Sunday/ the deadline is here

Rolovich*: “I don’t think this is in my hands. I’ve been settled for a long time on it. I believe it’s going to work out the right way.”
Reporter: “Right way, as in staying the coach?”
Rolovich: “Correct. Or, if that’s not what (athletics director Pat Chun) wants, then, you know, then I guess I gotta move on. But I like being here, I like being the coach here, I love these kids, and I just got faith in it.”
*Nick Rolovich, head coach of the Washington State Cougars football team, and Washington State’s highest-paid employee at $3 million per year. The governor of Washington State earns a paltry $172,000 by comparison, per Ballotpedia.

The deadline is here: Washington State employees must be vaccinated come tomorrow, or get fired (or just risk getting fired? time will tell). The mandate includes employees at the Capitol in Olympia, firefighters, policemen, state troopers, and Washington State Cougars football team head coach Nick Rolovich.

Rolovich is reportedly seeking a religious exemption. If the school’s review panel — through its double-blind review procedure that is out of the hands of the athletics department — determines he does not have “sincerely held religious belief” preventing him from getting vaccinated, then he will be out of a job, and WSU will be off the hook for the remainder of his contract, says the CougCenter website.

The report also notes that even if his exemption is approved, the school must also determine if he can be accommodated. (He will have to do his job with social distancing, testing, and wearing a mask at all times, and so on). Given that the governor’s mandate is a public safety measure, it’s reasonable to infer that the safety of others — employees and the public at large, will factor into WSU’s thinking.

Photo and reporting that I referred to, from the CougCenter website. Washington State University is located in Pullman, Washington.

Thursday/ 4 months, and counting

Andy Slavitt’s podcast with Dr. David Agus and Tom Moriarty of CVS Health.

I listened to a podcast of Andy Slavitt (former Biden White House Sr Advisor for COVID Response) today, and it’s clear to me what to do now.

I need to march into a CVS store (or any other, or a clinic) by November, and get a booster shot.

It appears that the protection afforded by full vaccinations, wanes by about 6% per month.

There is no apparent downside for adults getting a booster shot.
So if it’s OK for 65+ people, and for workers (of any age) at high risk, it is surely also OK for me to get.

As Dr Agus put it: striving for perfection is our enemy here. Why try to get it perfectly right (re: timing and shot combinations), and come down with Covid in the meantime?

On Sept. 19, I had been fully vaccinated for 4 months. By the time that 6 months will have gone by for me (Nov. 19), it would be time for a booster shot.
The recommendation from the podcast is to try to get the same shot as the 1st & 2nd dose shots (Pfizer 1,2 + Pfizer 3 OR Moderna 1,2 + Moderna 3).
If that’s not possible any other combination is OK as well:  J&J 1 + Pfizer 2 OR J&J 1+ Moderna 2 OR Pfizer 1,2 + Moderna 3  OR Moderna 1,2 + Pfizer 3.

Monday/ to boost or not to boost

Weeks ago, the administration decided that the public needs cake and deserves cake, and so shall have cake.
Now, the public expects cake and would be very annoyed if its cake was taken away at this point.
– John P. Moore, a virologist at Weill Cornell Medicine

I want my cake, and eat it, too. I have had two shots of the Pfizer vaccine, and I think I want a third one!
[Photo of Blackout Cake by Alex Lau, food styling by Judy Mancini]
It looks like the White House had gotten out over its skis, by promising that everyone over 16 will be able to get booster shots.

Last Friday, a panel of experts recommended against booster shots for the broad public. Only people over 65, and those ‘at high risk’ qualify (compromised immune systems, workers such as hospital staff, teachers).

Did they have all the latest information, though? Here’s Sharon LaFraniere and Noah Weiland writing for the New York Times (about the discussion on Friday Sept. 17 by the panel of experts that advise the FDA):
One study apparently came too late for the discussion, underscoring the rapid flurry of changing data on vaccine potency. Released by the C.D.C. hours before the committee’s vote, it found that the Pfizer vaccine’s level of protection against coronavirus hospitalizations dropped significantly four months after the second shot.

The study found that two weeks to four months after recipients got their second dose, the Pfizer vaccine was 91 percent effective in preventing hospitalization. After 120 days, though, its effectiveness fell to 77 percent. Moderna’s vaccine showed no comparable decrease in protection over the same time frame. The vaccinated patients in the study tended to be older; the Pfizer cohort had a median age of 68.

Thursday/ required: proof of vaccination

Health officials here in King County are clearly worried that the pandemic will get even worse, now that summer is over.

Beginning Oct. 25, customers will have to show proof of vaccination— or a negative COVID test— at most establishments and events here in King County.

It’s not clear at this point, if any smartphone apps* will be available to help with the process, or if businesses will get any help or compensation for enforcing the rules.
*I registered months ago for the MyIR (My Immunization Record) Mobile app, but it still says the link to the State Health Department is not in place.

Thursday/ ‘Our Patience Is Wearing Thin’

This is not some new “dictatorial power” President Biden is assuming. This is how the government works. Wake up.
– Rachel Maddow @MaddowBlog on Twitter

Excerpts from reporting in the New York Times by By Katie Rogers and Sheryl Gay Stolberg:
President Biden announced sweeping actions today to vaccinate tens of millions of American workers against the coronavirus, including private-sector employees, health care workers and federal contractors.
Experts say Mr. Biden has the legal authority to impose vaccine requirements on the private sector, through laws that require businesses to comply with evidence-based federal health safety standards.
One thing Mr. Biden cannot do is require all Americans to be vaccinated; in the United States, vaccinations are the province of the states.

‘Our Patience is Wearing Thin’. Well ⁠—my patience is worn out. Average deaths per day in the US is now back at 1,500. The virus keeps smoldering and mutating among the 80 million unvaccinated Americans that go about their daily business, and infecting other unvaccinated people (and a few vaccinated ones). 
[Front page of the print edition of the New York Times for Friday Sep 10].

Wednesday/ what booster shots do

Here’s a graph tweeted by Prof Peter Hotez* MD PhD @PeterHotez that illustrates what booster shots do. 

*Professor in Pediatrics Molecular Virology at Texas Children’s Hospital, vaccine scientist, author and committed to combating anti-science information.

A booster shot will induce a rapid and larger response (larger than the initial response) in the body, since the immune system is now primed and vigilant for what it sees as a ‘new infection’ of the virus.

Tuesday/ get your Comirnaty® before Covid drives you batty

The logo & name for Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine (say ‘co-MER-na-tee’).
The name is a portmanteau of letters and syllables:
CO = COVID-19 (which in turn stands for COronaVIrus Disease 2019, the year it was discovered);
MIRNA = mRNA, the snippets of genetic code that tell cells to build proteins (proteins similar to the COVID-19 spike proteins, so that antibodies are produced);
TY = a nod to the words ‘community’ and ‘immunity’.

The FDA approved Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine on Monday.
Will that move any anti-vaxxers to get their shots? Probably not, but more organizations big and small, public and private, will now mandate that their workers get vaccinated.  For me, it’s nice to know the vaccine is officially A-OK.

Will Pfizer market Comirnaty on TV? I guess we shall see. It looks more and more likely that most of us will need booster shots by year’s end.

P.S. The US and New Zealand are the only two countries that allow full direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs and vaccines. Pharma companies spent $5 billion on marketing in the US in 2016. (Sigh.)

Wednesday/ get vaccinated, or get fired

All teachers and school personnel in Washington State — including coaches, bus drivers and volunteers — will need to be fully vaccinated as a condition of employment, under a new policy announced by Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday. The requirement applies to staff regardless of the type of school in which they work: public, charter or private.
The policy is the strictest vaccine mandate imposed to date by any state for teachers and other staff members in schools, allowing for only a few exceptions. School staff must be vaccinated by Oct. 18 or face possible dismissal.
– Dana Goldstein reporting for the New York Times

Governor Inslee also announced a mask mandate for indoor public settings for the entire state of Washington.
Masks are ‘recommended’ for crowded outdoor settings.

Oh- and booster shots are coming, for everyone. It’s only 2021.

Friday/ ‘We are failing one another’ – really?

Look at all the red on this map of the USA. We are averaging more than 100,000 new coronavirus cases a day, for the first time since February.
If Florida and Louisiana were countries, they would have been No 1 and No 2 in the world for Covid prevalence.

Barely a month after Washington State ‘reopened’, King County is now again red, as well (threat level: High).

I corrected/ clarified USA Today newspaper’s headline for them. I am vaccinated, and I wear my mask indoors in public spaces (again). Unvaccinated people are like drunk drivers. If you are unvaccinated, you should really stay home and not go anywhere. Sooner or later, you will get infected, and infect others: your family, your friends, co-workers, strangers. How hard is that to understand?

P.S. So now that my rant against the unvaccinated is out of the way, here is advice from Adam Grant (organizational psychologist) @AdamMGrant on Twitter, when talking to vaccine-hesitant people:
How not to talk about vaccines:
Only half the population is vaccinated, and anti-vaxxers are to blame. Vaccines are safe and effective.

A better option:
Over 160 million Americans are fully vaccinated. Yes, vaccines have risks, but COVID poses greater risk.

Wednesday/ comeback of the year

WA state will follow current CDC guidance and I am asking Washingtonians statewide to consider wearing a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission. This is a recommendation, not a requirement.
– Governor Jay Inslee @GovInslee on Twitter, today

I guess I’m putting my mask back on when I go into stores. (I confess that I was not wearing one tonight for our Wednesday night beers. The Chieftain pub was virtually empty, though).

The experts agree that we’re in for a rough few months here in the US, as the Delta variant of Covid-19 spreads among the unvaccinated (and also infects some vaccinated people as well).

I’m watching an interview that Bill Kristol is having with Dr. Ashish Jha (Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health). Dr. Jha explains that there is 1,000x more of the virus in the nose & throat of Delta variant patients vs. others. An infected person with the Delta variant infects on average 6-8 others (it used to be 3-4 others with the Alpha variant).

GET VACCINATED. You are in for trouble if you are not vaccinated, and you encounter the Delta variant. Vaccinated people have an army of antibodies (and long-term T cells and B cells) that stop the virus from getting a foothold.  In some cases for vaccinated people, the viral load encountered is very high, though, and a breakthrough infection happens. Masks work by reducing the amount of virus that is inhaled from an infected person. [Cartoon by Dave Whamond on]

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]

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’?