Saturday, June 13, 2020

Weekend Reading: The Facing Reality Edition

This was the week when I finally accepted that we're not going to bring SARS-CoV-2 transmission rates down here, even in San Diego where we've done a decent job of keeping them from rising. When we send our kids back to school at the end of August, we'll be sending them back to something far from normal - I don't know yet if the school year will be abnormal because it is a hybrid of online and in person, because it is all in person but with heartbreaking rules that keep our kids from interacting much with their peers, or because we've said "oh well" and sent them back to seemingly normal classes with the fear of bringing a potentially deadly disease home to their families.

I am pretty angry about this, but that is neither here nor there.

I think my county is opening up more than seems prudent - bars and movie theaters opened here yesterday - while at the same time not providing good guidelines on how people can safely see their friends. This to me is a recipe for a slow-moving catastrophe. Our decisions mean that the virus will be spreading in our community for the foreseeable future, possibly until we get a vaccine and make enough of it to vaccinate widely. But we're focusing on opening businesses and not on giving people real guidance for how to adjust to this new normal we've decided to make for ourselves.

There are plenty of articles out there about how to evaluate risk, but I think the advice would carry more weight if it came in the form of public health recommendations. For the most part, it won't, because no recommendation is going to include "go to the movie theater," and too many of our political leaders desperately want people to go spend money at businesses even if that puts their health at risk.

And even when public health officers do issue orders, they don't always get the back up they need from political leaders. Look at what happened in Orange County with masks. The public health officer issued an order requiring masks and received threats. She resigned and her temporary replacement has rescinded the order.

This is not an isolated thing. Public health officials are resigning, retiring, or sometimes getting fired by hostile political leaders, all over the country.

I am not aware of any such backlash against our public health orders here in San Diego. When I've gone out to stores, everyone was wearing masks.  However, when my husband went to pick up takeout from a local restaurant last week (not long after restaurants were allowed to reopen for onsite dining), he reported that staff and everyone picking up takeout were wearing masks. The people waiting for tables? Not so much, despite the fact that the health order says they have to keep their masks on until they are seated.

Also, we're reopening for tourism now, too, and at this time of year our biggest source of tourists is Arizona, which seems to be headed for real trouble with coronavirus and also does not require masks. Will local tourism establishments enforce the mask order on visitors who are not used to be required to wear masks? I am skeptical.

So anyway, my husband and I are trying to figure out what a safe and sustainable lifestyle will be right now, with the idea that we're stuck in this spot in between OK and crisis for probably at least another year.

One thing we did is finally give in to Petunia's pleas for a fuzzy pet. Meet Daisy, our new hamster:

In that picture, she's enjoying some time out of her cage exploring her playpen. Petunia has been doing a lot of research about how to be a good hamster owner, and is so far delighted with her new pet, even though Daisy sleeps way more than Petunia would like during the day. (Hamsters are nocturnal, after all.)

Pumpkin didn't really want a pet but is glad we got a hamster and not a dog (Petunia's first choice). Pumpkin wants another bookcase for her room. She'll get that soon, too, because if I'm going to tell my kids we're mostly stuck at home for longer than I want to admit, I'm going to try to give them the things that they say makes that bearable.

We've also started seeing some friends, and allowing our kids to see some of their friends. However, all meet-ups are outdoors with everyone at least 6 feet apart and with precautions around food and bathrooms. We're also keeping our social schedule pretty sparse.

We're looking at the list of reopened things and trying to think about what activities we think offer the best ratio of fun to risk for our upcoming "staycation." We're all taking the week after the 4th of July off and will try to have fun.

Anyway, I have a few links for you:

Lest we get too laid back about the coronavirus risk: There were reports this week of the first US lung transplant for a coronavirus patient. The patient is in her 20s.

Comparing how we've handled coronavirus with how New Zealand has handled it is a bit depressing, but if you want to read a summary of New Zealand's response: here is a good one.

There was good news out of Missouri: The two sick hairdressers did NOT infect everyone else, probably because they (and all their clients) were wearing masks.

Really, the evidence that getting a majority of people to wear face masks really would help keeps piling up. The people who decided to make face masks a political battleground have done so much harm.

Derek Lowe had good summaries of where we're at with antibody treatments and also with vaccines. Both posts have some cautious good news but also a warning about the very real challenges still ahead.

Former CDC director Tom Frieden wrote a really good piece on how we're looking at the wrong metrics and suggested some better ones.

This is a bit of a gut punch:

I have mostly written and shared links about COVID-19 in this post, but I am reading things about the protests and the chance we have right now to make some real progress on our long-standing problems of racism and police brutality. I have taken some small, unfocused actions (mostly donating money) but need to figure out what more to do. I will try to do that and write about it soon. In the meantime, please don't take my relative quiet on this as an indication that I don't care. I do care. I am reading and thinking how best to take action.

Somewhat related to that, here is a really good flowchart on when to use African-American and when to use Black (and yes, the emerging style guide is to capitalize Black):

There has been a lot of churn about public health experts not condemning the Black Lives Matter protests. This thread is an excellent response to that:

And now for a happy thing:

This tweet made me smile, and if you want to know why and also enjoy some really fun sci fi, read Space Opera, by Catherynne Valente

And here's your bunny for the week:

Have a good weekend, everyone. Wear your mask!


  1. Anonymous11:07 AM

    Thank you for focusing on covid in this post. With the gradual re-opening I am seeing SO MANY who seem to think re-opeing means it is gone...... and it isn't. I also see lots who react that BLM means covid somehow is 'disappeared' as an issue. Covid is here and staying. Equality needs to be here and staying too.
    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR POSTING. It takes time and effort on your end and is much appreciated. Thanks also for allowing anon as posting replies.

  2. It truly does feel like everyone is just giving up on trying to make any sensible decisions and it's stressing me out foe the world at large. Reading that in Arizona,
    Doug Ducey has decided his constituents just "have to learn to live with it" like it's a bad head cold or something equally mundane makes my blood boil. It still feels like there's a strong racist undercurrent to this level of handwaving and dismissal of even making masks mandatory because this has been the tide from the moment the data showed this was hitting black and brown people worse.

  3. Alexicographer5:43 PM

    So, a serious and I hope not too annoying question: aside from the challenge of traveling there safely (and perhaps that's the answer), why -- not move to New Zealand? Because if I were legally able to (and I think you are?) I'd sure be tempted.

    1. We could move to New Zealand anytime we want to do so - my husband and kids are New Zealand citizens, and I would be allowed in by virtue of being married to my husband. Right now, we'd have to quarantine for 14 days on arrival and I am not sure how many flights are even available, but I suspect we could find a way to get there if we needed to. I won't say it isn't tempting to move, but we're not seriously considering it right now. It would be really disruptive for our kids, and we're not sure how it would play out with jobs for us. We'd probably find something but we might end up taking a step back in our careers to do so. I'd miss my family and friends here. It would also be a big financial hit to move the kind of money we'd need to buy a house, and we're not sure we'd be able (or willing?) to take that hit twice, so if we moved there we'd probably stay there. I guess we could consider a move that was short term - where we don't sell our house here and rent it out, and don't try to buy something there. But I don't think I'd want to uproot the kids twice in a short period. So for right now, our plan is to stay here. If things change a lot, we might re-evaluate.

    2. Alexicographer9:42 PM

      Thank you for responding, and that all makes sense (not that your decisions making sense to me is important!). I keep thinking I'd get out if I could but the one other country I could go is the UK, and ... Or eyeing Hawaii, but, as you note, complicated. And yet...


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