Aisle Of Wit

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The Grieving Process Continues

So I actually began therapy this week, which I am sure won’t come as a surprise to any of you, and perhaps a relief to those who still give a damn.  With all of the losses I’ve experienced of late, and with absolutely no hope of changing anyone else’s deadset opinions about how (or if) I should proceed, my therapist has advised that even though these draconian people are still very much alive, it is necessary for me to effectively perceive them as dead, and attempt to work through my grief in a manner similar to how I did when, say, my parents passed away.

Apparently, that’s how one Kara Darling is tackling what she considers to be life these days as well,  Ms. Darling is a focus of a lengthy TIME magazine piece in its most recent issue that brought to the forefront the sizable plurality of “still COVIDers” that are particularly panicked as weather gets colder and reports of new rates of infection and diagnoses run rampant again.  As Jamie Ducharme wrote:

Kara Darling, who is 46 and lives in Delaware, is in the process of divorcing her husband because he was ready to “reintegrate” into society around the time vaccines rolled out, and she has chosen to remain highly COVID-cautious by working remotely, homeschooling her kids, and socializing only with those who are willing to take strict precautions. Darling’s stance is informed both by her work as a practices and research manager at a clinic that treats people with complex conditions, which has exposed her to the realities of life with Long COVID, and by the fact that three of her children have overactive immune systems.

“You grieve your plans and the reality you thought you were going to have and what you thought life was going to look like,” she says. “When you get to acceptance, then the question becomes, ‘Am I going to sit around and bemoan the existence of a life I wish I had, or am I going to pivot?’”Darling has chosen to pivot. She runs multiple Facebook groups for people who are “still COVIDing”—that is, still taking precautions against getting the virus. She also set up a recurring outdoor meetup for homeschooled kids in her area and has cultivated a community willing to build new holiday traditions for the pandemic era.

Here in beautiful, mostly sunny Los Angeles, once again my dear quaran-tine Barbara Ferrer is yet again quoting statistics and trend lines that only bode to be more alarming as Thanksgiving data rolls in which is yet again starting a countdown toward a mask mandate for indoor gatherings and public transportation in Los Angeles County.   For any regular readers, I don’t need to regurgitate my informed opinions on how motivated Ferrer and her alliances are to reestablish her fashion statements and social restrictions.  But apparently I’m not as alone as I was this past July when my quaran-tine last saber-rattled her statistics and had her purview ready to go back to the world of 2020 and early 2021.

In this morning’s Los Angeles Daily News, columnist Susan Shelley had an extremely objective and pointing viewpoint that sums up the inconsistencies in the infomation being disseminated that help to drive the kind of decisions that still-COVIDers reach.  One of her stronger points was as follows:

On Tuesday, Stanford’s Dr. Jake Scott, a board-certified infectious disease specialist and educator, posted this on Twitter: “Starting today, we’re only testing patients when there’s clinical suspicion based on signs and symptoms, as is the norm for all other infectious diseases, which should reduce barriers to care and provide us with more accurate hospitalization data. This is the right move.”

If L.A. County Public Health did that, Tuesday’s press release announcing “1,270 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19” might instead have reported whether anyone was in the hospital with COVID illness, rather than with an incidental positive COVID test.

The accuracy of data around COVID is crucial yet largely ignored, especially in Los Angeles County where public health press releases throw numbers around without any effort to be precise about their meaning. For example, deaths are reported as “due to” COVID even though the county has acknowledged that “due to” does not mean “caused by.”

On Tuesday, for example, L.A. County Public Health released the “latest data on COVID-19,” including “10 new deaths due to COVID (34,251 deaths to date)” and “3,125 new COVID-19 cases (3,565,418 cases to date).” Also thrown in: “More than 12,748,000 individuals tested; 25% of people tested positive to date.

As a lifelong researcher who is well aware of how storytelling can twist the narrative of any set of numbers, I couldn’t be happier to see this sort of rational thought being added to the mix.

To be sure, still-COVIDers are not a majority.  According to a Washington Post article that referenced an October 2022 Monmouth University poll, more than three in four are not.  Per Ellen McCarthy:

There’s no reliable tally of the people who are “Still COVIDing,” but certainly they’re in the minority. A September poll by Monmouth University found that 22 percent of people are very concerned about a family member becoming seriously ill with covid, compared with 45 percent the previous September. And a quarter of Americans supported mask mandates and social distancing guidelines, down from 63 percent last September.

And a Harris poll which Time conducted last month in conjunction with Ducharme’s article confirms that still smaller slivers of the population are indicating that they are in  support of some of the more significant self-preservation measures still-COVIDers believe in:

Have additional hygiene products available (e.g., hand sanitizer, surface wipes)
Limit the size of the gathering
Limit the people in attendance (e.g., only immediate family, exclude at-risk attendees)
Disinfect the venue (i.e., in addition to standard cleaning)
Maintain social distancing
Require attendees to be vaccinated against COVID-19
Require attendees to wear face masks
Require attendees to be vaccinated against the flu
Hold the event outdoors
Require attendees to take a COVID-19 test in advance
Require attendees to self-isolate in advance

Here’s a few more actual facts.  As of this morning, U.S. government statistics show approximately three in 10 Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since March 2020.  Approximately one in 100 have died.  OK, so what about those long COVID fears?  Per the CDC, as of June approximately one in five of those infected have reported symptoms of long COVID, which the CDC website defined as symptoms lasting three or more months after first contracting the virus, and that they didn’t have prior to their COVID-19 infection.

Any good researcher knows self-reporting had overstating, and it’s hard to determine how many pre-existing conditions may have contributed to some of the self-reported symptoms these long-COVIDers reported.  But let’s for the moment give them the benefit of the doubt.

By my math, that adds up to roughly seven percent of Americans who actually have had their lives materially impacted by this virus.   And this includes those so diagnosed before multiple vaccines were available.  Once again, for the record, I’ve had a total of five, and I strongly encourage anyone who has any doubts of their safety to reconsider–though I do respect those that feel otherwise.

Unlike the many, many people who simply cannot respect my feelings.  One such person is the owner of my nearest 7-11, who, by Los Angeles county regulations, does have the right to refuse to allow me into his store to buy my morning coffee unless I am masked.  This owner is well over 300 pounds and has reportedly had health issues of his own.  He has threatened me with arrest should I dare to enter his premises again, my five vaccinations and renewed health notwithstanding.  Does he have the right to his mandate?  Legally, yes.  Morally?  I wonder.

My own personal observations is that masks are becoming more and more prevalent, and the angry looks I am getting are becoming more frequent.  At least, I believe they are angry.  I can’t see the lower half of their faces, so I can only assume.

As Shelley concluded, the silent minority appears determined to cause more disruption that merely where I can buy a cup of cheap coffee:

Last Thursday, L.A. County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer warned at her weekly press conference that an indoor-mask mandate could be reimposed this week due to “cases” rising. “Cases” is the term the county uses to describe COVID tests that return positive results. The department says the county had 185 “cases” per 100,000 residents last week, and if there are 200 “cases” per 100,000 residents this week, we will cross the imaginary threshold that, according to Ferrer, requires everyone in Los Angeles County to wear a mask — a useless cloth or paper mask meets the requirement — when indoors in a public place.

This irrational nonsense has real-world consequences. A mask mandate would mean the county could send its enforcement teams out to harass businesses and issue fines for lack of required signage or employee training. It might mean some employees will quit their jobs rather than be forced to argue with customers about face coverings.

The worst impacts will be felt by children in school, who have no choice except to comply, all day long. This is already the case for far too many children, given the county’s 10-day close-contact rule that requires healthy children to wear masks if they were in a class with another child who had a positive test.

Ferrer’s 10-day close-contact order applies to workplaces as well as schools, but because children can be pushed around by adults, the burden of the rule falls disproportionately, if not exclusively, on kids.

Barbara Ferrer’s education is in the field of social work, not medicine, and she has expressed frustration that the public is becoming less concerned about the threat of COVID and less compliant with her directives.

But, no, it’s wrong for me to bitch.  How dare I, after all?  I have no idea what kind of pain and fear still-COVIDers experience.

Wanna try spending holidays completely alone?  Wanna try not even being able to find a friend to watch a game with in person?  Wanna try having phone calls, texts, e-mails and messages not returned for MONTHS?

Many years ago, a young John Travolta broke out in a TV movie called THE BOY IN THE PLASTIC BUBBLE.   Wikipedia recounts the inspiration and the storyline for this tearjerker:

John and Mickey Lubitch conceive a child. After multiple previous miscarriages and the death of their first son (who was born without a functioning immune system), Mickey fears the likelihood that something gravely wrong could happen to their child. John assures her that the odds of their next child being born with the same condition are low.

The pregnancy results in the birth of a live baby boy, whom they name Tod. Tod’s immune system also does not function properly, meaning that contact with unfiltered air may kill him. John and Mickey are told he may have to live out his entire life in incubator-like conditions. After a strenuous four years of Tod living in the hospital, Mickey convinces John to find a way to bring Tod home. He lives with his parents in Houston, Texas. He is restricted to staying in his room all his life where he eats, learns, reads, and exercises, while being protected from the outside world by various coverings.

As Tod grows, he wishes to see more of the outside world and meet regular people his age. He is enrolled at the local school after being equipped with suitable protective clothing, similar in style to a space suit. He falls in love with his next door neighbor, Gina Biggs, and he must decide between following his heart and facing near-certain death, or remaining in his protective bubble forever. In the end, after having a discussion with his doctor who tells him he has built up some immunities which may possibly be enough to survive the real world, he steps outside his house, unprotected, and he and Gina ride off on her horse.

Remember spring 2020?  An awful lot of protective gear–hazmat suits–were rampant.  On the flights I took when my family actually wanted me to visit, others wore them.  I refused.  I never got the virus.  Nor did any of those I visited.  And yes, we ate, because no virus is so selective that it can determine who’s eating and drinking or who is a family member of not.

My podcast algorithm is currently playing through previously downloaded episodes of THE DAILY, a morning ritual for me.  This week I’m hearing those from when lockdowns first began,  The panic.  The denials from President Trump, who assured us the “Chinese virus” would be gone by Easter.  The rituals of release from New York City terraces.  In my own world, I was hosed down naked in my yard by my spouse before I was allowed to re-enter our hoarder-cluttered house to drop off the 72 rolls of toilet paper I stood in line at dawn for in a line reminiscent of Stalin-era Russians waiting for food rations.

That’s not a world I personally want to revisit.

But apparently, still-COVIDers do.  Indefinitely.

So not only do I grieve for what I’ve lost, I grieve for them.  And, believe it or not, I’m grieving for my quaran-tine, too.

If you get your way, which I fear your twisted logic and fear-mongering will, you won’t see my frown.  But you will see my tears.  You won’t be the only reason for them.  But trust me, you’re not helping my grieving process.

Until next time…