September 7, 2022

The VA has allowed me to return to work so I guess I am no longer Typhoid Mary. I went in today and cleared out various boxes that were overflowing with important messages, on paper and electronic, and tried to get everything ready for resumption of my normal rural house call schedule tomorrow. It wasn’t too bad. As a number of other people in my unit went out with Covid at the exact same time as I (making the VA the likely source of my infection), it has been relatively quiet over the last ten days. I haven’t been allowed back at UAB yet. I should get the all clear tomorrow but anything is possible. I’ve been doing as much of my work on that side from home as possible so it shouldn’t be too bad getting everything up and running again.

I’m in the process of editing the galley proofs for the new book, Volume II of these Accidental Plague Diaries. The material is only just over a year old but so much has happened in that year that in some ways it feels like I’m editing some sort of historical text. Does anybody remember the delta variant? Last summer’s school mask wars? Does anybody care? I guess I’ll find out when the book is done and out there and if anyone actually buys a copy. Going through it line by line, I think there’s some good stuff in it and there’s some stuff that I’m cringing at a bit but it’s what was going on in the world and in my head at the time. When will it be done and available through a book retailer near you? I was hoping the end of this month. It’s likely to be mid-October though as I’m not progressing quite as quickly as I might like as other things grab my attention.

So where are the numbers now? Trends are all going the right way, but slowly. Daily deaths have dropped from the mid 400s to the low 400s. Test positivity rate is down from about 20% to about 15%. New diagnoses are down about 20% from a couple of weeks ago. Not as low as we have been during some of our previous lulls but not as bad as it certainly good be. Will we go shooting up again this fall and winter? It remains to be seen. Some will depend on the numbers and kind of people who go get their bivalent booster shot for additional omicron protection. Some will depend on our social behavior patterns over the next few months (which may in turn depend on all of the rather strange weather we’ve had this year due to climate change). Some will depend on whether a new viral mutation comes into play.

The chatter in the science community is that the government is gearing up for a future with an annual Covid booster, likely in the fall, to coincide with the annual flu booster we’ve all gotten used to in recent years. That would certainly help with messaging and with convenience, especially if they work out a way to combine the two vaccines into one (it’s being worked on). The only flaw with this tentative plan is that it assumes that Covid and influenza are similar viruses with similar annual patterns. Unfortunately, they aren’t. Influenza has significant seasonal variation. Flu season usually runs November to April with minimal cases outside of that window. This allows us to predict with some success, the timing of when a flu vaccine will be the most effective leading to the annual fall campaign. Covid hasn’t shown a seasonal predeliction. We’ve had surges in the winter and in the summer. The flu virus tends to mutate in a predictable pattern allowing us to guess how to adjust the strains in the vaccine in advance. Covid is more random in its mutation (or it has a pattern we just haven’t ferreted out yet). The bivalent omicron vaccine has been approved and is in the process of heading out through distribution networks and is already available at some locations. If you’re more than sixty days out from a prior booster, it’s probably a good idea to go get one, especially if you’re over fifty or have any issues with your immune system.

My own personal Covid case has essentially resolved. The only symptom that remains is fatigue. It’s not a bone weariness, it’s just a feeling of weakness and that I just don’t have the stamina I think I should. I’m capable of doing everything I need to do but I find I need to sit down more and I’m more likely to nod off once I find someplace comfortable. Most of my friends of my generation who’ve had a recent second omicron infection like mine have had similar feelings and have told me it takes about two to three weeks for it to go away so I’ll give it another ten days or so to resolve itself. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this is not the beginning of some sort of long Covid nightmare that’s going to haunt me for a while. It also better not keep me from learning my lines. I have enough trouble with that already at my age.

Rehearsals for ‘The Hallelujah Girls’ are going smoothly. It’s not Shakespeare but it’s good fun and it’s not often that I’m asked to play a sex symbol so I’ll take it. I’m having difficulty finding just the right southern dialect for the character. It’s supposed to be rural Georgia but I keep slipping between Charleston and backwoods Tennessee, neither of which is quite right. I’ll figure it out. Dialect is not my strong suit. I suppose that’s what comes of going into acting without much in the way of formal training. I do take the occasional class but most of what I do these days is dramatic improvisation which is very helpful for character building.

‘Too Darn Hot’ from The Kiss Me Kate I directed – Virginia Samford Theater – June 2006

I’d like to direct again. It’s been a decade since I last did. I love directing big old fashioned musicals best but few companies are doing these at the moment due to the expense involved and the size of the casts. Everyone is in a period of financial retrenching after the last few years of disaster and so things have titled more towards chamber pieces. My favorite directing assignment was Kiss Me, Kate, Cole Porter’s musical send up of The Taming of the Shrew. It’s a great show, if a bit dated (and some of the gender politics are questionable but can be dealt with with proper staging and interpretation) with an absolutely fabulous score. When I directed it, now sixteen years ago, it became clear to me why it isn’t done more often. It depends heavily on men (often in short supply in community theater) and is basically two different period shows happening together at the same time. One of my less stellar moments came at the first orchestra rehearsal. I had this idea for the top of the second act, leading into ‘Too Darn Hot’ that we would hear the orchestra at a distance as if they were playing inside the theater, while the cast cooled off outside. This would necessitate a prerecorded track and a sound cue, and then the live orchestra would take over. So I sat there and explained what I wanted and told the music director and orchestra in all earnestness ‘So when we get to this orchestral entrance, I want you all to play with yourselves’. Silence. Then hysteria. And that idea was quickly jettisoned.

It may still be too darn hot out there, but not so hot you can’t keep your hands washed and sign up for your boosters.

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