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.

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.

COVID-19: Part 51

December 14, 2020 3:48 pm
  • Quarantine Day 273
  • Livermore cases: 1,850
  • Alameda County cases: 36,684; deaths: 537
  • U.S. cases: 16,113,000+; deaths: 298,000+

The two-dose vaccine developed in Germany by Pfizer has begun being administered in the U.S. today. It started rolling out in the U.K. last week. It will be months before there are enough doses available to really start making a dent in the population, but it's a start.

https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/12/14/946232462/incredibly-hopeful-u-s-starts-vaccinating-people-against-covid-19

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Meanwhile the Electoral College has met and cast their votes for Biden for president. Some states went so far as to meet in secret to avoid potential disruption or violence from Trump supporters. Also, Trump supporters are apparently now going to make up their own electoral college that will declare Trump the winner and will ask Congress to accept that instead of the actual, legitimate Electoral College vote. Which looks exactly like an attempted coup. If they're going this far I'm getting even more concerned about the potential that his followers will engage in a campaign of violence on or after Inauguration Day.

https://www.npr.org/sections/biden-transition-updates/2020/12/14/946365392/electoral-college-affirms-biden-victory-as-trump-continues-baseless-challenges

https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/530092-stephen-miller-alternate-electors-will-keep-trump-challenge-alive-post

COVID-19: Part 50

December 4, 2020 4:08 pm
  • Quarantine Day 263
  • Livermore cases: 1,433
  • Alameda County cases: 29,990; deaths: 513
  • U.S. cases: 14,041,000+; deaths: 275,000+

Well, sadly as expected, things are rapidly deteriorating around the country as people still refuse to follow basic medical advice. We'll only now be seeing the beginning of the surge from reckless Thanksgiving travel and congregating, but the public health situation across much of the country is already becoming quite alarming.

California just issued new, more restrictive shelter-at-home orders tied to regional ICU capacity (restrictions tighten when available ICU capacity falls below 15%). The SF Bay Area is projecting to hit that capacity within two weeks, but decided to act now and implement the new restrictions immediately.

So, beginning Monday, Alameda county will have new restrictions in place until Jan 4, 2021.

  • All gatherings with other households are prohibited.
  • All retailers operating indoors are restricted to 20% max capacity, must meter access and no food or beverage consumption allowed inside.
  • Campgrounds are closed.
  • No out-of-state, non-essential travelers allowed at hotels unless long enough to allow necessary quarantine and quarantine is followed.
  • All residents must remain at home unless engaged in "critical infrastructure" activities.

The following must close:

  • Indoor and outdoor playgrounds
  • Indoor recreational facilities
  • Hair salons and barbershops
  • Personal care services
  • Museums, zoos, and aquariums
  • Movie theaters
  • Wineries
  • Bars, breweries, and distilleries
  • Family entertainment centers
  • Cardrooms and satellite wagering
  • Limited services (services that operate without close customer contact such as laundromats, dry cleaners, landscapers, dog walkers, electricians, appliance repair, plumbers.) I believe/presume there is a continued exemption for emergency work necessary to maintain the habitability of a residence.
  • Live audience sports
  • Amusement parks

The Lab just started this week a pilot program of on-site COVID-19 testing for employees. It has also extended expected telecommuting through March.

COVID-19: Part 49

November 20, 2020 4:08 pm
  • Quarantine Day 249
  • Livermore cases: 1,184
  • Alameda County cases: 26,164; deaths: 490
  • U.S. cases: 11,650,000+; deaths: 251,000+

California moved most of its counties (including Alameda) back to the purple (strictest) tier this week and a 10pm-5am curfew goes into effect starting tomorrow night. This despite our cases-in-last-7-days-per-100k only increasing to 24 (up from 17). The goal, of course, is to stay ahead of the exponential curve because if you react once it starts spiking you're already too late.

Heather and Corinne had just restarted in-person gymnastics classes 3 weeks ago. Heather got to go twice, Corinne went once (she had a badly skinned knee the first week), and now they're shut down again. So the girls are pretty bummed out about that.

North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Montana, and Utah are all above 100 cases-in-last-7-days-per-100k.

The CDC recorded 2,045 deaths for yesterday. The highest since April. And as a nation we surpassed 250,000 deaths this week.

We're seeing news reports, again, about states setting up emergency treatment facilities in sports arenas and parking garages. El Paso county in Texas is now using at least 10 refrigerator trucks as temporary morgues while paying prisoners $2/hr to move bodies.

There's been promising news from the vaccine researchers over the past couple of weeks. Some are hopeful that emergency use authorization and administration to the highest-priority populations could happen before the end of the year (this would be front-line medical personnel).

I am quite concerned about what's going to happen to case rates with Thanksgiving less than a week away with already serious surges happening throughout the country. Thanksgiving is historically the busiest travel week of the year and that travel begins today.

Public health departments and medical advisory groups are practically begging people to stay home and not gather in large groups. The CDC issued an advisory statement recommending people to stay home and not travel for Thanksgiving:

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Meanwhile, as the country melts down around us due to lack of any national leadership on the pandemic, Trump continues to deny reality that he lost the election. He's currently attempting to convince Republican-held legislatures in states he lost to instruct their electors in the Electoral College to vote for Trump instead of who the voters in that state voted for. This is just the latest tactic in his so-far completely failed attempt to "prove" that he actually won despite all available evidence.

It has me concerned because apparently more than half of self-identified Republicans believe him. They're convinced that Trump won and will do anything to overturn the actual will of the people. And Trump is fueling this fantasy with a constant fire hose of disinformation. I'm becoming increasingly concerned about what these rabid followers might do come Inauguration Day when Biden is sworn in as president. We've already seen one group arrested in Michigan for plotting to kidnap their governor, seize control of the state-capitol building, and air a week of executions of democratically elected officials. This was their plan that they were actively pursuing. They think they're patriots and the disinformation campaigns they've glued themselves to convince them they're right.

When I was taking the graduate course on terrorism and counter-terrorism at Texas A&M in 2014 I had not thought that just a few years later we'd need to adapt the principles of radicalization intervention to be applied to right-wing terrorist groups within the United States. But here we are and it won't actually happen so long as the guy in charge of implementing such an intervention is instead actively fueling the radicalization efforts.

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I discovered that I'm probably not at fault for the broken fan blade mentioned in my previous post. I watched another one fall off the fan yesterday with nothing happening to it. I then inspected the remaining blades and found that all of them had been cracked in the same way due to improper installation and were all just waiting to fail.

I then inspected the 2nd fan we had installed and found those blades had also been incorrectly installed, however in a different way that did not damage them. We'll see what the company I paid to install them has to say about it. I'm hoping they are appropriately embarrassed and offer at least a partial refund for the work.

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Our tree is a really nice orange this year. Though it looks more brown in the picture.