Category Archives: COVID-19

DeMarco: If there was a vaccine for cancer that was 99% effective, would you take it?

Covid vaccine TheState 2021 8 21

The Op-Ed Page

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The vaccinated among you who read this will rightly wonder why, as a doctor, I don’t make a stronger case for vaccines. First, plenty of frontal assaults on the unvaccinated have already been published. Second, it’s one thing to talk theoretically about vaccine hesitancy and another to have a one-to-one conversation about the vaccine with someone for whom you are providing medical care. Although I am frustrated and confused by the widespread resistance to vaccines, unleashing that frustration on my patients would do no good. If the piece leaves you wanting a more direct, robust argument, I sympathize. But I’m not writing for you. I’m hoping to address readers who can be convinced to join your ranks.

When I hear stories about illness, I often imagine that I am the physician for the sick person being described. So when I read about people who decline the opportunity to be vaccinated against COVID-19, I envision them sitting with me in one of my exam rooms. By now I’ve had hundreds of conversations about the vaccine.

In the winter, many of them were about where patients could get the vaccine most quickly.

Over the past several months, the discussions have evolved; now it’s mostly coaxing the unvaccinated to overcome their hesitation. Hard-won experience has taught me that as I attempt to persuade a reluctant patient to accept a therapy, the harder I push, the less I succeed.

I begin by asking whether my patients have been vaccinated. If they say yes, I exhort them to encourage everyone they know to follow suit. I have several vaccinated ministers who tell me that every week they implore the disinclined among their flocks to get the vaccine.

There are very few patients (myself included) who do everything their doctor recommends. Countless patients of mine have refused my offer of a flu shot because “I got the flu from the flu shot.” Despite my gentle rebuttal that it is impossible to get the flu from the flu shot (although you can get flu-like symptoms from the vaccine), I rarely win the argument. I recognize that my advice is only part of my patients’ decision processes: Personal experiences, advice from other people they trust, and information from media also inform their decisions.

With the COVID-19 vaccine, I have had more success with ambivalent patients, although the majority still decline. Since I have an office practice, I spend much of my time trying to prevent illness rather than saving lives. But during a pandemic, convincing a patient to get vaccinated can be lifesaving, and therefore has been a source of intense focus for me. Most of my patients are over 50 and have chronic diseases that put them at higher risk. Thus far, I’ve lost two patients to COVID-19. Several more of my patients have lost family members. One patient lost a brother, a sister-in-law, and a niece in the space of just a few days.

If patients says they have not been vaccinated, I ask “Do you want to talk about it?” Most do, and express legitimate concerns – it was created and tested quickly; it’s still under emergency authorization or it had been when I wrote this); there have been side effects (blood clots and heart inflammation, to name two); they are not in high-risk groups; they don’t go out much; and they social-distance. A number can’t articulate a reason except that they are afraid of the vaccine.

My response goes like this: I acknowledge their fears. I admit that I can’t guarantee that they will not have a rare side effect from the vaccine. For those who express fear of dying from the vaccine, I acknowledge that the risk of death is currently unknown. All I can say is that it appears to be exceedingly rare.

My argument for the vaccine is based on what we do know. The latest data I can find from the CDC (for the calendar year 2020) shows the COVID-19 death rate in South Carolina was 78 per 100,000, making it the third leading cause of death in our state behind heart disease and cancer. Since the beginning of the pandemic, approximately 10,000 South Carolinians have died. The vaccine is approximately 99% effective in preventing death from COVID-19. If there was a vaccine that had a 99% efficacy in preventing death from heart disease or cancer, I ask, would you take it?

Surprisingly, a few of my patients, when I ask whether they want to talk about being unvaccinated, say “No thanks.” If that is the response I leave it be, but I wonder what they are reading or watching to make them unwilling to hear from the person in whom they have entrusted their medical care.

I suspect their unwillingness is driven by cable news or internet media. One of the worst things that has happened during the pandemic is the unwarranted attachment of political and philosophical meaning to the virus. Recently, I heard a caller to a radio talk show describe people who wear masks as “our enemies.”

COVID-19 is no respecter of political party or religion. It’s a simple virus with no brain. All it knows how to do is reproduce itself in our cells. The longer it has susceptible hosts, the longer it will continue to infect us, and the more efficient it will become. The delta variant is the latest example of this. The longer it takes for us all to be vaccinated, the more likely another, even more infectious and more deadly, variant will arise.

You may not be my patient, but as a doctor I care about people’s health whether I know them or not. Please get vaccinated.

Paul DeMarco is a physician who resides in Marion, SC. Reach him at pvdemarco@bellsouth.net. This was first published as a column in the Florence Morning News on Aug. 18.

Covid vaccine DHEC 2021 8 21

How about if we pay attention to reality instead?

Oh, look -- Henry's "urging" vaccines! But read the actual story. The news is that he's NOT mandating masks, and he's only URGING vaccines....

Oh, look — Henry’s “urging” vaccines! But read the actual story. The news is that he’s NOT mandating masks, and he’s only URGING vaccines….

For a couple of months, I’ve had in mind a certain blog post, but haven’t written it because of the time it would take — time I don’t have. The basic idea was this: As you know, I’m sick and tired of the usual stupid news stories with ideologues yelling about whether people should, for instance, wear masks in public.

My idea was to contrast that with the real world. When I go out in public — to the grocery, to Lowe’s, to Walmart, and especially to medical facilities (which I visit a lot, usually to take my parents to appointments), people, generally speaking, wear masks. Everyone does at the medical facilities, because otherwise they don’t get in. Elsewhere, sure, fewer people were wearing them, but it was never perfect. Even at the worst moments of 2020, there were always some twits who didn’t wear them — in places where folks in charge lacked the nerve to enforce the rules. This summer, the numbers of maskless were greater — even serious people were starting to think they didn’t have to — but it wasn’t some ideological war. Reality was complicated, and most people were trying to be sensible.

But I missed my time for writing that. In recent days, things have changed. For instance, on a personal level, last night my wife told her high school classmates she would not be attending the 50th reunion in Memphis. Everyone else in the class was sending in similar messages. She attending a Catholic girls’ school that had only 37 seniors graduating in 1971. Of those, 22 had planned to attend. Now none are going, so once again the event is postponed.

This morning, she followed that up with a note of regret that she would not be attending a wedding she had planned to go to while in Memphis.

As she did these things, I nodded, because it seemed consistent with what I’ve seen around us in recent days — hospital beds filling back up, people re-evaluating gatherings and resuming precautions when they go out, all because of such factors as the Delta variant and the insanely large number of people who have refused to get vaccinated. Here and there, you even see a report of someone who had refused but has wised up.

Normal, rational human behavior — people adjusting to shifting circumstances. All that is in the real world in which we live.

But then I look at the world being described most prominently in media we consume — from mainstream to social. And I see the idiotic ideological arguments, the same taking of absurd positions that would be laughable if they weren’t so harmful to public health.

You know what I’m talking about. Locally, our alleged “governor” continuing to refuse to take any responsibility for public health. (At least he’s consistent, right? This is what the majority out there voted for, to its great shame, in 2018.) Our attorney general reaching out to try to prevent other elected officials from taking any such responsibility as well. Other such behavior across the country, from local to federal levels.

Occasionally, I comment, usually on social media, when things get really far from reality:

But mostly, I just look around and wish I could see more reporting on what’s really going on, and less about what stupid things “leaders” who refuse to lead are prattling about.

Sometimes I do see it. For instance, there was this, put out by The State in the past 24 hours:

Lexington Medical Center is experiencing a critical shortage of intensive care unit beds as it approaches a record-high number of COVID-19 patients, hospital officials said.

More than 90% of the West Columbia hospital’s 557 beds were occupied Tuesday morning, including 146, or about 26%, of which were filled with coronavirus patients, Lexington Medical Center spokeswoman Jennifer Wilson said.

“We are approaching our highest number of COVID patients hospitalized at one time ever,” said Wilson, who added that the situation at Lexington Medical Center was “very serious” and encouraged South Carolinians to get vaccinated.

The vast majority of the hospital’s COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated, she said.

Only 16% of coronavirus inpatients at Lexington Medical are vaccinated, and just three of the 43 COVID-19 patients in the hospital’s ICU are fully dosed….

That’s about the hospital that you can see from the street I live on, if you walk down that street a bit to get a better angle on it. What’s going on there, and in the hospitals across South Carolina — and the nation, and the world — is infinitely more important to me than the pronouncements of people who have made it startlingly clear, over and over, that they will in no way do or say anything that reflects what’s happening in the world.

Oh, and by the way, Jennifer Wilson — quoted in that news item I cited above — is married to that same attorney general mentioned above. The difference between them is that she lives and works in the real world, while her husband lives in one in which continued employment depends on showing people you are devoted to Trumpism.

Yes, reporters should continue to cover what the governor and AG say and do. Who knows, they might even run across a “man bites dog” story like this one from Arkansas: Arkansas’ governor says it ‘was an error’ to ban mask mandates. You know, a point at which reality and Republican political speech actually coincide.

Maybe someday our governor will stop trying to outstupid Texas, and instead endeavor to outsmart Arkansas.

But while you wait for that actual astounding news to develop, cover the reality more, please…

My shoes came! How are Y’ALL doing with the supply chain?

My new shoes. I need to break them in, but they're feeling pretty good...

My new shoes. I need to break them in, but they’re feeling pretty good…

My new shoes finally came! I’m wearing them right now. They feel pretty good so far, although it will take a while before they’re as comfortable as my old ones.

The old ones are a somewhat tattered pair of Salomon “Fellraisers,” which I got shortly before going to Thailand in 2015. I think of them as my “Thailand jungle shoes,” because when I got them, I was thinking about that day we planned to spend hiking through Khao Yai National Park. (Which was awesome.) Salomon calls them “trail-running shoes,” with knobby things on the bottoms meant to provide traction on natural, unpaved surfaces. I’m not planning on hiking through any tropical seasonal forests in the near future, but when these started wearing out on me, I wanted some more, for one simple reason:

They fit my feet better than any pair of shoes I’ve ever worn in my life. Far and away. It’s like they were painted onto my weird, narrow feet, for which I’ve always had trouble finding shoes that even come remotely close to fitting.

One problem: Salomon quit making the Fellraiser. (You may not know this, but the entire global economy seems to be built largely upon one little-known principle: Produce a product that Brad Warthen really, really likes. Wait until he realizes that, and truly appreciates the product. Then stop making it. I plan to write a post about this later.)

So I kinda freaked. But then I settled down, and started writing to Salomon to ask, as politely as I could, “What do you still make that is as much like the Fellraiser as possible?” They were helpful, and eventually I settled upon the Speedcross 5 Gore-Tex. I went for the color they somewhat ludicrously overdescribed as “Martini Olive / Peat / Arrowwood” (stuff like that always reminds me of Elaine Benes writing ad copy for J. Peterman, which makes me smile). They seemed the closest to my old ones, which in my unimaginative way I call “green.”

This was back in April. But I just got the shoes. Why? Because of the way the global supply chain got backed up by COVID. They told me in April to get back to them the second week of July. So I did, and it worked out, and that’s great.

But I was wondering what sorts of supply-chain problems the rest of you have been running into. Because this goes way beyond shoes.

COVID did (and is still doing) a lot of a lot of stuff to the economy, and one was that it knocked its rhythm off.

New York magazine recently laid it out this way:

At the beginning of the pandemic, it felt like everything essential was in short supply. Toilet paperhand sanitizerdumbbellsflour, and even baby wipes were nearly impossible to find as we all hunkered down for what we had no idea would be more than a year of quarantine. But now, as pandemic restrictions ease in the U.S., so too does our once-overwhelming inclination to hoard. If our lives are (slowly) returning, shouldn’t the availability of the things we want to buy get back to normal too?

As it turns out, no. Soaring demand from our lockdown lives and fewer workers have left suppliers strapped for major materials like lumber and aluminum — not to mention the semiconductors that power everything from our cars to our laptops. Those shortages trickle down into less-major things, too, which means that, Girl Scout cookies aside, lots of products are hard to come by. If you’re among the millions of Americans who bought a pandemic house, you may be struggling to get materials to build a new deck or repair a fence. Or maybe you’re just trying to get your hands on a can of your dog’s favorite wet food, a set of patio furniture for under $1,000, or a Playstation 5. Maybe you’ve finally decided to buy a used Subaru, if you could just locate a dealership that has one, or you went to re-up on your go-to organic cotton underwear, only to find the price has risen $2 per pair. Whatever your need, if you want something right now, you may well have to either pay a lot more to get it or find a suitable alternative.

On a more personal level, I go to the store now, and usually can find what I need — but I can’t help noticing how thinly populated the shelves seem. I keep hearing from family members about their troubles finding basic things that would not normally be hard at all to find, seeing as how we’re not actually living in the Soviet Union of circa 1980.

Anyway, as I said, I wonder what y’all are seeing…

My old shoes, when they were new. This is the morning we were about to set out in Khao Yai. The canvas things were issued to us to protect against leeches.

My old shoes, when they were new. This is the morning we were about to set out in Khao Yai. The canvas things were issued to us to protect against leeches.

 

Do you ‘ache’ for these ‘cesspools?’ If so, why?

cesspools

Here I go again asking whether you yearn to get out there amongst ’em — however you define “’em.”

And trying to understand it.

See the headline above. The picture — which I loved when I saw it a couple of weeks ago (the guy with his fist in the air seems to think he’s Henry V or something — once more unto the breach!) — is of a particularly silly event that many seemed to enjoy. Here’s the original story about it, from late April.

Anyway, the event and the apparent enjoyment it provided inspired one Galadriel Watson to wonder why: “What do we get out of them that’s worth exposure to hundreds or thousands of strangers?”

I read it today because I can’t imagine. I have no pacifistic objections to battling over the name “Josh,” particularly with pool noodles. I just don’t know why anyone would want to get out into any crowds, at any time, for any reason — concerts, street protests, eating out, what have you. Not that I haven’t willingly done it myself — I have no crippling fear of crowds. But when I have, the presence of the crowd is usually a strong argument against attending the event — one that must be overcome by a stack of positive considerations that overcome it — not a favorable feature.

Knowing that many people feel otherwise — and “feel” is the proper word, since I can’t imagine thought being involved in this impulse — I read it in part looking for a passage saying “not everyone feels this way,” and looking for the explanation of that, as a way of answering the subquestion, “What’s wrong with me?”

And sure enough, she mentions introverts, but the “expert” she quotes gets it wrong:

It doesn’t even seem to matter if you’re an extrovert or introvert. Tegan Cruwys is an associate professor of psychology at the Australian National University and a clinical psychologist. She said, “Personality might affect the kinds of events and social groups that appeal to you — for example, music festivals versus gaming conventions — but there is no evidence that these social phenomena only apply to extroverts. Introverts are not asocial.”

I beg to differ, based on actual, personal experience. It’s not that I’m asocial, or antisocial. I am, after all, a communitarian. At least in the abstract, I love the whole community. That doesn’t mean I want to be packed in with the whole crowd like a sardine.

I go into a crowd the way one enters a survival course — as an ordeal to get through. What is my exit strategy? Where are the bathrooms? (No, real bathrooms; not port-a-potties.) Is there food that I can eat, or will it be the usual junk one finds at such dubious gatherings? This is sort of perverse, but I’ve been known to approach some crowds willingly as a challenge, as a way of testing myself. For instance, I have this thing about liking to go shopping at Harbison on Christmas Eve, just to take pride in my ability to avoid the traffic as much as possible, walk from convenient parking rather than wait an hour to park at the mall itself, etc. And then congratulating myself upon arriving home the same day.

Yeah, I know that’s weird. But I think wanting to go into crowds in general is weird.

Anyway, this article did not reassure me about the motives for liking such gatherings being positive. It said things like:

  • “As a human, you have ‘a very primitive desire to feel like you’re a part of a larger collective’…” Yeah, I’ve noticed. That’s what gives us all this insanity of people seeing political parties or movements as their tribes. Very primitive, indeed.
  • “Large events also reinforce our sense of identity…” Yeah. Exactly. It’s so heart-warming to find yourself in a crowd of like-minded white supremacists, for instance. This is a portal into my dislike of Identity Politics, but I’ll close it and move on…
  • “This idea of ‘us’ also provides a sense of security. ‘I’d be more inclined to look out for you…'” Sure. Because you’re one of my “tribe.” To hell with those “other people…”

And so forth. None of which feels uplifting or ennobling to me, or even like fun.

Maybe y’all can give me reasons why it’s good to get out in a crowd, and make me feel like a selfish jerk who lacks something important that should connect him to other people — which is a position into which I sometimes talk myself.

But this article didn’t do it.

Anyway, have at it. Good luck…

SC has enough problems without these folks joining us

Henry vax

I don’t watch TV news, but my wife does. And yesterday, finding this a bit hard to believe, she called me into the room to witness it.

Basically, it says anti-vaxxers are moving to South Carolina because they see Henry McMaster as their kind of guy.

Once, governors — Henry included — labored mightily to be perceived as people who attracted jobs to the state. Now look where we are.

This new South Carolinian WIS interviewed thinks Henry is the bee’s knees (there’s something about Henry that invites to use of archaic slang) because, in reference to people who objected to their children being required to wear masks, he said, “Those parents are exactly right…”

“I think that was a big thumbs up for him,” says a friend of Rebekah Schneider on video.

Ms. Schneider lived in Connecticut for 38 years before moving here to be more accepted for her views. Apparently, based on several things she says, she has a “religious” objection to vaccines. As is the case with so much of the careless reporting we see these days (and not just on TV, but in the skeletonized newspapers), this is not explained. Is she a Christian Scientist? I don’t know.

But I’m looking at the math here. With only 32 percent of South Carolinians being fully vaccinated at this point, far short of what is needed for herd immunity, and too few showing interest in getting vaccinated, we are unlikely ever to become safe from COVID. And that’s without following idiotic policies that make anti-vaxxers want to move here.

Ms. Schneider moved here because her former governor pursues policies to protect public health. WIS says, “According to the Associated Press, he also told reporters he did a lot of his own research before signing the bill into law.”

Henry does “research,” too. He thinks, “How will the Trump loonies feel about this?”

He may have missed the mark this time. As much as Trumpistas are associated with “What, me worry?” approaches to COVID in general, the ones who oppose vaccines are not alone in this.

Have you ever heard of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.?

Must give Henry pause…

 

I just now started wearing a mask on walks. Guess why…

Why weren't we wearing these EVERY spring?

Why weren’t we wearing these EVERY spring? This is me out walking today…

All this past year, I felt free to walk around the neighborhood without a mask on. I was careful everywhere else, but I never got close to anybody — except that one time, on account of the snake.

And I thought that was fine. Until now. Of course, I’ve had both of my shots now, but so what?

This is about the pollen.

I’m sure all my neighbors think I’m trying to show I’m more COVID-careful than anyone around, but no. I’ve been doing enough sneezing lately, and finally it just occurred to me: Why haven’t we always worn these in the spring? Or at least, why haven’t I, with all my allergies?

I’ll bet this one neighbor below supports this new practice, no matter why I’m doing it. I don’t know these folks, but I like them. My kind of people. They were also among the first in the neighborhood to put up signs for Joe and Jaime last year (that picture I linked to was after they’d put up Jaime, and before Joe — a lot of people had trouble finding Joe signs for awhile). They’ve had this one up several months…

wear a mask

Henry didn’t want to go ‘too far’

OK, this kind of rocked me:

I already said this on Twitter, but now I’ll say it here:

Perhaps it’s rude of me to interrupt Henry when he’s congratulating himself, but 8,053 South Carolinians have died, at the very least. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that had we gone a bit closer to what he calls “too far,” some of them would have lived…

DHEC graphic

Henry’s knee jerks in response to being outstupided by Texas

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I’m not going to say a lot about this, because it’s just more of the same. And as you know, I gave all I had trying to get South Carolina to elect the other guy a couple of years back.

But it’s indeed pathetic, and appalling, and will likely lead to a few more of my fellow South Carolinians dying. Beyond that, I’ll post this so y’all can elaborate if you’d like.

So we had what the governor of Texas did the other day. I have trouble remembering his name, but I remember the fact that whenever I read or hear it, it’s in connection with him doing or saying something phenomenally stupid. This time, it was him saying, “It is now time to open Texas 100 percent.

Well, Henry McMaster wasn’t going to stand still for being outstupided by Texas. So we got this:

South Carolinians will no longer be required to wear face masks inside state-owned buildings or inside restaurants when not eating or drinking under Gov. Henry McMaster’s latest COVID-19 order Friday.

The governor’s latest announcement follows the steady decline of new virus cases and mass vaccination efforts. But it also comes after other states, including Texas, have lifted their own mask mandates over criticism from public health leaders.

In the same order, McMaster also asked state agency directors to pull together and submit plans to bring employees back to the office full time….

Oh, by the way — I’m not sure “outstupided” is a word. But it should be. No, wait! Here it is. Good. I think we’re going to be needing it going forward. Too bad we didn’t have it in wide circulation over the last four years.

Oh, by the way, in related news:

Notice how he didn’t say, “former President?”…

The kids aren’t getting smarter — or any more responsible

queue

A friend sent me this picture a little while ago. I immediately asked whether she was still there, and could get me another shot without that car in the way.

She said it wasn’t hers; she had gotten it from a Tweet:

I checked with the guy who posted it, and he said he took the picture at about 3:30 p.m. today.

That’s the same spot pictured in this previous post, at 5:48 p.m. on Sept. 9.

The earlier shot was less… impressive, if that’s the word you want to use.

It almost seems irrelevant to ask, but how many masks do you see? No, I don’t see any, either.

What does one say about this kind of indiscriminate, homicidal behavior?

I dunno. Here’s what Chris Trainor of The State had to say:

Oh, one more thing: I don’t think they’re waiting to get into Subway. It’s about the bar next door. But that’s just a guess on my part, based on what I was told the last time. I asked Lee Snelgrove, and he didn’t know — he was just riding by…

I got my first vaccine shot, and so far it’s working just fine

This was the third queue, the one just before the shots. We were spaced out by this point.

This was the third queue, the one just before the shots. We were spaced out by this point.

On Friday, I did my duty and got a shot of the vaccine against coronavirus. I’m proud to be able to say that, because I’ve not been able to get flu shots in the past, but this time I did my bit toward producing herd immunity, and getting us past this thing.

Those 43 senators may not have done their duty, but I’ve mine. It’s OK; don’t thank me. I was glad to do it.

As I said, I did it on Friday, and I intended to write about it on Friday; I really did. But I wasn’t up to it. It made me sick. That is, it made me feel sick, and I spent much of the afternoon snoozing on the recliner in my home office. But this, you see, is good news. I read up on it, as I started feeling crappy, and that means the vaccine has produced a strong reaction in my immune system. So if you got the shot, but didn’t feel bad, you have a puny immune system compared to mine. That’s OK; it’s not your fault.

I had been told by some that they didn’t even feel the shot. Oh, I felt it. It wasn’t the most painful shot I’ve ever received — that title goes to the series of typhoid fever inoculations I received in 1962, which made my scrawny little arm feel like it was going to fall off — but I felt it. Especially last night, when no matter what position I got into, it ached just enough to keep me awake. But acetaminophen took care of that.

So, for you greenhorns who haven’t experienced this, here’s what it was like…

First, it was very different from when I took my parents to get their first shots back in January (the get their second ones this week). That was a quiet, peaceful, solitary experience. I took them to get the Moderna vaccine at a Publix I hadn’t realized existed (it’s on Broad River Road) before I made the appointments. If you’d been someone in the store to get groceries that day, you might not have realized the shots were being given there. There was a young woman behind a table just to the left of the entrance. No one else was there, except the person scheduled ahead of us and maybe the person before that, who was still doing the 15-minute wait afterward.

So, even though I was getting the Pfizer instead of Moderna, I figured the experience would be kind of like that. It most assuredly was not. This was closer to lining up for a physical at the recruiting station in the second week of December, 1941. Only most of the people were more… mature… than your usual recruit. And we mostly kept our clothes on, I guess because there were ladies present and all.

The shock came before I even got into the building — Lexington Medical Park 1, to be specific. I was so proud because my appointment was at 11:10, and I’d arrived by 11, meaning I was that rare thing for me, early. But first I had to creep around behind slow people trying to find a parking space, which would have been OK except then I had to stop behind a mass of people waiting outside the building, in the light rain. That was the first of three queues. It was about 39 degrees and wet, as I recall.

We were not, to say the least, six feet apart. We were practically climbing on each others’ backs trying to get under the large canopy over the entrance to escape the rain. But we all had masks on, so there’s that.

This queue — or perhaps I should say, this disorderly mass of people — was for waiting to have one’s temperature checked, and getting a green sticker to attest to it, before entering. The harried young woman in charge kept clicking the thing at several of our foreheads, and then saying, “OK, you five go on in.” Then, when I had been clicked, for some reason she said, “OK, you eight go in.” So we did.

Another lovely young woman (I keep meaning to write a post about this amazing thing I discovered when I was a stroke patient at this very hospital — that pretty much all young women wearing face masks are beautiful, especially if they work in hospitals) had those who had been admitted line up again, around the circular wall of the foyer. Then, since there were too many of us, she had a second, concentric arc form inside the first one, and told the man at the head of ours to follow the last guy in the previous one, once he passed.

At this point we started trying to space out a little. As you’d expect from a bunch of people who were going to this much trouble to get the vaccine.

Then, we got to the entrance of a hallway, and another lovely young woman directed us one at a time to one of several tables set up in that area, leading toward another door at the far end, leading in turn to the enormous room where the shots would be given. At each table was a woman with a computer.

So I went to mine, and gave her my particulars, and she asked me when my appointment was. I said it was supposed to have been at 11:10, as I glanced at my phone to see it was now 11:16. I threw on a sliver of that morally superior, chuff tone you get from people who are habitually early, but not much, because I truly hate that tone.

Speaking of moral superiority, I was still congratulating myself on having filled out the online questionnaire ahead of time when she told me I was done and to go ahead and get in the next line. OK. As I moved down the hall to the next queue, I passed another of the tables, where the worker was asking this other person about allergies, which had not happened with me. Which was weird. There had been several questions about allergies on the questionnaire, and while I was pretty sure that I was OK with this vaccine, at least one of my answers should have been a red flag to at least keep a close eye on this guy: My “yes” to the question of whether I’d ever had a serious allergic reaction to a vaccination.

That was the typhus shot I got when I was about 10 years old and living in Guayaquil, Ecuador. The substance was grown in egg. I have an extreme allergy to eggs. The State Department nurse knew this, but said I had to have a shot because regulations. So she gave me half of a child’s dose, as a compromise. I was headed into anaphylaxis before I got down one floor on the elevator to leave the building. I can’t tell you much about the next few days except it was about the sickest I ever was in my life.

This is why I don’t get flu shots. For some ungodly reason, they make that with egg, too.

But I’d done my research and felt pretty good about this vaccine, and my allergist had given me the “go” sign. But in case I was wrong, I felt like that they should know before they had a freaky situation on their hands. So I thought about that as I stood in the third and final queue — the one in the picture above. And when I sat down to get the shot, and things proceeded apace, and the lady was actually wielding the syringe near my arm, I mentioned it, saying something like, I think I’m OK on this, but so you know, I’m one of those people who has had a severe reaction to an inoculation.

And she said fine, that meant I’d have to wait 30 minutes instead of 15. Which I was fully prepared to do. So at 11:23 she stuck it in, and a modest amount of pain was produced, and I went over to my little isolated chair in the waiting area, and opened my iPad to resume reading the papers. Just before leaving the house, I had started reading a George Will column headlined, “Will Senate Republicans allow their louts to rule the party?” And now I finished it. (We know the answer to that question now, don’t we?)

We were all seated, by the way, in front of a projector screen on which a children’s movie was being projected. You couldn’t really see the picture because of the lighting (see the photo below), or hear any of the dialogue. But at one point I barely heard a song I had heard my grandchildren sing many, many times, and I knew it was “Frozen.” The day before, when my wife had gotten her shot, it had been Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland.” Which, for a crowd of people who are mostly over 65, is also an odd choice. Actually, come to think of it, assuming it makes sense to play a movie for people who will only be there for a few minutes of it is kind of odd, too, but that’s the modern waiting room.

Anyway, a good job was done, mostly, by the hospital, and I appreciate it. I don’t know why there was such a mob, compared to my parents’ experience. Are there that many more people over 65 than over 70? Or has Joe managed to step things up the last few weeks? I don’t know, but the hospital was handling it pretty well.

And we got ‘er done. And today, I felt well enough to tell you about it…

Here's where we all waited after our shots -- most for 15 minutes, me for 30.

Here’s where we all waited after our shots — most for 15 minutes, me for 30.

I think I can get a cheaper mask than that

bow tie and mask

I guess I ordered a bow tie from this company at some point in the past, way back when I wore ties — back when I went downtown to the office, and stuff like that. You know, when I wore something besides cargo pants and long-sleeved T-shirts.

Anyway, they send me email so seldom that it hasn’t occurred to me to unsubscribe, so I still get emails from them.

And now they’re pushing this.

Thanks but no thanks. I can get a serviceable — and possibly more functional, in medical terms — mask than that, cheaper. I can also get a cheaper tie. I can get a better-looking cheaper tie, if I ever need to buy a tie again.

But I appreciate that you made one evoking Mardi Gras beads and all.

I wonder if anyone is surging through a crowd trying to catch beads (during the parades put on by the early krewes, the ones that do theirs in the weeks before the day)…

I hope not…

Nope. I see they’ve all been cancelled. Good idea…

Happy Day, Happy Day, Happy Day!

Joe Inauguration

A little something I saw on my TV just before noon today.

Wasn’t it, though?

Tonight, I particularly enjoyed listening to my NPR One app while belatedly trying to get in my 10,000 steps. On story after story, they kept saying “President Biden!” Bless them.

You can see what I had to say during the inauguration earlier today on my Twitter feed. I didn’t have time to write a blog post, but I wrote a few items in real time, such as:

Then, before Joe et al. had even left the Capitol steps, I had to run out to the Publix on Broad River Road (before yesterday, I hadn’t even known there was a Publix on Broad River Road) to take my parents to get their COVID vaccine shots. This took awhile, since their appointments were an hour and 36 minutes apart. (I tried to get them closer, but it took about 15 minutes to sign up for each appointment. I did my Mom’s first, and by the time I got back to the appointments on my Dad’s, there were no close appointment times left.)

Aside from that, it went well. Both claim it didn’t hurt a bit. Which is surprising, since that needle looked pretty long to me.

Anyway, I’m glad we got that done. Second shot is in four weeks — same bat-time, same bat-channel.

So things are good today. You saw the part about President Biden, right?

Vaccine ships. Don’t get excited.

vaccines

Just thought I’d share a couple of things I had to say about the vaccine today:

Basically, I was just sick of all the headlines that read to me (maybe not to you, but to me) like “Yay, it’s over! Here come the vaccines!” So I added to the above thread:

Of course, part of the thing is that after I switched from news to editorial 26 years ago, I started thinking less it terms of “here’s a fact,” and more in terms of “so what should we do?” I mean, yeah, it’s a fact — vaccine doses are shipping. It’s the beginning of the beginning of a very hopeful thing that we look forward to happening over the next several months.

But what do all of us need most to be hearing right now? It is that this is a very dangerous moment, and we all need to hunker down with masks and social distancing more strenuously than ever.

And instead, the message I keep seeing is, “Look — vaccines!” And I worry about people seeing only that, and not the stories about how bad things are, and how much worse they’ll be if we as a country ignore warnings during Christmas the way we did on Thanksgiving….

If everybody reads a lot, we’re OK. Carefully read the NYT or the WSJ or Washington Post and you’ll get the whole picture. But plenty of people don’t read news at all, and watch TV, where they might see stuff like the headline pictured above. And as we know, lots of other people don’t get information from any professional news source, print or broadcast, and just go by what their friends tell them on social media. Or what Trump tells them, God help us…

Today is Alexa’s Christmas and Easter, all in one…

cyber

I just asked Alexa about the weather, and she told me what my glances out the window had caused me to suspect: Those little sunshine icons I saw on my phone yesterday were misleading. Today, it will be damp and cloudy, at least until mid-afternoon.

No big deal.

But then she added, unbidden:

By the way, it’s Cyber Monday. To shop Amazon deals, just ask.

For me, today is the day after the first Sunday of Advent. For Alexa, the universe is shaped differently.

From a first-week-of-Advent perspective, we might ask ourselves, “Why did God make you?” turn to the Baltimore Catechism and be told that “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.”

But Alexa was created by Amazon, and Jeff Bezos made her to sell stuff.

It gives her a whole different perspective on existence.

All of that said, we might ask what meaning “Cyber Monday” has in the universe of 2020. I mean, isn’t every day kind of Cyber Monday? Or Tuesday, or whatever?

As I recall, the idea — as ecommerce first came into its own — was that after the execrable “Black Friday,” the first day that people were back at “work” and sitting at their computers, they spent a scandalous (from the perspective of their employers) amount of time ordering stuff online.

This seemed to fit with what I saw after I started blogging in 2005: People read blogs and commented during what we generally thought of as office hours. Nights and weekends? Forget it — no point in posting anything then.

But we’ve just spent a whole year in which millions worked from home. And in which people avoided stores and bought more and more stuff online every day.

So… what’s special about Cyber Monday now?

Maybe nothing. I went to Amazon on my browser, expecting to see a huge display showing how exciting Cyber Monday allegedly was… and was greeted by the rather boring display of administrative functions you see below. No mention of a special day of any kind.

I had to click again on the Amazon logo in the upper-left corner to see the deals you see above. And I had to scroll down the page to see those. The top of the page was a promo for some made-for-Prime movie called “Uncle Frank.” (I saw a preview for that, and couldn’t tell what it was about, so I’m kind of doubting I’ll watch it.)

So maybe it’s not such a special day after all. But no one told Alexa. Perhaps they didn’t want to spoil her childlike wonder. She’s young, so she’s like a kid this time of year. You say good morning to her, and she’s all “Santa Claus is coming!”

Which would be adorable, were she actually, you know, a child

routine

Why can’t we have this in South Carolina?

I thought this was a neat thing, and read the story about it with interest, until I got to the part where it listed the states where this service was available, and South Carolina wasn’t one of them.

I started to type, “and of course South Carolina wasn’t one of them,” but I decided not to be all negative, and I’m conscious that I use “of course” too often in a number of contexts.

But it’s a shame. It would be cool if, assuming the test I took yesterday turned out positive (which I doubt, but bear with me), everyone with a smartphone (OK, everybody who had a smartphone and activated the feature) who had been near me would be warned.

But nope…

Hey, I got tested! No results yet, of course…

CVS queue

Ever since I got back from Memphis, I’ve been meaning to get a COVID test. I figured someone in my group of five family members — having spent about 20 hours, there and back, in a van — should do it. And I was curious about the process.

I was amused, in a dark-humor way, at the notice on the box I was supposed to put my completed test in.

I was amused, in a dark-humor way, at the notice on the box I was supposed to put my completed test in.

So I made an appointment yesterday, and went to have it done about an hour ago.

It was a little weird. I had to wait about 15 minutes in a drive-thru line — at the same CVS store I go into frequently — and struggle through hearing the instructions over the distorted sound system. But I got it done. And it wasn’t unpleasant or anything. I only had to put the swap barely into my nose, rather than poking at my brain with it, the way I’d heard from horror stories. Of course, maybe that means the test won’t be valid. I don’t know.

I’ll let you know what I hear back, which should be in two or three days.

You just never know. One of my ADCO colleagues — someone I haven’t seen in person since March, although we had our weekly Facetime meeting this morning — learned she was positive yesterday. Fortunately, she feels OK so far, except for having lost her sense of taste. I hope that’s the extent of it for her.

Anyway, I’ll report back. Here’s the video they texted to me, and which I neglected to watch before I got there…

The wedding party that infected 176 people, and killed seven

wedding party

You know, I had looked forward to doing some fun posts after the election was over, what with the madness of Trump behind us. Maybe even some silly ones.

But now, you know, he’s refusing to get himself behind us. Which is sometimes amusing, of course. See this video. But with Joe trying to set up a new government and save the country and all and Trump’s games getting in the way of that, the joke has worn thin. And then there’s things like Trump pushing for war with Iran last week, before his pals talked him down. Which is also kind of a buzz-killer. Oh, and have you heard that our own senior senator has been over messing with Georgia, trying to get them to throw out valid votes? Yeah….

Meanwhile, we have the coronavirus. The big new wave is coming, and we’re not ready. And the holidays are coming up, and with almost half the country having just voted for Donald J. Trump, I’m sort of guessing there might be two or three or even more people out there who won’t make the slightest effort to avoid large, unmasked gatherings.

So, no fun posts for now. But maybe this is a good time to share this story from The Los Angeles Times the other day. Let me set it up for you.

In August, seven people left California to have a wedding in Maine. The group consisted of the happy couple and five members of the groom’s family (making me guess the bride was from Maine, but I don’t know).

They had a reception at the Big Moose Inn in Millinocket, Me. There were 55 people there.

OK, right off the bat you want to yell, “Why are you traveling to Maine to have a gathering of people?” But in their defense, they did take some precautions. The entire party that traveled across the country got tested as soon as they got to civilization — I mean, to the East Coast. They were all negative. “At the time, Millinocket had not reported a single case of COVID-19.”

The servers at the reception wore masks, and took the temperatures of every guest as they entered. So, sorta kinda good so far.

Of course, at the time in Maine, gatherings of more than 50 people were not allowed. But hey, they only went five over, right? Unfortunately, although signs were posted saying everyone was required to wear masks, “guests did not comply,” according to a report by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

And you see, there was one person there who was infected.

Others at the party got it, and with shocking carelessness, went to work and public events after starting to get sick.

Eventually, 176 people in addition to the index case got the virus. Seven of those people died.

Here’s the kicker sentence:

None of the victims who lost their lives had attended the party.

It’s quite a story, compellingly told. I recommend you read the whole thing

Should I go ahead and vote? Have you?

A friend who voted today took this picture while waiting in the queue.

A friend who voted today took this picture while waiting in the queue.

I’m starting to feel doubts. They may not affect my behavior, but I’m having them.

Y’all know how strongly I feel about the importance of turning out and voting with one’s neighbors (which is way communitarian), in person, on actual Election Day. It is to me a major, deeply meaningful ritual of life in America.

But… this is an extraordinary situation, is it not?

First, we have the most important election in my lifetime, one in which we will either save our republic by electing a normal, decent human being as our highest elected official, or drag the country — and the rest of the world, which has been holding its breath for four years waiting for us to fix this — down further and deeper into the mire, the utter degradation.

So, you know, I need to vote, and it needs to count.

Second, we’re in the strangest situation of my life, in which so much about normality has gone out the window. For instance, I may never again go to work at an office, or anywhere other than my home — which overthrows thousands of years of human social and economic behavior. And that’s just one piece of it. I mean, 220,000 Americans are dead from this thing, and it’s far, far from over.

So… maybe I should make an exception in this instance.

Up to now, I’ve held to my resolve to wait until Nov. 3. But each day, more friends and family members go out and vote early — or technically, vote “in-person absentee.”

Which on the one hand supports my plan, by taking pressure off and reducing crowds on the day of. But what if that day is still even more insane, and things break down? I’m pretty sure I’ll get to vote anyway, but what sort of societal breakdown will occur while we’re waiting for all the votes to be counted, and a clear winner to emerge and be accepted?

I dunno. What do y’all think?

For that matter, what do y’all do? What have you done already? Some of you have reported in, but what about everybody else? Who’s voted by mail? Who’s done the “in-person absentee” thing? Who’s waiting for Election Day?

And why?

I would find it helpful to know…