TWL: our world of sadness

It took 30 weeks back in 2020 for the US to reach a total of 5 million confirmed COVID cases. In the last seven days, we had more than 5 million new cases. Simple math, the virus is spreading 30 times faster than it was midsummer of 2020.

Though we’re told the current predominant strain of COVID-19 is “milder” and “more contagious” than their older cousins, with so many cases, the next month will bring heartache because more people we love are going to die, while our children sit in schools (the most densely packed human spaces in the world) without teachers (because they’re all out sick), and college kids share breath at football games (beyond my comprehension, and I love football), and diehards still scoff at masks (which is so 2020), and spread and spread and spread, and basically give up the fight.

5 million cases in one week

There have been over 9 million cases in the US so far in 2022. As noted last week, at this rate we’ll beat 2021 by mid-February.

I’m sorry to always deliver such sickening numbers. I’m sure I ruin your Tuesday every week. By only checking the data on Tuesdays, I can let myself think about other stuff all week, like how much avocado to put in my salad, whether to make jelly doughnuts now or wait ’til Fat Tuesday, and how to pass off cauliflower rice as real rice to my best friend. (The secret to getting him to eat anything is to sprinkle on some garlic and parmesan cheese.) I promise, I don’t just think about food. I also think about how to play Coldplay’s Clocks on the piano. I think I’ll have to memorize it in order to play it fast enough. It has a bunch of flats (those are the black keys) and they take up a lot of my brain space. I’m also crocheting things: I made a scarf because I’m always freezing, and I’m going to fix an old purse by making a new outer cover for no reason except to make something and sit under a blanket in the quiet while I do so. I’m also sleeping like a hibernating bear every night. I love cold nights. I’m also back to teaching in person. I try not to think about that too much. And while I’m teaching, I get to focus on tiny things like atoms and molecules instead of giant tidal waves like pandemics. I do get tested every week and wear a KN95 or N95 mask. And my students are very brave.

Like many of you, this pandemic is wearing me down to a crumpled nub of myself. I remember me. I hope to get her back. But she’s fading into the third person, crushed by this world full of sadness.

TWL: we’re gonna need a bigger y-axis

We all saw the terror in their eyes in the movie Jaws when the huge-beyond-imagination-shark was sighted up close waaaay out in the vast ocean, and one of the three dudes muttered, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Well, up close and personal, the Velcro virus, sticky and contagious, has no need for stealth because so many of its victims line up unprotected to take their turn. Brace yourselves–our former y-axis has been blown to smithereens by the caseloads this week with almost 4 million new cases. DOUBLE the number from last week. More than half a million cases each day in the US of A. So, I say we’re gonna need a bigger y-axis to graph this week’s case data.

Here’s another way to look at the data: 4-week chunks. Almost 8 million cases in the last 4 weeks.

(Again, we needed a bigger y-axis. If you’re asking what’s a y-axis? I respectfully request you stop reading this blog.)

I remember at the beginning of the pandemic checking caseloads each day and graphing and trying to model the data and predict the future: just how big was this threat? Then we took a new perspective and graphed once a week when we all realized the pandemic would not burn out in a few months. And then (holy smokes that slow boiling frog is so stupid) extending to 4-week checks when we succumbed to our dread that the time duration unit of this pandemic might be years.

Hey, we’re not frogs in a pot. The human race has highly intelligent members. They brought us electricity, ice cream, cell phones, nuclear bombs, indoor plumbing, Dopler radar, medicines to extend your life by decades, glorious music, heart-stopping art, plastic, polyester, Broadway, food… Hell, they let you fly. And then there are those who enjoy all these benefits without understanding any of the threads that hold society together. Many are quite loud. Some whine and complain. A bunch are suspicious of all they don’t comprehend. Together they are proud team members with the Velcro virus: Team COVID, the winning team. Team HUMANs are being demolished.

Indulge me: One more graph of cases in 2020, 2021, and so far in 2022. Let’s check in on this graph occasionally to see how long in 2022 Americans need to surpass our previous yearly record. Yeah, that’ll be fun.

No suspense here. No shark beneath the boat. No need to wonder and lose sleep. This is simple math, right? If we keep up a steady 5 million cases a week pace, we’ll beat last year by mid-February. We’ll need a bigger y-axis by spring. Holy crap.

TWL: hide

The studies of viruses, contagion, pandemics are games of microbiology, biochemistry and math. Science and logic. If this, then that. Complex systems follow predictable patterns.

The study of human culture, societies, governments is a game of attitudes, power, and fights for resources. Politics and backstabbing. Smoke and mirrors. To predict what the humans will do demands a coin flip per nanosecond.

When a virus finds a victim, and that victim is human, what can be expected?

How will a virus survive? By attacking its victim and spreading to the next victim.

What if the humans fight back? The virus will mutate, evolve, change its mode of attack.

Then what can the humans do? Fight harder, unite as one, protect each other like family.

What else might the humans do? Deny the threat exists and carry on, oblivious to the threat.

What else might the humans do? Give up and be consumed.

This is it, humans of America. The week ending today 12/28/21 was our worst week yet. In the United States of America, the richest land with the greatest freedoms, with the strongest military defenses and the most brilliant minds, a land of hope and opportunity where we are free to rule ourselves, fight each other, and speak our minds, a tiny virus particle is cutting us down at the knees.

Where are you, America? Why aren’t you coming together to take down this beast? How did COVID infect 2 million of you in one week–the most so far in over 100 weeks?

The next wave is upon us, washing over us like a tidal wave, a mud slide, a forest fire. We can’t run. But we should hide. Voluntarily separate. Demand remote instruction. Work from home. Call in sick. Use your vacation time. Double mask when you must leave the house. Keep your children at home. Let’s not wait for the government to tell us what they are afraid to do, what we know we must do, what the virus has shown us to do.

TWL: 12/21/21 winter solstice

Remember Summer Solstice? During the week ending Tuesday June 22, 2021, there were only <80,000 cases of COVID for the whole week. Six months later and we have double that weekly number per day.

Winter solstice 2021: 150,000 cases each day, and we broke a million cases this week. Delta. Omicron. Travel. Holidays. Unmasked. Unvaccinated. Back to a million. Insanity.

1,050,000 cases this week

COVID-19 is very contagious, but my recent experiences have illustrated the effectiveness of vaccination and booster. During the fall semester of in-person instruction of over 400 students, I tested every week and never tested positive. We were masked during lecture, the university installed HEPA filters, and I was the crazy professor who insisted noses were actually covered by masks. And then when the semester ended, I escaped on a road trip with my sister and spent a day with a Covid-positive human that I love, who found out he had Covid in the hour right before we left. None of the other five of us have tested positive in the 10 days since. We are all vaccinated. A year ago, pre-vaccination, we would all have caught it. Two of us would have gone down, no doubt, with our flimsy lungs. We are so lucky to be vaccinated. Science amazes me.

TWL: week 100

Today was the abrupt end of a four-day road trip with my Irish twin through seven (or more) states and back. Like the Apollo 13 mission, our trek missed the moon, but we got home safely. Unlike the Apollo 13 mission, over the 1375 miles we sang medleys of old musicals (like “I sure am feeling sorry for the pony”) and theme songs from 1970s sitcoms (“people let me tell ya’ ’bout my best friend,” for example, and “do doot do doot do doooo, doot do do doot do doooo do” from M*A*S*H); we laughed hysterically until she was red of face and unable to breathe; we ate pretzel rods and oatmeal and Whoppers; and we did not hydrate, digest, or sleep well. We rode the last 687 miles in masks to protect each other. We classified a thousand drivers by one nice name or one not nice name. We avoided many wrecks and speed traps. We discovered the express lane. And when we arrived back at the starting point, a really nice guy brought us groceries. If the two of us ever go to the actual moon, we’ll probably do most of these things on the trip (and that nice guy will greet us on our return).

I’m processing complex emotions tonight and I’m too spent to line them all up against the wall and march them into paragraphs. Recently this blockage of verbal sharing has been labeled my “filter.” Sometimes it’s intentional. Tonight I’m stymied. I’m stifled. I’m stuck in a loop of worry. Instead of more random thoughts, how about I’ll just share numbers? It’s Tuesday. That’s what you came here for anyway.

One hundred weeks of pandemic

This is the 100th week since COVID-19 found its golden host in the US. We reached the 50 million total case mark and 800,000 deaths on this hellish week, with the virus keeping its steady pace of attacking 120,000 humans per day. Seems to give new meaning to the old saying “No news is good news.”