Taught

It is about this time of year you start seeing people lamenting how terrible the year has been and how “they are ready for the new year.” Somehow the new year will be better. I’m usually not in this camp, but clearly that has changed this year.

I think we can all safely say 2020 has been absolute dumpster fire! It started out ok but just ran right down the shitter as things progressed. It certainly has been educational for me. I only wish I could say in a good way. My enduring faith in humanity has definitely been challenged this year.

We’ve got these insidious behind the scenes machinations trying to destroy our way of life. The greedy and power hungry are pulling the strings of our ‘leaders’ while the general populace languishes in poverty. Said population is often so focused on survival they can’t see they are being used as pawns. And seeing some of the most needy in our society support the very same people hurting them is painful to witness. More so, it is a disturbing example of history repeating itself. Rome is definitely burning, folks. To polish off the trifecta, we have the indifferent. These are the people who are well off enough to be completely immersed in the their own little bubble of existence. Occasionally, tidbits of information pierces said bubble but there is no filter to determine it’s accuracy or relevance. At some point a “working knowledge” arises from which all their decisions are based for good or bad. These are usually where you find the Karens of the world. Pity the soul that incurs their wrath by causing them any level of inconvenience.

I am not even sure what my frame of mind would be right now had I not been able to get back in the gym. I had gotten to a point about 5 months in where I wasn’t doing well. I’m sure I looked fine on the outside, but I wasn’t. But, as Elle Woods would say, “exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy, happy people don’t shoot their husbands.”  And I’m referring to the endorphins, not my husband. lol  Being back in the gym has really helped lift my spirits and pulled me out of being depressed.

Even as I sit here writing this I am struck by my own privilege. I am fortunate to have the opportunity and comfort to sit here whining about this shitty year. I know that and for so many it has been that much harder. I wish I could say that doesn’t necessarily make the impact of this year any less painful. So yeah, I can’t wait for it to be over. I’m hoping the new year is better. I mean, hell. It can’t get much worse, right?1

Hope does springs eternal…

  1. Don’t answer that []

Recovery

Building on my last post, I wanted to share more about the small but welcome improvements in the SF area. California adopted the 4-tier system of restrictions relating to the pandemic. If your state doesn’t have it, it’s pretty simple. Each tier has it’s own level of restrictions, what can/can’t open, etc. We have purple, red, orange, & yellow; purple being the most severe and yellow being the least. It makes it easier for counties and cities to better manage local health orders and restrictions.

Of course, SF being a very dense environment, even when we move into a higher tier we tend to have some lingering tougher restrictions. While unfortunate, it is necessary to avoid a resurgence of cases. And seeing surges in pretty much the entire middle of the US, we are grateful for the slow but steady improvements. SF has officially moved into the orange tier and our ‘rt’ ratio is hovering just below 1.1  Hopefully, we can stay in the orange and yellow tiers.  *crossed fingers*

Indoor bars, theaters, and larger social establishments are still closed. (I don’t understand why theaters can’t open if gyms can, but I don’t make the rules.) Restaurants have been able to serve outdoor seating for awhile now. Some bars have paired up with restaurants to gain an allowance to open outdoors as well. Now that SF is in the orange tier, restaurants and retail shops can open indoor facilities in a limited capacity. For myself, I still avoid eating indoors. I am just not that confident in others. We tend to order for home more than going out to eat, but I try to adhere to my weekend rituals as much as I can.

Shawn and I have slowly been allowing ourselves to do more outside the apt. Meanwhile, I see people planning trips and going to far off places and I just shake my damn head. If this pandemic has taught me anything, it is that a lot of people don’t really give two-shits about others as long as they aren’t inconvenienced. But, I digress… I have restrictions that also affect my ability to work so even if I was more comfortable, I would still not be traveling.

I’ve been seeing and helping an elderly retired coworker since the beginning of the pandemic and every time I see him, I make sure to test negative for covid-19 beforehand. Before we could get tests, I would leave disinfected items outside his doorway or stairs. He is in a high risk category due to his age and I would never forgive myself if I inadvertently passed it on to him.2 Anyway, I’m getting upset thinking about it, let me move on.

Beyond the assistance to my dear friend above, we are just now reaching a point where we feel comfortable meeting people outdoors for meals or conversation. I say we, but it is more me. lol Shawn is still content to avoid people for the most part. He will probably be reticent until there is a viable vaccine. Even when to go to the gym, we usually go to a sparsely populated location with sign-ups well below the allowable limit.3 It has been good for him to get out of the apt more though. He was getting really depressed as well. I think the gym and the sporadic trips outside of the apt has helped him as much as it has me.

Of course, we miss traveling. We miss weekend jaunts to bars, beer busts, movies, etc. We miss visiting distant friends and places. We miss a lot of things. It sucks monkey balls, but we know by isolating we are helping to prevent the spread of covid-19. We are both hopeful a safe vaccine will be available sometime early next year. For myself, I doubt I’ll ever take for granted again the openness of our life. The simple freedom to hug friends, to kiss or touch others, to be close to people. I think the intimacy of strangers (if such a thing exists) is what I miss the most. The relaxed restrictions gives me hope we are on the right path. Until then, I hope you are safe and well.

  1. rt is the likelihood of retransmission from an infected person. Anything above 1 is considered not good. []
  2. or anyone for that matter. []
  3. You can see online how many slots are available and taken by the hour. []

Herd

So today, the official response from the Whitehouse (WH) is they now endorse herd immunity as a regimen to combat the spread of covid-19.

First, here is the definition of “herd immunity”:

the resistance to the spread of a contagious disease within a population that results if a sufficiently high proportion of individuals are immune to the disease, especially through vaccination.

“the level of vaccination needed to achieve herd immunity varies by disease but ranges from 83 to 94 percent”

Webster’s dictionary

Based on that, herd immunity is currently impossible. We cannot use herd immunity as a treatment regimen because we don’t have a vaccine!

The WH’s deliberate misinterpretation of the idea is to do nothing. Just let everyone be exposed and see who lives and dies. That is NOT herd immunity. This approach pushes the death toll into the millions, not the low hundreds of thousands like we have now. Just one percent of the US population, just one (1) percent, is over three (3) million people!  If we jump that up to five (5) percent, the death toll is just under 17 million people.

For perspective, one percent is more than the entire population of Phoenix, AZ. Five percent is more than the entire population of the New York City metro area. And this does not take into account the millions more who will struggle with lingering illness for weeks or months.

Even if you’re dumb and deaf, you can understand how insanely stupid and dangerous this is.

Voting has never been more important. It is heartening to see many cities are reporting record numbers of registered voters as well as early voting. Vote like your life depends on it because it just might this time.

Election

I try to keep politics out of my blog but it has never been harder than these past 4 years. I know if I were still at it prolifically, I’d have lost the battle long ago. Thankfully, life keeps me distracted enough on social media ranting about politics.

As we approach the election, I’m concerned for our way of life. I remember being worried way back when Romney ran for POTUS. Remember that? Yeah, good times. lol Fast forward to the bar being lowered so low as to be underground, we get to see what a real threat to our democracy looks like. The man has shown nothing but disregard for the rule of law, a basic understanding of how government works, and any sense of decency. We now how multiple instances of his own words telling us what he thinks of the country. Everything from calling our troops suckers and losers and to how truly deadly covid-19 really is…IN HIS OWN WORDS! And yet, he is still polling in a region that could get him re-elected. If enough good people do nothing he will too. Make no mistake, it is not a guarantee that he will lose in November. Granted, polls tend to be skewed toward older generations, but do not take the possibility lightly. We all laughed when he was a nominee and look what that got us.

That said, I truly believe we have a good chance of voting him out of office. Not only has he alienated many of his previous followers, but even many staunch republicans have turned against him. He is dismantling our democracy and leading to the destruction of our way of life. People are motivated to get him out of office. He and his crooked cronies know this too and are plotting to steal the election. It came out this week the Whitehouse has hired an army of attorneys to contest election results in most of the ‘swing states’.  The military won’t support him so they are now pushing to get a uber conservative (and freakishly religious) judge pushed thru onto the SCOTUS. Without any significant voting fraud cases in the last two decades, they are pushing full steam ahead with lies about voter fraud and vote theft. Forgetting for a moment, he encouraged people in several states to commit a felony by voting more than once, he is desperate to sell a narrative our votes can’t be trusted.

Never in my lifetime did I think I’d witness such a blatant act of criminal fraud from a sitting president. Nor did I ever think the American people would stand idly by and let it happen. It is frightening how disconnected so many people are from what is happening. And when they realize it, it will be too late. Our democracy is in tatters right now. If we don’t get out and vote, it could all be gone sooner than we think.

I certainly hope you are registered to vote and will do so. It is vital that we all vote and let our voices be heard. We must make the number so overwhelming from every possible angle, he can’t overturn the will of the people.

“Ma Freedums”

Only in ‘murica do we argue against the entire scientific community1 on proper precautions to avoid the continued spread of the COVID-19 virus. And because we live in a economy with zero safe-guards or systems to survive this kind of crisis, many are forced into the false choice of opening up everything to ‘save’ jobs and the economy or close everything and keep people safe but let the economy crash. This is what comes from unregulated capitalism aka greed.

The right wing propaganda campaign has convinced 10’s of thousands of Americans the pandemic is hoax, and only when it bites them in the ass do they suddenly realize it isn’t. Forgetting a hoax would require the complete and total cooperation of the global medical community, counted in the low millions of people, the rest of the free world is already recovering from the pandemic and slowly reopening their economies. Meanwhile, our new cases and deaths are setting new records almost weekly now.

And when it isn’t ‘hoax’, it is a conspiracy. Depending on which version you read, it was deliberately spread from China, created in a lab who knows where, a giant ploy by the Democrats to throw the election, and/or [insert famous person’s name here] ploy for world subjugation. A global pandemic just to get 45 out of office? You’d rather believe that than the cold hard truth?

Then we get to the mask propaganda, which has reached levels previously relegated to the Hilary/pizzgate drama. Only in ‘murica is being required to wear a mask to protect yourself and others considered tyranny, a democratic ploy, a sign of the end times, an enactment of a world order meant to enslave all humans, or taking away ‘my freedums’. Take your pick.

If you get your news primarily from social media, it is easy to think the majority of people feel this way. Actually, thru repeated polls most people consistently support the restrictions and understand why they are necessary. Unfortunately, the idiots go out and put us all at risk so they can’t just be ignored.

The tyranny theory is usually reserved for the “coming for my guns” crowd. You know the ones. The incels, the darkweb conspirators, or propagandists who go out of their way to correlate completely random events to “uncover” a secret plot with various nefarious outcomes. Yes, we get it, it makes you feel special. Just some random dude (dudette) in the middle of America somehow discovered what every educated scientist over looked. Oh right, they are in on the conspiracy. *wink, wink*

Contrary to popular conspiracies, Obama nor Hillary are involved. Bill Gates is not working on a vaccine2 to enslave us or give us the “mark of the beast.” The Qanon crowd, the racist/nazi groups, the religious fanatics, or the just plain crazy are all out to sell a narrative based on fear. This is the ONLY way they can recruit new members. Logic and reason can’t be used and are universally shunned. And let us not forget the campaigns to paint movements like Antifa or BLM as the same level of dangerous or crazy as the nazis and racists. Sure Jan.

Then we get to all the entitled Karens/Chads of the world. “It interferes with my breathing”, “I have a medical condition,” or “you can’t force me because it isn’t ‘da law'”. Wrong on all counts. There are countless demonstrations of real world use of mask having no impact on your breathing. And the random conspiracies are easily disproved with basic logic. What many people confuse is it does cause you to breath slightly harder, but you are still getting the same amount of air. Because you are unaccustomed to wearing a mask, you notice the extra effort. If you have a medical condition that prevents you from wearing a mask, you are a very sick person and have no business being outdoors, period. But let us pretend for a moment you did. The ADA (or HIPAA for the exceptionally ignorant) does not protect you or allow you to disregard health orders when you go out in public. Why? Because your accommodation would put other people at risk. ADA does not allow for that. And as a result of all the ignorance has had to officially go on the record stating as such. The fake cards saying you are exempt or immune are just that, fake.

And then we get to the ‘constitutional scholars‘ who claim because it isn’t the law, they don’t have to obey. Oh, but you do! Thru a century of court cases and law review, the line between public rights and individual rights is clearly drawn. Your ‘individual freedoms‘ do not trump (pun intended) the rights of the public. Businesses can limit your access or refuse to do business with you for failing to comply with legally issued orders to wear a mask.3 Wearing a shirt or shoes indoors isn’t a law, but is universally accepted businesses are allowed to enforce this measure. (Forgetting the very racist roots of said restrictions.) When you are required to produce 2 forms of ID at the DMV it is not a law. When you queue up in line to wait your turn, it is not a law. Just try to cut in line anywhere and see what happens. There is no law that you have to work. However, if you want to have money for necessities or luxuries you get your ass up and go to work. So you see, not everything we do requires a law.

Frankly, being a decent human being shouldn’t require a law. If yo mamma raised you right, you would give two-shits about other people. Caring about the welfare of others shouldn’t need to be legislated.

I won’t even cover the new round of entitled idiots trying to use religion as an excuse. The newest excuse? Wearing a mask interferes with our ability to pray?

smdh

  1. minus the few crackpots []
  2. Even though his orgs work to help eliminate dangerous yet preventable diseases thru vaccinations has saved countless lives. []
  3. These same folks were all about screaming business rights when people could refuse to do business with gays, but now suddenly business rights do not matter. Funny how that works. []

Shut Down

I’ve pretty much given up on the idea of our country getting the pandemic under control. I predict we will continue to live with hodgepodge restrictions and shut downs thru the election in November. Only after 45 loses will we see a national strategy with a lockdown that will be consistent and effective. The mismatch state by state approach has obviously failed. There is no enforcement of any real value so people are free to disregard the directives.1 Shaming and viral exposure can only do so much.

The economy will continue to tank and businesses will shutter on a scale not seen since the Great Depression. Economists are already sounding the alarm. We blew it. Our selfish entitled attitudes created this mess. The ignorant minority continues to overshadow all the efforts of the responsible majority. We’ve allowed them thru mismanagement to take over the face of the pandemic. Maybe now that the Mango maniac has finally started wearing a mask, his cult followers will follow suit. We can only hope at this point.

All other countries with active restrictions and enforcement are seeing lower and lower cases. Many have already opened almost completely up, albeit with some mask requirements and restrictions on large events. They listened to their experts and acted accordingly.

I know I sound like Debbie Downer, but I’m trying to take a realistic approach based on what I see every day. The virus is spreading at a rampant rate again. Even California2 is seeing a big jump in cases and hospitalizations. And while the death total isn’t necessarily skyrocketing, people seem to forget, even those who don’t end up hospitalized can suffer for months after clearing the illness.

As of the news today, 1 in 5 Californians are unemployed. Many moratoriums on evictions (residential and commercial) are set to expire in the coming month. I expect California’s will mostly likely be extended, but the problem is still their looming over their heads. And it seems another round of stimulus checks might be coming, but they are drops in a bucket at this point.

I’m grateful for the fortunate circumstances I find myself in thru this; however, I worry for so many who are struggling between doing the right thing and being able to work and put food on their tables and a roof other their heads. The hubby is going stir-crazy being unemployed and home all the time; however, he is trying to hang in there. We get out on walks together on weekends to help break up the monotony.

If you’re struggling while you wait for “normal” to return, I’d put that aside. Normal is gone for 2020. Hunker down and adjust to our new reality for the next few months. I hope I’m wrong, but I’d be shocked if we have any meaningful developments before September. Hopefully, by year end the several possible vaccines will hold out to be effective enough to mass produce. A best case scenario is seeing a sense of normalcy returning before March 2021.

  1. And I’m not talking about people desperate to work or businesses fighting to exist. []
  2. granted mostly in Southern California []

Privilege

I had an incident this weekend that really nailed the idea of “privilege” in my mind. I’m at the local bagel shop in the ‘hood. I’m standing just inside the entrance to maintain social distance to the person inside.1 A woman comes behind and parks herself less than a foot from me. I promptly turn and glare at her. Seeing that didn’t work, I moved forward. Luckily the person in front of me had moved to the side as he had finished placing his order.

At this point I’m kind of over it. I’m reading the news on my phone. I glance up ever so often to see if my food is ready and to ensure I do not need to move again to maintain my distance. The previously mentioned woman is now glaring at me and I can tell she is mumbling under her breath. I’m thinking to myself, “get over it lady, maintain your distance and no one will glare at you.” Her order came up first, even though she ordered after me, as she only ordered something quick. As she’s leaving, I look up to see her glaring at me again and mumbling. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until she was out the door that I put her words to meaning. She had said to me, “black lives matter too MF’er!

Of course, I’m immediately upset. I mean the nerve! How dare she make it about race. I don’t give two-shits what color you are, maintain yo’ distance! Then it dawns on me. She mistook my glare and stepping away from her to mean I was avoiding her because of her skin color. I was floored! How could I have done this? But, as I go over the scenario in my mind, I honestly wouldn’t have done anything different. I’d glare at your dumb-ass for not maintaining distance regardless.

At this point, my anger dissipates and I feel only compassion and sadness. How terrible the world she walks in must be that this was her first assumption? I frequently say, “I walk in an extraordinarily different world than people of color.” This was a prime example of that. My heart sank knowing how much anger, hurt, and resentment she must be felling. And while I can take some comfort in knowing my own actions were honorable, it still left me profoundly sad.

I benefit and often take many things for granted simply because I am white. It really struck me how privileged I am. People often mistake being called “privileged” for being wealthy or having life easy. That is not the meaning here. Lawd knows, my life before the age of 25 was an utter shit-show. I wen thru more drama and tragedy in those years than most people go thru in a life time. In spite of all that, I can see and understand I still benefit daily from being white.

My only regret is not being able to clarify why I was glaring at her.2 If I could, I’d give her a hug as well. It was too late and I wasn’t about to try and chase her down after the fact. I can only take solace in the knowledge my actions were not racially motivated.

I strive to be better and to help others be better. I encourage you to do the same. A lot of people are hurting right now. Should you encounter a similar scenario as a white person, I implore you to see the bigger picture and recognize, it isn’t necessarily you the person is acting out against.

Hope springs eternal….

  1. It is a small space. []
  2. The humor in that is not lost on me. []

Remembering

It was January 1991. The first year I witnessed the death of someone I personally knew from AIDS. It scared the holy sh*t out of me. I remember hearing an older couple I was friends with commenting on this article from the NYT. The report of 100,000 deaths from AIDS was buried deep in the paper. There was no national outrage, there weren’t any names posted on the front page. We were on our own.

Fast forward to this week’s front page article with a thousand names of the 100,000 dead from the pandemic.

The LGBTI community remembers. We know what it’s like when the government ignores a disease. We remember what it was like to see so many our people die from AIDS, many of which died alone.

Don’t be cavalier or indifferent to this crisis. Don’t be a name on the front page or one buried on page 18.

Spread

Unless you live under a rock in the LGBTI community, you know that STI’s are often of concern, especially for gay men. Health departments track these little buggers every year.1 Every so often there is a bigger outbreak than usual. When this happens it almost always seems to start in the two coastal regions, especially in the denser or larger cities. As it spreads, it tends to move inward hitting bigger cities first, and then filtering down to rural areas. There are always statistically larger and persistent spikes in poorer and/or overly religious states as it filters inward. It continues to filter inwards until a loosely coast to coast coverage exists.

This is a general reference and not at statistical analysis. I’ve always paid attention to these sort of “trends”, as I think it gives critical insight into developing tools to combat disease transmission. I mention it today because I feel like the COVID-19 pandemic is following an eerily similar pattern, especially in the afore mentioned poor and/or overly religious states. One can see a real correlation between the spread and those who, thru bias and/or willful ignorance, downplay the dangers of the virus.

I’ve been wondering if health departments have been using the same models to predict the spread of COVID-19. It would certainly make sense if they did. I haven’t seen any specific mentions in media or print, but that could easily be because of the distasteful association people often make with STI’s.2 There are important distinctions between STI’s and COVID-19, but the transmission vectors are very similar just on a much larger scale.

I guess I don’t really have a point to my ramble today. I am just pondering random ideas relating to the pandemic. I’ve been trying to focus more on the science side to avoid being continually furious at ‘the stupid’. I won’t even go into the “re-openings” happening in states with ever increasing numbers of new cases. I’ve realized it is pointless and just leaves me depressed. What I will see say on the subject is we are already seeing spikes in many of the states that relaxed the rules too early or didn’t really restrict public exposure.

California is moving into phase 2 of the 4 phase plan originally outlined by the Governor. The numbers have jumped in SF in the last week, but that has more to do with broader testing and specific groups within the community. We were fortunate to go just under 4 days with no new reported deaths in San Francisco. Testing is now readily available to all citizens in SF as well. I personally feel it should be forced onto people returning to the work-force vs voluntary.

That is it I guess for the moment. I’m sort of rambling here, just airing out some thoughts.

  1. Ironically, health departments in larger cities have improved their modeling tools to specifically track and combat the spread of STI’s. []
  2. It is because of this association that many areas of the country sometimes see continually higher than average numbers of STI cases. []

Tested Negative

Unfortunately, I tested negative for the SARS-COV-2 antibodies, otherwise known as COVID-19. And I say unfortunately because I had hoped for a positive test.1 It would have alleviated some fear of exposing the hubby and the roommate. The hubby got laid off so he is at home every day. The roommate still works but he is practically alone in his office so I’m pretty much the exposure risk. I still work 4-days a week. I am somewhat isolated in my current assignment but I work in a small office with 3 people. Even with masks on, any single exposure would mean an exposure for all of us.

I took a blood test, not the unreliable nasal swab. The test is rated 99.9% effective with a 100% sensitivity. That basically means the chances of false negatives are very remote. I was fortunate to get it done thru LabCorp, which is the lab provider for my insurance. I didn’t even have a co-pay. I got a doctor’s order, dropped by the lab, *stab*, *bandage*, and off I went. I had results in about a day and a half.

There is no scientific consensus yet on the idea of immunity once you do have antibodies. And the common flu is so varied that antibodies to one strain are useless against another strain. However, the common flu has been around much much longer and had lots of time to mutate wildly. Being so new in humans, even with the mutations we know of, I would have felt a lot better knowing I was at least a little bit immune.

It has taken a told on my mental well-being constantly worrying about bringing it home. *knock on wood* My work has only had 1 confirmed case since the beginning. We are all very grateful for that. And before I leave work every day, I go in the bathroom and bathe myself in disinfectant wipes. I carry an additional one in my pocket so I can avoid touching surfaces like door handles. I am horribly absent-minded so I’ve tried to create habits for myself to avoid slipping up. Most people don’t realize how easily they can touch or share contaminated space and end up becoming a transmitter. Anyway, I worry less for myself and more for them.

We are relatively healthy so we would probably be ok, but I’d rather not play games with anyone’s health, including my own. So yeah, knowing all the realities, it still would have put me a little more at ease. I would not have relaxed my vigilance at protecting myself or others, but I would have worried less. I can only control my own actions and have all but given up on trying to encourage others to do better. On the daily, I see people flaunting the shelter-in-place restrictions. Frankly, I’ve stopped caring as it is less stressful and I have enough to worry about.

  1. Not something you routinely hear anyone say. lol []