Pandemic Life: New Year

Lavender latte made with almond milk, enjoyed outdoors in January because: California

The sky is blue, the sun is low, and my home state is not on fire: it is a lovely day.

I’ve run my errands for the day, filled with the confidence that a well-fitting KF94 mask provides. The KF94s from Korea are new for me: I had been wearing lighter and lighter fabric masks (with/out layering as situations required) as the pandemic dragged on and our local risks sunk ever lower (high vaccination rates, low case numbers). The new omicron variant is more contagious, however, so we’ve been advised to step up our protection standards. KF95 is one of the recommended standards, and the masks I am wearing are quite comfortable, and hold their shape well around my face. I appreciate their stiffness in the right place, so the material doesn’t rest on my nostrils or mouth, even while wet.

Since I last wrote about the COVID 19 pandemic, the remarkable achievements of vaccine development and (uneven) global rollout have been overshadowed by more contagious variants, continued political opposition to infection prevention, and more contagious variants.

The U.S. has maintained its place as the country with the highest number of cases and deaths. I feel lucky to live in a city with great mutual respect and care, where most people are vaccinated, and most people wear masks indoors willingly. If more of the US was like this, I would have gotten on planes and traveled for fun, at least before omicron…

JHU data as of right now, Monday, January 10, 2022

A friend in another region asked me how I’m managing, and I told her that the situation continues to improve: thanks to masking and air filtration, I get out of the house regularly, ride trains and streetcars, eat in (non-crowded) restaurants where vaccine confirmation is required (YES!), have visited several museums, and have even seen a few movies in movie theaters. A comfy mask makes many fun activities possible!

Four people in my long-distance social circle currently have COVID, and at least four relatives on the East Coast contracted COVID in December. Determination to celebrate the holidays with larger numbers of people with unknown habits comes at a cost! One friend wanted to host as safely as possible, and required negative tests to attend her 12+ person event: two of the negative-testing-guests turned positive on NYE morning, and had exposed other guests unknowingly, so even those precautions weren’t enough. Another friend had just three people over (such a reasonable number!) on NYE, and she still wound up with COVID, along with all of her guests.

This is a great time NOT to see your friends! 😀 (All my pals who postponed our planned meetings over the past two months have won my automatic forgiveness.)

Sign up for a phone exposure notification system! While on my first pandemic-era, out of state trip last month, I received a notification from MassNotify (the Massachusetts version of CA Notify, which my phone asked for my consent to participate in) that I was near someone on December 20th for the threshold exposure time who subsequently tested positive for COVID. While I had no symptoms and had already home tested (negative) as a precaution, I still appreciate the alert AND the instructions on what to do. This is a clever tool, and we should all use it!

I usually post a link to some data, so I’ll share the Year In Review from Johns Hopkins:

Right now: despite the new variant of the moment, I’m optimistic. We should have high quality masks distributed to us by health authorities, and access to home tests should be easy and cheap – we need progress in those areas! The fact that masks work, that vaccination numbers continue to rise, that good cleaning practices are in place at businesses, and that new businesses are opening up now are all encouraging. We need that encouragement! (I know I really needed it.)

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