RUNTRAILS' 2021 JOURNAL

 

  

Sweetwater Creek State Park, Georgia

 

   
 
 
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  INDEPENDENCE FROM CORONAVIRUS? NOPE!
  A MID-YEAR UPDATE: "PANDEMIC
OF THE UN-VACCINATED"

SUNDAY, JULY 4

 
"America's anti-maskers have become America's anti-vaxxers. Their argument    
against these common-sense precautions is personal freedom. The only
problem with this logic, or lack thereof, is that their claims to
freedom are causing the rest of us to lose ours."
 
~ Michael Gordon
 
 

This time last year, people were literally and figuratively sick of COVID-19 and desperate to get back to a normal life.

Pharmaceutical companies around the world were feverishly working to develop and test effective vaccines against the insidious virus that disrupted life around the globe. By the winter, three vaccines were given emergency approval by the CDC and FDA for use in the United States: Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.

It was great to see record-breaking  progress of such effective vaccines but that warp speed also created skepticism with some people.

This Facebook meme I saw recently is excellent:

Production and distribution of the vaccines were ramped up. Priorities were set for the order in which various groups of people would become eligible to get the free vaccines, with the most vulnerable and the most essential first in line. By April, 2021 most adults were able to fairly easily get the vaccine in this country.

That is, if they wanted it.

Interest began to wane in late April as new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths declined. A large number of people have decided they don't want it, and their reasons vary from skepticism about possible side effects to paranoia about government control over their freedom.

It's a different story for the relatively few people who have medical conditions that legitimately preclude getting the vaccine. This entry is not directed at them.

If youíre tired of reading about the COVID pandemic, are a staunch anti-vaxxer, or think it's all a conspiracy to strip you of your freedoms, just skip this entry and go on to the next one.

Iím writing this mostly to support the people who believe in science and protecting public health, and partly for my own historical perspective twenty-five years from now when Iím in an assisted living home and amusing myself by reading through my old web journal!

This is about the tenth version of this entry I've written. It's dated July 4 but it's now two weeks later because I keep editing the parts that express my opinions so they are less harsh. I've done my best to provide reliable facts in the mid-year statistics and ever-morphing status of restrictions and precautions.

I said in my recent introductory entry that I try to avoid controversial topics in this personal web journal (any forum, actually). This will probably be my most "controversial" entry this year -- until I write an update on the pandemic at the end of 2021. It will only be "controversial" if you disagree with what I'm about to say.

Trust me when I say this is one of the tamer versions of this entry!

I will use a mix of pertinent Life Is Good t-shirt designs (love that company!), memes I found on the internet, and photos of our dogs this year wearing patriotic bow ties or bandanas in keeping with July 4.

CAUTION:  MY VACCINE RANT

I found the quote at the top of this entry during an online search about COVID deniers and thought it was appropriate for Independence Day, 2021.

I firmly believe that getting vaccinated against the coronavirus and its various mutations is just common sense. We are fortunate in this country to have this opportunity. Some countries have little or no access to vaccines yet.

We already have stockpiled two or three times what we need to vaccinate every American. I'm glad we're starting to share some of it with less-developed countries. That's to our benefit in many ways, too.

Believing conspiracy theories and rebelling against scientific facts and sensible precautions like wearing masks is Third World mentality.

Anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers sometimes say those of us who are vaccinated and taking precautions against COVID are "sheep" and foolish to believe government officials. I say these skeptics are "sheep" to believe the politicians and other people who are deliberately misleading them!

There are some bad actors who have spread destructive disinformation on social media for their own political, financial, or anti-vaxxer gain.

Unfortunately, too many people have continued to spread this disinformation and misinformation out of haste, ignorance, or because it supports their own opinion about the pandemic and precautions like masks and vaccines.

If you read something on the internet, especially social media sites, ask yourself if you like it just because it fits your preconceived ideas. What if it's nowhere near the truth? Try to verify it with a reputable site or person before sharing it to your social network.

This is true about anything you read on Facebook, Twitter, etc., not just pandemic-related posts or articles.


See that raised eyebrow? Be skeptical like Dapper Don when you're
reading things on social media or questionable internet sites. (July, 2021)

Some people I know may read this and strongly disagree with me. That's their right. I'd rather not know who they are, so I'm not posting any version of this entry on Facebook because it'll open up a can of worms. There are good reasons I don't post my email address or social media handles on this public website.

I think most of the people I care about are vaccinated, and I applaud the Facebook friends I've never met who proudly shared on their pages when they got their vaccines. (I did, too.)

I don't want to argue with anyone who is staunchly anti-mask or anti-vax because I'm unlikely to change their mind. I don't respect their choice and I definitely don't understand them -- especially the ones in the business of "health care." They're at the top of my list of nominees for Darwin awards.


That's what Casey and I think about health care workers who refuse
to get vaccinated! It's fine if they choose to put themselves at risk, but
not the people they are caring for who are medically vulnerable. (7-4-21)

I will try to discuss the matter calmly with people who are hesitant to get vaccinated to find out their reasons. They might consider changing their minds if I handle the conversation diplomatically.

BE PART OF THE SOLUTION, NOT THE PROBLEM

I applaud the hospitals, medical offices and other businesses that have the wisdom (and guts) to require the vaccine for employment. It's one thing to risk your own life. It's quite different when you risk the lives of other people.

Ironically, the political ideology I've been most aligned with for the past 45 years is Libertarian. Now those are some folks who believe in personal freedom! I don't see getting vaccinated against this deadly virus as an affront to my personal freedom. Quite the opposite, as explained in the quote I chose to begin this entry.

Libertarians also strongly believe in personal responsibility and not relying on government for everything.

I think it is each individual's responsibility to protect their own health, the health of their loved ones, and yes, the health of the people around them. Like it or not, we're all in this mess together and what we decide for ourselves re: a highly contagious virus affects other people, too.

I'm perfectly willing to rely on our government to keep us updated with accurate information and statistics, and I'm willing for my tax money to go into the research, development, and distribution of effective vaccines against this disease (and any others threatening our public health).


L-R: Casey, Holly, and Don in their patriotic bandanas and bow tie  (June, 2021)

This virus and its even more deadly variations now spreading around the world are only going to get worse as they mutate in areas of this country and other nations where people aren't vaccinated or taking reasonable precautions against spreading them.

My fear is that the vaccines that are now protecting some of us will be rendered less and less effective as new variants emerge.

With all the global travel, those evolving mutations affect everyone on this earth! I believe those of us in countries with access to the vaccines should be motivated to help stop the spread of these virulent strains. I see that as our civic and moral duty.

The only people I'm aligned with on COVID issues are reputable scientists and medical personnel who know what they are talking about and who recommend obvious and sensible things to protect ourselves and those around us. I trust them, not all the wannabes who spout crap on the internet and radio.

I just want the renegades to be part of the solution -- not the problem -- so we can get back to some semblance of the "normal" we used to know!

INDEPENDENCE FROM THE CORONAVIRUS?

Independence Day 2021 looks a lot different than it did in 2020 but our country is not back to pre-pandemic conditions yet. Unfortunately, we aren't ready to declare our independence from the continually-evolving COVID-19 variants yet.

Highly successful vaccines are helping Americans celebrate the beginning of their independence from coronavirus this Fourth of July weekend but, unfortunately, the pandemic isnít over yet despite the wishes of millions of Americans who are itching to get back to ďnormal.Ē

A year ago, who woulda thought we'd still be dealing with this virus??


2020 was a challenge. Unfortunately, it's not in the rearview mirror yet.

I see two main problems to a return to "normalcy."

First, the current Delta variant of the virus, which is even more contagious than the earlier versions, is rapidly becoming the most common form in this country. The three current approved vaccines in the U.S. appear to protect fully-vaccinated people from being hospitalized or dying if they get it but scientists donít know yet  how long their immunity will last.

There are some "breakthrough" cases of people getting the virus even though they are fully vaccinated. The vaccines are very good but they aren't 100%, especially against new variants.

More and more people who are not vaccinated -- mostly younger ones, not older folks like earlier in the pandemic -- are the ones now in hospitals and on ventilators. In mid-July the CDC reports that 99% of the COVID patients who are in the hospital have not been vaccinated.


Dapper Don wearing one of his patriotic bows  (July, 2021)

The second main problem is the continuing resistance of the people who are refusing to get the vaccine. Not only are they endangering their own health, they are also risking spreading more new variants around the country that the current vaccines may NOT be effective against.

Six months into 2021, only about 57% of U.S. adults are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and its variants. The stats are much higher for adults 65+, who are more vulnerable to the virus (78% fully vaccinated). That's the good news.

Approximately 66% of U.S. adults have gotten only one dose and are only partially protected. Some have decided that's enough. Others are just waiting the required time for their second dose.


Holly wants to know why the rest of you aren't vaccinated. She's got all HER shots!
(6-2-21,  from a photo shoot on her fourth birthday)

The bad news is that about 43% of adults in this country are not fully protected against serious complications or death from the virus.

The rate is even higher in Georgia, one of the states with the fewest vaccinated people. In mid-July only 39% of Georgia adults are fully vaccinated. That means a whopping 61% are NOT fully vaccinated. To me, it's not only an embarrassment but it scares me because those are the people I may come into contact with.

The vaccines were approved two or three months ago for kids 12-17 years old but so far only a third of them across the country have been vaccinated (and fewer in Georgia, I'm sure). Children under 12 havenít been approved yet for any of the vaccines and probably won't until after school starts in the fall.

Those of you who resist getting the vaccine: do you realize you're putting these young kids at risk???


Don in another patriotic bow for Memorial Day; he's posing on the steps to three 
kids' slides at one of our nearby parks. He doesn't want any children to get COVID!

Many schools and colleges remained at least part virtual in the first half of 2021. Now the CDC recommends most schools resume in-person learning with some safety precautions this fall. That might work well in areas of the country that have lower cases of COVID but could spell disaster in areas with more cases and lower vaccination rates.

Each individual school district will decide how all this will work, so I expect continued disagreements among parents and staff.

I don't think many parents want to resume home schooling for the 2021-22 school year! 

HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT!

When the vaccines got emergency CDC approval in November, 2020 and were offered to medical personnel, first responders, and the elderly living in group facilities, Jim and I watched closely to see when we'd be eligible to make our appointments.

We're in our early 70s and would reportedly be in the next group in Georgia. (The priority group order varied a bit, state by state.)

Jim was initially a little hesitant, wanting to wait to see how people reacted to it. However, he was on board as soon as appointments opened up to anyone over age 65 in Georgia.

We spent several days in early January trying to get through on jammed phone lines to make an appointment somewhere in the southern part of metro Atlanta, to no avail. Interest was high among seniors but all the moving parts weren't working well yet.

We finally got our opportunity on January 9 in an adjacent county when several hundred remaining medical workers and first responders were getting their first Pfizer vaccines.

The volunteer coordinator at the hospice organization where I do pet therapy with Dapper Don got permission for her volunteers to get shots as "front line medical workers" -- even though we weren't able to start seeing hospice patients inside their various facilities until April. That was a nice surprise.

I waited in line in my car at the health department for more than an hour as vehicles slowly crept toward the canopies where they were giving the vaccines. Just before I reached that spot I heard staff discussing the need to open a new case of the Pfizer vaccine, which must be kept extremely cold. They needed more for the people still in line but were afraid they'd have some of the valuable vials left over and have to throw them out.

They decided to start giving the vaccine to people in the 65+ category that day. I called Jim to come get his shot. This was two days before all Georgians 65+ were eligible, so we were grateful.

Even though we knew we werenít fully vaccinated yet, we were relieved that we had started the process. We got our second dose in early February.

Now weíre five months out and wondering when weíll need a booster shot! When the science says we need it, we'll get it. As far as we know we haven't been exposed to someone with COVID and neither of us has had any symptoms of the disease either before or after we got vaccinated. We want to keep it that way.

Neither of us had any problems with either dose of the Pfizer vaccine except a few hours of mild soreness at the injection site. I know some people have worse reactions for a few hours or a couple days but the risk of side effects from the vaccines is sure better than the risks at any age of getting COVID!

The Pfizer vaccine is getting close to full FDA approval later this summer. I hope that will change the mind of some people who are "on the fence" because they are skeptical of the emergency status of the shots.

It was a relief to be fully vaccinated by mid-February but we continued wearing our masks indoors, limited our trips inside stores, used curbside and take-out options, and social distanced when we were in any size group of people indoors or out.

We did not wear masks when walking or cycling outdoors. The cart paths, trails, and residential streets where we walk and ride are wide enough to maintain a safe distance.

Reported COVID-19 cases peaked in the U.S. on January 10, 2021. Last December and January also had the highest number of hospitalizations and deaths from the virus. The tally so far in the U.S. as of June 30, 2021 is about 34.5 million reported cases and about 620,000 deaths. The worldwide death count is now over 4,000,000.

Most experts think our numbers are low and even lower in less-developed countries, due to a lack of reporting. Reported cases, hospitalizations, and deaths fell significantly in the U.S. from April to June this year as the number of vaccinated people increased.

Too many people got excited, thinking we'd beaten this virus.

Unfortunately, we haven't. In July the cases and hospitalizations are rising again as people have let their guard down and the more transmissible and lethal Delta variant has become the dominant strain. Some states have stopped reporting their cases and deaths, mostly for political or economic reasons.

As if that makes them go away!!

In June the CDC gave the green light for fully vaccinated people to gather indoors or outdoors without face masks but recommends partially or unvaccinated people continue to wear masks indoors. Most states have lifted all of their restrictions.

By mid-July several large counties in California reinstated their mask mandate for everyone indoors, vaccinated or not. It's a definite set-back and may occur in other areas where COVID cases are increasing again.

The mask mandate remains in effect at all U.S. airports and on planes, which has caused an unprecedented surge in passenger misbehavior and disruptions in the air as recalcitrant people refuse to wear masks.


A person I'll keep anonymous posted this on Twitter 5-31-21
(I'm not on Twitter; someone shared it on their Facebook page.)

I will continue to wear a mask indoors in the foreseeable future when Iím in stores or public buildings. I have no idea who is vaccinated and who isnít, and I donít feel completely safe against new mutations of the virus.

In addition, right now Iím recovering from some major surgery and the last thing I need to do when my immune system is most likely compromised is to catch COVID!

LETíS PARTY!!

With CDC approval for people to once again gather in large numbers either indoors or out, the Memorial Day and July 4th holiday weekends looked more normal this year with large gatherings at beaches, parades, fireworks, and other festivities.

 
Not so fast! Letting our guard down is increasing cases again.

Restaurants and theaters are open again, sports teams are playing to full stadiums, and more people than ever are going on vacations.

Air and land travel the July 4th weekend set new records in the U.S. despite high gas, hotel, and rental car prices. Foreign travel is still limited to and from many countries but residents are filling up plane seats, hotels, and restaurants again in this country.

And now a couple weeks later, cases are increasing again. That shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.

We have no desire to fly or drive anywhere but here's another problem we can relate to since we spent so many years RVing around N. America. People have been buying RVs in record numbers since the beginning of the pandemic, causing even more crowding in campgrounds and public parks. Popular national parks are setting attendance records this year.

An increase in RVers was a big reason we stopped traveling full time by RV in 2017 and bought our current house. Now the crowding is even worse, and many newbies havenít learned (or don't care about) acceptable campground etiquette.

Overcrowding, difficulty making reservations where weíd want to go, long waits to get the RV we might want, and increasingly poor RV quality and service further discourages us from even thinking about getting another camper in the near future. Weíre still mostly satisfied staying at home.

The general economy is growing but recovery isnít complete. Many businesses are having trouble finding qualified employees, especially in the service industry where pay is low and people canít work from home, even though there are plenty of people still not working. A record number of older workers retired earlier than planned and younger ones are more picky about the jobs they want to take.

Supply-chain issues plague many industries, whether the items are produced here or in other countries. One of the biggest problems this year is the lack of computer chips, which go into a lot more things than computers! Every kind of vehicle is in short supply and costs significantly more because there are so many chips in them -- cars, trucks, RVs, and more.

All the technology products we love, high-end appliances, building supplies, some food items, and other products are also in short supply because manufactures can't get the parts they need or find enough workers to do the job.

Many businesses have been affected with other shortages, too, which obviously affects consumers. Add in the increasing number of ransomware attacks and scams on individuals, companies, and infrastructure . . . itís a wonder to me that the stock market has continued at record high levels in 2021.

I try to keep this in mind as I deal with the uncertainties and frustrations of the pandemic:

The rest of this year will be interesting. I'll be watching as safely as possible from the sidelines and give an update in December unless something major happens before then.

Next entrynew photos from hikes at Sweetwater Creek State Park

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Casey-Girl, Holly-Holly, & Dapper Don

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