I don't know if I'll have many links for you this week. I got frustrated/depressed by the news about the Delta variant spreading and the heat waves and floods and other climate-related disasters and I decided to spend less time on Twitter and am instead working on a jigsaw puzzle my parents lent me. My husband has already done this one so he is staying away and therefore it is taking me longer to do (which is a good thing since I was looking for an offline distraction).
I am on the fence about what to do about social media long term, but for now I am cutting back and that seems to help a bit.
I don't just delete my accounts because I have gotten some real value out of Twitter. I've learned a lot about various topics over the years, and it was how I was ahead of the game during this pandemic. Tweets that came across my feed were why I'd stocked up a bit on staples before the lockdown. They are why I bought and started wearing masks early. Tweets (and the articles linked in them) have helped me figure out how to keep my family safe while also not being complete hermits.
This is breaking down now, though. I very much want to find reliable information to help me figure out how to keep my unvaccinated 11 year old safe right now, and I am not finding that. Instead, there is a lot of yelling about whether we should be mad at unvaccinated adults or whether our anger/ridicule is keeping them from getting vaccinated. There are a lot of anecdotes about breakthrough infections among the vaccinated, but when I do find real data on that it is still very, very rare.
And today, I read this short article that indicates the vaccines for 5-11 year olds might not be approved until mid-winter. That's going to suck for a lot of elementary schools, particularly in places that are prohibiting mask mandates in school. (My school district sent out an email saying all kids and staff, vaccinated or not, will need to wear masks indoors but probably not outdoors.)
So... what are we doing? I am working on new rules for us based on these observations. I will put links where I have them, but I don't have as many links as I'd like:
- The Delta variant is definitely easier to spread. I have seen scattered reports of outbreaks in outdoor events, but so far those are events where people are close together for long periods of time, like weddings and parties. I haven't yet found any systematic survey of the risk when outdoors, though.
- Fully vaccinated adults and teenagers are still really well protected from infection, even with the Delta variant. If they do get sick, they are more likely to have mild symptoms and less likely to end up hospitalized.
- Older adults and people with compromised immune systems seem to be at higher risk of breakthrough infections.
- There was one anecdote I came across of a family like ours, where 3 out of 4 members are vaccinated. Their 11 year old got infected on vacation and then passed it to the rest. I think vaccinated household contacts of an infected person are at particular risk of breakthrough, but I haven't seen data on this. It makes sense to me that the vaccinated parents of a sick child would end up sick, because their exposure rate would be so high.
- I saw a thread from a patient group that is tracking long COVID that indicated there are some long COVID cases among breakthrough infections. I have also seen plausible arguments from infectious disease experts that you'd expect fewer long COVID cases among the vaccinated who get sick, because there should be lower viral load. I think we just do not know yet what the risk of long COVID is for vaccinated people.
- Data from the UK indicates that kids do get long COVID.
- Kids are also at risk for MIS-C, a covid-related disease that we don't really understand yet.
Looking at all of this, I think Petunia is the family member most at risk because she is completely unprotected. She has mild exercise induced asthma but no other risk factor, so if she gets sick, her risk of serious illness is low, but I have no way to assess her risk of long COVID or MIS-C.
If Petunia gets sick, there is a good chance that the rest of us will, too. Our risk of serious illness is low but I don't really know what to think about our risk of long COVID.
Basically, we still need to be careful because the pandemic is not over and our vaccine protection cannot be complete until Petunia turns 12.
I wish all people who are eligible for vaccines would get them and that we'd all wear masks indoors until either transmission is really, really low or vaccines are available for everyone. But neither of those things will happen.
So what will our family do to keep safe? Here's my plan right now:
- We all wear masks in any indoor public place. I bought another box of KF94s. Petunia will wear those while shopping, etc. The vaccinated people in the family can wear our cloth masks, but I wore a KF94 for a recent doctor's appointment and I think that if in doubt, I will err on the side of the better mask.
- None of us will dine indoors at a restaurant until we are all vaccinated. We will eat outdoors at restaurants, though, looking for well-spaced patios.
- If we go to an outdoor event, we will not be in close quarters with other people whose vaccination status we cannot know. While the kids were in Arizona last month, my husband and I went to a local rugby game. That felt fine because it wasn't packed, so we could sit more than 6 feet away from other people. I would not go to a crowded event right now.
- We will still see vaccinated friends and family without masking, but will bias towards outdoor get togethers. Luckily, the weather in San Diego right now makes that an easy choice.
I wish I had prevailed in the discussion about where to take our vacation this year. I wanted to do a car trip here in California, but Mr. Snarky wanted to visit a new state. We settled on a trip to Washington state, with the majority of the time spent at National Parks. We will fly to Seattle. I am feeling far less good about this decision now than I did when we made the reservations but I think it is still not a very high risk.
We haven't cancelled our vacation but I am doing extra research to make sure I have a lot of restaurant options so that we can be sure we never eat indoors. As my kids got older, I starting doing less research ahead of a trip because they could roll with delayed meal times or a longer than expected walk a bit better. I am back to the level of research I did when they were toddlers. I don't mind doing this research (and even enjoy parts of it) so that's OK.
We'll all wear KF94 masks on the plane and the masks will go on when we enter the airport in San Diego and won't come off until we leave the airport in Seattle. We will hope that a flight between two cities with good vaccination rates will be OK, particularly since masks are still required on flights. And I will do my best not to worry.
OK, on to the minimal other links I have!
The stories coming out of Missouri are so sad.
On the impact of the child cash benefit. I hope we can make this permanent.
This excerpt from Michael Bender's book about Trump supporters is definitely worth your time. It is interesting how the rallies made communities of like-minded people and how that filled a need for some people. This quote from one supporter who was at the Capitol on Jan 6, though, blew my mind:
“We weren’t there to steal things. We weren’t there to do damage. We were just there to overthrow the government.”
In recommended listening: Jamil Smith's interview with Kiese Laymon is excellent.
In happy things:
Do you know about the Alaska bear cams? There was a bearapalooza Wednesday night and it was awesome:
Just back from Wexford.— Niamh (@niamhgeraghty1) July 10, 2021
I lost my phone on Saltee Island yesterday.
A puffin came across it. Today someone saw puffin sitting on my phone, took it lads on ferry.
I HAVE MY PHONE BACK AND A PUFFIN SELFIE@HamSamboCinema @theskinnydoll pic.twitter.com/hv6tqzF2S3
Here's your bunny for the week:
Have a good weekend, everyone!