July 20, 2021

Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night goes the famous line. I have a feeling the bumps are going to be lasting a lot longer than tonight, or this week, or the next month. Humans changed their behavior again and the virus has been doing quietly what the virus does in the shadows the last few weeks and now we’re all waking up to the fact that it’s everywhere again. You all remember the pattern from last year. Behavior change leads to a rise in cases in two to three weeks and a spike in the death rates two to three weeks after that. Two weeks ago was a holiday weekend. Lots of opportunities for humans to gather so they did. Cases were relatively low, the Delta Variant was out there but rare, and so the Delta variant with its increased transmissibility took advantage of closer human contact to spread and then exponential math took over.

The Delta Variant is now 83% of total Covid cases in the US. Case numbers are rising in every state. The absolute numbers are still below where we were six or seven months ago but all the trends are wrong. Case positivity is back over 5% but a lot of testing sites have shut down so we don’t know if we’re getting an accurate read or not. State health departments are all over the map in getting their data to federal sources so it’s kind of hard to know what’s going on in real time but we’re back to adding nearly 100,000 cases a week. The death toll continues to mount slowly and we’ll have no problems surpassing the Civil War casualty figures in a couple of months at this rate. And half the adult population is either unvaccinated or under vaccinated – make that nearly three quarters of the adult population here in Alabama. It’s not like it’s difficult to find a vaccine these days. The times of searching on line every night and driving four counties over are long gone. Vials are going begging for willing arms. And it’s not like they haven’t been tried out in hundreds of millions of people. They may still be under emergency use authorization and ‘experimental’ but the safety record has been excellent and data is being submitted to the FDA and they are likely to receive full formal approval shortly.

I am beginning to lose my patience with those who are foregoing vaccines for political reasons or based on obviously disprovable misinformation. The message I am getting is that you have a fundamental lack of respect for others in society, most particularly those who go out on a limb routinely to see to your health and safety. The doctors, nurses and other carers are exhausted after this past year and a half and they’re gearing up to go back into hell again. A friend was involved in a traffic accident today and went to the UAB emergency room to be checked out. They were practically chased out as the whole place was swamped with new onset Covid patients. It’s no wonder that every doctor and nurse and therapist in my age group I speak to is considering their exit strategy and retirement. No human should be asked to bear this, especially when it’s completely unnecessary.

Rant over. Well, maybe not… I’m going to be on more than just a rant if I have to cancel my vacation plans again this year due to virus resurgence and a need to lock down and work towards flattening curves again. Grump. Grump. I’m also trying to figure out what to do about masking in the face of the rise of Delta. (Now doesn’t that sound like a really bad action movie with Jean-Claude Van Damme?) I mask at work when in clinical space as do all employees and patients as we may be around people who cannot be vaccinated for various medical reasons or whose immune systems cannot mount proper responses. I don’t mask when gathered with a small group of vaccinated friends. I don’t mask outdoors. Where I am stuck is going in to stores or other places where the general public gathers. Masking isn’t so much about yourself as it is to protect others. (People forget that). It works and works well when it is universal. If you’re the only person wearing one, it’s not so protective. With no further mandates in place, few are wearing them locally. Do I slip one on when heading into the Piggly Wiggly (I don’t mind) or do I just trust in my vaccinated status and my relatively good health to keep me from becoming too ill and isolate should I become symptomatic?

I’ve taken to writing my frustrations. Others in my family are much more visually inclined and create art. My sister, who has always been the artistic one, has made quite a career as an illustrator over the years, currently working predominantly in ink on human skin. (I’m referring to tattooing, not to some weird Ed Gein thing…) She did the cover art for the book which I will be revealing shortly. My father is a decent watercolorist and very clever with his hands having made many of our toys growing up. My nieces are both quite talented at drawing and graphic arts. My aunt became quite well known in the refined world of handmade papers and books after exploring Japanese woodblock techniques. The visual gene skipped me. When I pick up paint or colored pencils, the results tend to look like something a kindergartener left on the refrigerator. Tommy and Steve got the gay visual gene. They were both the kind of guys you could give some construction paper, a glue gun and some crepe streamers to and they’d emerge from the garage with a parade float after an hour. Not me. I did get the showtune gene and the brunch with too many mimosas gene though.

I did try my hand at visual arts once. In high school, we were required to have a year of visual arts to graduate. I took graphic arts my junior year. It encompassed basic drawing techniques, watercolor, various mixed media things, block printing, and the only thing that I was any good at, batik. (I still have a couple of my high school batik pieces hanging around). Our teacher was a wonderfully laid back guy with a droll sense of humor who was actually interested in what was going on in our adolescent heads. Teaching art was only one of his careers, on weekends, he was the minister for a Unitarian Universalist congregation in one of Seattle’s suburbs. He was my first introduction to UU (although he didn’t push it onto impressionable minds). I was raised Congregationalist, the most liberal of the Protestant Mainline denominations so UU wasn’t that far off from what I came from. I don’t think he thought much of my potential artistic talents (or lack thereof) although he was complimentary of my imagination and my liking to twist assignments in some interesting way. We got along quite well in general. I didn’t think that much about him or what he taught me for years after high school until a simple essay he wrote in his church job caught on in the 1990s and, all of a sudden was a poster on everyone’s wall. It was entitled ‘All I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten’ and Robert Fulghum, my high school art teacher, became an international name. There’s a quote from that famous essay that I think we all need to remember at this particular moment in history while we forge our way ahead.

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.

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