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And Then, One Year Later…

On “curve flattening”, hoarding, waiting, vaccinating & reading, American-style

Hi, Hi!

Remember this time last year? Were you the one running after toilet paper or were you baking sourdough and opining on your starter on the interwebs? Did you then name said sourdough starter? Did you fight neighbor lady and punch her to get the last Cottonelle roll? Come on, ‘fess up, we’ll judge.

Hoarding and Preparing for a Pandemic

I’ll start—Around this time last year, I went to Trader Joe’s, when we all stood in line that snaked through the store. I stood behind this lovely couple who were buying their weekly eggs and bread (I often wonder if they panicked and returned the next day, realizing their foolishness). We chatted with each other without masks, rolling our eyes at our own hysteria but there we were, hoarding because that was the ONLY thing in our control.

What did I buy, you ask? Well, if you really must know, it was Decoy. Decoy pinot noir to be exact—three of them (I thought the shutdown would last three weeks, so sue me). And five bags of jasmine rice, because you know, Indian. That’s all that was important. Wine. And rice. This also says a lot about me, but we’ll save that for another time, shall we?

Oh, Flattening the Curve!

While we’re going down memory lane, remember when we talked about ‘flattening the curve’? How cutely naïve we were, weren’t we? The curve was a surge and any flattening meant nothing if we didn’t mask up, but remember, we were ALSO told not to mask up, because all the masks had to go to the healthcare workers who were saving lives.

This is what the CDC told us, if we did what we were asked to.

Two curves, one with higher peak showing covid case acceleration, and one with lower peak (less deaths due to covid) but for a longer time period

Flattening the curve by staying home: The first intervention post first-case in US, March 2020

Now, you ask—weren’t we smart not to flatten the curve? Look at where we are! Um, yeah, sure. The issue is this—we have the # of deaths due to COVID, BUT we don’t have the # of undeaths, or people who were saved—which makes this an unfair ask. Much like the much-maligned Anti-Terrorist Force (ATF) who have thwarted many terrorist attacks, but what is available to the public is the # of attacks, not the # thwarted. That kind of comparison of a visible to a non-visible number is unfair and unreasonable, in my opinion.

Did we listen? No. Of course not. We’re not in America for nothing. We’re here to flout rules and to yell at each other and loudly proclaim, “No one is the boss of me!”

We scrambled to Amazon –the same place that we proclaimed was the enemy—and went to shady sites to pick up gloves, N95s and bleach at twice/three-times the price, because, our forefathers in America told us freedom, freedom at all cost. (Okay, not ALL our forefathers, but you know what I mean).

Here is the deal on flattening the curve, according to Brandon Specktor on Live Science, “A slower infection rate means a less stressed health care system, fewer hospital visits on any given day and fewer sick people being turned away.”

Wouldn’t that have been lovely if we’d just listened? Less stressed hospital workers. Less stressed hospital systems. Less people dying. Also, did we care? No, we’re superhuman. We can manage without masks, our bodies, our choice. We pay our taxes so take care of us when we fall ill. It’s the American way.

Of course, I’m exaggerating, but don’t tell me you didn’t think like that, at least for one selfish, fleeting second. And it’s okay, we’re human, we’re allowed to throw a hissy fit, once in a while. But dear lord, did we throw a tantrum these past 12 months!

We’re Being Awful to Our Healthcare Workers

I’ve mentioned it earlier on multiple social media platforms on the effect of this pandemic, and our own heartlessness to our healthcare staff which will, if it hasn’t already, drastically increase mental health issues in that group. From an October 2020 paper, from 11 studies, and over 100 relevant papers, here’s the data:

The reported prevalence range of anxiety, depression, and stress among healthcare workers was 24.1-67.5 %, 12.1-55.89 %, and 29.8-62.99 %, respectively.

Let that sink in, my peeps. We are killing our healthcare workers with our selfishness. In plain-speak, at least one in three are suffering from stress, at least one in four suffers from anxiety, and at least one in ten suffers from depression. How is this okay? How can you, me, we be fine with being so violently callous with the very people whose mission is to save our selfish lives?

I ask this because as of my writing this, 114M cases, 64.6M recovered, 2.54M deaths worldwide, from COVID-19. In the US, we have had 28.7M cases, and 515K deaths. To quote Will Stone and Carrie Fiebel from NPR News, “Jan. 21, 2021…: That was the day when the covid death toll in the U.S. reached — and then exceeded — the 405,399 Americans who died in World War II.”

This newsletter is a dense data-oriented one, my peeps, because that’s how my brain works. One cannot fix something if we don’t have data on it. And here we are, with all the data, and yet. And yet. Maybe on this one-year pandemi-versary, we could step back and think of the trauma we’re inflicting on the very people who are taking care of us, keeping us safe?

Well, vaccines, finally

Now, we have vaccine options. We have ways to gain immunity, and/or figure out ways to protect ourselves and others through these options. If you don’t believe in vaccines, this newsletter is not for you. I am not going to debate you—I am going to ask you not respectfully not comment on this, that’s all. Okay, vaccines. In case you didn’t know what’s what, and which one, why, and how.

Here’s a brief schematic on the different vaccines I found useful.

Nine schematics of available vaccines --information and mode of action

2020-21 Available Covid-19 vaccines, modes, and dosage for efficacy

Okay, so what does all this mean? These schematics will tell you what the vaccine is, where it’s from, what the efficacy and dose is and whether it’s in an encapsulated mRNA vaccine form or an inactivated viral vaccine or a viral vector vaccine—the mode of transmission and protection depends on the path this foreign body will take in yours. The reaction to it also tells you more about the immune response your body has to it. The idea is that once it’s in you, that it protects you from OTHER foreign bodies, namely, the coronavirus.

My Very-Own Very-American Vaccination Experience

And yes, I got Dose 1. It was Moderna, and no, I did not have a choice. Frankly, I don’t think any of us cares which vaccine we get so long as it works. 28 days later, believe it or not, on Valentine’s Day, I was to get the next dose, believe it or not. Did I get it? Of course not. Everyone forgot that the first three months of every year in this country is ruled by weather. Weather made sure the vaccines in super cold refrigerators didn’t have a chance to travel cross country to the vaccination superstation.

So okay, it didn’t happen on Day 28, i.e. February 18. Never mind. I waited like a good citizen. The vaccines rolled into Petco Park next week.

February 22. Okay then, good idea, over 30 days later, but CDC said the booster shot could be 42 days and it’ll still be okay.

Then Texas froze. No, the vaccines didn’t freeze alongside. Just that, one didn’t realize how FedEx got the supply chain logistics all in a tizzy and there we were, so close to Day 42, no vaccines in sight and now February 22 wasn’t happening either.

Like a good American, I panicked. Much like toilet paper hoarding, much like bleach ferreting, much like sourdough starting, I asked everyone in the medical field I knew about how to go about getting Dose 2.

Scene 1: “Hey, dentist’s office people, you said you’d be giving us shots, may I get the second one please?”

Scene 2: “Hey, my women’s health doctor lady I try never to make eye contact with, what gives? You got Dose 2?”

Scene 3: “Oh, hi, my natural health practitioner, the one who gives me good vibes and potions that sound vaguely scientific, perhaps you, um, maybe, eh, booster shot please?”

Nope. Nada. Nahi. Nothing. Back to calling up UCSD Health. Then the San Diego County (which was so of no use) officials. Then surreptitiously making an appointment in North County for the Pfizer vaccine (because heck, I might as well get Dose 1 of that too!), then canceling when I realized what a stupid idea that was. Then calling up the UCSD number again. This time, and it was three hours of my backdoor shenanigans to get Dose 2 by any means, I was tired. I said what was selfishly, the only thing on my mind, the most important thing to me. “Please get me in. It’ll be Day 42 in two days. I need that booster shot. I’m freaking out.”

I demanded it. Like. The. American. I. Always. Made. Fun. Of.

I had turned into One of Them. Oh well. I embraced this new me. (Not really, but at that time, I leaned into it).

The staff on the other end of the line said, “We are trying our best, and we feel very bad you feel bad.” (Not really, she didn’t say that, but you know).

Miraculously, at 10 PM that night, when I checked the portal, voila! I was in! They wrote—come on over We have your vaccine. Appointment’s at 6 AM. 6 AM. But yes, nonetheless, in, in, in!

Did I have side effects? Yes, chills like you’d never believe. Fever like the ones you’d had as a six-year old. Did I feel sorry for myself? Of course. Did I jump back into being my normal self in 18 hours? Yes, of course. Am I vaccinated? Heck, yeah!

Am I still masked? Of course, I’m THAT American, but not THAT THAT American.

All this to say, the vaccines are here. The process is still imperfect. Healthcare workers are trying their best. We don’t have to be dicks to them. We don’t have to be dicks. Period.

For those who’re waiting, please don’t be like me, privileged and prissy. I’ll try to be better myself, but can’t change my anxious rudeness from last week. But I can promise to be kind, going forward. I wanted to just acknowledge that I slipped, despite all the pontification. I’m trying not to be that person again, really.

Maybe we’ll laugh about this year, that this was the year we became kinder to one another. I hope we do.

Essays and such

And here are a couple of essays during the pandemic that kept me thinking—

  1. Leslie Jamison, with the virus as company, as a single mother to her two-year old

  2. Arundhati Roy, on how the virus threatens India

  3. Jesmyn Ward, on her husband’s death due to COVID, and grief in a pandemic

On another note

Oh, and tell me about your experience in March 2020? Where were you and what did you do? Were you as bad as I was? Tell me, tell me, I’m so curious.

Okay, long post this time, but you know, we’re in a pandemic. Indulge me with your patience as you read this, and please stay safe.