Coronavirus, Day 251 – The Long Haul

November 21, 2020 10:55am
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I’m not sure which is crazier – that we’ve been dealing with this thing for almost nine months now, or that we might only be at the halfway point.

Don’t get me wrong – the recent news of vaccines being almost ready are great to hear, but just like the real impact of people simply wearing masks, I’m not sure that many understand that we’re not out of the woods the moment that vaccine becomes available.

I saw a tweet the other day that I thought addressed it quite thoroughly…

And that doesn’t even include how long it will take the average American to get access to the shots! Not sure how that whole debacle will play out yet … I’d like to think that medical personnel on the frontline will be first, followed then by people’s level of risk, however we all know that “VIPs” are going to end up getting preferential treatment and people like Congressmen, executives, and others that can afford to pay a premium will still likely get it first.

Estimates put your average Joe getting vaccinated sometime mid to late next year, assuming that he’s willing to be vaccinated, which is a whole other issue that we won’t even get into!

I know that tensions are already high, and the holidays are coming, and people are getting tired of this thing and the sacrifices that we’re all making for it, big and small. Yet over the last week, we’ve seen the death toll hit an average of 2,000 people a day … that’s the equivalent of a 9/11 every day and a half…

As I type this, we’re at 260,000 deaths and if that trend continues, we’ll likely top 350,000 dead by the end of the year.

A terrible, dumpster fire of a year that sadly I don’t think is just going to stop when the proverbial ball drops and ushers in 2021. And that’s going to have its own psychological effects because plenty of people don’t want to see themselves “giving up” Thanksgiving and Christmas, so the idea of these terrible events continuing despite the change of calendar is going to be a tough one to bear.

But we owe it to the 1.38 MILLION people around the world who’ve died from COVID-19 keep doing our best to not let that death toll double or triple before we get to the end of this.

Coronavirus, Day 234 – A COVID Election

November 4, 2020 4:34pm
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Votes are still being counted as I type this, but it looks like Biden might’ve actually won.

Which is a relief, but I’ll write more about that later!

The delay, as we expected, is due to the huge spike in mail-in ballots thanks to the pandemic – almost 3x the number of mail-in ballots from 2016, which is kind of NUTS if you think about the sheer volumes…

Total Ballots

  • 2020 (so far) – 137 million
  • 2016 – 127 million

Mail-In Ballots

  • 2020 (so far) – 65 million
  • 2016 – 24 million

Early Voting – In-Person Ballots

  • 2020 – 36 million
  • 2016 – 23 million

Election Day – In-Person Ballots

  • 2020 – 36 million
  • 2016 – 82 million

In a way, it’s comforting to see that so many people took the COVID precautions seriously enough to vote via mail instead of in person on election day – at least 40 million extra people at the polls certainly would’ve increased the risk of exposure! I ended up voting early for my first time and it was super easy, so it’s likely something I’ll do again in the future just to avoid the crowds even after the pandemic has passed.

…which despite the unscientific argument of many politicians, is still definitely here even with Election Day itself behind us, as the US logged another 94,000 cases and almost 1,200 deaths just yesterday. I know that even if/when Biden does win, we’ve still got a couple of months of Trump policies to deal with before he takes over, but I can only hope that come January having a different voice in the White House changes the American perspective on this virus so that we can actually get in front of it and stave off more waves while we wait for a vaccine to be ready.

It’s ok to fear things that can kill you.

There’s nothing wrong with being afraid any more than there is crying or being anxious or any other emotion. For a disease that’s killed 215,000 Americans in the last seven months and literally put our nation’s leader in the hospital, it was disappointing that this was his message the moment he got out.

Not urging people to take necessary precautions. Not compassion for all of the people before him who struggled with COVID-19 but didn’t have access to the best medical treatment in the world.

Instead, it was just more pandering to his base to minimize the affects of COVID and make the people who are taking it more seriously … like his opponent in the election … look weak by comparison.

…and he’s not even done being sick yet…


One of my pet peeves lately has been watching company layoffs when I feel like businesses could really be doing more to support their own employees. The most significant of these examples is Disney.

Last week Disney announced that it would be laying off 28,000 employees from its theme parks division, presumably mostly because Disneyland hasn’t yet reopened, although the parks here in Florida are also seeing heavy reductions.

This bothers me because unlike a lot of other businesses struggling with the effects of COVID-19, The Walt Disney Company has an astonishing $23 BILLION in cash on hand right now.

To put that in context, Disney could pay every one of the 28,000 people they’re laying off $825,535.71 … or more realistically because they’ve said that the majority are part-timers, they could spend a mere 10% of their cash reserves and still have an excess of $80,000 to help support each employee who directly plays a hand in creating Disney’s highly coveted Disney magic…

Now I know that companies don’t normally operate this way, but if you want to talk about actually maintaining a culture of family and inclusion, why not? Think of the incredible goodwill that Disney could gain by financially supporting their people instead of turning them loose on unemployment benefits and food pantries to survive, not to mention the press from doing the right thing.

Shareholders might not be as crazy about Disney spending its cash on its own employees instead of new attractions that can further boost earnings per guest, but … I just don’t have the energy for that argument right now because without their staff, who’s going to sell their tickets and load their rides and keep their parks flowing for millions of paying guests every year???


In general, it really makes me uncomfortable to see more and more people relaxing their concerns about this virus and trying to push us “back to normal,” as if COVID will understand that “We’re all tired of it…” and move on to greener pastures to infect.

It certainly didn’t help with Florida’s governor being the first to relax our restrictions, at least as much as he could, by not only removing capacity restrictions for businesses but also by trying to pull the rug out from underneath local mask mandates by telling counties that they can’t assess fines for people not following them anymore.

For the most part, businesses are keeping their rules in place. Maybe not so much for restaurants, but honestly we’re not eating out anytime soon anyways. What’s tough is that it opens the doors for more people to challenge these businesses, and each other, and start fights over whether they still have to wear a mask or not. I know that we had a handful of questions that turned aggressive on the kids’ school Facebook groups when parents asked if the kids still had to wear masks to school after the governor’s announcement.

As a side note, so far our kids’ schools have had four cases between the two schools, although only the first case prompted one of them to close.

Just this morning I read a story out of New York about two old guys who got in a fight at a bar over wearing masks and one pushed the other, who ended up hitting his head and dying.


And lastly, admittedly I haven’t really looked at our stats in a while, so it was interesting to see that Florida’s cases have gone down by about a third over the last month…

…however nationally they’ve been slowly trending back up again.

Curiously, if you look at the number of tests being done each day, Florida is doing dramatically less than we were this summer – 25k down from 65k – however nationally we’re almost double – nearly 1M today up from 500-600k over the summer!

Particularly here in Florida, I worry that we seem to be preparing for the perfect storm with the next wave between less testing and less restrictions coupled with more people being frustrated and wanting to fight things like mask rules. Right now the majority still seems to be wearing masks and keeping their distance, however I think that’s going to become more of a struggle as that anti-mask group grows more vocal and especially if people start getting self-conscious about taking precautions if not as many people are doing them.

The other day I noticed a stark contrast just between going to Walmart and Target – our local Walmart stopped putting its sign about masks out front by the doors and the greeter doesn’t challenge anyone, as displayed by a couple without masks walking right in without a word, whereas at Target there are signs front and center, plus several employees inside to monitor the door, and they even had an announcement reminding everyone of their safety procedures while we were shopping.

I don’t care what happens with government rules – at least for right now, I won’t shop at someplace that doesn’t actively take COVID-19 procedures seriously and that includes requiring masks for anyone and everyone.

I’m afraid of this disease that’s killed at least 4-8x more people than the flu did last year because our risk of contracting it is greatly diminished simply by following a few basic precautions. My family’s lives, and the lives of our friends and neighbors and people we’ve never met, are worth those minor inconveniences.

I’ve tried to take in as many different perspectives on America’s COVID-19 experience as I can because I know that there are a lot of variations to how individuals are going through this.

For example, at 10:30pm last night one of the schools that my kids attend announced that they were switching to virtual school immediately because a staff member had tested positive for COVID. We’re still waiting for more information, but understandably a lot of parents are frustrated and upset because they have to work outside of the home during the day and can’t stay home to supervise kids in virtual school.

My wife and I are very lucky in this regard because I can work from home and she only works part-time on the weekends.

That said, when I look across the measures that we’re still taking to prevent the spread of the virus – everything from masks to some businesses being closed to quarantines – I can’t help but think that the reason why we’re still having to endure these invasive measures is because, quite frankly, we didn’t do a very good job of facing this virus as a whole from the very beginning.

  • Medical personnel spent the first month struggling to get their hands on basic safety equipment for their staff.
  • Political leaders shrugged off the seriousness of the pandemic and downplayed its potential instead of making critical early steps.
  • The financial support offered by Congress was rife with abuse and often went to people and corporations who didn’t need it, and archaic unemployment systems left even more Americans begging for relief.
  • Some Americans fought tooth and nail against restrictions aimed at keeping people safe, and even today chatter about the virus being a hoax is common.
  • Testing never really went mainstream by being too confusing, unreliable, and an undue burden to establish a regular testing cycle needed to truly monitor the population.
  • Speaking of monitoring, contact tracing never really took off here, either, because vocal Americans determined that privacy was more important than safety. Case in point – for my son’s school, we don’t know if the employee ever had contact with Christopher or not, which makes it difficult for us to manage his potential exposure here at home.
  • Despite the importance stressed on opening schools, many were never given safety equipment that they needed, with some schools here in the Tampa Bay Area giving each teacher only “a rag and a spray bottle” to keep their classrooms clean.

I know it feels like we’ve all been through a lot in the last six months, and we have, but it’s hard to not ask ourselves if we really did everything that we could when you look at other countries that experienced a curve back in the spring and basically have it more or less stabilized at this point.

If America is supposed to be the greatest country in the world, or the richest, or whatever, why are we struggling with this so much?

So here we are, I guess.

Five months ago we were averaging 25% of the daily cases that we’re seeing today and in-person classes came to a halt, replaced by virtual learning for the rest of the school year.

On the upside, I’d like to think that we’ve learned a bit about COVID-19 since then … more people than not are wearing masks out in public and social distancing has become the norm, even though there are definitely still some among us – some in positions of power – who will fight tooth and nail for the right to ignore this global pandemic and pretend that it’s not the reality that we all live in today.

I know that our teachers will do the best they can because that’s what they always do, but I also feel like in critical times like these that that’s not good enough.

I’ve read posts over the weekend about teachers not being given enough supplies by their administrations to clean and even protect themselves, which isn’t surprising considering the laundry list of supplies that parents are asked to contribute to classrooms each year … but if reopening schools was really so damn important to kickstarting the economy, it sure would’ve been nice to actually see teachers getting the support that they need for a change.

As for our three kids, we’ve opted to send two of them to in-person classes and the third will do virtual school at home with the help of his in-home therapist who he’s been working with all summer.

I, for one, am incredibly nervous and we went back and forth all summer about whether we’re making the right decisions, but ultimately A) the two that are going in-person are much more likely to actually wear their masks than the third, and B) virtual school for Pre-K is kind of a throwaway anyways … so we decided to give these choices a shot and if we either see that things aren’t working or if new cases start absolutely skyrocketing, we’ll have to deal with that when/if it happens.

Obviously that’s my biggest fear because as much as everyone likes to tout that “Kids are basically immune to the virus!” and “Their risk of exposure is very, very low…”, I can’t help but think that it’s mostly due to how quickly we isolated the kids in school during the spring that has helped to keep their numbers so low compared to the rest.

I sincerely hope that I’m wrong, but if we’re being honest, kids are like walking petri dishes even without a global pandemic at hand, and as much as I’m sure everyone is going to try to keep them distanced and masked as much as possible … well, I guess I just hope that they do better than the worst of the adults right now who are getting in fights with store clerks over masks and acting like COVID-19 hasn’t already killed 180,000 Americans in the last five months.

We’ve spent the last five months trying to emphasize to the kids why they need to wash their hands thoroughly and how we can’t do certain things that they love right now because of all of the germs that are getting so many people sick.

I hope we’re not expecting too much of them by sending them back to school when the end of this thing still seems like it’s nowhere in sight.

So right now, and in fact for most of the summer, one of the biggest COVID-19 debates is whether it’s safe enough for kids to go back to school. Cases have surged to the point where 10,000+ new cases a day is the new norm here in Florida, and last week one of the teachers unions sued our governor for mandating that the school year resumes next month with in-classroom instruction.

Many counties, including ours, have already pushed their start dates back two weeks, but the looming question is really whether that’s enough to give time for schools to create a safe learning environment for both students and staff.

This, of course, is happening after President Trump just pressured the CDC to revise their guidelines for schools reopening because he thought that the existing rules were too hard or too expensive to support … which of course, resulted in new guidelines last week basically supporting reopening schools with pages of text about the importance of schools and very little on how to keep them actually safe.

Personally, I’m still very torn about the issue. A few weeks ago, we made the decision for Christopher and David to do in-classroom instruction, and Matthew do virtual school with help from his in-home therapist during the day. We were most confident about Christopher because he’s starting at a new charter school that really seems to have its ducks in order about how they’re going to operate; David’s public school … less so, but we don’t think it will be productive to have multiple kids at home doing virtual school during the day.

And even since then, our schools have come back and said that masks will now be mandatory for students and teachers are being very vocal at voicing their very valid concerns for their own safety.

I get that it’s a complicated issue because most parents can’t stay home with their kids all day in the event that classroom instruction gets cancelled again, and yet I also feel like it’s important to remember that the role of the school system is not to serve as babysitters so that parents can go to work!

The reason why I really wanted to write this post is because there seems to be this weird perspective across the Trump administration and the Republican party that kids need to go back to school so that the economy can recover … which I don’t understand because it’s not like people are staying home from work just because they have to watch their kids.

I mean, we’ve been on summer break for two months, which happens every single year…

The sad reality is that a lot of jobs have basically evaporated due to COVID because the world had to change – people aren’t out shopping and eating in restaurants and going on vacations because they don’t feel safe. Businesses have cut back on buying things from each other due to economic uncertainty, and teams aren’t traveling to conferences and customer sites for safety reasons, and a lot of these problems just aren’t going to resolve themselves in September because suddenly the kids are back in school again.

I’ve heard financial analysts say that it could take 3 – 5 years for places like Disney World to get back to the record attendance and revenue levels that they were enjoying just six months ago, and there’s no doubt that a lot of businesses across the board simply aren’t going to be able to stick around long enough to see that level of consumer confidence actually return.

In a perfect world, the worst-affected businesses could just hit pause and wait this thing out for a year, but with everybody having bills to pay, that doesn’t seem to be possible for most industries.

I don’t claim to have all of the answers for how to “fix the economy,” but I think it’s going to take a while and I don’t think it’s fair to couple this problem with the separate issue of ensuring a safe environment in which to teach our kids. I want my kids to get back to learning, but it’s not fair to all of the teachers and staff who support their education to force the issue if they don’t believe that it can be done safely right now.

…I know that I really shouldn’t.

The last week or so, I’ve found myself escaping through watching various travel vlogs – Kara and Nate have been one of my favorites – and after watching their most recent videos about coming back to the States (after traveling abroad for four years!) and buying a van to tour the USA while this COVID-thing works out, there’s admittedly a part of me that would like to hit the road myself and take the family exploring…

…and at first glance, it doesn’t sound all that crazy. Traveling by road in our van, we could limit exposure and get take out just like we do here at home.

But then there’s hotel rooms … because there’s only so much cleaning a maid can really do!

And besides that, there’s what do you do when you get to wherever you’re going?!

Plus, I would argue that it’s a lot easier for a young couple to go off the cuff and just play things by ear in random road trip fashion, whereas kids will only stay buckled in their car seats for so long before they start making demands that their iPads and the TV in the van simply can’t handle!

At one point, I even looked into vacation homes just here in Florida because Sara had a friend who stayed at an awesome one over in Orlando with slides and ball pits and all sorts of cool themed rooms for the kids … yet she also mentioned spending five hours cleaning every surface imaginable on her own after the owner also had a professional cleaning crew do the place over themselves.

The fact of the matter is, even as I’m getting a little stir-crazy here, I know deep down that right now is a terrible time to travel, as depicted abruptly here in Exhibit A:

For those of you playing along at home…

  • In the last five days since my last post, Florida added 47,677 new cases, which is about 9,000 cases more than the previous 5-day period.
  • Yesterday Florida took the record for the most new cases reported by a state in one day at 11,458, beating out a previous day set by New York back in April (according to Johns Hopkins’ data, anyways).
  • Despite having one of the worst spikes, Florida is one of several states that still does not have a statewide mask restriction. (thankfully the counties around the Tampa Bay area have all passed their own local ordinances)

If anything, it’s kind of scary to realize that looking back to when I first started blogging about COVID-19, our national chart looked like this…

…and now we’re using that same scale, but at the state level for Florida instead of the national level!

For comparison’s sake when I look at this later, here’s that national chart three and a half months later…

Anyways, to wrap this up so I can get to bed, instead of traveling I’ve really been trying to focus on sprucing things up around the house to make our home a little more enjoyable while we wait out COVID as long as it takes. We recently got our pool cage rescreened after far too many years of having panels blown out by the wind, and the bamboo that always haunted me in our backyard has now nearly been removed, too.

As a result, I think I was in the pool with the kids every single day over the holiday weekend, which was nice, and it gave me some exercise, and most of all, it does wonders for wearing them out at the end of the day!

Next on the list is getting someone out to service the heater for our hot tub that has also been broken for over a year, and I’ve also been playing with some fun outdoor lighting options to add the pool area to bring my growing Hue obsession poolside!

Between all of that and the new patio furniture that we just splurged on, I’m pretty excited about it … or at least I’m trying to remind myself that I am whenever I daydream about driving the family cross country in search of something new and exciting that doesn’t also carry the inevitable threat of COVID. 🙁

 

In the last seven days, Florida has seen 48,931 new cases of COVID-19.

For comparison, this is more cases in the last week than we saw in the first two months of the pandemic, including what we thought was its peak with some days having more than a thousand new cases!

In other words, wear a damn mask already, you freaking maniacs…

It scares me to think about how bad this is really going to get because we’ve got the 4th of July at the end of this week and at least for now, Disney World is planning to open its parks again in another week and I believe their reservations are already completely booked.

On the plus side, deaths have been fairly stable (at least here in Florida) despite in the increase in new cases, and we starting to see a few counter measures like mandatory mask orders here throughout the Tampa Bay Area and last week most of the bars got shut back down.

I get that a lot of people want to just forget about it and move on with their lives. As far as I’m concerned, those people are crazy. Personally I’m most worried about two things – 1) will my employer continue to allow us to work from home, and 2) what’s going to happen in another month and a half when school is supposed to start back up again?

As far as working remotely is concerned, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see this chaos dominate the rest of the year, so I’m really hoping remote work remains a part of “the new norm” for as long as possible. Of course, I’m very biased because I spent four great years working from home when Christopher was first born so I have a fond appreciation for the extra freedom it gives me to navigate my day and better support my family. Everything is easier when I’m able to choose how and when I do my work, plus the lack of a commute and time saved not getting sucked into random meetings and discussions is an absolute godsend!

School is tricky because the kids both love and need it, and as great as virtual school was in the spring when this whole thing started, it doesn’t hold a candle to live instruction. That said, I think I worry most about the teachers who have to navigate with our walking petri dishes and stand a much greater risk than the kids do of catching COVID. Right at this moment, my wife and I have a plan for the three boys that we’re “ok” with … but that’s not to say perspectives won’t change if things get even worse over the next 6 – 8 weeks.

Right now, I feel like the best I can do is to stay informed and be concerned. I don’t avoid going places like the store when we need something, but I’m not going out of my way to wander around a mall or a theme park. I wear a mask whenever I’m around strangers and I’m doing what I can to teach the kids to wear theirs as well … in addition to why it’s important for them to do so.

I’m also trying to remain grateful that this hasn’t impacted our family like it has many others. We’re both still working, and we don’t have any immediate friends or family who have gotten sick, though we know of people who are either in critical condition or have already died of it.

Being inconvenienced by COVID-19 when other people are truly suffering and dying from this thing is the least we can do.

I think that’s important to remember when social media is filled with people complaining about having to wear masks and not being able to enjoy theme parks the way that they could six months ago.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that we’re still in a global pandemic in the middle of everything else that’s going on.

I’ve mostly just been trying to lay low. I wear my mask whenever I have to go to the store or inside somewhere to pickup food. Admittedly we don’t really eat in restaurants much right now anyways because the kids won’t sit still for it, but we’re not going back to theme parks yet because we’re not quite ready.

Apparently the local playground in our subdivision reopens today, so we’ll probably do that at some point next week, but for now we’ve been passing the time with video games, the pool, and whatever else we can find to occupy these kids for 12 hours a day!

In the back of my mind, I’m also bracing for the next wave because I’m sure it’s coming … right now I’m just wondering if it will wait until flu season like some are suggesting or if it’ll hit sooner. The data I’ve been looking at doesn’t look great…

First – for the US in general…

These charts actually don’t look too bad. New cases have been running fairly stable for the last month – maybe a slight decrease – and deaths are steadily going down, which tells me that we’re getting better at treating infected people – and that’s good!

Still, our daily new cases are running right around our average for the pandemic – we’re about 30% down from our worst days back in March/April when we were averaging 30,000+ cases a day, and our worst day ever was a month and a half away … 38,958 on 4/24.

That said, looking at Florida’s numbers…

Florida had its worst day yesterday … 1,902 cases on 6/12 … and the next worst was the day before that, so that’s not good!

Deaths are following the national average and are down a bit, but I think we’re all really going to be watching those new cases over the next week to see if this is an early spike or what.

This thing is far from over, despite anyone who’s just tired of it and wants to move on. I’m encouraged by all of the people who I do see wearing masks out in public and trying to be considerate of the other people around them, but at the same time I still see an unsettling amount who don’t seem to care and I don’t know what else to do except to avoid those people. If 116,000 fellow Americans dying from this thing in the last three months isn’t enough to convince people to think of others, nothing probably will, so instead I’m just trying to focus my attention on the people who are trying … even if maybe they’re not wearing their mask over their nose or slip up from time to time.

My gut tells me that this could be a really ugly picture by the end of the summer, and I’m not sure if we’d even do another lockdown, so right now my strategy is simply to lay low this summer and hope for the best, but also brace for the worst.

Two thoughts that I’ve been mulling about recently that I wanted to share…

Assume Positive Intent – This is a perspective that I stumbled upon from Automattic’s CEO and it’s something that I think offers a lot of value for a reluctantly cynical person like myself. It’s so easy to expect the worst from people, and sure, sometimes it’s what you get, but sometimes it’s not and let’s be honest, which one is a happier state of mind to maintain?

Stop Looking at Things as Absolutes – This one is really an attempt to counter a lot of the hoax-based mentality that more and more people are grappling onto lately whenever they see the slightest thing that tilts COVID-19 arguments in their favor. For example:

  • “Hospitals are classifying any death as COVID-19, so all of the data is garbage!”
  • “The virus is smaller than the holes in your mask, so masks are useless!”

Of course, the reality for both of these arguments is that it simply doesn’t work like that.

The reporting data is going to have flaws, but it doesn’t mean we should throw the baby out with the bathwater and forgo any sort of measure of the virus’s progress whatsoever!

And sure, the microscopic virus particles themselves are super small, but the main way that we’re concerned about them spreading is through saliva, which is definitely big enough for a mask or even just a bandana to slow down!

From another angle, myself I’ve been kind of trying to combine both of these two ideas as I encounter others out and about who may not be taking the exact same precautions as I am…

For starters, tonight when I ran to the store, I had Christopher try wearing a mask, too, so that he could start to get used to it for when Sara finishes the ones that she’s making for our whole family. He didn’t wear it the whole time, and sometimes he wore it under his nose, and he touched his face a bit, but it’s something, and he’s a kid, and he’s learning.

Likewise, we encountered several people who either weren’t wearing masks or were walking the wrong way down the aisles. My first instinct was to get upset, but then I noticed that a family that had gone the wrong way down the aisle in front of me was in fact wearing masks … so at least they were trying. 

Even the ridiculous cashier I had a few days ago who wore her mask underneath her nose because otherwise it was hard for her to breathe … at least she was doing something, and sometimes I think we’re pushing so hard and we’re so stressed out that we don’t want to stop and give ourselves or others credit simply for trying.

Sure, those masks weren’t as effective as they could’ve been, but the people wearing them had positive intent and I think that should count for something.

I know that when I’m doing my best and still slipping up, I’d much rather people pay attention to the good rather than my mistakes… 😛

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