Thank You, OpenTable

It’s not often I can thank a brand for some above-and-beyond thinking .. but it happens.

This a little thing, that on the surface, will save me time deleting unwanted email. However, it also saves me a wee bit of sadness. Mom passed in 2011 and I still miss her every day.

A kudos to OpenTable for:

It’s Been Two Years ..

My name is Michael, and it has been 306 days since my last blog post.

But, here I am. When I left off, I had just received my second shot in “Got my Second! | OpsanBlog“. I got my third in December .. from Costco, of all places.

With that said, so bloody much has changed:

Where to begin / continue? We went remote on March 12, 2020 .. it’s been two years since I:

  • Have been in my office. I fear the two-year-old ham sandwich lurking therein. Our offices are ‘open’ now (with protocols), but they’ve not called us back on a day-to-day basis.
  • Went anywhere without a mask.
    • I keep it with me and still wear it during transitions in the well-ventilated places.
    • I’m less worried about myself (triple-vaccinated), and more about perception / concern from others in the area who may not be as well prepared.
    • I keep it on when at Costco, FedEx, the grocery, etc.
  • Have shaken anyone’s hand, preferring the ‘Ebola Elbow‘, which everyone seems to understand.

We’re coming into Spring .. going outside is good. Vaccines are slowing, but the counts are always increasing. Omicron has proven to be more mild, although the long-term effects are still unknown. There may be another variant (or two) of interest .. likely later in the Fall, so we can enjoy the Summer.

I’m not a hermit .. I go out. I’m selective on the places I visit and protect myself and others when I needed. I suggest you maintain situational awareness and behave appropriately. Watch the news but live your life.

Oh: “I’m not a Doctor” .. please talk with yours.

Got my Second!

Tuesday. Pfizer. I’m a wee bit behind. It’s a non-event, over before you know it.

In anticipation of side effects, I made paella and sangria for dinner .. and sangria for afterwards. I think the morning sangria results masked any side effects. As you know “I’m not a Doctor” .. so talk with yours to see if they approve..

If you’ve not gotten your first shot, talk with your doctor .. I’m confident you’ll get the facts you need and that you trust.

The shots matter. Please get yours straight away. Protect yourself and your community.

We’re so close. We will get through this.

Got your Shot?

I did .. the first one, anyway. Pfizer.

It took until a few weeks ago before I was old enough and could get on the calendar.

Next appointment for me is in early May and I’ll be there right on time. Still wearing a mask, and frankly: I expect to be wearing it through the balance of this year.

The vaccines are a scientific success. Amazing feat, by amazing people. The former administration deserves a massive kudos from all of us. Further, the current administration has done a phenomenal job of distribution, in partnership with The States.

Now, it’s up to us.

You’ve heard all of this .. it’s a race between the variants COVID-19 out there, and while the vaccines seem to be handling them, it’s important to note: the longer the virus stays in the wild .. In the reservoir represented by people who can catch it and grow it, the more the virus will mutate. Darwin tells us (conceptually): ‘survival of the fittest‘ (the actual quote came from Herbert Spencer). The virus variants that bypass the immune response and the vaccine will be stronger and continue to replicate.

Vaccine hesitancy in this country is certainly prevalent, and in some cases, understandable. Please don’t hesitate because of politics .. please look at the science. Talk to your doctor, your pastor, your vaccinated friends.

I agree: the J&J vaccine pause because of very rare blood clots didn’t help with vaccine confidence. However, the FDA and CDC lifted this pause on Friday, issuing appropriate warnings for some audiences. Please read up on this.

Blood clots are bad .. but if you’re a fan of numbers, here’s a few regarding the risk of getting them:

  • 1 in 1,200,000 from the J&J vaccine.
  • 147,000 in 1,000,000 from COVID .. almost 120,000 times greater risk of getting the J&J vaccine.

Note the J&J vaccine manages COVID differently than Pfizer and Moderna .. given the choice or if you’re in the risk group, please take one of those instead.

Be smart. Be an adult. Do the right thing. Get the vaccine when it is your turn. Once vaccinated, protect yourself and your community.

We’re so close. We will get through this.

The Vaccine is Here Part III

The vaccines are here. We now have 3 in our tool kit and this is great news. The CDC finally gave us some guidance, just today .. a tiny bit confusing, but please allow common sense be your guide.

I do believe there is a “W(h)ither the CDC” article in my future, which will reflect my thoughts. That’s a post for another time.

On Vaccines .. even if you are fully vaccinated you must still be careful. We don’t have data that suggests vaccinated people cannot transmit the virus to others, although we can presume there is less risk, as long as other mitigating steps are taken. We are hopeful that the vaccines will allow vaccinated people to spend time together whereas other folks not yet vaccinated may just want to join in.

Please don’t get me wrong .. vaccines are great news. The more people that get vaccinated coupled with those that wear masks give us the best opportunity to starve out this virus and get back to our semblance of normality. For myself, I am still too young in Georgia to get the vaccine. However I have been very safe, masking everywhere I go and not engaging in what sensible folks would consider as a potentially risky behavior.

I know we’re tired of this. It has been a wild, and isolated year. To be clear: COVID-19 is not done with us of yet. I posted of this in “The Numbers are Good ..“, back in April 2020 (one of many). We need to soldier on and ensure that we give our community, our neighbors, the best opportunity to get back to what we would all consider to be normal.

I am not a pessimist .. I am a pragmatist. I expect I will be wearing a mask, vaccinated or not through the balance of 2021 and I am happy to do so. I encourage you to do the same.

Be smart. Be an adult. Do the right thing. Get the vaccine when it is your turn. In the interim, and once vaccinated, protect yourself and your family.

The Vaccine is Here – Part II

This is exciting stuff .. Granted, many of us are still 8-12 months from inoculation, having a solution that can be adopted is solid progress.

Again: thank you to the current administration for moving this along as I mention in The Vaccine is Here. Prompt action and amazing funding has gotten us to the point where we have a durable, science-based solution. While we still have issues with distribution .. having the solution (no pun intended) is a solid place to start.

With that said, the current administration is under a fair bit of fire for their actions .. or lack thereof. On the vaccine front, they deserve top marks. On the logistical front, not so much.

So .. let’s catch up (more so myself than you) after the first few weeks of inoculations (I’m not a Doctor ..):

  • The first doses were administered to healthcare workers and the most vulnerable in a wide number of markets.
  • Some states looked at healthcare workers and first responders.
  • No serious side effects thus far (the UK had some allergy-based reactions they managed handsomely) .. there were a few other allergic reactions reported in Alaska. All were handled routinely.
  • Side effect include: soreness at the injection site, some fatigue, low-grade fever. The latter two demonstrate the vaccine is working .. can be addressed by relaxing and taking an aspirin.
  • There’s still a fair bit of vaccine fear and doubt out there .. But we’re setting positive examples to raise awareness of the facts, and to let the public know that the vaccine is safe.

So, some fun facts for review:

  • Unlike other vaccines, you are not getting a weakened dose of COVID-19 (as with other vaccines).
  • You cannot catch the virus from the vaccine, because you’re not getting a weakened dose of the virus.
  • The mRNA (discussed in The Vaccine is Here) is a lot like computer code .. once a virus component is identified and sequenced, mRNA can be ‘programmed’ to effect changes to that particular bit.
  • There are two vaccines .. the first, Pfizer-BioNTech (which must be stored at sub-Arctic temperatures), and the more-recently released Moderna (standard freezer storage).
  • These two vaccines require two doses each, a few weeks apart.
  • While you do get some immunity from the first shot, we really need both.
  • Doctors suggest you prepare yourself to rest up when you get the first shot with lots of fluids, staying inside and  warm.

While we are well behind the promised 20 million vaccinations originally estimated by Operation Warp Speed, we have administered ~2 million .. and that’s incredible considering the speed at which we have identified the vaccine, mass-produced it, managed the logistical nightmare of sub-sub-sub zero temperatures, trained staff at the endpoints on how to reconstitute and administer, lined up patients, etc., etc., etc. Amazing feat, and the world thanks you.

With the good vaccine news .. we must remember are in the midst of a surge, within a surge .. Brought upon ourselves from travel and get-togethers from Thanksgiving, just as we get to the travel and get-togethers for Christmas. Did I mention New Years Eve?

The vaccine represents the Beginning of the End for COVID-19 .. but we still must remain vigilant. We must all do our part, get the vaccine when it is our turn. I recognize I won’t see it until mid-to-late-Summer 2021, as I’m not a healthcare worker, first responder, school teacher, nor do I possess any co-morbidity, have a requirement to report to a business, and so on. I’ll manage my activities and wear a mask when I go out.

So must we all. Even after being vaccinated, early research says we can still carry and even spread the virus .. which means we may infect someone else while our body manages our own infection. We must be careful.

Be smart. Be an adult. Do the right thing. Get the vaccine when it is your turn. In the interim, and once vaccinated, protect yourself and your family.

The Vaccine is Here

.. not for all of us yet, but we’ll get there.

Let me say: the vaccine is an amazing achievement by the outgoing administration. Producing a vaccine comprises an effort that normally takes years to accomplish .. and they did it in only eight months. Further, COVID-19 is a significantly more-deadly, more-contagious pathogen that was unknown a year ago. Thank you.

Some common questions I’ve heard, and heard answered. Reminding all: I’m not a Doctor .. but have learned a lot, and there’s lots of logic in these discussions as well from which we can extrapolate:

How can a vaccine produced in only eight months be safe and effective?
Despite how you might feel the outgoing administration has addressed day-to-day handling of the pandemic, Operation Warp Speed funded the science in parallel with ramping up manufacturing and distribution. By working with all the pharmaceutical companies at the same time, and with these companies collaborating (rather than competing), they reduced the amount of failed experiments and duplicative efforts to arrive at promising vaccine candidates. The breadth of the testing (30-60,000 test subjects on various trials) and the FDA peer reviews ensure the public the vaccine is safe to take.

How is this vaccine different from other types of vaccines?
There are 2 candidates (with a third on the way) with similar differences to older vaccines. Older vaccines helped the body to create immunity by introducing weakened or dead virus into your system, stimulating an immune response. Given rapid infection, the high mortality rate and the broad damage COVID-19 can cause to your system, a different tactic was deployed. Teach the body to create what it needs to defeat a component of the virus, versus responding to a viral attack.

Can I catch COVID-19 from the vaccine?
In a word, no. The vaccine does not introduce COVID-19 into your body. Your body is being ‘taught’ to eliminate one component of the virus (more on this below) and not the virus itself. Note that even with the vaccine, you can still carry COVID-19 for a short while if you are exposed.

If COVID-19 is in my system and I’ve had the vaccine, could I become contagious?
Yes, but again, not because of the vaccine. Given the number of cases (note that most carriers do not display any symptoms), we are exposed to COVID-19 several times each day, depending on where we go, with whom we connect, for how long, whether we wear a mask, and so on. As a result, COVID-19 could enter your system, reproduce to an extent, and you could potentially shed a small amount of the virus. The chance of this is far lower than today, as the vaccine prevents the virus from entering your cells, a key component of your producing enough of the virus to become contagious .. or even test positive, for that matter.

I’m a Science Geek. How does the vaccine teach the body to repel it?
The vaccine deploys mRNA which teaches your body to repel the one critical piece of the virus to prevent it from entering your cells. You are not killing the virus itself .. it will get into your system if you are exposed, but mRNA will prevent it from entering your calls and replicating from there.

I’ll bite. What is mRNA?
Short for Messenger RNA .. a single-stranded molecule that corresponds to a specific genetic sequence of a gene. The vaccine uses a specific mRNA message to block one component of the virus: the bit that enables the virus to enter your cells. By blocking this entry, the virus cannot replicate, and it dies out. Now, the vaccine didn’t happen that quickly .. while only two days to produce the mRNA payload, getting to this technology has taken years.

I’ve had COVID-19. Should I get the vaccine?
If you’ve had COVID-19, you are / were likely immune for some amount of time, but this is still a subject of considerable research. Like the flu, or the Common Cold, COVID-19 virus mutates, making it difficult for your body to gain extended immunity.

I’ve had the vaccine, do I still need to wear a mask?
I believe COVID-19 is going to be around for a long time. While it doesn’t live out in the open for very long, every person who is exposed contributes to the reservoir of virus that is out there. It is very contagious and very aggressive once it gets into an unprotected body, even in small amounts. Once over 60% (some say 70%, others 80%) of the public has had  the vaccine, there may be far fewer places / people who can spread it. I think were a long way from that, so I suggest you continue to practice COVID-19 safety protocols until the CDC gives the all-clear.

Some summary notes for a future article:

  • The vaccine is a two-shot dose, the first ‘primes’ the system, the second boosts it. This is similar to the Shingles vaccine.
  • While Warp Speed has done amazing things in arriving with a vaccine, manufacturing in enough bulk and distribution are still being worked out. We will likely see ‘waves’ of distribution to The States, where they will decide which groups will get the vaccine first.
  • Health Care workers and those in live-in facilities have been identified as the first groups to get the vaccine.
  • Lower-risk folks will likely be able to get the vaccine in mid- to late-2021, but not much earlier.

For now, stop the spread: mask up. Testing still lags spread, so it’s best to protect yourself and those around you. Again, .. And I think we need to still Behave like you have it ..

We’re getting close .. Let’s not fumble now. “Respect the Mask” and respect each other. Wear a mask.

Preparing for a COVID Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is arguably the most family-oriented holiday in America .. even more so than Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and Christmas. On the family side, YMMV .. this is, of course, my opinions are always subject to debate.

Thanksgiving is also arguably the most inside-oriented holiday. There’s a big table with lots of folks, great food and energetic conversations. It’s the opportunity to share, argue or defend your politics, opinions, preferences .. or just to listen.

Sometimes it’s the first time the significant other meets the broader family unit, or for us to set a place for those who cannot attend. 

It’s always the time to catch up with everyone. Everyone, from near and from far .. and for those to who travel from there to here, and back there again, and vice-versa.

Yes, I’m about to make a point. Brace yourself.

Now, we have COVID. COVID proudly delivers a whole new set of stressors for the holidaze .. well beyond how you’re wearing your hair or your jeans, or if you’re married, or not, or who did what to whom? Who loved whom more? Which uncle is going to embarrass us the most this year?

You get the drift.

This Thanksgiving will be unlike any other. We’ve heard suggested restrictions on travel (I hope most of us will follow these), where best to eat (outside), what to avoid (buffet lines .. have one masked server), what to embrace (an open window) .. you see where I’m going.

COVID-19 doesn’t care about friends, partners, spouses and family, except as to how people serve as a reservoir as it continues to travel the country. Folks who come and go can bring it from there to here .. and / or get it here and take it there.

We have vaccines on the horizon, but they won’t be here until mid-2021 for most of us. We do have masks, and we do have our behaviors .. and we should make the best use of both.

Don’t make this the last time you or your significant other meets with your broader friends and family. Take all the precautions you can to ensure you can enjoy(!) your family for years to come. This year, spend the holiday in your bubble and plan to spend the next Thanksgiving with all of us together.

Be smart. Be an adult. Do the right thing. Protect yourself and your family.

Get Well, Mr President

America awoke to hearing President Trump and his wife tested positive for COVID-19.  The exposure presumably came from Hope Hicks, a senior adviser close to The President .. but of course, could have been the other way around. Ms Hicks is reportedly having symptoms, but we may also presume that she wasn’t exhibiting symptoms at the time The President was exposed.

I am sincere in my get well wish for all of the affected people in the White House, as well as around the world. This demonstrates the severity and the transmission risks of this virus needs to be respected. One could argue that the White House hasn’t taken the these risks pandemic seriously enough, and may not have been protecting themselves and each other to the necessary scale to ensure a safe environment.

Enough on that.

Here’s where it gets dodgy. The President, his senior adviser and a lot of a staff were in contact over the past few days, .. The Vice President, the debate, rallies, meetings with the Supreme Court nominee .. and the list goes on. We know the Supreme Court nominee (who just tested negative) also met with several members of the Senate.

Outside the White House, we know that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who regularly meets with The President was also meeting with Nancy Pelosi, The Speaker of the House. At this point, ‘everyone’ has been tested .. results will drip out over time, so I’m not even going to try to keep this current.

The 25th Amendment to the Constitution is titled “Presidential Vacancy, Disability and Inability”, and outlines how to arrive at the Line of Succession (Wikipedia link .. I’m sure there’s an official version) should The President fall ill. I am not suggesting The President will invoke this, or that it will be invoked for him .. but we must consult the official list and ensure these individuals are tested and stay safe.

The Line of Succession ensures we make it clear to potential adversaries that our decision infrastructure is in place.

Everyone needs to follow the White House Guidelines for Coronavirus protection .. including the White House. It comes with some irony that the document behind this link is more about re-opening .. and doesn’t reference masks.

Be smart. Be an adult. Do the right thing. Stay home when you can. Wear a mask when you cannot.

“If I Die, I Die”

Spoken by a non-mask wearing rally attendee.

Fair .. free country, free choice and all that. It is clearly your free choice to put yourself into a position to catch COVID-19 .. for whatever reasons you choose .. even if you choose negligence. It’s your choice.;

However .. speaking of fair .. is it fair for you to catch COVID-19 at such an event, and:

  • You infect the server at a diner or the gas station attendant as you drive to your home? They:
    • Infect their kids.
    • Their kids infect their teacher.
    • The teacher infects his / her kids?
  • You infect the pastor at your church, who:
    • Infects other parishioners.
    • They infect their adult kids.
    • Their adult kids infect their children.
    • Their children infect their teachers.
    • Their teachers infect their kids?
  • You infect other non-mask-wearing individuals at your (insert hobby here) club members? They:
    • Infect other (insert hobby here) club members.
    • They infect their kids (adult or young).
    • They infect their teachers or their kids .. Or their teacher’s kids, by proxy ..

All because of your bravado and “If I die, I die” proclamation?

You’re exercising your rights .. it’s not against the law (depending on state or local jurisdictions) to go without a mask, but it is an affront to decency, safety and common sense.

Be fair .. Be fair to yourself .. You don’t want to catch this crap.

Be fair to your fellow humans.

Be smart. Be an adult. Do the right thing. Stay home when you can. Wear a mask when you cannot.

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