Saturday, December 19, 2020

Weekend Reading: Our Turn in the Surge Edition

Covid case numbers are high here in San Diego, and all over California. After doing so well for so many months, we're now most definitely not doing well. Vaccinations are underway, but they won't come in time for so many people.  I don't really have an explanation for what happened. Thanksgiving, yes, but our numbers were already headed up before Thanksgiving. Maybe people just got tired and let their guard down. I suspect we missed an opportunity by not giving people better advice about how to safely see friends and family outdoors. Our weather should have given us a great advantage, and I think we didn't use it as much as we could.

The message I pieced together from reading studies and advice from experts was: 

  • See friends and family outside and either distanced or masked. Be careful, but see people now and then because we're in for a long haul and we needed an approach we can stick with for a year or more. 
  • Try not to be inside with people you don't live with (or haven't quarantined to see). 
  • If you can't avoid being inside with people, wear a mask no matter how far apart you are and try to increase ventilation. 
  • If you want to be indoors and unmasked with someone, both parties need to quarantine for two weeks first.
  • If anyone from outside our family needs to be in the house for awhile (e.g., the people who installed our heat pump), we go outside and open windows and run our whole house fan for 20-30 minutes after they leave.
  • Surface transmission doesn't seem to be a major route, but since I follow the news from New Zealand where they traced a few cases to surface transmission I know it is a possible route. My approach is to continue to wash my hands frequently, try to avoid touching my face, particularly when out and about and touching other things, and to clean high contact surfaces frequently.

But I am not a public health expert, so I acknowledge that my rules may not be the ideal ones. I am also not an expert on health communication and risk reduction during a pandemic, so I don't know if something like my rules, clearly communicated from all levels of leadership would have been more successful than the "stay home, don't see people" message was. I also don't know how my more nuanced message would have worked out in our current political moment. Anyone who says there would have been an easy way to avoid the mess we're in has not been paying attention to what public communication is like right now. 

Anyway, we're in the surge now and our hospitals and ICUs are full and it is a tragedy. I have a lot of thoughts about what we might learn from this tragedy in terms of preventing future tragedies, but they are not fully formed and anyway, that's not where I want to dwell right now.

So, on to the links. I don't have many because I've been spending most of my spare time finding gifts for people. Our response to the surge has been to avoid all unnecessary trips to stores, so shopping has been all online this year, which has been hard! 

But here's what I do have:

Here is some concise advice from one of the experts I've been listening to:

David Perry wrote a very good piece on how utterly we have failed our children. I think a lot about how this year is shaping the world views of my daughters and their friends.

Some good news: The Johnson & Johnson vaccine trial is fully enrolled. A third vaccine with a different modality and manufacturing path would surely help our supply issues. I hope for a successful trial.

In political news: I agree with this argument from Josh Marshall that we must not let bad faith behavior from Republican leaders trick us into wasting time on them.

Dan Pfeiffer has a sobering look at why Republican politicians might get even worse over the next few years

Some things that made me happy:

These ice and snow sculptures are beautiful.

What beautiful pictures:

Beautiful embroidery:

O Holy Night is my favorite Christmas song, and somehow I'd never heard Tracy Chapman's beautiful version of it.

Here's your bunny for the week:

Have a good weekend, everyone!


  1. I suspect we missed an opportunity by not giving people better advice about how to safely see friends and family outdoors.

    Not sure it's the lack of info. The info has been there for a long time, very much available and pretty much consistent.

    It's that too many people think "It won't happen to me/it's not real/just this one little gathering." Too many people are willing to make exceptions.

    This is all interesting anthropologically. Or maybe it isn't, because people are and have always been people, myopic, selfish, and in the case of Americans in particular, overconfident.

    1. I think the information is definitely out there, but that it is not necessarily reaching everyone it needs to reach. The message that is being sent and received is "stay home, don't see anyone" which is frankly not sustainable for the length of time we're going to be dealing with this. It was a great message for the initial "flatten the curve" period and for places like NZ that went for eradication. I think the US needed to move to a more risk-reduction focus once it became clear we were choosing to live with some ongoing transmission. There were people explaining how that would look, but I do not think that message was sent consistently and so we ended up with nonsensical rules where it was supposedly OK to go eat in a restaurant but not to have friends over in your backyard for an outdoor, socially distant gathering. And then all sorts of leaders got caught breaking their own rules... and so people are confused. I hear my 20-something neighbors talking in their backyard and let's just say that they clearly don't have a good grasp on what behavior is riskiest.

  2. Socal Dendrite4:21 PM

    I'm enrolled in the Janssen phase 3 trial and got the shot several weeks ago (though I strongly suspect I got the placebo because I had zero adverse effects, not even a hint of an ache in the injected arm). Fingers crossed it too is safe and effective.
    Have you seen the news about the new strain that's arisen in the UK recently? It's a bit hard to tell exactly what's going on, but I read to day that although the vaccine should still be effective against it, it is several steps closer to a vaccine-escape variant :(

    1. I've got a Science article about the variant flagged to read when I have the time. From what I've read so far, it looks like it is too soon to know if it is a problem. If I find something good on it, I'll share it!

      Good on you for volunteering for the trial! I really hope that vaccine turns out to be safe and effective, too - it would really help the supply problem.

  3. My suspicion is that it's some combination of fatigue with the restrictions, mixed messaging leading to confusion or emboldening the people who didn't want to bother with following the rules to say they didn't make sense anyway (and often they didn't seem to align properly to us and we are very inclined to follow the rules), and just plain necessity for those who can't afford to stay home or won't be paid if they stay home sick.

    It's very disheartening. I'd like to be hopeful now that vaccines are becoming reality but as the parent of very young ones for whom there still isn't a vaccine, I'm not expecting our own reality to change much and I know other parents of similar aged kids who feel the same way.

  4. re: your tweets about vegetable forward meals-- I strongly recommend Simple by Ottolenghi. I think most of his cookbooks are very vegetable-forward (and at least one of his books is entirely vegetarian), but with his other books can have pretty involved recipes.


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