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.

COVID-19: Part 64

November 6, 2021 9:36 am
  • Rancho Las Positas Elementary School known cases on site: 9
  • Livermore cases: 6,476; eligible vaccination rate: 81.6%
  • Alameda County cases: 114,592; deaths: 1,397; eligible vaccination rate: 84.6%
  • U.S. cases: 46,268,000+; deaths: 749,000+; eligible vaccination rate: 68.2%

Still over 1,000 people a day dying from COVID in the U.S. This has been ongoing since mid-August after a lovely lull that started about April and reached a nadir in early July. It's currently trending downward; hopefully it stays that way. Last year at this time we were climbing our way back up to a new high. I'm not optimistic about the winter. Still too many irresponsible people who refuse to be vaccinated, refuse to wear masks, and refuse to modify their behavior in any way to reduce spreading the virus. Multiple safe, effective, freely-available vaccines have been readily available nationwide for at least 5 months, and the nationwide vaccination rate of eligible persons hasn't even topped 70%. What an unnecessary loss of life.

Pfizer's vaccine received Emergency Use Authorization for children 5-11 this week. The above "eligible" rates are still for age 12+ as the reporting websites haven't added a 5+ category yet. We should see the overall eligible vaccination rate take a hit now that millions more have become eligible, but haven't had time to be vaccinated yet.

Our girls have an appointment for Nov 11 to get their first dose. They'll receive their second dose Dec 2 and be considered fully vaccinated Dec 16. Hooray! There are still stupid people saying things like, "kids don't need to be vaccinated, COVID hardly even affects them." Yet, the CDC has recorded 620 deaths of children 0-17 from COVID-19. I would prefer my children not be added to that list of the unlucky few--or the 4,325 kids hospitalized or the unknown amount of kids with lingering long-term effects. Especially when a safe and highly-effective vaccine is freely and readily available.

Updated guidance made me eligible for a booster shot due to lower efficacy of the Janssen vaccine compared to the mRNA vaccines. I got a Pfizer booster shot on Nov 3. Other than mild fatigue I didn't have any side effects (unlike my Janssen shot).

The Lab, following Federal requirements, has moved from vaccination-or-testing to vaccination required (or medical/religious exemption which will likely require regularly testing). The original deadline was to be fully vaccinated by Dec 8, but it looks like that deadline got pushed to Jan 4.

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).


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.