COVID-19: Part 54

March 7, 2021 11:06 am
  • Quarantine Day 356
  • Livermore cases: 4,042
  • Alameda County cases: 77,941; deaths: 1,254
  • U.S. cases: 28,771,000+; deaths: 522,000+

February just kind of rushed by. The regional public health orders were lifted in early-to-mid February after the massive wave of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths due to the contraindicated gatherings held during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years subsided. Unfortunately, many people are hearing "things are so much better now" and relaxing their posture despite the fact that things are still worse now than they were in October.

However, with the lifting of the regional public health orders, the county public health orders went back into effect which allows for very small gatherings, outdoors, wearing masks. So Heather, Corinne, and Jess at least get to see one friend each week.

The vaccines continue to roll out, though rather slowly. A third one was approved, which should help as well. It's not clear to me why it's taking so long, since supposedly one of the main thrusts of the accelerated process was to ramp up manufacturing before FDA approval was complete so that if/when each vaccine was approved there were tens of millions of doses waiting to be distributed. As far as I can tell, that just didn't happen, so now we're all waiting for manufacturing to ramp up. In theory, there will be enough doses available in the U.S. by the end of May for anyone willing to be vaccinated to do so. I guess we'll see.

Still significant concern over emerging variants and long-term vaccine efficacy in the face of a rapidly mutating virus. Also concerns over what percentage of the population will refuse to be vaccinated.

We've now passed the 1-year mark from when the Lab began advising people to work from home if possible (Thursday, March 5, 2020). I began working from home that following Monday, March 9. So this week will mark a full year of working from home out of my closet (well, I didn't start working from my closet until another week later when the schools closed).

At the end of my Part 1 blog post, I wrote, "It's been 10 days and it feels like it's been 6 months. 2020 is going to be a very long year." Boy how accurate that statement was. This past year has felt so very, very long. Yet, at the same time, in retrospect it feels short because we didn't do anything. There were no trips to break up the time. School & work, a couple of days off. School & work, a couple of days off. Rarely leaving the house. Rarely seeing friends. Never seeing extended family.

We're all tired of it. But, our family has remained healthy while hundreds of thousands have died and millions more are facing long-term, and possibly life-long, effects. Hopefully, dawn is on the horizon.

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The school district is finally caving to pressure and will re-open the schools in two weeks. We signed the girls up to stay with their teachers whether that meant staying home or going in person. It looks like they'll both be going in person, but we don't have final confirmation on that yet. In-person classes will meet in the morning for ~3 hours. Everyone must wear masks and maintain 6-foot separation. No food will be allowed. If these protocols are actually followed, it should be minimal risk.

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The Lab has received approval to administer vaccines to employees, however they have not received any actual vaccines to distribute at this point.

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This week, my friends completed the final adventure in the Dragon Strike campaign I created. Don't know what we'll do next, but so long as I'm not in charge of generating and running the whole thing I'll be happy with it. It was fun putting together the whole thing, but also a huge amount of work and drain on my creative energy. It was also an additional ton of work running the whole thing via video call. Every session I had to set everything up for both the game and the video equipment--then, after we finished, take it all down again.

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The family has been playing the Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle game, specifically the Creatures expansion which Jess received for Christmas (she also received the Potions expansion, which we haven't tried yet). Starting last month we also started playing Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion. It's an adventure, ongoing campaign RPG (role-playing game) in the general vein as Dragon Strike and Dungeons & Dragons, however it's a cooperative game and no one has to be a Dungeon Master. So I get to play the game with the rest of the family together as a team instead of playing the enemies and having to be careful about which members of the family get attacked by the monsters.

It's complicated though, so it's a good thing we played Dragon Strike before so we can build on the mechanics rather than trying to learn it all from scratch. And that's taking into account that Jaws of the Lion is a prequel to the original game for which the designers did a lot of play-testing work to streamline the game, reduce complexity, and make it easier to learn the rules and get playing. It uses the first 5 adventures to introduce the concepts. We've only played the first two, so I can only imagine how complex the original game is. Hopefully by the time we've played through all 25 adventures in Jaws of the Lion we'll have a solid handle of the mechanics and jumping into the original isn't too daunting.

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On February 18 we watched the NASA video stream of the new rover, Perseverance, landing on Mars. I'm always awed by the incredible things the human species can accomplish when we set our minds and resources to the task. I try to enjoy them and not get too down about the number of worthy tasks we could tackle if we just showed the will to do so.

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I guess I'll continue these posts under the COVID heading until all the public health orders have been lifted. Hopefully that happens sometime in June or July (if vaccination rates are high enough and mutation rates are low enough).

COVID-19: Part 53

January 20, 2021 7:52 pm
  • Quarantine Day 310
  • Livermore cases: 3,524
  • Alameda County cases: 66,219; deaths: 766
  • U.S. cases: 24,135,000+; deaths: 400,000+

Inauguration Day. I am pleasantly surprised to say that we got through the day without any violence. I did not expect that was likely to happen. Also, apparently many of the disconnected-from-reality conspiracy theorists are starting to wonder if their delusions are actually real since Trump slunk away this morning (the coward didn't even attend the inauguration) and Biden was actually sworn in as president (they had been convincing themselves the inauguration was an elaborate set up by Trump to seize power [why they thought _that_ would be a good idea, I don't know]).

But here's Trump's legacy: Over 400,000 Americans dead from a preventable disease because he failed to act and intentionally did the opposite of the best available medical advice. Impeached twice. Incited an insurrection and attack on the legislative branch of the federal government. No doubt a strong contender for the title of "worst president in U.S. history."

But he's gone, for the moment, and we can at least get back to a time when government is boring again.

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The first weekend of the year we went on a hike at Brushy Peak Regional Preserve. The clouds were still hanging low over the hills which made it kind of fun (especially more fun than being in the sun).

We stopped for a rest at the top of a hill. Corinne came prepared with a book and asked me to read some while she rested. So here I am reading to Heather and Corinne.

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I went for a bike ride on the 16th and rode along part of the arroyo. I took my camera and spent some time practicing "seeing" and I managed to capture this feather floating on the water which I rather like. There were two feathers floating around--spinning and swirling across the water in the wind. So I just kept snapping pictures as they went. This one came out best.

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On the 17th we went on another family hike. This time we went up to Morgan Territory (regional preserve) which we've never been to before. There was one section of our short hike that I really liked. Trees and rocks and moss! It felt almost a little like New England. If there's more like it up there I'll probably want to go there more often, but the drive is pretty bad. 10 miles or so of one-lane road winding up into the hills. Pretty dicey passing at times if there are two wide vehicles.

Mount Diablo framed by trees in Morgan Territory

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Our friends, and former social bubble buddies, have had confirmed COVID-19 for the last week or so. We haven't seen them since the beginning of December when the health orders were tightened up and social gatherings were banned. They seem to be doing okay, so that's good.

Other than that, not much happening. We pretty much don't go anywhere, and we pretty much don't do anything. Our county is still on "purple" tier and the region is still on "lockdown" orders due to low available ICU capacity.

Memo for the Joint Force

January 12, 2021 3:27 pm

I'm astounded by this. Just floored that we're at a point where the 8 Joint Chiefs of Staff of the military have found it necessary to issue a public statement reminding the members of the military that interfering with Constitutional processes is a violation of both the law and their oath as soldiers.

If there was anyone that is still part of reality that was wondering if things are serious or are Democrats just milking the insurrection to score political points, this should put that to bed. Trump's own appointed military commanders have called out the attack on the Capitol and referred to it as sedition and insurrection.

If you are someone who has somehow fallen into the toxic morass of Qanon conspiracy theories, read this letter. It is short and unambiguous. There is NO secret plan by "loyalists" at the top of the military to arrest Democrats and install Trump as dictator like you've been told and as you're hoping and believing. It's not real. You need to wake up and rejoin reality before you destroy your life, the lives of your friends and families, and your country by following the lies of nameless, faceless lunatics hiding on the Internet.

A Stain Upon our Democracy

January 6, 2021 4:42 pm

Today will forever be seen as stain upon our democracy.

After two months of refusing to admit his complete and utter defeat in the election and multiple attempts to overturn the results without any basis, supporters of President Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol building today, broke into the Senate chambers, and were held out of the House chambers by a makeshift barricade and armed guards with weapons leveled at the attackers. One person was shot and killed, but the circumstances of the death have not been released. The photos and videos, like this one, from inside the capitol building will be burned into our countries minds for a generation.

Police with guns drawn watch as protesters try to break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) - obtained from NPR website.

Unfortunately, instead of a tragic failure of our nation's ability to accept disagreement, many will likely see these images as a rallying cry to escalate further--to claim that these attackers are heroes rather than traitors.

I worked from my closet this morning (as usual) and then came out to the kitchen to exercise and then make lunch. I put a pan on the stove to make a grilled-cheese sandwich and then opened my tablet to check Reddit to see that the topmost was a rapidly evolving thread about these terrorists having invaded the Capitol building after breaking past barricades and then breaking inside while skirmishing with the Capitol Police. It was unreal.

Both chambers were in session at the time certifying the results of the election. Many politicians evacuated to safe locations. People trapped inside the House chambers were issued gas masks and told to hide behind any available cover while the guards barricaded the door.

NPR, accurately, referred to them as "insurrectionists" in their coverage: "The insurrectionists interrupted proceedings in the House and Senate, as members of Congress were tallying President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory." - https://www.npr.org/sections/congress-electoral-college-tally-live-updates/2021/01/06/954028436/u-s-capitol-locked-down-amid-escalating-far-right-protests

At least one suspected explosive device was discovered within the Capitol building. (That was apparently a false report amidst the confusion of the day.) Another at the Republican National Committee headquarters. And another at the Democratic National Comittee headquarters.

Throughout all this Georgia's special runoff elections were both called in favor of the Democrats ending the Republican's control of the Senate over the last 6 years. Both races were incredibly close and this will almost certainly be used to add even more fuel to the inferno of a dumpster fire that is raging within the Republican party right now.

Trump repeated just this week the insane claims that he didn't actually lose because the election was stolen from him, despite all available evidence after two months of turning over every possible stone. He continues to fan the flames and feed conspiracy theories and his followers are no longer part of reality. I am incredibly concerned for what may happen on Inauguration Day when Trump's position of power evaporates and Biden is sworn in as president. Many of these insurrectionists are already nose-deep in delusions of grandeur that they're true patriots defending democracy (by attempting to overturn democratic elections). Assuredly some of them will engage in campaigns of violence to try and get their way.

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Watching the Senate reconvene tonight to finish certifying the election results. McConnell called the attackers "insurrectionists" in his remarks. Schumer called out Trump for enflaming the situation and encouraging the insurrectionists to gather in DC and demand the election be overturned.

Twitter locked Trump's account for 12 hours for inciting violence.

VP Pence was the one to authorize deployment of the National Guard more than two hours into the invasion.

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I missed earlier that shortly before the insurrection, Trump addressed a rally down the road and told his followers to go to the Capitol and stop them from stealing the election from him. He is proximately responsible for this and not just generally responsible.

COVID-19: Part 52

December 31, 2020 10:31 pm
  • Quarantine Day 290
  • Livermore cases: 2,680
  • Alameda County cases: 49,736; deaths: 645
  • U.S. cases: 19,663,000+; deaths: 341,000+

California is being hit really hard right now. I don't know why, I guess people just aren't following the public health orders at all. They're tired of caring and so they've stopped caring. And no one is enforcing the orders. Especially when people see that there is zero enforcement and their friends and neighbors are out doing whatever they feel like, many begin to feel like they should get to do that too. We're doing worst in the nation for new-cases-in-past-7-days-per-100k people.

I walked the girls down to the park this afternoon to fly the mini quadcopters they got for Christmas (just cheap ~$20 things about the size of an adult hand). It was too windy to keep control of them so after a little while we went to take a look at the playground. There were probably about 15 kids running around and 8 adults. 2 adults were wearing masks and 1 kid. A group of ~8 teenage boys were playing basketball, no masks.

I told the girls we could play for a little bit, but they had to stay away from the other kids. So they swung on the swings for about twenty minutes and then we went home. Heather had a bit of an emotion vent while walking home about how fed up she is about not being able to do the things she wants to do. So we had another discussion about how we're all tired of it, but being tired of it doesn't make the problem go away. The entire medical system is strained well past its limits right now, so we'll keep doing our best to stay safe and healthy until the vaccines can roll out, but sadly that's still going to be months away.

It is tiring and trying. Especially with such failed leadership at the federal level. There's no reason it had to be this hard on the country except failure to act.

As mentioned in an earlier post, the updated lock-down orders were to go into effect when regional ICU availability dropped below 15% capacity. The SF Bay Area enacted the lock-down early before hitting 15% and hit 15% not much later. Every region in the state fell below 15% in the following days and many of the regions have been reporting 0% availability for several days at this point. I fear that we will only see it worsen as additional spread occurs due to Christmas gatherings and then New Year's Eve gatherings.

Some hospitals in southern California are prepping to enact care-rationing plans because they're just completely overrun.

A new strain that was first identified in the U.K. has been detected in California, other states, and throughout the world. This is notable because the new strain appears to be even more contagious than what's been spreading all year already.

While the Pfizer vaccine has begun being administered there's not nearly enough of it. The goal was 20 million people inoculated by Jan 1. That number looks more like 1 million. The Moderna vaccine was also approved and I presume has begun being administered, but I haven't heard much about it. A third vaccine was approved in the U.K. this week. I believe the most recent information is to expect that it will be until at least June until enough doses are available for the general population to be covered in the U.S.

Dr. Fauci gave a joint, virtual, press conference with the CA governor earlier this week. Fauci's quoted saying something to the effect of "we should be able to administer enough vaccines that schools will be something like normal next fall." [sigh] That feels like a long way away.

Oh, and for some insane reason, a pharmacist in Milwaukee intentionally spoiled 550+ doses of the vaccine intending for the spoiled doses to be used on victims. Just, WHAT?! This person went through effort to try to sneakily leave vials out of cold storage on two occasions knowing and intending for them to spoil, then returned them to cold storage, from which they'd be used. They were caught when another employee found the vials left out and triggered an investigation. I can't even begin to understand what this person could have been thinking. https://www.npr.org/2020/12/31/952536531/pharmacist-arrested-accused-of-destroying-more-than-500-moderna-vaccine-doses

Farewell 2020. Here's hoping for a brighter 2021.