It’s raining this evening. That ended up cutting church choir rehearsal, held outside, rather short; it’s obvious that my fellow Unitarians did not grow up in Seattle. Those of us who did learn at an early age to trudge forward with whatever outdoor activity is at hand whether water is falling from the skies or not. I will admit that Southern rains can be, at times, real gully washers that make this attitude impractical, but tonight’s has been a gentle rain, more like the drifting mists of home. I suppose handling of soggy sheet music would have been unpleasant and we did get the pieces we needed to record for future services down so all was not lost.
It did not rain last night. I took a couple of friends out for our first fine dining meal in fifteen months. Vino in Mountain Brook has a large outdoor patio, the weather was warm, and we enjoyed the whole gamut from cocktails to appetizers to mains to dessert. Good food, good friends, good conversation. I had almost forgotten that sort of activity existed. I had scallops in curried cream sauce. It’s probably not on my diet plan and I know the tiramisu wasn’t. I’ll work on losing my pandemic twenty another day.
As the world starts to open back up, I, along with the rest of us, am trying to figure out what the rules should be regarding social distancing and mask use. All of our local mask ordinances expired as of Monday and are not being renewed so we are all left with CDC guidelines (and misinterpretation thereof) and various corporate policies. I am continuing with mine in some situations and not in others based on what I think is a combination of common sense and good public health. I don’t mind wearing it. I’ve gotten so used to it over the last year or so that I don’t even notice when I have it on half the time. If it’s not on, it rides around in my back pocket along with a spare just in case.
I work in health care which means I go in and out of buildings dedicated to healing and into which people with various illnesses, immune deficiencies, and other conditions that prevent them from being vaccinated at this time congregate. Therefore, both UAB and VA are continuing mask mandates in buildings used for clinical care for the foreseeable future. We wear them with patients, when in patient care areas, and when in the public areas of the building such as lobbies, hallways, and elevators. If we’re in office suites or other places where patients do not go, we’ll take them off as staff are all vaccinated. I am still wearing mine indoors in buildings where I don’t know others health and vaccination status such as stores. I think it’s polite and telegraphs that I give a damn about the health of my fellow citizens and the health of the employees in such establishments. I don’t wear it outside unless there’s a crowd of people (like the Saturday morning farmers market). I don’t wear it at home or when in the company of a few people who are all vaccinated. I do wear it on house calls as that’s a health care situation. If and when I start going back to the movies or getting on airplanes, I’ll gladly wear it. Covid is not the only respiratory disease out there and I’ve noted that I haven’t had a single cold or bronchitic infection since this whole thing started and I usually get a couple a year.
While things are definitely improving, this whole thing isn’t over. There’s still about thirty people in UAB hospital with active Covid infections and other thirty who are not actively infectious, but who are still too sick to go home. This is way down from the average of three hundred a day we hit in January but it’s still a burden. And, because the older population has been better about getting vaccinations, its mainly younger and middle aged people who are deathly ill. The hospitalization rates for the vaccinated have fallen to negligible levels. Those few who get Covid infection post vaccination generally don’t develop complications that can’t be handled at home. The hospitalization rates for the unvaccinated population really haven’t changed. It looks like nationally we’re going to end up with about 60% vaccinated and 40% not by the Fourth of July. That 40%, as it’s a younger and healthier cohort than the total population, won’t have the roughly 2% chance of death we’ve seen; it will be lower. But, that population is so large that there is still the chance of thousands and thousands of excess deaths still to come from what is starting to become a preventable disease. That’s not to mention the unknown long term complications of the illness. There’s lots of end organ damage noted in lots of studies. It might not matter much when you’re thirty-five, but it might play havoc a couple of decades later at sixty and shave years off of life expectancy.
We now have a truly ridiculous law in Alabama banning ‘vaccine passports’ and not allowing public or private entities to discriminate in access to the public based on vaccine status. It’s so inartfully written that it basically forbids state institutions, including UAB, from handing out vaccine documentation cards, will not let schools ever add another vaccine requirement for students, no matter what diseases may circulate, and tramples on the private property rights of individuals and businesses. It’s likely to be ignored for the most part, but could certainly pop up as a poison pill in the future when the next pandemic disease comes to town. And there will be a next one. If our grandparents had, in the forties and fifties, acted as we are today, we’d still be battling polio and smallpox. So do your civic duty and get your vaccine if you haven’t yet done so. Operators are standing by to take your appointment. The folks at the CDC and WHO with their years of training in virology and epidemiology and their billion dollar budgets are savvier than you and your Google search and friend on Facebook.