COVID-19: Part 69

May 11, 2023 1:13 pm

Almost a full year since my last COVID-19 update post.

Today, May 11, 2023, marks the official end of the federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency declaration:

The CDC reports the total number of deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19 as 1,131,819. Even as the emergency declaration ends, we're still recording ~1,000 deaths a week from COVID-19. But that's the lowest weekly figure recorded since March 2020.

According to the CDC, 81.4% of the overall population received at least one vaccine dose but only 16.9% have kept that up to date with the latest vaccine updates available.

As far as we know none of myself, Jess, Heather, or Corinne ever became infected by the virus. We've tested ourselves when we've had respiratory symptoms, but never had a positive test. It seems more likely that we've had asymptomatic cases rather than never being infected, but who knows--perhaps we were of the lucky group for whom the vaccines were highly effective and any contact was prevented from taking hold. We've kept our doses up to date whenever new boosters have become available.

So what does that mean in our lives? (A reader in the future might ask.)

Life has been basically back to normal--at least for our family (probably not for the families of the 1.1+ million people who died--for whom a pre-pandemic normal will never return).

The girls have had regular school and activities. We've had them wear masks when community transmission levels were "high" (according to the CDC criteria), but that hasn't been true for months now.

When out and about there are people around who still regularly wear masks. Not a lot, but it's also not particularly unusual to see. I taught Mathcounts in person this past year and I estimate that 1 out of 15-20 students that I saw on campus was still wearing a mask (Mathcounts ended at the end of March, so maybe that number has fallen since then).

I'm still working mainly from my closet. In fact I'm supposed to be losing my office on site any day now because I don't use it often enough. Just waiting to get the notification.

So I guess that essentially wraps things up. Here's to hoping we don't do that again within my lifetime. It wasn't fun.

COVID-19: Part 68

May 28, 2022 11:11 am
  • Rancho Las Positas Elementary School known cases on site: 158
  • Livermore cases: 13,883; overall vaccination rate: 79.2%
  • Alameda County cases: 267,361; deaths: 1,820; overall vaccination rate: 84.2%
  • U.S. cases: 83,712,000+; deaths: 1,001,000+; overall vaccination rate: 66.6%

Over 1 million deaths from COVID was passed this week in the U.S.

Things had been going pretty well. April was a pretty stable month for COVID. But it's been ticking up again throughout May. A couple weeks ago Alameda county crossed into the "medium community transmission" category (from "low") per the CDC monitoring.

The Lab has renewed its strong recommendation that employees wear N-95 or KN-95 masks when meeting together, but hasn't moved to a requirement.

We got an exposure notification for Heather almost every day during the week her class was practicing for the play.

The girls became eligible for a booster shot this week and we did that on Thursday afternoon. They felt kind of lousy on Friday morning, so they stayed home from school. But by dinner time they were fine.

COVID-19: Part 67

March 20, 2022 10:11 am
  • Rancho Las Positas Elementary School known cases on site: 112
  • Livermore cases: 12,898; overall vaccination rate: 77.9%
  • Alameda County cases: 243,200; deaths: 1,754; overall vaccination rate: 83.0%
  • U.S. cases: 79,555,000+; deaths: 968,000+; overall vaccination rate: 65.4%

The post-holidays surge has mostly petered out--finally. During that surge another ~141,000 people died. The state lifted the indoor-masking requirement on March 1 (excluding high-risk settings). The county followed suit and the school system and the Lab lifted indoor-masking requirements on March 14.

Yet, the nation is still recording ~1,000 deaths a day. And a newer, even more contagious variant is being tracked in Europe.

The news around COVID has mostly disappeared due to the combination of losing its novelty (no one cares anymore how many people are dying) and Russia invading Ukraine back at the end of February.

It will be interesting to see what happens public-health-wise when there's another big surge. I suspect the political will to do anything is gone and we'll see recommendations from public-health officials that will be largely ignored.

It's too bad health-care demands don't end in between surges. There are a whole lot of medical professionals that could use a couple of months off. I think the two biggest failures of our country in response to COVID (beyond federal leadership denying it was a problem for months) were 1. Failing to enact mandatory paid sick leave and 2. In no way addressing the intense demands placed upon healthcare workers during an extended public health crisis.

Maybe this will be the last post in my COVID-19 series. It sure would be nice if everything settled down and when next January rolls around there's no post-holiday surge that kills another 100,000+ people.

COVID-19: Part 66

January 6, 2022 11:10 am
  • Rancho Las Positas Elementary School known cases on site: 17
  • Livermore cases: 7,470; overall vaccination rate: 74.6%
  • Alameda County cases: 130,664; deaths: 1,513; overall vaccination rate: 79.6%
  • U.S. cases: 57,190,000+; deaths: 827,000+; overall vaccination rate: 62.3%

New cases per day in the United States has absolutely skyrocketed, over 717,000 new cases in the past day. The previous peak was 294,000. The silver lining is that, so far, there hasn't been a correlated spike in deaths--however the CDC did record more than 2,600 deaths yesterday and 2,600 deaths a day is a big deal, just not as big a deal as the 3,700/day we saw in Jan 2021 with about a third as many daily cases (assuming similar levels of testing; I don't know if that's a valid assumption or not).

The school system is seeing the bump in cases, but not too badly. More than 17% of their total known on-site cases were reported on Mon-Wed of this week. Our girls' school has only had one known case this week so far.

The school district sent every student home for winter break with a 2-pack rapid test and asked that they take them before returning to school after break. Heather's and Corinne's tests all came out negative. Corinne had a runny nose on the way home from Utah and her PCR test from the 28th (the earliest available) also came back negative.

Update 1/8/22: The school district sent out an email stating that 115 positive tests had been reported from the at-home tests which jump-started their stay-home and isolate protocols helping reduce the number of positive cases on campus.

The Lab has asked us to reduce in-person interactions where possible. So I skipped my regular on-site day this week and will probably continue to go on site only as needed for the next couple of weeks.

With the ridiculous level of contagiousness that Omicron has it seems unlikely we'll avoid being exposed to it for very long. But as for becoming infected, as far as we know, so far so good.

COVID-19: Part 65

December 18, 2021 1:34 pm
  • Rancho Las Positas Elementary School known cases on site: 16
  • Livermore cases: 6,861; overall vaccination rate: 73.5%
  • Alameda County cases: 119,277; deaths: 1,475; overall vaccination rate: 78.3%
  • U.S. cases: 50,479,000+; deaths: 800,000+; overall vaccination rate: 61.3%

*Note that the vaccination rate data has changed from "eligible" to "overall". Alameda County was no longer giving me a top-level "eligible vaccination rate" percentage (they data is broken down by age group instead), so I couldn't easily pull the same data.


Omicron is the new thing. The new variant spreading across the globe. SARS-CoV-2|Ο was first detected in South Africa on Nov 24 and became a variant of concern due to the large number of mutations affecting the spike protein (which is what the current vaccines target). It also appeared to be significantly more contagious than prior strains and was rapidly detected throughout the world.

What any of that means, epidemiologically, is still to be determined. It's only been detected for 3 weeks and is spreading widely, but we know that earlier strains had multi-week lag times from infection, to hospitalization, to death. So the world is still waiting for clear data on overall severity compared to other strains. The faster spread, however, is well established and it appears to be handily out-competing the delta strain.

According to the current Wikipedia article on the variant, data suggests the reproduction number is 2.4 times greater than delta, placing it somewhere from 10-18 which puts it on par with measles.

Jess got a booster shot on Thursday 12/2 and that afternoon the girls both got their second doses. Which was a much more difficult experience than the first one--they both went into full on feral freak-out mode. Like animals caught in a trap: eyes darting around wildly, muscles tensed, adrenaline pumping. I eventually managed to get Heather focused on math (which helps tremendously to keep her grounded). After repeated unsuccessful attempts to engage Corinne's prefrontal cortex we had to just pin her down and get it done. It was less than fun for everyone.

Jess had side effects which knocked her out for a couple of days. The girls felt lousy and had fevers on Friday and Saturday, but were fine by Sunday.

Alameda County has continued to require masks in all indoor public spaces. And California instated a statewide mask requirement for all indoor public settings until Jan 15. Of course, there will probably be no enforcement, so I don't expect it will change anything.

My work status hasn't changed. Still only required to be on site one day a week, but not uncommon to be there more frequently to complete necessary tasks. I'm off through the end of the year now via vacation and holiday time.

My favorite news quote for past few months is this blurb from NPR which reads like the intro to a medical/sci-fi thriller:

South African officials raised the alarm about the heavily mutated variant, B.1.1.529, on Nov. 24. Two days later, the WHO classified it as a variant of concern and dubbed it omicron.