July 8, 2021

With ‘The Accidental Plague Diaries’ coming out in book form shortly, you’d think I could start writing about something other than Covid but the combinations of mother nature’s rules and human folly keep giving me more grist for the mill (and, the way things are going, a high likelihood of a volume 2 in another year). Here’s some statistics I’ve come across in the last few days. First, the number of global deaths has topped 4 million. The United States continues to tick up, not at the rate seen six months ago but still ever upwards: we’re at about 606,500. Second ,the cluster in Southern Missouri I alluded to earlier this week continues to explode with the local hospitals swamped and EMS runs happening frequently per local news sources. The deaths will spike in two to three more weeks per the usual patterns. Third, the percentage of Delta variant cases nationwide was running about 20% in mid June. It increased to 30% at the end of that month and now, just over a week later, it’s over 50%. Given it’s much more rapid transmissibility, it’ll be over 90% by the end of the month. Fourth, here in Jefferson county, the number of cases of Covid diagnosed doubled this week over last week. The number of people hospitalized at UAB with Covid has gone up five times from 5 to 25 in the past week. What do all of these cases have in common? Lack of vaccination. Somewhere between 94 and 99% of infections (depending on the study) now happen in the unvaccinated. If you’ve not been vaccinated yet, it’s not too late but remember it’s roughly six weeks from your first shot until you achieve full immunityand that may be a helluva gauntlet to have to run given what’s going on at the moment.

Am I worried about the Delta Variant? Not especially. I’ve been fully vaccinated for some time, tend to hang out with people who work in health care or who have careers that depend on Covid risks being reduced and who therefore lined up for a jab as soon as they were able. I have a small chance of contracting a breakthrough infection and a very, very small chance of that infection making me seriously ill. It passes my test of being less risky than getting in a car routinely (1/8400 chance of death this year) so I’m not going to dwell on it. I am slightly concerned about the Delta variant mutating again in an unvaccinated population to become even more virulent but I’m not going to borrow trouble. There is good news as well. A study out of Yale that was published today computed that vaccines have so far saved about 300,000 US lives and promise to continue saving many more.

As bad as the pandemic has been, on individuals, on the health system, on the economy, on our collective psyches, it could have been a lot worse. The original SARS virus (Covid is officially classified as SARS-2) had a mortality rate of 14%. If Covid were similar, we’d have nearly five million US citizens dead over the last fifteen months (about one person in 75). Maybe the next pandemic will bring us that. There will be another one. Hopefully, not for some years, but they roll around as regular as the seasons and all we can do is try to prepare in advance and hope our leaders don’t take a wrecking ball to the public health system just prior to the occurrence.

I’m having new headshots taken this weekend. The last professional ones I had done are now more than fifteen years old and I must admit I no longer look like I did in my early 40s. And I just got my haircut short for summer which I hope will make me look distinguished rather than dorky. Hopefully they’ll turn out well and I’ll use it on the back book cover and for upcoming auditions. I’m itching to get back on stage in something. There usually isn’t a lot of theater around here in the late summer/fall because football so I’m holding out hope of booking something interesting for the holidays or early in the new year. There are a few projects coming up I’m interested in. We’ll see what happens. I’m trying to think of a good story. This one’s a short one and goes back to my senior year of high school – I’ll leave the names out of it but my high school friends will know who it’s about. It comes to mind because theater…

When I was in high school, our campus went through a significant expansion plan building several new buildings at once. One of these was an arts center to create new studio space for visual art and a new theater space. Prior to this, the theater program had used the chapel – which had, for instance, no way to access the stage left wings without climbing a ladder through a window. Teenage me wandered into the new building for the first time, walked on to the stage and looked up at the flies and was smitten. I wanted to know how to use these tools to create art so I immediately signed up for technical theater and found that my calling was in stage management. Some months later, I was stage managing a production of that old chestnut, You Can’t Take It With You. It was mid December. We were rehearsing up through the break, then coming back to tech and perform in January. The cast and crew were mainly over achievers of one kind or another and the guy playing Mr. DePinna had found out that day that he had been accepted into Harvard on their early decision program. In celebration, his parents had given him a bottle of champagne which he brought to rehearsal and everyone had a swallow in a dixie cup to toast his good fortune. The next day the whole cast and crew were called into the principal’s office. We were all to be suspended for drinking on campus. Pandemonium. We all went home for Christmas vacation two days early and that evening twenty sets of irate parents descended. They were reassured that the school realized the offense was somewhat ridiculous and that no names were being taken, no records were being kept, but they felt that they had to enforce the rule to keep something more problematic from occurring in the future. My parents laughed about the whole thing as they knew I was far from a troublemaker, besides which they’d allowed us kids small amounts of alcohol at family celebrations for years and knew that a sip of champagne wasn’t anything to me. It was the only ‘serious’ trouble I ever got into during my school years.

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