First Day of School 2021

August 24, 2021 5:03 pm

The school year is under way!

Oddly, Heather's and Corinne's classrooms are next to each other. Which turns out to be pretty convenient because parents aren't allowed inside the fence right now as a Covid precaution, so Heather can drop Corinne off on her way to class.

They eat lunch outside at picnic tables under the solar panels. Which seems like a super California thing to do.

They both survived the day. That, uh, has a much grimmer tone to it than I meant considering the number of kids around the country catching Covid in their schools right now :-/.

COVID-19: Part 62

August 22, 2021 10:25 am
  • Livermore cases: 5,360; eligible vaccination rate: 59.8%*
    • * I'm noticing that the Livermore number in the past 2 posts must have been the "at least one shot" number; this number is the "fully vaccinated" number. The county and national numbers has been the "fully vaccinated" numbers.
  • Alameda County cases: 100,343; deaths: 1,257; eligible vaccination rate: 73.7%
  • U.S. cases: 37,583,000+; deaths: 625,000+; eligible vaccination rate: 60.1%

The past week or so has been filled with reports of how overwhelmed the medical facilities in several Southern states have become.

Parts of Florida are diverting oxygen supplies from their water-treatment facilities to hospitals and are asking residents to conserve water so they don't run out. Meanwhile, also in Florida, the governor is threatening to reduce funding to school districts that have enacted mask requirements in violation of his orders. Also in Florida, treatment facilities are being run out of parks and libraries, so obviously things are going very well there.

In Texas, schools are skirting around their governor's orders that prohibit mask requirements by adding face coverings to their standard dress code policies.

These two governors in particular seem hellbent on watching kids die for some reason.

Mississippi's State Health Officer issued an order requiring 10-days of isolation for anyone with COVID-19 and threatens a $500 fine or 6-months in prison for failure to comply. I doubt even a single person will be subjected to those punishments, but I guess we'll see. Things aren't any better in Mississippi than their neighboring states.

On Wednesday, Alabama was reporting a 29-person waiting list to get an ICU bed across the entire state. Hospitals throughout the country are transferring patients up to several hundred miles away to find a facility with room to take them.

In California, and other states, school employees are being required to prove vaccination or be tested weekly.

Booster shots will be available to people starting 8-months after their second shot (if they received one of the mRNA vaccines). It's expected that a booster shot will be authorized for those, like me, who received the viral vector vaccine soon.

And people continue to get caught either using or selling fake vaccination records.


In other news, the U.S. finally pulled our military out of Afghanistan and the Afghan government promptly collapsed and was taken over by the Taliban within ~48 hours; massive fires are burning throughout the west (including California); a hurricane is hitting New England this weekend, and the first ever water-shortage declaration was made for the Colorado River.


Finally, school starts on Tuesday. As mentioned above, our schools have mask requirements for students & staff and vaccination or testing requirements for staff. They'll be operating at normal capacity and with a normal schedule whereas at the end of last year used a hybrid schedule that kept capacity to about half and no food was eaten while on campus. Lunch is supposed to be done as distanced as possible, but that will be a challenge. They're planning on eating outside whenever possible, but the air is smokey right now and it does get hot or rain, so there will need to be fully indoor options as well. We bought new, snugger fitting, better filtering masks for the girls to wear instead of the plain cloth masks they've been wearing. Rumor has it that emergency authorization to give the vaccine to kids 6+ is coming within the next month or so.

Fort Bragg 2021

August 21, 2021 4:10 pm

Back in May things were really looking up. Jess and I had been vaccinated. Infection rates were declining. We were optimistic about being able to take a small vacation over the summer since we've done mostly nothing since March 2020. I looked to book a room at the motel we like in Fort Bragg and their first availability was in mid-August. So we booked it.

Then the summer actually happened and we watched as vaccination levels stalled out and infection rates soared with the delta variant. So we became a little hesitant about taking our trip, but our plans were to be outside pretty much the whole time except for our motel room and so we decided to go for it.

We drove out to Fort Bragg on Friday, Aug 13. We made it to Oakland before Jess was feeling really carsick so we got off the highway and stopped so she could get out, recuperate, and take some Dramamine. Then we sat in a lot of traffic all the way through Santa Rosa for some reason. We eventually made it out there, got checked in to the motel, walked along the beach a little, and ordered a pizza to eat in our room for dinner. The county had a mask mandate in place and compliance levels seemed to be fairly good.

The motel wasn't serving breakfast, so breakfast on Saturday (and every other day) was toaster strudel, cereal, and yogurt that we brought with us (we brought a toaster). Saturday morning we had a reservation to ride the pedal cars on the Skunk Train railroad. I picked up some sandwiches from Subway and packed them for lunch and we rode the rail line up into the woods. The bikes have electric assist-motors so it was quite pleasant to pedal along up into the woods away from the noise of town and not get too worn out while doing so.

The company that runs the tours is building a little event space in the woods that's really only accessible by rail. We stopped there to eat lunch while they turned our cars around for the return trip. Minus the construction noise, it was a really nice spot. Deep in the woods and shady. We ate our lunch at a picnic table and then walked around for bit until it was time to head back.

Since the rail lines fall under DHS/TSA railroad regulations we were all required to wear masks while on the ride, which is probably a bit silly since we were quite well spaced out, but presumably the railroad regulations were written with passenger cars in mind and not bikes, so, whatever. It really wasn't a big deal, because wearing a mask isn't a big deal in the first place.

Once we returned from our ride we walked down to the ice-cream shop for dessert, then back to the train depot to look at the gift shop (once their next train ride left so it wasn't crowded with people). Then we went back to the motel and down to the beach.

After some time of playing about, Corinne got knocked over by a wave she didn't see coming and needed to head back to the room to warm up. So Jess took her up and I stayed with Heather for a while longer digging a hole ('cause that's what one does at the beach, I guess).

Dinner was burgers from Jenny's Giant Burger eaten hunkered down in our motel room.

On Sunday we went out to the Mendocino Botanical Gardens, which is a regular destination when we go to Fort Bragg. We walked around for a while and then went looking for lunch. Heather continues to successfully grow in her garden.

After bailing on a couple of options due to being crowded with nowhere outside to eat we ended up in the slowest McDonald's drive-thru lane ever. I think it took over 30 minutes to get through. We took the food back to the motel to eat.

Then it was more beach time for the girls while I napped in the room. We had more pizza for dinner and another trip to the ice-cream shop. Then we walked along the trestle bridge after dark as a novelty for the girls who are rarely up after dark much less out and about.

Monday morning we packed up and checked out. We stopped at Glass Beach to look around. This is an area of beach which use to be a garbage dump. Now timthough by the time we were ready to leave it was about lunch time so we ate our one and only meal in a restaurant. There were only two other customers in the restaurant (which was a "full-size" restaurant, lots of space) and they had signs like this up, which actually made me feel better that they were taking things seriously:

We had our lunch and then drove home. And that was our trip. Our only real vacation for 18 months. And it looks like that's going to be true through quite some more time now.

School starts on Tuesday--thankfully with a mask requirement in place and vaccination requirements for the teachers/staff. Given how much exposure the girls are likely to get this year since the classrooms will be at regular capacity for full days we bought the girls some new masks that are supposed to help protect themselves from others as well as protecting others from themselves. Finding certified masks is a crap shoot--especially looking for things that fit kids properly, but the masks we bought don't seem like they can be worse than the ones they've been using. They fit more snugly at least.

Hopefully the emergency authorization for the vaccine for kids 6+ gets approved soon and we'll be able to have the girls vaccinated before too long. Maybe even get to go trick-or-treating for Halloween.

Megan's Family Visits

August 7, 2021 7:17 pm

Megan and Chad drove their family across the country in what I can only assume was their own personal version of "Organ Trail" (the zombie-apocalypse-parody game of Oregon Trail--traverse the country, avoid the infected swarms).

I took Wednesday off of work and we met up with them in Fairfield. This would have been before Jess ended up in the ER that evening, see the previous post for that story.

We did the self-guided tour of the Jelly Belly factory:

After the tour we went to Fentons in Vacaville for lunch. It was not apparent to us before ordering our ice cream that their sundaes are massive. So we ended up with a lot of ice cream, but we made a valiant effort to eat what we could. So note, Fentons sundaes are to be shared by at least two people.

After lunch we spent a little time at Nut Tree Plaza in the shopping center where Fentons is. They have a little train to ride, a carousel, a playground, and a real old-fashioned, injury-inducing, merry-go-round. On the carousel, Corinne's wildest dream of riding a flamingo came true:

The high temperature in Fairfield was forecast for 83F, which would be fairly pleasant. I made a mistake in assuming that Vacaville (10 miles north) would be about the same. But Vacaville was 99F and so hanging out at Nut Tree Plaza lost its charm fairly quickly. Once we'd had our fill of the heat we headed back to Livermore and Megan's family headed back to Elk Grove.

COVID-19: Part 61

6:37 pm
  • Livermore cases: 4,901; eligible vaccination rate: 65.9%
  • Alameda County cases: 95,120; deaths: 1,242; eligible vaccination rate: 72.3%
  • U.S. cases: 35,665,000+; deaths: 614,000+; eligible vaccination rate: 58.6%

The situation continues to deteriorate across the country, but public health departments have finally started responding. Alameda County now has a mask requirement for all persons in public buildings. California has issued a requirement that all healthcare workers be fully vaccinated by mid-October (receive their final shot by Sep 30). Several large employers of various types around the country are announcing vaccination requirements for employees.

The federal government announced that federal employees must attest to their vaccination status. Those not attesting to being vaccinated will be required to wear masks, physically distance from others, be subject weekly or twice weekly testing, and have travel restrictions. It was indicated this requirement would be extended to contract organizations at some point, which would mean the Lab would need to comply. Hopefully they go one step further and require proof rather than attestation or have steep penalties attached to lying about it.

The Lab announced that they're getting a round of Pfizer vaccines to administer next week.

Jess was experiencing abdominal pain on Wednesday evening and we ended up going to the ER. Well she did. Only patients were allowed in because they were swamped with COVID patients. I sat outside for awhile and eventually went home and picked her up later. She got cycled back to the general waiting room in between seeing the doctor and having tests done since they didn't have enough space to just stay in the treatment area.

The hospital was straight out of a disaster movie. Entrances were barricaded and taped off, temporary tents and construction lighting were all over the outside, all the personnel were wearing multiple layers of PPE (e.g., masks + face shields), and signs everywhere about restricted access. They had a separate entrance near the ER set up to take people through some tents to an imaging area without passing through the waiting room. I took a couple of pictures, but didn't want to be an annoyance to anyone, so I didn't take pictures where anyone was hanging out.

Jess was there for about 4 hours; thankfully they got her test results rapidly. They gave her a prescription for some pain killers for a presumed kidney stone (it didn't show up on the CT) and she came home.

It's not clear why it's such a difficult message to get across: too many people needing medical care at the same time will overwhelm the medical system causing lower quality outcomes for all patients. Get vaccinated, wear a mask, physically distance. It's not a hard concept. But I guess until the medical system for a region truly does fail under the load many people just won't pay any attention.

The U.S. is back well above 100,000 new cases per day now after getting down below 10,000 in mid-June.

School is starting all around the country over the next few weeks. Over the past several months, some states passed absolutely bonkers laws that prohibit schools from requiring masks for their students. Thankfully California, on the other hand, has mandated that all students, teachers, faculty, etc. in K-12 are required to wear masks regardless of vaccination status per the guidance issued by the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

There hasn't been a single day since early March 2020 for which fewer than 100 deaths due to COVID-19 were reported in the country, thankfully we're not at the 4,000+ per day we saw in January, but we are at ~600 per day and trending up. 600 completely preventable deaths a day. It's sad and frustrating that there is so much disinformation and derision for something with such obvious and devastating impact.