, because they saw death pretty clearly on their own horizon even before the pandemic. (Though some of them really want to stay alive as long as they possibly can! There are different ways of loving life.) The people I’m talking about are all under 60 and will have to make radical changes to their lives: either never go to a restaurant, theater, concert, party, etc., or risk severe illness or death. Or, much worse, put their kid at risk. It’s not everyone, but maybe one person in 20, in that age range (just guessing from my circle of friends). If the therapeutics work for most people, and we get them quickly, it won’t be so scary. And hopefully between vaccines and immunity the numbers will go way down and the risk will drop quite a bit. But that’s a lot of people, with a lot of families/kids affected.

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      8. Jenn, yes, there’s a lot to study in the emergence of a new, endemic disease.

        The cardiac issues could be related to some sort of autoimmune response. It is really important to point people to good information on Covid. For example, there’s this: The mechanisms behind the production of such autoantibodies aren’t yet clear. Widespread and long-term inflammation during severe COVID-19 may cause the immune system to produce antibodies to pieces of the virus it wouldn’t normally recognize. Some of those pieces might resemble human proteins enough to trigger the production of autoantibodies.

        Excessive inflammation could also boost production of autoantibodies that had previously only existed in the body at very low levels. Vaccination against COVID-19 is much less inflammatory than infection with the virus. In a separate study that looked at COVID vaccination, none of the healthy volunteers developed autoantibodies.

        https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/autoimmune-response-found-many-covid-19

        I know people living with MS and Lupus. In normal times, autoimmune conditions are hell to live with.
        The thought that Covid might cause autoimmune conditions is very bad news.

        As for AOC, levels of Covid in NYC are skyrocketing, particularly among young adults. According to the CDC’s Covid data tracker, on 1/9/22, NYC has more cases per 100K (482) than Florida (300).

        A politician’s job requires contact with constituents. We don’t actually know when or where she contracted Covid and it isn’t any of our business. Not catching Covid is not a sign of virtue and high social status. I’ll repeat–it is not a sign of virtue. Maybe, maybe it’s dumb luck.

        I really, really hate the simplistic, twitter/instagram sorts of “gotcha” stories spread to increase polarization.

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      9. I imagine that the reason that the coach’s family went to “respect the family’s privacy” is that they were getting barraged with questions and comments about his vaccine status that probably felt pretty intrusive and insensitive.

        “If the therapeutics work for most people, and we get them quickly, it won’t be so scary.”

        Yes! Some of the reports that I’ve seen of nearly 90% decrease in serious illness and mortality with therapeutics were specifically for high-risk people, not just the general public.

        “And hopefully between vaccines and immunity the numbers will go way down and the risk will drop quite a bit.”

        Right now, we’re getting a ton of reinfections and infections of people who have gotten recent boosters. It may be that, going forward, vulnerable people will need to schedule their lives around the viral calendar.

        The consensus from the doctors I listen to is that the yearly case numbers are probably going to stay high. The sub-10k new case a day target that Fauci has talked about in the past as the key to achieving a “degree of normality” may never happen–the US didn’t even hit that during summer 2021, which was as good as it got after the initial vaccine roll-out.

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      10. https://www.webmd.com/vaccines/covid-19-vaccine/news/20211214/only-half-of-us-nursing-home-residents-have-received-boosters-cdc

        The numbers have to be better now (I believe we’re currently at about 60% of nursing home residents having gotten boosters), but as of Dec. 14, about half of nursing home residents were still unboosted.

        “On Sept. 24, the CDC recommended that all eligible seniors and residents in long-term care facilities be given a COVID-19 vaccine booster. However, by the end of October, only about a quarter of fully vaccinated nursing home residents had received a booster, and the rate now stands at 51%, even though 80% are eligible for a booster, new CDC data shows.”

        “According to the latest CDC data, 87% of U.S. nursing home residents are fully vaccinated, compared with 60% of the general population.”

        “Earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government worked with major pharmacy chains to get vaccinations to nursing home residents nationwide, but a similar program isn’t in place for boosters.”

        “Compounding concerns are relatively low rates of vaccination among nursing home staff. According to CNN, in some states fewer than two-thirds of staff members are fully vaccinated.”

        Again, these are old numbers, but it’s unlikely that a lot happened to move the needle over the holidays.

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      11. “I imagine that the reason that the coach’s family went to “respect the family’s privacy” is that they were getting barraged with questions and comments about his vaccine status that probably felt pretty intrusive and insensitive.” Here, it is much more likely that the comments would have been “Covid is a hoax invented by liberal doctors” and suggesting he didn’t really have it or proposing alternative “treatments” and supporting attacks (sometimes physical ones) on medical staff who refuse to give them what they want. Much more likely. There are still a lot of people who don’t “believe” in Covid.

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  8. yup, not a different planet, obviously, but we should be careful about generalizing from personal experiences about what everyone is doing.

    I’m hearing that kids in 2nd grade in massachusetts all showed up with kn95 masks to wear when asked to

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    1. bj wrote, “i do think eating entails unmasking and we should stop pretending that it doesn’t.”

      Yep. When I was visiting WA with my youngest this summer, the restaurant rules were freaking hilarious. Mask up as you walk in the door, take off your mask when you sit down, put on your mask when you stand up, etc.

      Also, mask on airplane except when eating and drinking…which you can potentially do the entire flight.

      These rules make the situation a lot more livable…but they’re not exactly saving lives.

      Local note: a couple months ago, masking in church (college Catholic chaplaincy in Central Texas) was around 5%. As of today, masking had suddenly bounced up to 15-20%. The local situation is that the campus is about 80% fully vaccinated and the surrounding county (which is less vaccinated) is having in excess of 200 cases per 100k per day and over 35% positivity (highest ever)…but at the same time, moderate hospitalizations and ventilator use at 1/5 of the Delta peak from the late summer/early fall. Ventilator use is actually trending down. Maybe it’s too early to say, but so far, so good.

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    2. Note that I’m not saying people shouldn’t mask in those spaces — servers, for example. And plenty of people don’t try to use loopholes to unmask in, say, airplanes when they are not eating. I just see them personally as unmasked spaces and plan to avoid them if I can.

      Kid is eating in school which is definitely a dose of unmasked activity.

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  9. AmpP said “Yep. When I was visiting WA with my youngest this summer, the restaurant rules were freaking hilarious. Mask up as you walk in the door, take off your mask when you sit down, put on your mask when you stand up, etc.”

    Same situation here. Took the boys to an indoor swimming pool – masking and vaccine pass required to get in the door)
    Once in. No mask required for swimming (well, no…)
    But masking required for supervising (or in my case reading – they were all over 12) adults – *unless* you were eating/drinking takeout from the on-site cafe.

    *Every* adult was sitting there with a takeout cup and no mask! Well, why would you sit stifling under a mask, when everyone there is vaccinated, and it’s 100% humidity and over 80F, and there’s no community transmission in this neighbourhood. I quickly wised up after 10 minutes and the on-duty guard told me I had to be masked unless I was eating/drinking.

    Not blaming the pool. These are the inflexible government rules they have to work with.

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  10. We liked “Don’t Look Up” too! It led to interesting discussions. It’s one of those movies that are more interesting in discussion than when you’re watching it. Astral Codex Ten discussed it, but that led to more discussion chez nous, as we all agreed that “Scott Alexander” doesn’t get satire.

    Good performances from a superb cast, although many were cameos by famous actors. I felt that Jonah Hill’s character was close to typecasting for him. I feel he can do different roles, and that he should. Jennifer Lawrence did very well with a character that could have been too one-note (but wasn’t). It was amusing to see what extreme lengths the makeup and wardrobe people had to go to to make her look like an attractive student someone would break up with, rather than her natural, stunning beauty.

    As to the content, I think it was strongest on what Hollywood people do best–marketing and the question of how social media would react to a worldwide catastrophe.

    The best character in the movie is Peter Isherwood. Somehow, the writers and producers nailed the satirical treatment of tech trillionaires.

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  11. one high school and one elementary in our district closed for staffing today (both less affluent schools). Another MS reports 5 -10 individual classes in “gym school”. Some got seats in the auditorium but others sat on spots on the gym floor.

    Parents response for MS (in our neighborhood, probably one of the more affluent schools) is that they want to know and keep kid at home.

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  12. I just picked my kids from school. They missed the first two days of school due to our Idaho trip. Some notes:

    –I wanted to have the 3rd grader wear a surgical mask to school (as per school recommendation), but she disliked it enough that we defaulted to the (probably useless) cloth mask she’s more used to. My 11th grader wore a KN95, as per usual. We’re using our old stock of KN95s. I really, really don’t want to buy new masks in 2022.
    –School requested rather than ordered kids to mask with non-cloth masks. I’m not sure how things were in 3rd grade, but 11th grader reports that there was a clear gender divide in the upper school, with the girls mostly masking and the boys mostly not.
    –It sounds like there has been a fair amount of COVID disruption at school and I believe the entire 10th grade class got quarantined out. My 11th grader is feeling pleased about skipping the first two days of school. He has not missed a lot of material. Some of his classmates are licking their chops at the prospect of going remote, and perhaps combining school with gaming and tennis (?). (These kids haven’t had a substantial amount of remote school since May 2020, so they see it as a treat.)
    –I was discouraging the 11th grader from doing after school volunteering at Public Elementary Near MLK BLVD, where he usually volunteers, as I don’t think we should be mixing cohorts right now.
    –My expectation is that the masking at school will be required for something like 2-4 weeks. I will probably have my 11th grader stick it out the full time (as he spends time indoors with several dozen people so people), whereas I don’t think masking is as important for 3rd grader in her class of about 20 people, especially since her mask isn’t as good.
    –We’ll see how this goes.

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  13. Well, that’s interesting.

    I was having my daily look at county COVID stats, and apparently our county is now averaging 43% positives. I know that home testing messes with this number, but the highest previous number was 26% at the very end of Dec. 2020.

    Ventilator use doesn’t look that bad, though…at least not yet.

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  14. I’ve been arguing on a FB group (yeah, I know) about the benefits of boosters, and I realized something:
    Of the 16 people in my family (including mom and sisters/families), 7 were boosted and 9 weren’t.
    Out of 7 boosted, 1 got COVID, and he had just finished radiation for cancer two weeks before.
    Out of 9 not boosted, 6 got COVID.
    (Btw, I ended up testing negative twice, once on a rapid test, once on a PCR.)

    Get boosted.

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  15. More school stuff:

    –Hometown U. has more cases than at any time earlier during the pandemic…and classes technically don’t start for another week. (There are some people here and the cafeteria has opened, but classes start after MLK Day.)
    –The 11th grader says that his classmates are expecting our private school to go remote soon. They are looking forward to days spent doing “school” combined with gaming and Discord chat.
    –The 11th grader says that people are having trouble getting the tests to do the test-to-stay protocol. Meh.
    –The number of kids sick or quarantined has led to an abundance of unclaimed hot lunches. My 11th grader (who normally gets one hot lunch a week) has been enjoying the glorious bounty.

    In other news, WHO says that half of Europeans are going to get Omicron.

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-59948920

    “The World Health Organization has warned that half of Europe will have caught the Omicron Covid variant within the next six to eight weeks.”

    “The projection was based on the seven million new cases reported across Europe in the first week of 2022. The number of infections has more than doubled in a two-week period.”

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    1. “I saw a tweet that the wastewater surveillance in Boston is showing a steep drop, which would be a fabulous harbinger.”

      I am thrilled by this news.

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    2. bj wrote, “I saw a tweet that the wastewater surveillance in Boston is showing a steep drop, which would be a fabulous harbinger.”

      WADC and Puerto Rico have definitely peaked out.

      I believe Texas may have peaked out, but I want to see a few more days.

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  16. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2022/01/12/covid-omicron-variant-live-updates/

    I don’t have an exact quote, but the WaPo writes, “Top U.S. infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci on Wednesday reiterated the stark warning that the coronavirus will probably infect most Americans eventually, but added an important caveat: While “virtually everybody is going to wind up getting exposed and likely get infected,” he said, “if you’re vaccinated and if you’re boosted, the chances of you getting sick are very, very low.”

    “In that same session, acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration Janet Woodcock said that “it’s hard to process what’s actually happening right now, which is most people are going to get covid.””

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  17. My husband just made a home test order from Portugal: 4 tests for 4 Euros each plus 9 Euros shipping. Hopefully they’ll arrive when it’s no longer relevant, but you never know.

    We do have the advantage of being able to send the college student for testing on campus.

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  18. I learned at pick-up on Thursday that the kids were going to be getting a 5-day COVID MLK weekend. The 11th grader was thrilled…but a bit less thrilled when he discovered that his AP Chemistry teacher was going to be doing remote classes. The 3rd grader misses her friends. The timing for this really isn’t that bad. School is hoping that a lot of kids will be back after this.

    I was a bit symptomatic Thursday night (100 degree temp, light chills, slight nausea, some congestion) and spent Friday trying to get tested. In sum: jumped through hoops and paid copay to primary care doc’s office before being told they had no testing apts. left, some dead ends elsewhere, didn’t want to go to the big free (long-line) J.C. Penney parking lot testing site, nearby urgent care was potentially $350 (depending on how the insurance treated it). We eventually found a no-wait lab about 20 min. away that had rapid and PCR for $125, which is what I did. Rapid was negative, still waiting for PCR. They said that it would take 2-3 days, but I’ve heard that PCRs have been taking longer for some people. My husband managed to order some $8 rapids from Target and he’s supposed to pick them up today. (There’s some sort of federal policy that starts today.)

    County cases are genuinely outlandish and possibly still rising but a) community positivity seems to be flattening out and b) Hometown U. numbers and positivity are dropping and c) Texas may have peaked in terms of case numbers–not clear yet.

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  19. 4 of our 10 comprehensive high schools are currently closed (one with remote learning); 3 middle schools, 2 K-8s, and 2 elementary are also (some through Jan 24, though those with remote learning).

    SpEd staffing seems to be a particular issue in closures, with at least one HS school reporting that all the SpEd staff called “out” (which I think means called out sick, but, maybe other factors play a role).

    Cases are up 15x since December, hospitalizations by 8X, deaths by about 3X (but, deaths lag by 3 weeks or so, so, expectations are this will keep going up, some).

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    1. bj said, “Cases are up 15x since December, hospitalizations by 8X, deaths by about 3X (but, deaths lag by 3 weeks or so, so, expectations are this will keep going up, some).”

      I’ve heard that the wild card is that we’ve still got a mix of Delta circulating in the US, so it makes a big difference what the local Delta/Omicron mix is in terms of hospitalizations/deaths.

      I believe Omicron hospitalizations are on average a lot shorter.

      Like

  20. Really interesting and encouraging article about Paxlovid – and how much it’s a game changer.
    This may not be news to you all – but it’s the first article that I’ve seen that puts it clearly and succinctly – including enough science that I can feel confident that it’s not just a puff piece, but not so much that I’m drowning in technicalities.

    The take out for me: “The drug, when taken early in the infection, reduced hospitalizations by 89% and deaths by 100% and had no adverse effects.”

    That’s got to be a game-changer….

    https://www.acsh.org/news/2021/12/22/round-4-pfizers-paxlovid-approved-will-it-knock-out-covid-16014

    Like

    1. Ann said, “Really interesting and encouraging article about Paxlovid – and how much it’s a game changer.”

      It hopefully will be…once there are enough doses available.

      It’s been a very frustrating aspect of the pandemic that we are almost always late and always short of what we need. (Another current example: Sotrovimab, the only monoclonal antibody treatment that is still highly effective against Omicron, but which is in short supply.)

      One problem that I foresee is that a lot of the therapeutics require early treatment. Even with adequate supplies of therapeutics, it’s going to be a pretty big task to ID eligible people and get them to take therapeutic drugs…especially since the US public health establishment has already exhausted so much of the public’s patience and confidence.

      Like

    2. And, it was already particularly dysfunctional for giving basic level care to large numbers of people. Many are uninsured (TX 18% to MA 3% and a national average of 10%) and others with plans that require significant upfront payment.

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      1. bj said, “And, it was already particularly dysfunctional for giving basic level care to large numbers of people. Many are uninsured (TX 18% to MA 3% and a national average of 10%) and others with plans that require significant upfront payment.”

        I have this awful premonition that the powers that be are about to be “surprised” again by how hard it is to connect people newly diagnosed with COVID with therapeutics, once the therapeutics become widely available, in a near rerun of spring 2021. It may not be that easy for the public to switch gears from thinking that you wait until you are at death’s door to seek hospital treatment for COVID (or else you’re overwhelming the healthcare system) to immediately seeking treatment.

        Heck, now that I think of it, I haven’t heard any PSAs about COVID treatment or therapeutics, not even something mentioning that high-risk people should seek immediate treatment.

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      2. AmyP, for most people, Covid is not a life-threatening event. Very few require hospitalization. It would be a misallocation of resources to encourage everyone who fears they have Covid to seek out early, expensive therapeutics.

        I’m also wondering about the mental framework that assumes that everyone wants to visit a doctor. I have a cousin who was very doctor-avoidant during his lifetime. That made it difficult to treat his chronic health problems. I think a subset of the people who are vaccine-avoidant at this point avoid all medical care. They are essentially free riding on the benefits of herd immunity for things like measles and diphtheria, good nutrition, sanitation, and over the counter medication.

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      3. Cranberry wrote, “AmyP, for most people, Covid is not a life-threatening event. Very few require hospitalization. It would be a misallocation of resources to encourage everyone who fears they have Covid to seek out early, expensive therapeutics.”

        There are about 2,000 a day dying of COVID in the US. I’m not 100% confident that we are using our resources appropriately.

        It would be good if there were some sort of triage process going through positives to figure out who needs more care. Not necessarily in person, but you could do a lot over the phone or online: age, sex, risk factors, etc.

        My guess is that a lot of high risk people don’t really understand that they are high risk.

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  21. I’m interested to hear what people are seeing in community/volunteer/religious organizations at this stage. I met with another BSA adult volunteer on Saturday and compared notes.

    For our 78757/8 area (recent immigrants, both low-income/undocumented and H1B tech workers, older mostly-Anglo homeowners, and 20-something urban professionals), volunteer organizations like PTA and scouts are hollowed out. There’s been some bounce-back from kids/parents who were not involved in 2019, but elementary-age organizations have a huge hole between the 1st/2nd graders who just joined and the 5th-graders who predated the pandemic.

    His (mostly Anglo, Presbyterian) church has seen numbers plummet, though giving declines have not matched the attendance numbers. They’re switching back to all-remote services now that the City of Austin is in stage 5. My own RCC parish’s English-language services have plateaued at around 60% of 2019 levels, but the Spanish-language attendance is above 2019, so we’re switching one of our English services to Spanish in March to balance. (They have continued to live-stream, run FM broadcasts to the parking lot, and have overflow seating in the parish hall, but have resumed in-person services for more than a year.)

    I don’t have any insight into sports leagues or similar parts of civil society. We pulled our teenager out of fencing and haven’t sent her back, but I suspect that outdoor sports might have fared much better.

    Like

    1. Ben,

      I stayed home from church with our youngest until I was vaccinated in spring 2021, but my husband went back earlier with our big kids. We switched temporarily to the-downtown-parish-that-nobody-goes-to. We now split our time between that parish and the often packed-out campus chaplaincy, favoring the campus chaplaincy during holidays and breaks.

      My 3rd grader is in a special ed First Communion class at a third parish. I called them last week and told them we wouldn’t be coming that Wed. night, due to concerns about the current COVID surge. I don’t think our family is in any particular danger, but one of the kids in the class is obviously pretty medically fragile, so I didn’t think it was a good idea. Not sure about this coming Wednesday night…My kid will be coming out of a 5-day break from school, so we’ll be as clean as possible. I won’t cry if they cancel, though…I’d definitely not go this week, except for the fact that we already missed one week in Jan. because of family travel. The 3rd grader did home CCE for 2nd grade, and it was at best OK.

      My 11th grader will be doing tennis and continuing to train for indoor rock climbing this spring, but that doesn’t involve contact with anybody outside our normal circles (it’s school tennis and the college gym that my husband and 11th grader go to several days a week).

      My hope/expectation is that cases will have fallen off very quickly within 2-3 weeks and we will probably carry on pretty normally after that.

      Again, I don’t think our family is in any particular danger, but it would be good if everybody in the local community didn’t all get sick all at the same time.

      Like

      1. My 11th grader was doing weekly afterschool tutoring at a public elementary school during the fall, but I’ve encouraged him not to do it this spring because a) we’ve got a surge going and it would be good to limit contact between different school communities and b) he doesn’t really have the time, as the spring is his sports season.

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    2. When we were permitted to open for Martial Arts, our aftercare program was under 50% enrolment because a lot of parents are still working from home and we didn’t push to fill spaces too hard. Our core program hit about 70% of what it was, but we had a lot of new students as well as returning, plus capacity limits were never really lifted. In other words, we had a similar hole – our advanced students came back, we have new students but some of the students who were new and would have stayed engaged dropped out.

      I think it will bounce back but I have to admit each closure (we’re shut down for Martial Arts in person and delivering online right now) makes it harder.

      I think parents of school-aged kids are *exhausted* and uncertain, and they’ll be back to community service once they have some stability. That’s where I’m at anyway – when we were locked down the first time I was unemployed and spent a lot of extra time in food bank/food delivery and then over the summer was able to help out but since the fall it’s just been a nightmare of trying to manage all the different moving parts of my life, including managing Covid stuff at work and at home.

      On the risk topic below – I’m a 50+ parent, and my boss is my age and he has 2 of his 5 kids under 2.5. 😛 We both are in and out of our programs so our exposure pool is large.

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  22. “My guess is that a lot of high risk people don’t really understand that they are high risk.”

    Hmm. No, I do not share that opinion. I also do not share your great faith in modern medical technology, and the system that administers it. It can do miracles, when the moon aligns.

    Anyways, apparently, That advice links to a CDC page that lists conditions that make people more likely to become severely ill with Covid-19. Many of the conditions are very common, such as being overweight or suffering from depression, certain heart conditions or cancer.

    The Computational Epidemiology Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital estimates that more than 80% of Americans have at least one of the conditions on the CDC’s list, according to an analysis the group did for CNN. https://www.wcvb.com/article/cdc-suggests-canceling-football-band-in-nearly-every-us-school/38795976

    In time, there may be tests that are able to pick out the people who are at especially high risk. Right now, though, most people are high risk. I find it interesting that depression is on the list, because it starts to look like the common risk is some sort of immune system problem, lurking behind common ailments.

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  23. Cranberry, “Right now, though, most people are high risk.”

    Aside from the factors you mentioned, there’s a very strong relationship with age.

    https://www.statista.com/statistics/1191568/reported-deaths-from-covid-by-age-us/

    Here are the number of COVID deaths associated with each age group:

    0-17–710
    18-29–5,119
    30-39–15,105
    40-49–36,305
    50-64–156,098
    65-74–190,641
    75-84–214,501
    85+–216,475

    This isn’t exact, because the number of people in each group is not the same, but it gives you the idea.

    50+ is just a completely different world than under-50.

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    1. What I’d like to see is how that mortality profile holds up under Omicron.

      While it’s reportedly less deadly, is that across the board (i.e. everyone’s risk factor reduces proportionately)? Or does it pose a higher risk to younger groups, than ‘classic’ Covid did?

      We are hearing reports of younger people (i.e.the under 50 age brackets, and especially the teens and 20s) having much higher Covid infection rates. Has this changed the outcome profile for this group?

      Like

      1. Ann said, “We are hearing reports of younger people (i.e.the under 50 age brackets, and especially the teens and 20s) having much higher Covid infection rates. Has this changed the outcome profile for this group?”

        From my observation of local stats, before Omicron, 20-somethings got way more COVID than any other group. Meanwhile, elderly people got way less COVID than any other group…but they had way more deaths than any other group.

        “While it’s reportedly less deadly, is that across the board (i.e. everyone’s risk factor reduces proportionately)? Or does it pose a higher risk to younger groups, than ‘classic’ Covid did?”

        Omicron doesn’t go for the lungs as much as previous variants, so that’s helpful.

        Like

  24. “Or does it pose a higher risk to younger groups, than ‘classic’ Covid did?”

    My reading of the current state of summaries is that there is no evidence in favor of the omicron variant being more of a health risk than the previous variants for young people. Omicron seems to be less dangerous across the board at different age levels (and, especially for the vaccinated).

    I see on googling that NZ is now vaccinating 5-12 year olds and, has a 0.3% case fatality rate and still only 52 deaths; US is at 1.3% CFR and 850,000 deaths. Hopefully when omicron fully spreads in NZ, and assuming that it might — 14 community cases now, vaccination & lower danger of omicron will leave NZ relatively unscathed.

    Like

    1. bj said, “I see on googling that NZ is now vaccinating 5-12 year olds and, has a 0.3% case fatality rate and still only 52 deaths; US is at 1.3% CFR and 850,000 deaths.”

      Is that a whole-pandemic CFR for the US? Looking at current US cases and mortality, winter 2021-2022 CFR has to be way smaller than 1.3%. If it were still in the neighborhood of 1%, we’d be looking at 8,000 deaths a day soon, given that new US cases have peaked around 800,000 a day.

      Like

      1. Whole pandemic, not just now. In South Africa, which isn’t a good comp because of differing demographics, omicron CFR was 15% of the CFR at the previous wave. If had similar rates (older people, but more vaccination), we might get CFRs of 0.2% which predicts closer to 1500 deaths. I think our CFR will be higher, but maybe we’ll peak at 1800 deaths even with the much higher daily case counts?

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      2. bj said, “In South Africa, which isn’t a good comp because of differing demographics, omicron CFR was 15% of the CFR at the previous wave. If had similar rates (older people, but more vaccination), we might get CFRs of 0.2% which predicts closer to 1500 deaths. I think our CFR will be higher, but maybe we’ll peak at 1800 deaths even with the much higher daily case counts?”

        Or close to that?

        The US seems to be peaking right now. It’s not just the NE peaking either–FL is definitely peaking and it looks like CA has too. But a lot of states aren’t quite there yet.

        One piece of very good news–after a very bad Delta surge (despite relatively high vaccination rates), FL mortality seems to be well-controlled during Omicron.

        Like

      3. Sorry–I should have said that the US is peaking in terms of new cases, with a number of states being well past peak.

        Like

  25. Yes, NZ has just started vaccinating 5-11 year olds this week.

    A big initial rush (pent up demand from all the parents who are fully on board with the desire to vaccinate) – leading to queues at vaccination centres, which are also dealing with the booster to the 70+ age group.

    I don’t have a kid in this age range, but lots of friends who do (younger siblings of Mr 14s peer group).
    Anecdotally, parents are a lot more hesitant to vaccinate their 5 year old, than they were to vaccinate their 12 year old.

    And especially when vaccination doesn’t seem to prevent you getting Omicron, and young children are already highly likley to either not get it, or have a mild or asymptomatic dose.

    Here, we have Covid case numbers continuing to drop (Delta only, we don’t have Omicron in the community – or at least, as far as we know!).
    Since mid-December, when we opened up to relatively normal daily life (apart from the closed borders) – case numbers have continued to fall at a steady rate.

    Which makes people both question the point of lockdowns and the need to vaccinate children.

    Since NZ has such high adult vaccination rates (well over 90% of eligible adults – i.e. 12+), and approaching 97% in Auckland – which is the most likely site for an outbreak) – it seems as though Covid is just naturally dying away, as the potential infection routes are shut down by vaccination.

    Yes, Omicron is a game-changer – but vaccination doesn’t prevent you getting it, or spreading it; so really, the only person you’re harming if you refuse vaccination, is yourself.

    It’s hard to predict what result Omicron will have in NZ.
    On the one hand, a highly vaccinated population – which doesn’t stop you catching Omicron, but makes you less likely to be seriously ill.
    On the other hand, NZ has a high population of highly vulnerable people, who haven’t been already killed off by earlier Covid variants.
    And, on the third hand (channelling Tevye, here) – a hospital system which is massivley overloaded now – before Omicron has even arrived, and with dropping Delta case numbers.

    Like

    1. “Which makes people both question the point of lockdowns and the need to vaccinate children.”

      The Hong Kong article said this, too, that folks were less motivated to vaccinate because they weren’t seeing COVID.

      “it seems as though Covid is just naturally dying away, as the potential infection routes are shut down by vaccination.”

      The dream of vaccination and what I hoped for before Delta and Omicron came along with our insufficiently vaccinated popuation.

      “but vaccination doesn’t prevent you getting it, or spreading it; so really, the only person you’re harming if you refuse vaccination, is yourself.”

      And the health care system, that has to care for you and wouldn’t have had to if you were vaccinated (and the people you leave behind and the needs they have if you die) and, if you reach max capacity of the health care system, the people who don’t get beds. And the possibility that you are a host for further evolution of the virus.

      Like

  26. bj said “And the health care system, that has to care for you and wouldn’t have had to if you were vaccinated (and the people you leave behind and the needs they have if you die) and, if you reach max capacity of the health care system, the people who don’t get beds. And the possibility that you are a host for further evolution of the virus.”

    Agree about the health care system impact. But that’s just as true of other preventable stuff (NZ has a significant population of people with T2 diabetes – which is almost all diet/lifestyle – and those patients have a very significant impact on the healthcare system)

    AFAICS, since you can catch Omicron even if vaccinated, vaccinated people are just as likely to be a host for further evolution of the virus, as unvaccinated.

    I do think that if you choose to be unvaccinated, then you are also choosing a higher risk of death, and the consequences of that on your family (both grief and economic impact).
    You are also running a higher risk of ‘Long-Covid’ (however that comes to be defined) – which may have very significant impacts on your quality of life – either in the medium term, or potentially, forever.

    The rest of society can’t shut down, to protect people who refuse to protect themselves.

    Like

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