Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Current Pandemic Status

Excited that tomorrow I have to drive an hour each way to get my allergy shots (for reasons) because I get to be somewhere ELSE, all ALONE, for a whole afternoon.

What brought you joy lately?

Saturday, May 16, 2020

In Which I Am Once Again Cranky, Now About Masks

Before I descend into snark, here's what I think SHOULD happen: Congress or the president should invoke the DPA or a new cousin; masks should be widely distributed for free; adaptive masking should be available for persons with disabilities; stores, schools, and buildings of all kinds should require mask wearing, enforce it, and hand them out to anyone not wearing one.

Moving on!

Today I went to the store and dutifully put my mask on. About 15 minutes later I took it off. Why? I was starting to feel woozy; I probably already had coronavirus (I will get an antibody test as soon as someone can manage a clinically relevant level of accuracy); and less than 30% of the people in the store were wearing masks.

Masks are a nonpharmaceutical intervention to slow- not stop - viral spread. There are all kinds of modeling studies out now about how good a mask has to be and how many people have to wear one to make it effective. Friends, I assure you that when the second number is 30%, the effectiveness is near zero.

Monday I will call the governor's office and encourage them to institute mandatory masking indoors (outdoors is likely okay if you're not around others! Also I live somewhere with 68,000 square meters per human inhabitant [which is 16 acres], so don't envision a NYC street here.)

Thursday, April 30, 2020

In Which I Bemoan How Bad People Are at Math

As of today, there are over 300,000 reported confirmed covid cases in NY State. Let's assume, extremely conservatively, that only 9 cases go undetected for each person tested.

That is THREE MILLION. Please, tell me how you will fund, and then accomplish in a timely manner, enough contact tracing to make one iota of difference. In a state where public transit ran throughout.

I know it sounds good and makes people feel better, but can nobody do arithmetic?

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Stuff I've Baked While Stuck at Home (with a side of FEELINGS)

I should preface this with an acknowledgement that, while, yes, we are bored, we are also so, so lucky: both the adults in our household are getting paid; we live in a very rural area and can go hiking as much as we want; our yard is almost an acre and features a stream; we've (probably) all had covid-19 already and are okay; and the kids actually play with each other.

Nonetheless! I am permanently pissed off that our terrible government response has defaulted to 'let's quarantine everyone and then have Lots of Bad Ideas' combined with "It's totally practical to test-trace-isolate something that started community spread almost three months ago even though our testing system is in shambles and we would need a bare minimum of 100,000 tracers and also tracing is useless with this much community spread".

So I've been baking!

Previously featured:

Pumpkin pie bars

Coconut macaroons

Chocolate torte

Since then:

King Arthur Gingerbread Bundt Cake.  (I make all these with a GF flour mix which I concoct, but without the tapioca, since I'm allergic.)  Friends, I was out of both molasses and cinnamon, so I made this as a kind of spice cake with raisins, candied orange peel, fennel, and cardamom.  I thought it was delicious but my spouse refused to eat it.  10/10, would bake again.

King Arthur GF Cinnamon Rolls.  These were so good that I made them twice, though the second time I tried to cut back on the sugar and they were less delicious, so I fed them to the kids for breakfast.

King Arthur Carrot Cake. (look, I'm very suggestible!)  Made it for Pesach in a giant sheet pan.  It was delicious even with pear butter swapped in for a lot of the oil.

David Leibovitz's Mint Chip Ice Cream.  Made two batches, one with half and half, and one with coconut milk.  (I grow mint and also it grows wild by the creek; you need a giant amount for this).  Delicious, with a delicate mint flavor.  Halved the sugar and added a little cornstarch.

Banana Cream Pie... Jello Mold.  Kind of like this recipe, only with Greek yogurt and without following it in any conceivable way.  Also, featuring half and half, since I forgot that a half-gallon is eight cups.  Very popular with the family; the latest features a chocolate stripe in the middle.

Jello Roll-Ups, by request from the kids. You would think a recipe involving only boxed goods would be impossible to screw up, and yet, you would be wrong. It was strange.  The kids ate it anyways.

Fish Quiche.  Don't.  Just don't.

Turkey sausage, riced cauliflower, and potato quiche.  Tasty!  Would have been less work if I just scrambled it all together.

That's all for this installment of Stuff I Baked While Bored!  Tune in next time for whatever random things I've cooked while everyone else played D&D!

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Some Grim Guesses on COVID-19

(I may well be wrong about all of these things! I would love to be wrong.)

Here is the only not depressing prediction: I think that the true net death rate for coronavirus in an adequately supplied care environment, when we finally compare excess mortality to serology, will be around 1%, no more than 2%, probably pretty close to the rates observed where there is a competent response, i.e. Germany and South Korea.*

I think the current fatalities are at least twice and maybe three times what is reported (looking at excess mortality). That's 95,000 deaths as of today. If our terrible healthcare system has a CFR of 2%, that's 4.7 million cases already- ONLY, I will note, 5x as many as reported. Most epidemiologists estimate that we are under counting by a factor between 10 and 40.
(4/23: looks like way more than this.... already.)

I think at least half the country will get sick eventually, which is roughly 165 million people.

I think the second wave will be even worse. I think we will see widespread mask orders coupled with a weak, heartless federal response that will disproportionately impact those living in poverty. I think outbreaks in densely populated areas, i.e. cities, will burn faster and therefore be worse overall. (This one is barely even a prediction; look at NYC.)

I think over half the nursing homes and prisons will have outbreaks and tens of thousands of these vulnerable populations will die.
(4/23: this one is now barely a prediction, too.)

I think there will be an absolute minimum of 200,000 confirmed covid deaths, and it will be closer to half a million in reality (US alone, that is.)

I think that the odds of any individual person not getting sick are very poor indeed. A 4-million person outbreak is a wildfire. How long can you stay in your house, never going in a store or office? Is it 18 months?

I think colleges and schools may not open in the fall and many colleges will have severe financial difficulties. (I think if schools don't open I'm going to call the governor's office every damn day.)

I think that most states won't have the political will to keep stuff closed through August and will have large outbreaks soon.

I think that some of the places (like NZ) that have done the best containment are screwed in the absence of widespread testing - even worse off than NYC- because the moment anything reopens it will spread very fast. If nothing is happening now to prepare for that, they're just making people suffer and delaying the deaths until later.

I think the US outbreak is un-containable, that a safe and highly effective vaccine will not arrive in time, and that we will see both seasonal transmission and domestic animal reservoirs.

I think that our government is run by sociopaths** who, at any moment, COULD do something (more tests, more aid, more ventilators) but choose, every day, to do nothing.

*I am not, in any way, arguing that this is a good and happy number! And it will kill a lot of elders. This is bad.
**A word I used at dinner and then had to define in a way appropriate for a five year old.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Dr. S on our state's 10-week quarantine order:  "I mean yes, I'm totally an introvert, but it turns out my ideal amount of human interaction is.... greater than zero. I actually want to talk to people. It's weird."

Me: "I think it's safe to say that almost nobody is anywhere near their ideal amount of human interaction right now...."

Sunday, April 12, 2020

So I Already Had Coronavirus and Quarantine is Pointless AND Boring!

Except, of course, there is NO FUCKING TESTING so I can't really be *sure*! Here's how a 'mild' case wss, i.e. I did not have to seek medical attention but it's been a month and my lungs still feel terrible.(1)

January 15: I have influenza and it sucks, though less than in a bad vaccine match year, when I always end up at Urgent Care wheezing and choking. (I still can't breathe and have to go get steroids.)

March 8: Dr. S says to me "I have something in my lungs." Man-flu, I think. He is coughing. We have three small children and work at a college.

March 11-20: I get Dr. S's whatever. I spend the next ten afternoons in bed, too tired to be vertical for more than half a day. For the first few days, I'm too nauseous to eat. I have a dry cough, extreme fatigue, and some difficulty breathing. (2) On Day 5 I completely lose my sense of smell. I contemplate going to the doctor around day 6, because it hurts to breathe and I'm getting so short of breath it's triggering the panic reflex, but I know steroids aren't recommended for this, so what are they going to do? By Day 10 it only hurts a little to breathe, and has turned into a better cough (ugh).

March 25:  My sense of smell finally comes back.

March 30: I am still very tired. I can work in the yard, but afterwards it hurts to breathe again.

April 10: I finally feel kind of normal but my lungs still aren't right.

The kids most certainly got it too; the littlest one had a cough but I have no idea if it was a cold or covid. The bigger kids were completely asymptomatic.

Could it have been influenza? Possible but unlikely, especially looking at ILI surveillance (FluView) for the time.  So now we're probably all immune (don't listen to the bullshit news articles about antibody titre unless you know how antibodies work!) and, in a functioning country, could know this and help other people.

Vote blue.

(1) This is how I normally feel after influenza too - I have mild asthma- so it's not a new scary thing. It is, however, extremely irritating.

(2) At this time my state was only testing people sick enough to be hospitalized. My town of ~4000 was given ten (10) tests.