Monday/ the state of the virus

Cartoon by Steve Breen @sdutBreen on Twitter. Breen lives in Los Angeles and is a nationally syndicated cartoonist. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning twice, in 1998 and 2009.

Here’s the ‘state of the virus’ in the US, summarized by the New York Times:
Case numbers are climbing across most of the country as the Delta variant spreads among unvaccinated people. Arkansas, Missouri, Florida and Nevada are experiencing full-fledged outbreaks.

The country remains in far better shape than at almost all previous points of the pandemic. Deaths remain near their lowest levels since spring 2020, and hospitalizations are a fraction of their winter peak.

The vaccination campaign has largely stalled. About 550,000 shots are being administered each day, down from more than 3.3 million at the peak.

The change over the last 14 days: 7-day average of cases is up 3-fold, daily deaths up 75%.
Of these deaths, 99% of the sick were unvaccinated.
[Graphic by the New York Times]

Wednesday/ Washington State ‘reopens’

After 16 months, Washingtonians can again go to a bustling restaurant, sit at the bar, imbibe until as long as liquor licenses allow (usually 2 a.m.) and gather in large groups. If you are vaccinated, you can ditch the mask.

For now, masks are still required in healthcare settings, and on public transit. Employers are allowed to let fully vaccinated employees come to work without a mask— but they are also allowed to require masks for all employees regardless of vaccination status. Masks are still required in schools, childcare and day camps: the vaccine isn’t available to children under age 12, yet.

In King county, more than 70% of residents age 12+ have been vaccinated, but many other counties lag far behind, shockingly so. Despite being two of the four most-populous counties, Pierce and Spokane hover around 45%.

This banner was shown at a celebration rally in Wright Park, Tacoma where Governor Inslee said it was time for businesses to fully reopen. A flag that look like this was added to the flagpole on the Tacoma Dome today, below the big The Stars and Stripes flag.
[Graphic from coronavirus.wa.gov]

Tuesday/ 600,000 lives lost

We’re at 600,000 reported Covid-19 deaths in the United States. The real death tolls in the U.S. and around the globe, are probably significantly higher than the official numbers, with many cases overlooked, or concealed.

As for the vaccine, in California, 72% of residents older than 18 had gotten at least one dose, and 70% for New York state.  Both states lifted most of their Covid-19 restrictions today.
Washington State (at 72% one dose, same as California) will follow suit at the end of June.

Text and graphic from the New York Times.

So life is returning to normal in many ways in the United States, but the pandemic is far from over. Some 25% of people that had contracted Covid-19 and survived, or even those that were asymptomatic, suffer long-term symptoms. Millions of people are still grappling with the loss of a family member or a close friend.

Tuesday/ whatever it takes

The incentives for getting the vaccine are getting wilder and wilder.
Yesterday, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) greenlighted state-licensed cannabis retailers, to offer one pre-rolled marijuana joint ‘to adult consumers who receive a vaccination at an in-store vaccination clinic’.

So add the ‘joint for a jab’ incentive to the list of free beers, free donuts, free pizza, scholarships (for kids), cash prizes, free air tickets and who-knows-what-else.

Poster at the corner of 11th Avenue and Pike Street. Yes: your mama and your auntie approve of the vaccine. Go get it.
This graphic shows the consequences of politicizing the pandemic in 2020. It also appears that the J&J pause did damage to people that had been unenthusiastic about the vaccine, or entrenched the views of those that were against it from the start.
I still say: If you’re a SELFISH person, you should think: I don’t want to get sick, I must get the vaccine for myself. (You can get the Pfizer or Moderna one). If you’re an ‘IT’S FOR THE GREATER GOOD’ person, you go: I need to do my part, I must get the vaccine. But large numbers of people just close their ears and eyes, and still do nothing. [Graph by the Washington Post].

Thursday/ vaccine pop-up centers

King county now has 75% of eligible residents (12 yrs & older) vaccinated with at least their first shot, and 63% who have completed their vaccination.  Officials will soon shut down the mass vaccination sites here in Seattle (Lumen Field Event Center, North Seattle College and in West Seattle and Rainier Beach).

The smaller locations, pop-up clinics and even mobile units, will have to get people to come in, and find those that still have not been vaccinated (and convince them to get their shots).

Hmm .. if I had played hardball and waited to get my vaccine, I could have scored a Franz goodie bag with bread and doughnuts! Or even a $100 gift card. (Just kidding. I count my blessings, thankful that I have been able to get my two vaccine shots so easily at the Harborview clinic).

Monday/ plans for ‘fully reopening’

We’re at a vaccination rate of 60% (at least the first shot) of those older than 16, here in Washington State.

Governor Inslee had said that Washington State should be able to fully reopen June 30— or sooner, if 70% of residents older than 16 get at least the first shot before then.

The cover of this week’s The New Yorker magazine. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last Thursday that NYC will fully reopen starting July 1. Broadway shows will only start in the fall, though, and the 2020/21 school year will be over by July 1, of course. [Artwork

Monday/ vaccinated or anti-mask?

This cartoon from The New Yorker magazine illustrates the quandary that the CDC has created for businesses, and managers of public indoor spaces. Unvaccinated people should definitely still wear a mask.
It is just about impossible, though, to determine who is vaccinated, and who is not (and anti-mask).

This is surely a variation of the Liar Paradox. Someone on Twitter said the solution is to ask each one, how the other would answer to something like ‘Are you vaccinated?’ .. but that would assume that they know each other’s status. Hey .. I say, the earnest guy on the left is vaccinated, since he thinks it’s important to be able to tell who is vaccinated and who is not. The guy on the right looks mean and upset with what’s being discussed. So to me it looks like he’s an anti-masker and unvaccinated, to boot. 🙂  [Cartoon from The New Yorker, by J.A.K. @JasonAdamK on Twitter]

Thursday/ guidance for me, myself & I

For me, the updated CDC guidance about not wearing a mask for vaccinated people, feels like a stunning reversal of their guidance issued just two weeks ago.

There are lots of green ‘Fully vaccinated’ maskless smiley faces on this guidance diagram from the Washington Post (compiled from the CDC guidance). I added my own ‘guidance’ in there, for now.  I’m just not ready to go everywhere without a mask (esp. indoors), and pretend that the pandemic has ended.

Let’s not forget that the failure of the CDC to contain this pandemic, is at a level I would call ‘Epic’. As the NYT noted in a June 2020 article: ‘The technology was old, the data poor, the bureaucracy slow, the guidance confusing, the administration not in agreement’.

I’m still leery to embrace the labels ‘Safest’ and ‘Prevention Measures Not Needed’ for most indoor places. There are too many people out and about that are still unvaccinated (for whatever crazy reason).

Sunday/ Mother’s Day

Wishing all the moms a happy Mother’s Day, belatedly.
It’s been an especially hard year for working moms that had to work from home while taking care of the kids.

The last of the tulips here in my neighborhood, a beautiful pink one.

Wednesday/ two of two

It’s in my arm, my second shot of Pfizer-made COVID-19 vaccine.

To the COVID-19 deniers and conspiracy theorists:
YES, COVID-19 is real.
NO, the COVID-19 death rate numbers are not inflated.
NO, there is no microchip in the vaccines.
NO, the vaccine will not change my DNA.
NO, the vaccine is not a plot by Bill Gates, by the US Government, or by any other entity, to take over the world.

‘I support the COVID-19 vaccine’ says the button that I got at the clinic today. Yeah, OK, of course I support it— but COVID-19 is not a political party, for Pete’s sake. How about a blunt message, such as ‘Vaccines save lives’ or ‘Get your Covid-19 vaccine’?

Thursday/ it’s Day 15 for me

I have been counting the days after Wednesday, April 14 when I got my first Covid-19 vaccine shot.

The graph below has been doing the rounds on Twitter, and has been featured in articles about the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
It was compiled in 2020 by Pfizer with data from the vaccine trials.
New coronavirus cases quickly tapered off in the vaccinated group of volunteers about 10 days after the first dose*. In the placebo group, cases kept steadily increasing.
The second dose boosts and extends the protection (for at least 6 months, possibly for much longer).

*If someone in the vaccinated group did get infected, the symptoms were milder, and there were no fatalities, either.

Comparison of Covid-19 incidences in placebo group, and a vaccinated group, from Pfizer’s clinical trials in 2020.
I’m in the vaccinated group and at the ‘2’ on the graph’s timeline, and heading for the ‘3’ next Wednesday when I will get my second shot.

Friday/ 21 (or 28) days is best

My text message from University of Washington (UW) Medicine.

My appointment for the second Pfizer shot has been rescheduled, to exactly 21 days out, from my first shot (4 days later than the 17 days out, that I was told at first).

Per a text message from my health care provider, the  CDC guidance for second shots has been updated. (It seems that before today, there was a 4-day grace period, so the second shot could be had as early as 4 days before the 21-day mark, or 4 days after the 21-day mark).

From cdc.gov:
You should get your second shot as close to the recommended 3-week or 4-week interval as possible. However, your second dose may be given up to 6 weeks (42 days) after the first dose, if necessary. You should not get the second dose early … However, if you do receive your second shot of COVID-19 vaccine earlier or later than recommended, you do not have to restart the vaccine series. 

P.S. So Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine is back in business, in the US, in Europe and in South Africa. Good news.

The pandemic rages in India, with 300,000 new cases per day, and on a steep upward trajectory. People wait to cremate victims who died due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a crematorium ground in New Delhi, India, April 23, 2021. [REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui]
Am I going insane? asks a Twitter user, as he posts this picture. Only 1% of Japanese citizens have been vaccinated — and the Games is on? I will believe it when the opening ceremony starts.

Monday/ go and get ‘My Vaccine’

Everyone in the USA over age 16 now qualifies for the vaccine.
Now if only everyone (alright, 70% of everyone) will go and get it.
It’s not going to be easy.
Too many Americans subject themselves/ are influenced by, information bubbles that stoke their fears, or lie to them.

Micheal Kosta with a big fake moustache*, guest-starring in a skit on Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show. He is promoting ‘My Vaccine’ to conservative people that are still vacillating. Get one shot, the second one is FREE, and  ‘You stormed the Capitol, let My Vaccine storm YOUR CAPILLARIES .. ‘.
*Kosta is impersonating My Pillow guy and Trump supporter, Mike Lindell.
Israel is held up as the gold standard for vaccine roll-out. At first I thought they had only gotten to 60%, and are now ‘flat-lining’ (source: Our World in Data). 
… but Reuters reported today that 81% of citizens & residents over 16 in Israel are now fully vaccinated, and that the national mask mandate has been rescinded. So maybe that’s as good as it gets, in any country.
And here’s Washington State’s numbers (from the Washington Post). I hope that WA state can match Israel’s numbers in a month or two. In the US, Michigan is still in a very bad place, as are many other countries in the world: India, Brazil, several European countries. This is YEAR 2 of the pandemic. There will be a year 3, 4 and .. a year 5?

Wednesday/ at Harborview Medical Center

At 7.45 am, I joined the social-distanced line of a dozen of so, outside the nondescript little building at the back of Harborview Medical Center— thankful that I was wearing my padded jacket (47 °F/ 8 °C).

By 8.00 am I was in the door. Hey, you and I have the same birthday, said the young woman that checked me in. I filled out a form with a few questions, and then went to one of the 5 stations with a nurse, for my shot. (I got Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine, not Moderna’s).

Three weeks to tick by, and then I can get the second shot. It feels good to have the first one.

The Facilities & Engineering building on Terrace Ave (on the right) is where the Harborview hospital’s vaccination clinic is run out of. I had just exited down the stairs.
One of the hospital’s delivery gates. I’m making my way back to the big parking garage overlooking I-% and downtown Seattle.
I love the Art Deco detail on the buildings. The construction was completed around 1931.
The entrance off Eighth Avenue. Harborview Medical Center is the only level 1 trauma center* for Washington State. *Capable of providing complete, life-saving care for the most seriously ill or injured patients, through rehabilitation.
The roof of the parking garage off Eighth Avenue, across from the entrance to the hospital. Last year in November I thought the PEACE letters was for the holidays, but looks like it has became a permanent installation (and why not). That’s Columbia Center (cpl. 1985) and Seattle Municipal Tower (1990) in the back.

Tuesday/ the J&J pause

My personal D-Day in the war against the vaccine is here: I will get my first shot at 8 am on Wednesday morning.

I believe it will be the Moderna vaccine that I’m getting.
The Johnson & Johnson it will not be, with the pause that was announced today by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) here in the US. Of the 120 million or so shots administered in the States, less than 7 million were J&J, and White House officials expressed confidence that the roll-out here in the States will not be negatively impacted.

The unwillingness of people to get the vaccine, the so-called ‘vaccine hesitancy’, is the bigger challenge.

Cartoon by ‘J&J jab under observation’ by BRANDAN REYNOLDS, published in Business Day (South Africa), Wed. Apr 14, 2021.

Wednesday/ fair weather & a ferry

We got to 61 °F (16 °C) here in the city today.
Late afternoon I braved the rush-hour traffic on I-5, to get to West Seattle for a little doubles tennis.

It’s now optional to play with a mask — outside or indoors (at Amy Yee Tennis Center). I decided to keep mine on until I get vaccinated.
The governor announced today, that here in Washington State, from April 15th on, everyone 16 & older will qualify for the vaccine.

I had a little time on my hands before the tennis, and stopped at the Fauntleroy ferry terminal to check out the action there. Here is the 5.15 pm ferry (the Issaquah), just departing for Vashon Island.

Wednesday/ everyone, first of May

Now we are tall and Christmas trees are small
And you don’t ask the time of day
But you and I our love will never die
but guess we’ll cry come first of May
– lyrics from First of May, recorded by the Bee Gees in 1969


People sit at a mass coronavirus vaccination site at Lumen Field Event Center in Seattle on March 13. (Lindsey Wasson/Reuters)

All Washington State residents older than 16 will qualify to get the COVID-19 vaccine, come May 1.
I will be one of the last group*, 1.2 million of the State’s 6 million adults, to get my shot (or two shots).

*I’m not complaining. I’m very lucky to be able to get the vaccine this early, compared to people in most other places around the globe.

I guess it’s time for me to start plotting the moves that I will be willing to make once I am vaccinated. Maybe I will ride the bus again — alongside some wet-nosed ‘passengers’ such as this adorable pooch. His name is Banana and the bus is on Route 62.
[Picture posted on Twitter by Kev @kaveniii].

Thursday/ maybe it will be May, for me

Washington State has published new dates and target groups that qualify for getting the vaccine. I’m not making the cut, yet.

President Biden has promised that there will be enough vaccine doses for all Americans by the end of May*.  It takes a lot of logistics to get that vaccine injected into people, of course.

*For example, Merck and Johnson & Johnson will collaborate to ramp up vaccine production, with the help of the federal government.

Descriptions of the groups that qualify next for the vaccine. I’m not sure how if or how it will be verified that a person has two or more comorbidities.
And here is Washington State’s timeline for Covid-19 cases. We’re down to about 1/3 of the highs in December, but still double where we were in September of last year. The state has now crossed the 5,000 mark as far as recorded Covid-19 fatalities. A little bit of good news: so far, this is the mildest flu season in the 25 years that records have been kept. Of course, it kind of should be: people are wearing masks and not congregating in large numbers.

Saturday/ the J & J vaccine: one and done

Late today, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization to Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine.

The vaccine works a little different than the messenger-RNA vaccines of Pfizer-Biontech and Moderna. It uses a modified adenovirus as a wrapper for DNA material.

There are three approved vaccines in the US now. I added my notes to a slide that the Today Show from NBC showed on Friday.

Sunday/ a grim milestone

The number of daily Covid-19 infections in America — and hospitalizations — are going down (again), but losing 500,000 souls was unimaginable a short year ago. Six hundred thousand now seems inevitable.

An estimated 750,000 Americans lost their lives in the four years of the American Civil War (Apr. 1861- May 1865).