COVID-19: Part 63

September 7, 2021 6:05 pm
  • Livermore cases: 5,814; eligible vaccination rate: 69.1%
  • Alameda County cases: 106,262; deaths: 1,264; eligible vaccination rate: 75.6%
  • U.S. cases: 40,085,000+; deaths: 647,000+; eligible vaccination rate: 62.3%

The main update for today is all the states that have medical systems that are collapsing. The first entry is Idaho (from the Associated Press): "Idaho public health leaders announced Tuesday that they activated 'crisis standards of care' allowing health care rationing for the state’s northern hospitals because there are more coronavirus patients than the institutions can handle." Meaning, patients will be scored for survivability and that will drive who receives what care.

Patients are being treated in conference rooms or education rooms using whatever resources are available. The National Guard has been mobilized to assist in managing the crisis. The director of the Department of Health and Welfare recommends avoiding needing emergency care until the crisis passes [sigh].

From the same article, Hawaii is sheltering its hospitals/employees from liability if they begin rationing care.

NPR has additional coverage here: "A COVID Surge Is Overwhelming U.S. Hospitals, Raising Fears Of Rationed Care." Which includes, "According to the model, ICU capacity will be under 'extreme stress' in states like Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Hawaii, Georgia, Delaware and Wisconsin."

The latest messaging on the vaccines receiving emergency authorization for kids 6+ is that it won't happen until winter. 🙁

The girls' school (the whole district, but broken down by school) is maintaining a daily report of positive cases on site. So far their school has only had 2 known cases on site since school started. So that's encouraging. The district overall has had 49 cases, with 13 of those being a cluster at one of the high schools (Granada), with 4 of those being recorded today. The other high school (Livermore) is at 3 for the year, so hopefully Granada can get their cluster under control.

Work rolled out their mandatory attestation process this week which comes from a federal requirement. All employees must attest to their vaccination status which will determine whether they operate under protocol A or protocol B. Protocol A is to continue as we have been and will allow for reduced controls as conditions permit. Protocol B will require weekly testing and will not be eligible for reduced controls. Rather dishearteningly, there are apparently a bunch of anti-vaccination people working at the Lab, so this is going to be a mess. Refusal to comply will result in currently-unspecified disciplinary action (at least one other national lab has stated that employees will be placed on unpaid leave until they comply).

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In other news, we decided to get a cat. We picked one out at the county shelter over the weekend and we'll bring her home next week after she's been spayed and received her next round of vaccinations. The girls are ecstatic.

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.

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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.

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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.

COVID-19: Part 61

August 7, 2021 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.

COVID-19: Part 60

August 1, 2021 3:21 pm
  • Livermore cases: 4,648; eligible vaccination rate: 65.4%
  • Alameda County cases: 91,889; deaths: 1,232; eligible vaccination rate: 71.7%
  • U.S. cases: 34,926,000+; deaths: 610,000+; eligible vaccination rate: 58.1%

Things have been trending poorly in several parts of the country. Nationwide we are back to the case rates we saw in early February, except in early February we were trending strongly downward and currently we're trending strongly upward--so more like what we saw in early November.

The latest data suggests that the delta variant has an r0 between 5 and 10; compared to the original strain at ~3. It's just spreading like crazy. It's also showing to be significantly more spreadable by vaccinated persons than either the original strain or alpha variant were. So while the original strain could have been effectively controlled with a vaccination rate of ~65%, the delta variant will need a vaccination rate of ~85%. Which it looks like we're just never going to get to.

It's pretty depressing that we're going to watch tens of thousands more people die for no reason other than weaponized ignorance and selfishness. Get vaccinated, wear a mask while community infection rates are high, and this could be effectively over.

California, and Alameda County, haven't re-introduced any mandatory mitigation measures despite that if we were still using the rules in place as of 2 months ago pretty much the entire state would be "purple" and there would be mask mandates and business restrictions.

It would be easy to wash one's hands and say, "those refusing a free vaccination have only themselves to blame," but children under 12 are still not eligible to be vaccinated. High community infection rates means there's a continuing risk that a vaccinated person will catch the virus and then infect unvaccinated children even if those kids are being kept out of high risk situations. While the vaccinated person is significantly protected we'll still end up killing thousands of children for no reason.

At work, the Lab was going to relax their on-site mask requirement, but canceled due to the much higher spread rate of the delta variant and the disappointingly low self-reported vaccination rate among employees. We still haven't begun working on site as a regular thing, so I continue working from my closet just about every day.

COVID-19: Part 59

June 15, 2021 6:25 pm
  • Out-of-Quarantine Day 1
  • Days spent in Quarantine: 455
  • Livermore cases: 4,345
  • Alameda County cases: 85,865; deaths: 1,225*
  • * The number of Alameda County deaths is lower than the previous posts. It seems to have been revised downward, but I have no details about that revision.
  • U.S. cases: 33,303,000+; deaths: 597,000+

The Alameda County Public Health Department is currently reporting that 59.8% of eligible Livermore residents are fully vaccinated and 72.1% are at least partially vaccinated!

The CDC is currently reporting that 51.4% of the eligible U.S. population is fully vaccinated and 61.5% is at least partially vaccinated!

Today California lifts most remaining public-health-related restrictions throughout the state. No more capacity limits or distancing requirements.

Mask requirements are still in effect for all persons in higher-risk locations like healthcare facilities and mass transit. Fully vaccinated persons no longer need to wear masks when indoors (businesses may still enforce their own rules, but may not prohibit wearing masks). Unvaccinated persons are required to continue to wear masks indoors. However, I don't think it likely we'll see much adherence to that since just saying, "I'm vaccinated" is enough to meet the state's enforcement guidelines. Mass gathering events also have some additional restrictions.

Hopefully the rates of vaccination and immunity acquired via prior infection are enough to keep things under control so life can go back to normal.

Normal, for those of us that made it through unscathed. Our family is healthy. Our extended family is healthy. 582,000-720,000 people died in the past 16 months in excess of the expected number of deaths during that time frame (according to the CDC data). The Imperial College London's paper from March 2020 warning that without mitigation measures the U.S. could lose 2.2 million people doesn't seem impossible.

We still have a disturbingly large swath of the country insisting none of this is real. The virus isn't real, but if it is it's just like the flu so it doesn't matter; the vaccine is a secret conspiracy to inject them with microchips; being asked to wear masks is just like the holocaust, the whole thing is a liberal plot to destroy democracy (somehow, there's not logic involved). None of those statements are exaggeration on my part. There are people making those claims on a regular basis. Some guy in Georgia shot and killed a cashier at a grocery store yesterday because he was asked to wear a mask. It's so messed up.

In other news, in contrast to the stock market collapsing back at the beginning, the stock market has been just constantly climbing since March 2020. It's up 79% since then, which is ridiculous.

I'm still working from my closet. The Lab is formulating a plan for returning on site. Last I heard they'll be phasing people in throughout the summer. The blanket telecommuting agreement has been extended through September.

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I've just been taken some time to read through my early blog posts in this series. Man that's a wild ride. I think I'll get those printed into a little book.