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]
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%.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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’.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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).