November 30, 2020

And the long holiday weekend is over. All of the people who traveled against CDC advice have traveled again to get themselves back home and the numbers continue to mount. I canceled my personal travel plans when the numbers really began to skyrocket in early November. I’m fairly savvy and could have made the trip to Seattle and back safely but the odds for such things are tipping away and don’t look good to me until numbers start decreasing again and I don’t think we’re going to see that until Spring given that the weather will drive us all back indoors. We’re having an unseasonable cold snap here in Alabama at the moment with a light dusting of snow here in Birmingham. This is not conducive to outdoor activity. I was going to take a walk earlier but the weather was really too ugly.

In terms of judging risk, not just from Covid but from all other activities of life, I apply the car test. If, as an American, you get into a car with any regularity, your chance of dying as a result of a car accident in any given year is 0.02%. It’s pretty low so the risk benefit calculation to most of us is pretty easy so we all get into our cars without thinking about it. Now let’s compare that to the risk of death from Covid which seems to be somewhere between 0.6% and 2% for all comers and is even higher for my gender and age group. In other words, about 100 times as dangerous as driving. That starts to give me pause. When evaluating risk, if it’s less risky then driving (flying, being struck by lightning, being attacked by a shark at the beach), I never worry about it. If it’s orders of magnitude more risky, it gives me pause. Seattle will still be there in a few months and hopefully, when spring comes, risks will start descending as human activity again starts to move outdoors, and, with luck, we have a vaccine that should provide at least partial protection and an executive administration guided by science rather than by political whims.

I don’t have much new to report on the vaccine front. The Moderna mRNA vaccine I wrote about in the last few entries was presented to the FDA for an emergency use authorization so we should hear about approvals for it and Pfizer’s similar vaccine in the next few weeks. There are still a lot of questions about distribution to be answered. The last thing I saw was that the federal government was going to distribute it to the states based on population and then let the states decide for themselves how to allocate it from there. While this fits in with the administration’s passing the buck and every state for itself strategies, I don’t think this is the wisest of ideas as it gives no flexibility to distribute vaccine based on hot spots or needs. The Dakotas, for instance, are in serious trouble but with their relatively small population, vaccine just isn’t going to get there.

The hot off the presses news from today is that Scott Atlas MD, the Stanford radiologist with no epidemiological or virology experience who was appointed to be a senior adviser to the president’s Covid task force has resigned. Good! His blase laissez-faire attitude toward prevention have likely cost thousands of people their lives. As I still have an active California medical license (I kept it because for years I assumed I would go back – that’s not going to happen and I now keep it out of habit), I seriously thought about calling up the Medical Board of California and filing a complaint against him for endangerment. I am counting the days until January 20th when, with a little luck, decisions on the national level will once again be based in sound science and public health. We’re at 13.5 million cases in the US as we head into December. A month ago we were at 9 million. One third of all Covid cases since the beginning of the pandemic have happened in the last month.

I have this week off. My Christmas preparations are pretty much complete so I have to find something else to fill the time. The next big thing on my to do list is to go through the bins of ephemera that came out of the house in the move. I’m a pack rat. I keep letters, theater programs, photographs, news clippings: anything that I think I might like to look at again. I used to be very good about scrapbooking it all but that kind of fell by the wayside with Tommy as he, unlike Steve, had no interest in that kind of sentimentality. Now I have what feels like a few metric tons that I have to go through and decide what to save and what to discard. I’ve been putting this chore off for a while because its going to cause me to go through a lot of memories of togetherness at a time when I’m isolated and alone. It would be easier to do with someone so I could reminisce and tell the stories but that’s not really possible at the moment. I’ll probably dance around it for another day or two and then just sit down and start. That’s my usual modus operandi. If I find anything terribly interesting, I may scan it in and share it with y’all. Pictures of a time when I had a hair color…

Stay safe, stay well, and be careful out there.

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