Saturday, June 27, 2020

Weekend Reading: A Mixed Bag Edition

I posted on Twitter last night about how my county's COVID-19 numbers are going in the wrong direction, and I'm worried.  Two weeks ago we were seeing ~150 new cases per day, and a test positivity rate of 2-4%. We'd been there for weeks. I wasn't thrilled to have plateaued at such a high number of cases, but I felt like it was a level at which we could possibly keep things under control with testing and contact tracing.

Now, we've had a week of ~300 cases per day, and three straight days of record high numbers, including 440 new cases yesterday. Our test positivity rate id up to ~6%, and we hit the level of increased hospitalizations that my county identified as a trigger for potentially modifying the health order. We'd previously hit the trigger based on number of community outbreaks for several days in a row.

I no longer feel like we'll be able to keep things under control with testing and contact tracing. I want my county to make changes, and I want us to make the changes fast. The nature of COVID-19 is that our metrics are all lagging indicators of a problem. We've already baked in the next two weeks of cases. What we do now will decide if the numbers we're at in two weeks are a peak or the start of a scary exponential curve.

My county's response so far is to increase its messaging about masks (which have been mandatory here for a long time) and to say it will increase enforcement of people violating the health order. They just shut down another restaurant, so maybe that's for real. I don't think it will be enough. I think we need to shut some things back down - maybe close indoor service at bars and restaurants. I don't think my Board of Supervisors has the political will to do it, though. That makes me sad.

I am tired of watching leaders in successive places make the same mistakes, and sad that it seems my local leaders, after doing so well at first, are now going to make the same mistakes. And I am sad for my family. My kids are being very patient, but I can tell they're struggling at times. We all have shorter tempers and sharper tongues than usual. We are all looking forward to out planned "vacation at home" week, the week after the 4th of July. We are planning to go to the beach, the zoo, and maybe a garden or two. We will probably also rent kayaks and/or standup paddleboards and get out on the bay. I feel like our plans are now at risk due to the rising case numbers. Many of our planned activities will stay safe (kayaking, for instance, is naturally socially distant!) and others may need to be done earlier in the day (e.g., beach outings). We can always hang out in our backyard. It will be OK. But I am still sad, because it didn't have to be this way.

Anyway, let's have some links. I've been thinking and posting a bit more about masks. I think we need to stop trying to convince the unconvincible and focus on normalizing mask-wearing to the point that the 70% if us who are reasonable are wearing them when recommended - i.e., indoors or when within ~6 feet of people outdoors.

I also think it would be helpful to acknowledge the various problems people have wearing masks and suggest solutions.

Along those lines, this thread probably explains why I sometimes feel like wearing a mask while exercising (hiking or running, mainly) exacerbates my asthma:

It is probably NOT actually exacerbating my asthma, but it is triggering the same "can't catch my breath" feeling that I associate with an asthma attack.

The good news is that I find the tube mask (aka neck gaiter) style of mask does not cause this reaction for me. My theory is that this is because the tube mask allows more space for the exhale to dissipate, but I don't really care WHY it works, just that it does!

I can wear a tube mask for long periods of time, even while exercising. And because the tube mask is super easy to pull up and down, I only have to have it up while passing close to someone. As an added bonus, the tube mask style does not fog up my sunglasses.

I have several bamboo tube masks that I bought on Etsy, which I find very soft and comfortable.

My kids both prefer this style, too, for most things. If you search on Etsy for "neck gaiter" you'll find lots of options with cool prints. We have a unicorn print and an outer space print and more on the way. I have also seen them sold by LL Bean and UV Skinz.

Petunia likes to wear the cute earloop style face masks my mom made for her, too - but her ears are too floppy to wear them easily. I solved that by sewing two large buttons on a stretchy headband. She wears the headband, and loops the mask over the buttons when she needs to wear it. She likes that enough that she asked me to make more headbands like this. I bought a three pack of headbands and have been slowly modifying them.

My mom reports that the button trick works on caps, too.

I have seen some people mention that masks can be hot, which I can see would be a problem in some parts of the country right now. I saw someone of Twitter post an idea to store the masks in the freezer so that they'll be nice and cool when you need one.

Another common problem is that wearing a mask can lead to your glasses fogging up. Pumpkin wears glasses, and this is why she prefers the tube masks. There are also various summaries of advice for avoiding the problem available now. Here's one from the Cleveland Clinic.

I never got back to the post I was going to write about what we "bought" with our initial lockdown. Luckily, Dr. Bob Wachter from UCSF did it for me:
We could have done more, but we didn't get nothing from that lockdown. But this tweet from the end of his thread is true, too:

There is a study out of France showing that elementary kids in an early outbreak region did not transmit SARS-CoV-2 that much. This tweet summarizes and links to the article - but it is important to note that the kids here are age 6-11:

An earlier look at high school kids in the same region indicated they transmitted just about as much as adults. (Here's a write up on that from a long time blogging friend!)

This would argue for focusing on reopening schools for younger kids and leaving the older kids at home - the younger kids are also harder to teach remotely (anecdotal data from everyone I know with a kid in 2nd grade or lower!) and can't be left alone to study at home while parents work. I wish we weren't in a place where we have to think about these things, but we are and so I also wish we'd think about these things with all the info we have in mind.

As it happens, we may end up with a split in our household, where Petunia (5th grade next year) goes to school on campus and Pumpkin (8th grade next year) mostly goes to school online. This was based on their stated preferences, and it is making me feel somewhat better that the data we have indicates this is a rational split, too.

And of course, there is this:
We are NOT really prioritizing opening schools right now. We're engaging in magical thinking about how safe it will be to open schools and hoping for the best.

In other news... California is mandating an increase in electric semi trucks. This is good news!

One thing that is making me hopeful right now is that we seem to be more willing to reckon with the fullness of our history than we have been at any other point in my life. It is not enough, and we have so, so much more work to do. But it is a start.

Michele Norris wrote about George Washington's slaves this week. It is worth your time. It includes the mention of the fact that Washington's false teeth were made from teeth pulled from slaves. This made me think of a fictional story I read about that years ago, by P. Djèlí Clark. It is also really worth your time.

In things that made me smile....

This article about trying out a bunch of different online AirBnB "experiences" was fun.

When we can travel again, I want to go see this shrine in Kyoto!

An explanation for insomnia:

OMG this bird:
I've also really been enjoying following the saga of the bunnies in @SarcastiCarrie's flower pot.

Teddy bears on a roller coaster!

Here's your bunny for the week:

Have a good weekend, everyone!

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:54 AM

    CA numbers are clear and you talked about them (and shared info about them) without being .... well, totally terrifying. Which is really an achievement. Honest but fact based and with a list of progress that actually is happening. Tremendously helpful. Thank you.


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