I don’t think it’s the right move to tell people that it’s ok to stop wearing masks and other COVID precautions once they’ve been vaccinated just yet.

I get that the idea is to incentivize people who haven’t been vaccinated yet to go get their shots so that they can leave their masks at home, but the cynic in me who has been stressing out about people not wearing masks around Walmart for the last month has a bad feeling that a big chunk of the people who haven’t been vaccinated yet aren’t wearing masks anymore, anyways.

The next couple of months are really going to tell us if the anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers really are a large number or just a vocal minority as we watch both the new case and death rates alongside the vaccination rate here at home.

If you do the math, it looks like we’ve been averaging about 2 million shots a day over the last week, whereas we’ve seen between two and three million per day over March and April. That’s about 30 million people vaccinated per month if you assume two shots for full vaccination, although we know that about 8 million people have taken the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine to date.

IF we’re to keep up that 2 million a day average for another month, that would be roughly another 30 million people vaccinated and about 25% of the way towards our goal … however it gets even more complicated when you take into account that kids make up about a quarter of our total population and nearly half of those not yet vaccinated…

Here are the numbers that I was able to pull together today:

  • Total US Population – 328 million
  • Estimate for Herd Immunity – 70-80% = 230-262 million
  • Currently Fully Vaccinated – 119 million (36%)
  • To Go for Herd Immunity – 111-143 million
  • # of Kids Under 18 – 74 million

Personally if *I* was making the rules, I’d have asked people to keep it up at least until the 4th of July … which originally I thought was President Biden’s target until yesterday … which would at least put us hopefully closer to 200 million vaccinated.

Maybe it’s because A) I don’t like being around people, so social distancing doesn’t bother me, and B) honestly masks don’t really bother me that much, either. I mean, I wouldn’t necessarily wear one if there wasn’t a pandemic going on, but if you tell me that it will help to prevent the spread and in particular help people who are more vulnerable from catching this awful disease, then no argument here.

Hell, I’m high risk myself due to a chronic condition, and seeing as masks don’t as much protect us as they protect the people around us, it seems only neighborly that I wear a mask for you and you in turn wear one for me.

I know that not everybody thinks that way and some people are just plain tired of all of this, but given what’s at stake I don’t see how it makes any sense to rush it when we’re still a ways from the end. Right now we’ve slowed to about 700-800 deaths a day here in the USA, however India is seeing 4,000 a day … which is a number we experienced here only a few months ago back in January.

Earlier today I saw someone comment that it was time for those at high risk to protect themselves and the rest of us to move on with our lives, which just feels like a dirty, cruel thing to say, and for what? To avoid wearing a mask out in public and crowding each other? That attitude to me just seems selfish after 600,000 people in America and 3.3 million worldwide have died of COVID.

We’re making some good progress and the end is finally in sight – why risk it by being impatient before we’re actually in the clear? If you’ve been wearing a mask for the past year, what are a few more months at this point???

Color me vaccinated!

Well, I’ve had both of my shots, anyways, so about ten days from now I’ll be vaccinated … though it’s hard to tell in our world right now exactly what that really means…

My “COVID morale” over the last week or so has definitely taken a few hits on account of the following:

  • Florida’s Governor overriding every local government and suspending all COVID-related orders across the state.
  • Many counties following suit and admitting that they can’t enforce their own ordinances anymore. (my own county did this at the beginning of April)
  • Word on the street that theme parks are loosening their own restrictions.
  • A promise already that schools this fall will be in person and without masks.
  • …despite a not-zero number of kids who have caught this thing.

Seriously, almost 4 MILLION kids have gotten COVID?! And over 250 of them have died!

I get that we’re talking about BIG NUMBERS here and the averages are still quite low, but when so much of the rhetoric – especially from our governor – has been that, “COVID doesn’t affect kids at all – it’s a crime not to have these schools fully open!”

I think my big fear right now is that now that we’ve gotten a good number vaccinated (31% fully as of now, 40% has at least one dose), we’re going to see the counts stabilize just long enough to “get back to normal” and drop the rest of our restrictions, and then this summer we’ll see another wave because everyone who was going to get vaccinated will have done so, but not necessarily enough for us to truly achieve herd immunity. 

The truth of the matter is that the lower stats lately are really only good as compared to the previous peaks – averaging 50,000 new cases every single day, particularly when 20+% of them are apparently kids, isn’t exactly anything to cheer about…

One thing I will admit is that I’m starting to agree that COVID probably isn’t something that we’re ever going to truly be rid of – it’ll get down to a more manageable level and we’ll probably see it wrapped in with our flu shots – but it will never go away. The question is, to what level will the stats fall before we declare that “victory” and try to move on with our lives, particularly considering that some want us to have done so already???

I get that in the grand scheme of things, tens of thousands of people are both born and pass away every single day. Hell, even with all of that death, 220,000 new people were born today alone!

But I think it’s easy to discount life when you only look at death from such a high level overview. Were the 14,000 deaths from COVID today around the world not worth the rest of us taking precautions for because 26,000 people died of cancer or nearly 50,000 died of heart disease? I’ve seen a lot of people get into these weird arguments about personal responsibility and probability and not living their lives in fear, but mostly I think it comes down to whether you’re able to be compassionate for other people or you’re just seeing COVID as something standing in the way of you having a good time.

Also, while cancer and heart disease aren’t communicable diseases, how much COVID spreads is directly determined by what we do as a society, so I’ll be “curious” to see how the graphs change into the summer months across states and countries with varying vaccination rates.

Maybe I’ll be wrong and it’ll turn out that Michiganders should’ve been able to go fishing all along, but I doubt it.

P.S. I had originally meant to write this blog post about my reaction to my second shot, but then I kind of got off on another angle there! Regardless, my arm ached a bit, then I had some nausea and trouble sleeping overnight, and now two days later the ache is mostly gone and all that’s left is a bruise.

*shrug*

So first of all, the good news – our local school district has announced that masks will be required in our kids’ schools for the rest of the school year!

Granted it’s only another month, but you may recall that this was a big issue earlier this month for me because my county dropped its mask mandate and the schools were contemplating theirs, as it hinged on a statewide order that is set to expire at the end of this week.

Now I don’t know what happened because our governor still hasn’t announced whether it will be extended or not, but apparently the schools decided they had more power than they thought and just decided to pull the trigger anyways. Maybe somebody figured that a lawsuit is going to take longer than the next month to get resolved anyways, so who cares?!

Well, I do, and I’m both happy and relieved by the result.

That said, this afternoon was also interesting on social media because after reading the announcement online, I shared it to our community’s Facebook group as no one else had done so yet and what followed turned into a rather interesting social experiment for me. I mean, I knew that there were going to be some negative reactions because it’s clear that not everybody is onboard with wearing masks.

But I’ve always wondered just how many were of that opinion because A) people who bitch online tend to be the loudest, and B) I’ve observed both good and bad days just going to our local Walmart at various times. If I go after the kids are in bed around 9pm, I’d say the vast majority of shoppers are wearing masks, but if I go around 10am after I drop David off at school, it’s far worse to the point where my trip last week was pretty uncomfortable.

So I’ve been watching both the reactions and the comments on this news post for a few hours now … or at least until an admin closed comments because some folks weren’t being very nice … and here are just a few unofficial observations that I’ve made about wearing masks, particularly children wearing them, in my local community…

Of those 194 reactions:

  • Like – 109
  • Love – 29
  • Caring – 3
  • Sad – 9
  • Angry – 44

In other words, 73% were positive and 27% were negative … which is both comforting and better than I was expecting.

Some choice comments…

  • One person was concerned about bullying – of people who weren’t wearing masks – because they believed people were already being bullied about not wanting to take the vaccine.
  • One person repeatedly shared a well-debunked link about masks not being effective.
  • A common retort was to “follow the science” as if to imply that science said that the pandemic was already over.
  • One lady actually did say that the pandemic was over because we have a vaccine and hospitals aren’t overwhelmed anymore.
  • Lots of complaints mentioned “not living their lives in fear.”
  • One person cited losing 53 people in their life to COVID, which is just really horrible.

Other random observations…

  • Of the 100 comments entered, the same people’s names kept coming up over and over … meaning that while it looked like this huge debate, the reality was at least a lot of the back and forth was a small handful of people responding with the same arguments.
  • A lot of stats were overstated on both sides – one person cited 20,000 new cases in Florida every day, whereas we’ve really been averaging about 6,000 cases a day. Another cited “classrooms of 60-80 kids” in close proximity, which is also clearly wrong!
  • One guy told me, “If the government told you eating shit sandwiches protected you against “covid”.. you’d be first in line.”
  • Another fun person had a banner on their profile picture that said, “I would rather shit in my hands and clap than take the shot.” But in a cute way because it used emojis for the poop and the vaccine!

So the good news is, my kids get to finish out the school year uninterrupted and we can worry about what happens next at the end of the summer when we’ve got a few more months, and hopefully more vaccines and far fewer daily cases and deaths to worry about.

On the other hand, some of these folks who don’t believe in the importance of wearing masks apparently also have a strange fascination with shit … which isn’t great for public health concerns in general if they also believe hand washing to be a waste of their time.

Throughout this whole pandemic, I think one of the biggest things that we as a nation have fumbled on has been political cohesion between our various levels of government. Whether it was Trump shrugging the virus off and thinking it would just “magically go away when it got warmer – around Easter!” or local governments dueling over safety precautions, we’ve never really had the whole lot of them on one unified place to confront this thing together, and at least for me that’s been incredibly frustrating.

Case in point – kids wearing masks in school.

Right now they’re a requirement for all kids in public schools in my community, however soon they might not be…

This is because yesterday my county rescinded their local mask mandate, leaving it up to local businesses to require masks on their own whim.

Today our Superintendent of schools reported that masks could be made optional in schools by the end of April. He later clarified that although he thought they should remain in place for the rest of the school year, because we no longer have a local mask ordinance in place, the school district is relying on our governor’s emergency order for the State of Florida to require masks in our schools.

That order, unless the governor chooses to extend it, expires at the end of April.

…the same governor who’s been on a tirade for the last week about how vaccine passports will never happen in Florida, despite support of the cruise industry who he’s also desperate to see re-open again…

It’s just scary because all across our country, we’re seeing safety procedures entirely played out along partisan lines – red governments at all levels think COVID is a bunch of baloney and want to see “everything back to normal” while blue governments are trying to keep restrictions in place. And as a result, instead of coming together and agreeing on how to address the pandemic, we’re left fighting among ourselves – people who want mask rules in place vs those who don’t, vaccine supporters vs anti-vaxxers, etc, etc…

From day to day, everything swings very delicately in this balance and it’s incredibly frustrating both waiting to see where the next card falls and also trying to figure out what we’ll do if the next changes aren’t along the lines that we’re hoping for.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about vaccine passports – namely the ethicality of requiring people to be vaccinated to enter a place of business. And admittedly I was on the fence about them for a while, however the more I think about it and the more I read the comments from people who are so vehemently opposing of them … ironically I think that’s swayed me to want to support them after all.

As a side note, our idiot used car salesman/governor here in Florida just recently declared that vaccine passports wouldn’t be allowed in our state, however the same people who support his Executive Order for this were against local ordinances putting the other COVID restrictions into place, so…

Anyways, here’s my thought process with these things:

  • We’re not talking about requiring proof of vaccination to go to the grocery store or the mall, or probably not even to eat in restaurants, although increasing the current limits and reducing social distancing concerns me.
  • Vaccine passports would be most effective for large gatherings like events, theme parks, cruise ships, etc…
  • Speaking of cruise ships, Royal Caribbean has stated that they will require all crew and passengers to be vaccinated once they resume sailing, while Disney Cruise Line has stated they will not.
  • As far as vaccine distribution is concerned, right now we’re doing great here in the United States – in fact, we just celebrated a record day of 4 million doses given, which is awesome! I believe the goal I saw was 90% of adults vaccinated by this summer if we keep up this rate, however that’s only doable as long as you’ve still got people who are willing to get vaccinated.

And frankly what scares me is that polls have shown a not insignificant number of people who don’t want to get vaccinated, most of whom I’ve got to assume are the ones who are most against vaccine passports to resume their normal lives, too.

Right now it’s not a huge problem for me personally because we only go to the store and take the kids to school, both of which are still requiring masks. But you won’t catch me going to a theme park, or on a cruise ship, or even attending large family gatherings at this point because there’s no guarantee that the adults have been vaccinated and at this point there’s no protection for our kids whatsoever.

It would be one thing if vaccination numbers were surging and COVID cases were WAY down, but so far that’s not exactly the case. The numbers are looking better, but when you consider the massive surge that we had around the winter holidays, we’re still in the neighborhood of what we saw last summer and that’s with 18% of our population fully vaccinated…

So ultimately my take is this – I’m ok with standing in a room, without masks and without knowing that everyone is vaccinated, once the numbers drop so dramatically that it’s clear we’re finally on the other side of this pandemic. That doesn’t necessarily mean no new cases, but I would expect very, very low.

Until then, I’m going to expect the places where I go to have adequate protections in place to make me and my family feel safe.

  • For basic stores, that’s requiring masks and social distancing.
  • For restaurants, I’m honestly not there yet with the kids so we’ll continue to stick to takeout, but part of that is just because kids are horrible in restaurants in general! 😉
  • For larger gatherings, I want to know that everyone present has been vaccinated. End of story.

A few weeks ago when we went on vacation, you might recall that we didn’t actually visit any of Disney’s theme parks and instead stuck to our resort. Last year Sara and I were supposed to go on a cruise for our anniversary and we agreed (until it got canceled) that because it was just the two of us, we would still go as long as masks were required and worst case scenario we’d lounge on our balcony the entire trip.

Again, I think a bigger part of what continues to make me nervous about all of it is that while I’d be ok to go on a vacation right now where everyone is taking precautions, what I’m not eager to do is get on a cruise ship filled with COVID deniers who think this is all “the government trying to control everybody” and who will be the first to shirk off any possible precaution whenever anybody’s not looking.

It’s the same reason why whenever I do finally travel back to my hometown in Michigan again, I won’t be visiting the new barbecue place downtown that’s been fighting the health department over COVID rules this whole time … if I can’t trust you to follow basic guidelines for the general health of your community during a global emergency, how do I know that you’re following other health standards in your day to day operations?

So that’s it. If the numbers prove that we don’t need precautions anymore, then I’m good. Otherwise I’d like some proof that you’re actually taking this thing seriously. Because I certainly am.

So this week we took our family on vacation for the first time in probably a year and a half, but not like those pictures we’re seeing of packed beaches and bars and alcohol and germs flowing freely.

The kids probably wouldn’t have enjoyed that very much anyways…

We ended up taking everyone over to Disney for a few days at Animal Kingdom Lodge, a personal favorite where the rooms have giraffes and zebras and all sorts of fun animals grazing around outside that the kids got a real kick out of, too. We didn’t go to the parks at all, or Disney Springs … we pretty much stuck to the two Lodge buildings and just spent our time playing in the pool and laying around the room and watching all of the animals and generally just relaxing.

For Disney’s part, I think they did a pretty good job of putting safety precautions in place – masks were required basically everywhere except if you were sitting down and eating, or in the pool, and I only saw a couple of random people not wearing them. Places where crowds would gather like gift shops and the restaurant and the pool bars had markers on the ground to help people socially distance, and even the elevators were limited to one party at a time.

The resort didn’t really seem all that crowded, though we admittedly went out of our way to avoid people by eating most meals in our room and trying to keep our distance in the pools while a handful of other guests seemed to push our comfort levels, particularly after having a few drinks from the nearby bar. 🙁

All in all, we really had a fun trip and it was nice to get everyone out of the house for a few days. By the end, it had me wondering what this “return to normal” will even look like and what it will take for our family to be comfortable going to a crowded theme park or eating lunch at a busy restaurant with everyone unencumbered by masks in close proximity.

Frankly, there are parts of that normal that I’m not sure I even want to see return, but I’ll save those thoughts for a separate post!

The truth is, I think we all know that everything isn’t just going to magically get better tomorrow with the turn of a calendar page.

Coronavirus doesn’t care about the date – all it knows is to spread.

And that spread has killed 354,215 Americans and 1.8 million people worldwide over the last year.

I think we’ve finally got some hope in the new vaccines that are now being distributed to those closest to the disease, but there’s still a long road ahead of us. The people who denied the virus in 2020 and refused to take basic precautions to protect the people around them are going to continue to fight those precautions in 2021 even as they undermine our battle to actually rid society of this terrible pandemic.

We can’t change those people, but we don’t have to let them change us.

Fatigue over restrictions and the general impact of the virus is likely to grow in 2021, and the numbers will probably get worse before they start getting better. But the reason for wearing a mask on Day #292 hasn’t changed from Day #1.

We don’t wear masks to protect ourselves – we wear our masks to protect the people around us.

And I have to believe that despite all of the ignorance and the politics and the greed and the apathy that has made this pandemic all the worse throughout 2020, it’s going to be our compassion for each other that puts an end to COVID-19 – whenever that actually happens.

Happy New Year, stay safe, and don’t lose that compassion. We’re still going to need it in 2021.

Coronavirus, Day 266 – COVID Fatigue

December 6, 2020 4:12pm
Tagged with:

I get that everyone is really freaking tired of this pandemic by now, but what I don’t get is being so tired that they’re willing to put their friends and family and neighbors at risk by not following safety precautions – some of which are really pretty simple.

I mean, I get tired of parenting from time to time, and work, and all sorts of things, but that doesn’t mean I can just stop doing them because I don’t feel like it anymore!

You change things up and try to make it a little more pleasant. Maybe try to get some help. But you can’t just quit.

Especially when we’re just talking about wearing masks and avoiding gathering in large groups … because I can’t think of a more selfish reason to spread a disease that’s killed 1.5 million people globally than “I just had to go out because I miss my friends.”

You can call them. Text them. Email them. Zoom them. IM them. Share a socially distanced meal together.

What you can’t do is just pretend like this whole pandemic isn’t actually a thing, or something that “everybody’s going to get anyways” and so it’s not worth taking precautions over.

Tell that to the people who’ve lost someone this year, who will be wrapping one less Christmas gift or setting one less place at the table for dinner, and who maybe didn’t even get to say goodbye to their loved ones in person.

I have a lot of sympathy for people whose businesses are struggling right now – I really do. This is an unprecedented time and frankly, our government has really failed the American public by not making more of an effort to shore up our safety nets instead of focusing its efforts like usual on the super wealthy and protecting companies from liability for not taking COVID seriously. There’s absolutely no excuse for it.

But you can’t just slough off the rules that have been put in place because you’re angry or tired or frustrated or frozen in disbelief that COVID is a real thing. We’re not done yet. We will be – eventually – and then we can throw big parties and celebrate for everything that we missed out on in 2020, but now’s not the time for that – not when we’re in the middle of a third wave that makes the first two look like something out of the kiddie pool…

Coronavirus, Day 251 – The Long Haul

November 21, 2020 10:55am
Tagged with:

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
Tagged with:

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.

© 1999 - 2021 Comedic-Genius Media, All Rights Reserved.