TWL: another 4-week update

This week matched last week with over a million new COVID cases in the US. The last 4 week total really shows how bad things are. We are closing in on matching and then exceeding the winter case load–while we have the solution in hand.

And still, I have to ask students to put on their masks in buildings on campus where masks are required. Still, they come in bare-faced and don’t comply until reminded. Looking back at the potential we touched in June, and considering the idiocy that brought us back to this hell–it hurts my heart and boggles my mind.

I am sad and mad and scared. Nothing new there.

A mess in a mask searching for acceptable risk

I face a hundred masked students from behind my own mask where I teach at the front of the lecture hall. Six out of every ten of my students are vaccinated, but I can’t know who the 40 unvaccinated ones are–until, one by one, official reports come to me on their behalf asking for extensions of deadlines when they get sick.

At least we have masks.

Teaching in a mask, yelling from inside the mask, and hoping the kids in the back can hear me–all of this is called the new normal. And we are getting used to it because we are adaptable and we can get used to anything. But it really is not anything like normal to have my nose and mouth covered while I yell-talk for three hours and sweat under the mask. Then I walk the mile across campus through the 90 degree swelter, still masked because that’s what they’ll tell us next. Keep your mask on outdoors too. That advice is coming.

I struggle to make sense out of the mess, to try to understand ridiculous behavior of half of Americans. And I give up. This virus has taken too much of life. I’ll wear my mask, but there are some things I deserve to do. I will teach in person because I love it. I will celebrate a birthday, a retirement, a new baby. Damn it, I will. There is some line in the sand of acceptable risk that I must define for myself so I can have some of my own normal life back.

Of course I’ll still monitor case numbers. I’ll still watch the news. I’ll still cry at 2 am at the sheer senseless loss of human life, at the suffering and pain. I’ll still be careful.

The numbers this week are terrible BUT not worse than last week. More than a million new cases in the US, just like last week. Hospitals are full. Cases doubled on my campus, but that coincided with the start of mandatory testing. So before last week we probably had that many cases but didn’t know it. Every step out your door is a calculated risk. Do so vaccinated and masked. Wash your hands like a surgeon. Wear masks indoors with anyone but family. The beast isn’t backing down and with half of our world working for the wrong team, the rest of us need relief while we try to find our way to live.

20 simple steps to host a festivus for the rest of us, pandemic style

So you want to host a party, but there’s this damn pandemic, and you adamantly won’t be involved in a super-spreader event. Well, I have experience as a seasoned guest at pandemic parties because I attended two, for a total of 150 excruciating minutes, and I’m here to share my wisdom. Of course I was only invited because people like my husband. Anyway, at one party an unvaccinated guest hugged me and told me the vaccine would change her DNA and she would not get it. In my pandemic etiquette world, the host should have known about that during routine guest screening, told me ahead of time, and kept the two of us far apart–or just uninvited one of us. I don’t care which. At another party, indoors, I was the lone (masked) ranger and watched for an hour while fifteen people yell-talked and blew their breath in each others’ mouths. Then they ate finger food while I snuck out. Both events showed me what a person like me (nerdy paranoid awkward germophobes who think Darwin was onto something logical) needs at a party.

Based on my experience at these social events of the summer, I have compiled some DIY, homemade, completely amateur guidelines.

  1. Only invite fully vaccinated people.
  2. Hold the party OUTSIDE.
  3. Boil the hell (and any trace of virus) out of the food that you cook outside. I suggest a Low Country Boil!
  4. Prepare desserts in a hairnet and mask, with surgically washed hands.
  5. Don’t be shy about bragging about your sterile baking skills.
  6. Don’t let anyone inside your house, except to use a designated bathroom, and make them wear a mask.
  7. If they claim they can’t pee in a mask, make them go behind the shed.
  8. When they return from the bathroom, ask them if they washed their hands.
  9. Do not shy away from the elephant in the room. Face the beast. Talk about it. Make jokes. Make people uncomfortable so they think about everyone more than themselves.
  10. Play outdoor games, competitively.
  11. Drink alcohol while playing outdoor games, competitively.
  12. Use all disposable plates and cutlery.
  13. Split the food into stations with a ridiculous number of serving spoons so each couple can share, but have their own and groups can stay isolated if they want. Think middle school dance.
  14. Smile a lot because you’re outside without a mask in the safest environment possible during a pandemic and you have not seen other humans or the bottom of anyone’s face in person in 17 months.
  15. Do not hug.
  16. Do not shake hands. If forced to do so, slather on the hand sanitizer and even rub some on your hugged shoulder and air-kissed cheek.
  17. Squirt some ethanol on your hugger/shaker to sanitize them as well.
  18. Have no shame.
  19. Laugh.
  20. Stay alive.

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It’s Tuesday, so I must interrupt this post to bring you an update on surging COVID cases in the US. Smart people can read graphs. Only smart people read my blog. Here’s the graph.

TWL: anger under the mask

There seems to be a new mask hater among the loud and stereotypical mask haters.

This angry masked crusader has faithfully worn a mask for 18 months. They isolated and stayed stuck at home, missing out on life while unmasked bandits kept the virus alive and well.

The new mask haters (likely always hated masks, but now they’re more vocal)–anyway, they got vaccinated as soon as possible and felt tentative rays of raw hope in May and June that the pandemic could maybe end and life could resume.

They did everything in their power to help humanity survive.

Now they are told they could spread the virus to those who refuse the vaccine. The same folks who wouldn’t wear a mask and ignorantly spread the virus need to be carried again. Now the new mask haters are told they must wear a mask to protect the unvaccinated never-maskers AGAIN.

How is it always the responsibility of these 60% of the people to carry the deadweights, to ensure the survival of these humans who won’t even do their minimal share and get vaccinated and stop working on the side of the enemy virus?

Under masks there is new anger, frustration, and weariness. I thank the angry masker for helping fight off the beast in every way possible. I applaud their relentless and steady march to help others survive. I hope for the day these brave fighters can unmask and live again, can consider their own happiness and choices and freedoms. What a day that will be.

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This week in the US we saw a million new cases again, a horribly high number, but about the same as last week. So perhaps we’re at a new plateau that (hopefully) will lead to a drop in cases next week or soon after. So be angry, but keep your mask on. Talk someone into finally getting vaccinated. This has gone on far too long and we are exhausted. But maybe we can beat the beast.