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.

Protecting Public Health does not mean Shutting Down

I don’t think we’ve been clear enough on this .. which has subsequently created a vacuum for broad sets of misinterpretation on every side.

I posted “We Need to Learn to Live With It ..” back in May, where I highlight my observations of COVID-19 .. but while “I’m not a Doctor ..” (I’m still not), I’m very plugged into this stuff. For reference:

We can live with it. We maintain our distance, wash our hands, wear our masks, avoid large crowds. With these mitigations, we can reduce the spread and reduce the virus reservoir that is hiding out there, just waiting for us to forget to be careful.

But we don’t.

So, here we are .. we need to get back to basics. “Follow the Data .. Not the Date“ (we don’t). “Behave Like you have it ..” (we don’t) and “Let’s Not Undo ..“ (we have).

Today: Wikipedia (updated with current numbers) says:

“The COVID-19 pandemic was first detected in the U.S. state of Georgia on March 2, 2020. The state’s first death came ten days later on March 12. As of October 13, 2020, there were 333,304 confirmed cases, 29,6762 hospitalizations, and 7,454 deaths. All of Georgia’s 159 counties now report COVID-19 cases, with four counties (Gwinnett, Fulton, DeKalb and Cobb) now reporting over 19,000 cases each. Three low-population counties (Early, Randolph and Terrell) have higher per capita case rates and death rates than New York City.”

From the post above: On October 13, COVID-19 cases in Georgia stood at 333,304 with 7,454 deaths in the state .. close enough to 10x where we were in April.

In the US, over 216,000 deaths as of today.

We’re (still) doing it wrong. We’re still getting bad information from the top. While we’re grateful with a rapid (albeit far better staffed and managed than regular citizens) recovery by our President, we are amplifying the public understanding of the disease.

We have to fix this .. we can fix this .. you can fix this.

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

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.

Georgia on my Mind (Part II)

Georgia (the state in which I live) has not done well with the Coronavirus response. At the Georgia Governor’s behest:

The White House Coronavirus Task Force just informed Georgia (my paraphrase): you’re doing it wrong .. fix this. This is reported in detail in the Atlanta Journal Commerce in “White House warns of ‘widespread and expanding’ COVID-19 spread in Georgia“.

We (Georgia) are doing it wrong. Schools are being opened carelessly, and now cases are spiking and staff and students are being quarantined.

I try to avoid political references in this forum, but we have a Republican Governor who seems to be playing to an audience of One. Enough of politics for this post.

Enough of politics when making health safety decisions .. “When you Mix Politics and Science ..“, guess what you get?

Enough of making careless, unsafe decisions where public health and safety are concerned. The numbers have been going in the wrong direction, referenced in “Here We Were Again ..” back in June. It’s worse today.

I’m not suggesting we all hide at home again .. I feel we can do some simple and cost-effective things to manage this while we have longer-term protections:

  • Follow the three “Ws:”
    • Watch your distance
    • Wash your hands
    • Wear a mask
  • Mandate mask usage in public so it stops being a political or opinion issue. It’s not suppression of your personal freedom .. it’s protecting everyone else around you, and it’s the decent and human thing to do.
  • Listen to the Scientists and not the Politicians.

We need to fix testing .. Or at the least, impose post-test isolation practices until the results come back. Painful, I know .. but it’s the only way to slow the spread.

Anyhow .. my trigger was the close-to-home news, so I’ll stop going on.

Be smart. Be an adult (even if you’re a kid, because you can spread it too). Even if you’re an adult kid, like me. Do the right thing. Stay home when you can. Wear a mask when you cannot.

It Takes a Village ..

I posted “It Takes A Village .. And An Army” some time ago.

This is different.

While originally attributed to Hillary Clinton, presented in the phrase’s eponymous text, the intent is clear: children grow into maturity at a sum that is (hopefully) greater than the input of their parents, their schools and their Communities.

Healthy Communities care for us all.  They consist of people who jump cars when batteries have died .. jump out of their cars to help push a stalled car into the shoulder .. who dial 9-1-1 when something is amiss in the neighborhood.

Our Communities have cared for us during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve contributed to food banks, maintained safe distances when we pass each other during walks or at the markets, and talked with each other to ease our isolation.

Now to the children:

  • Our Country needs to employ our people at a measure greater than allowed when parents are compelled to go beyond ‘normal’ parenting by remaining home full-time. Parents are performing daycare and education .. beyond just being parents. This takes time, and when schools are closed, this keeps parents at home. Parents do it, to ensure family safety and the safety of the Community, however with a significant economic impact to themselves and to our Country.
  • Parents need to go to work .. this is obvious, and we all understand it. Many parents do not have a WFH option, and even if they do, prolonged child care will cut into their productivity and effectiveness .. Again risking significant economic impact to themselves and our Country.
  • Children need to be in an environment other than the home for enough of their lives to benefit from peer / social integration, community awareness and third-party checkpoints as to their health and welfare.

So, given that schools appear to be opening prematurely and carelessly in several US markets (including Georgia, where I live), and as evidenced from Israel’s catastrophic school opening in May .. what are we thinking? These careless, half-starts that result (again) in distance learning should be a non-starter when measured against a more sensible approach.

So here’s one .. let’s Engage the Village.

  • Identify parents that can host safe (call it a ‘bubble’) environment of connected families.
  • Ensure the parents are compensated (not always cash) for their time with our children.
  • Release other parents, either full-time, or on a respected cadence, to work or to take their shifts within their ‘bubble’.

Oversimplified, I agree. A Bubble is only as good as those who remain in it .. and there is always a risk for those therein when others from outside pass into it (without a 14-day isolation effort). The Bubble has worked for the NBA and NHL so far (a kudos to the team members), but the lack of a bubble is decimating the MLB and making NFL and College Sports a non-starter this season.

The Bubble can work. Consider “See Hawaiian hotel turned into ‘bubble’ college campus“. This is a real-life project, where students would occupy rooms, studying via distance learning .. but be enabled with an environment that allows them to wander out to an on-site Hub, an on-site Library, the camaraderie of campus life .. in a protected beach setting.

Your mileage may vary .. but consider this. For the proper, motivated and cautious Communities .. There are aspects of this strategy that could return children to attended school, parents to work and help to fulfill those whose gifts are in caring for others.

Please think about it.

Be smart. Join or form your Community. Do the right thing. Stay home when you can. Wear a mask when you cannot.

Whimsy: Time to Take an “Ocho” Break

When I started / restarted this forum (more than once since 2005), I reiterate that my content mix is approximately 1/3 each of original content, reposts / redirects, and whimsy.

It’s past time (again) for a little whimsy .. my last whimsical post was on April 20th (nigh on four months ago “What’s different?“, where I reference the oft-repeated discussion about pants in the in-COVID world (and other things).

Okay .. back to The Ocho. Many will remember the reference to “ESPN 8 .. The Ocho” in “Dodgeball. An Underdog’s Story”, a movie about, well, winning at Dodgeball to save a business.

Whimsy .. whimsy .. no references to current events.

Well, one reference: ESPN, recognizing the need for individual sports AND the opportunity to capitalize (in a good way .. thank you very much) on a terrific reference, launched “The Ocho” (for reals) on August 8th (8/8 .. get it?), featuring:

  • Cheese Rolling, Frog Jumping & Japanese Monster Wrestling.
  • World Deadlift Attempt: Hafthor Deadlift.
  • 2019 Grit ‘N Wit National College Championship.
  • Ohio Grocery Baggers Bowl 2020.
  • 2019 Stupid Robot Fighting League (who could go wrong with this?)
  • 2019 Jelle’s Marble Runs.
  • 2019 Death Diving World Championship.
  • Slippery Stairs.
  • Slippery Stairs: College Tour (do we still have in-person colleges?)
  • 2019 ITSF Foosball World Cup.

I am somehow reminded of Beer Pong in Las Vegas (rescheduled due to the pandemic), which can be played at O’Sheas, once re-opened, post-pandemic. I’m confident they will make their way onto “The Ocho”.

Kudos ESPN.

For the rest of us: Be smart. Be an adult (even if you’re a kid, because you can spread it too). Even if you’re an adult kid. Do the right thing. Stay home when you can. Wear a mask when you cannot.

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