Well, I played tennis last night with my mask on, as mandated by the Amy Yee Tennis Center. My mask had three layers of cotton fabric. It got a little ugly at times.
As you huff & puff after a long rally — through the mask —your panicked brain roars ‘MORE OX-Y-GEN..NOW!MORE OX-Y-GEN..NOW! .. and it makes you want to yank the suffocating $@#! mask right off your face.
So! I’m definitely going to have to try a few more different masks.
Exactly one year ago on Jan. 19, 2020, a 35-year-old man checked into an urgent-care clinic in Snohomish County, Washington, with a 4-day history of cough & fever. He had arrived at Seattle-Tacoma airport on Jan. 15, after traveling back from visiting family in Wuhan, China, for three months.
The next day, the CDC confirmed that the patient’s nose and throat swabs had tested positive for 2019-nCoV, in a PCR test. He was the first known case of Covid-19 in the States. The patient got worse before he got better, but by Feb. 3, he was well enough to go home.
There must already have been many other unknown carriers of the virus in the Seattle area, though. The Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington, was the first Covid-19 hotspot in the US. In February and March, 46 people lost their lives there.
By Jan. 19, 2021, the virus had made it into every county in the entire United States, and had killed 400,000 people.
My social tennis club organized a special winter session for us: outdoors at the courts at Lower Woodland Park by Green Lake.
The sun did not really shine (48 °F/ 9 °C), and the courts were not completely dry – but hey, we got to play some tennis.
We still have airplane passengers here in the States that get away with wearing no mask on the airplane. Why is that? They need to be removed and added to the no-fly list for 10 years, with the rest of the FBI’s domestic terrorists.
Here are a few excerpts from photojournalist Justin Jin’s recent visit to Shanghai (to visit his cancer-stricken dad in the hospital), as described in the South China Morning Post:
To get on one of the few exorbitantly priced flights, I have to pass two Covid-19 tests. One will draw a sample from my nose and the other from my blood, with both needed to be taken within 48 hours before departure at a lab approved by the local Chinese consulate. When I get my results, I have to upload them together with a long list of personal data via a phone app to the consulate, which then activates a QR “health” code on my phone required for boarding my plane in Amsterdam.
Many of the mostly Chinese passengers come fully protected, too. Since each of us carries double-negative results to get on the flight, this cabin must be one of the safest places in Europe. The Chinese passengers also follow instructions to stay in their seats as much as possible, even avoiding the toilet during the 12-hour flight. I also avoid the bathroom, my confidence shaken by the behavior of those around me.
Upon landing, customs officers comb through the plane to see if anyone has fallen ill. Our flight gets the all-clear to disembark, and we file into a Covid-19 testing station, getting another QR code and passport check along the way. Almost everything is shielded and contactless, a precise choreography of anticipated human movement.
Even though I have by now three certified negative test results, I am still a suspect in China’s eyes. There’s always a chance of catching something on the way. And since the tests I have had are not perfect, I shall endure a 14-day strict quarantine at my own cost. (At the hotel, Justin describes the severe cleaning procedures at the hotel. The hallway is disinfected every time a person had entered it, for example).
. . .
In free and democratic Europe, people live under the repressive shadow of Covid-19. In China, the system is restrictive, but people are almost completely safe from the virus imprisoning much of the world. They are free to hug, to party and to prosper.
The same night my brother takes me to a crowded wine bar in Shanghai with friends. There are no masks, no talk of vaccines and, for a moment, no worries. It feels so 2023.
The pandemic killed the second-hand clothing consignment store that used to be here on 15th Ave. & Republican St on Capitol Hill.
I see a same-day Covid-19 testing service has set up shop there, next to Rudy’s barbershop. The PCR test* they offer is not cheap: $195. They promise results within 36 hours. Another option is the quicker, but less reliable, rapid antigen test ($175).
*The PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test actually detects RNA (the genetic material) that is specific to the virus and can detect the virus within days of infection. The antigen test looks for protein fragments created by the immune system’s response to the presence of the virus.
Here come the vaccines. UPS and FedEx started shipping the first of the initial 3 million doses of vaccine from the Pfizer facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to sites around the United States, today.
Worldwide, dry ice production and making ultra-cold freezers, are being ramped up. I read somewhere that airlines are now allowed 15,000 lbs of dry ice in their cargo, up from 3,000 lbs. The stuff sublimates, which means it evaporates into CO2 gas directly from its solid form. The crew have to keep an eye on the CO2 levels.
Ordinary people will have to be patient. I hope I can roll up my sleeve for my first shot (of two) by say, April.
William Shakespeare (81), became the second person to officially receive the Pfizer-Biontech COVID-19 vaccine, at University Hospital Coventry, England.
(My apologies to the current day-William Shakespeare that had appeared in the original picture, for replacing his visage with one of The Bard. I could not resist).
In 1593, a year or so before Shakespeare wrote ‘Romeo and Juliet’, a powerful wave of the bubonic plague struck London. Theatres closed for 14 months and some 10,000 Londoners died. People died in all kinds of ways in Shakespeare’s plays, but nobody ever died of the plague. Thinking of the plague was terrifying, and any references to it in plays, was almost completely taboo.
I took the little quiz in the New York Times that produces an estimate of where I will fall in the Washington State line for getting my vaccine. (I’m in the ‘Everyone Else’ category; the equivalent of Group 5 or Group E for boarding an airplane).
The result: Based on your risk profile, we believe you’re in line behind 268.7 million people across the United States. When it comes to Washington, we think you’re behind 5.8 million others who are at higher risk in your state. And in King County, you’re behind 1.6 million others.
Two items in the ‘Better Late Than Never’ category, in the fight against the pandemic, were in the news today.
1. Dr. Scott Atlas, Trump’s coronavirus adviser resigned. (His ‘expert advice’ appalled public health experts).
2. Washingtonians can finally activate or download the Coronavirus Exposure Notification app. (In Western Washington, the number of new daily cases jumped six-fold just from September to November). The diagram below shows how this works.
We now know most of the answers to the questions we had pondered in March, about the pandemic.
Looking back, some of them are really shocking. We had to forego most of the public celebrations of summer. Kids could not go to school. Even so, the country is now in worse shape than in March. We have to give up this year’s traditional Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year celebrations as well.
The patchwork of approaches to mitigate the pandemic, and the communications failures from the White House down, did little to stop the virus.
We have now crossed 250,000 fatalities here in the States, and logged some 170,000 new infections just today.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, though. The milestones that I look forward to are –
1. The Pfizer-Biontech/ Moderna vaccine gets its Emergency Use Authorization (by Dec. 31);
2. President-elect Biden takes office (Jan 20).
These screenshots are from a German TV commercial that has an older man from the future reminisce and talk of the ‘Corona Winter of 2020’, as if it had been a war. (Germany reverted to stricter stay-at-home measures on Monday Nov 2).
The commercial is nicely done, but has had a lukewarm reception in Germany. Someone on Twitter said that Germans like to complain about Germany.
Washington State Governor Jay Inslee was on TV this morning, announcing that indoor social gatherings are prohibited. (No, the sheriff or policemen are not going to knock on the door and arrest people, but everyone is asked to take responsibility and comply).
Indoor dining is prohibited. In-store retail is limited to 25% indoor occupancy. No wedding and funeral receptions, and so on. The restrictions are statewide and will remain in effect until Monday, Dec. 14.
– It’s still safest to stay home.
– If you go out, stay six feet apart, wear a face covering and wash your hands.
– Stay local.
– Fewer, safer interactions are crucial.
‘Drug companies are notorious for exaggerating and skewing their early findings in public announcements to grab attention and boost investor interest’.
– Julia Belluz writing for explain-the-news website Vox
The Pfizer-Biontech vaccine candidate BNT162b2 got a ton of press here in the US today, and boosted the stock market indexes. Is the reported 90% efficacy for real? (The Phase III trial is still a tiny population vs. the 100s of millions of humans that will get the vaccine). And does 90% mean 90% of vaccinated persons will get no symptoms?Mild symptoms? Or could vaccinated people still get quite sick, but it will cut the death rate by 90%? Will it work for young people as well as old people? We don’t any of this yet.
Then there is the matter of transporting and storing the vaccine at -80°C (-112°F) in a special freezer with dry ice, and making sure two doses, three weeks apart, are given to the patient. (This is after the patient has been convinced to get the vaccine. Will Americans trust the CDC and the FDA that say ‘get the vaccine’ after their disastrous, incoherent Covid-19 messaging, and political interference through all of 2020?).
The Pfizer-Biontech vaccine uses brand-new technology: lipid nanoparticles — fat bubbles — that surround a strip of genetic material called messenger RNA. Cells in the human body react to the messenger RNA strands by running a ribosomes over it. Ribosomes are macromolecular machines, found within all living cells, that manufacture proteins. The resulting proteins built from the mRNA strands are now the same as the ‘spike’ proteins that sit on the surface of a real SARS-CoV-2 virus. The human body detects these spike proteins, sees them as invaders and develop antibodies for the spike proteins. If the real SARS-CoV-2 virus now enters the body, the antibodies are at the ready to neutralize them and prevent them from replicating. [Graphic tweeted by Dr. Ali Nouri @AliNouriPhD on Twitter]
P.S. The leading vaccine candidates are of three kinds: a. killed Sars-CoV-2 virus; b. a hybrid, with spike protein bolted on to a completely different kind of live virus; and c. messenger RNA (such as described above) that carries instructions to human cells to make spike proteins.
I waited a little this year to get my flu shot, but got it today.
I got it too early last year – in August! – and then I learned that the protection from it wanes a little too early as well (when flu is still going around, at the end of the season).
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that in the 2018–2019 season, some 35.5 million Americans came down with the flu and that about 34,000 of them died from it. Flu shots prevented another 4.4 million cases and about 3,500 deaths. [Source: Scientific American].
Trump and at least 34 White House staff members & other contacts have tested positive for the virus. If anything, it’s a surprise that it took so long for this spate of White House infections to happen. All of them from Trump & Pence down, regularly flaunted standard safety measures.
Just recently 200 people were packed into the Rose Garden for the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett. Was it a super spreader event? Yes, it probably was, says Dr. Tony Fauci.
As we enter the fall season here in the United States, the country has now crossed the 200,000 mark for Covid-19 deaths.
Says TIME magazine Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal in his closing remarks, writing about this: ‘There is some good news. The data suggest that we are reducing the death rate in America among people who contract the virus. .. and it’s possible that at least one vaccine may be available by the time 2020 comes to an end, although distribution will create many new questions and challenges. In the meantime, it is not too late to do better’.