COVID COP

On a recent episode of 60 Minutes, President Biden said the ‘pandemic is over’ but there is still work underway. I don’t think most scientists are on the same page as the President, but most of the public seems to be.

In early 2020, I appointed myself a ‘COVID Cop’.  I’ve had a lot to say since then about COVID and had a lot of opinions about what was right and what was wrong. 

I’ve decided it is time for me to turn in my imaginary COVID cop badge and keep my opinions to myself (and my poor husband).

But before I turn in my badge, I have one last article that I think is worth a read: 10 Tips for Coexisting with COVID (and living a normal-ish life) by Tara Pope from the Washington Post.  She has reported on COVID-19 from the get-go.

Here are her 10 tips:

  1. Get a booster shot
  2. Mask when it’s easy – mask in the grocery store when its crowded, etc.
  3. Mask when you travel – mask in security lines, while in the airport, when boarding, and when deplaning. It isn’t as necessary when the plane is off the ground because of the ventilation system.  That being said, she still masks on planes as do I  
  4. Avoid crowds if possible– you still may want to wear a mask at movies or at the theater
  5. Check community transmission levels – ours is on the lower side right now
  6. Have a Paxlovid plan – check with your provider before an infection
  7. Think about indoor air – consider a portable air cleaner (it might also be handy for wildfire smoke)
  8. Use home tests wisely – be cautious if you have symptoms, even with a negative home test
  9. Stay home when you are sick
  10. Plan around the most vulnerable person in your orbit – be vigilant about masking, testing, and high-risk situations.

The bottom line is that it’s not all or nothing. There’s lots of reasons we shouldn’t be just vaxxed and done. One infection with the virus can sideline you or disrupt your life or the lives of those around you very easily.

Gregg Gonsalves, epidemiologist and associate professor at Yale School of Public Health

I do reserve the right to re-appoint myself as a COVID cop if needed. 😊

Allene

Micro Moments

I was reading a post about Les Petits Bonheurs – little day-to-day joys, simple pleasures, small moments of happiness in French.

The author had some good examples:

A nap in the middle of the afternoon, a glass of wine while reading that latest best seller, a walk in the park

Kay Margaret Kay

I have done a post on simple pleasures before.  I agree with her list and can add some of my own ideas.

On a particularly hot afternoon, when I was thoroughly sick of summer weather, I got to thinking.  Instead of ‘small moments’ of happiness, how about going even more granular and finding ‘micro moments’ of happiness?

I had great fun coming up with this partial list:

  • My soy tea latte every morning
  • Shared laughter
  • My first sips of a cold and crisp sauvignon blanc during our evening happy hour
  • An email from the library that the book I have been waiting for is available to download
  • My husband’s dahlias
  • A visit from a talkative hummingbird
  • Spotting my autumn colors
  • Crossing the border into Canada
  • And, the best of all, waking up to a marine layer after a particularly long hot spell 😊

I quickly realized that this list of micro moments could be infinite……and I think that is a good thing!

Allene

Southcenter

I met a public health work colleague at Southcenter Mall in Tukwila for lunch. 

I have a long history at Southcenter.  It opened in 1968 and I first went there to shop back in the early 70’s.  It was one of the first indoor malls in the Seattle area.  It is located on 3 freeways: I-5, 518, and I-405, so it is a bit of a crossroads.  Over the years, the surrounding area has become a mecca for big box stores, so it is a bit of shopping destination.  It is still the largest mall in Washington state.

Southcenter ‘reinvented’ itself in 2006 and now includes over 200 stores, along with restaurants and a movie theater.  That expansion, along with the prime location, has kept it viable. 

I also have a history of shopping 😊 and I used to shop at Southcenter frequently.  It once had a decent Nordstrom and one of the better Macy’s in the area.  Here is a recent post from KCM about the demise of department stores as mall anchors ☹. 

Southcenter was bustling on Friday.  But both Nordstrom and particularly Macy’s are shadows of their former selves.  The inventory at Nordstrom was pretty sparse and Macy’s was pretty sad!  I won’t be surprised if at some point they both get ‘reinvented’ per the KCM post.

I was one of the few shoppers sporting a mask.  And when 2 public health people get together, Covid-19 always comes up in the conversation.   We both agree that many people are behaving like we are in a ‘post COVID’ world and we can’t do much/anything to change their minds.  We also think that many people are aware that COVID is still in the mix and a risk, but it feels like more of a back burner issue than a front and center one these days. 

That being said:

We know that Covid-19 is here to stay.

Greta Massetti, CDC Epidemiologist, 8/11/22

Anthony Fauci was in Seattle this week to receive the Hutch Award and threw out the first Mariner’s pitch to boot.  Of course, since he is a public health person, he also talked about Covid-19.

He acknowledges that if ‘we knew then what we know now’, we would have done everything different (specifically regarding masks and social distancing).  He also expressed deep disappointment and concern over Americans’ divided outlook on the disease.

“We’re in a very difficult situation.  (Only) A third of the people in our country are vaccinated and probably boosted.  How can that possibly be when you have a disease that’s killed one million Americans and you have a hesitancy to use lifesaving interventions? 

Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to the President and Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 8/9/22

Enough said!

Allene

Living with COVID

As you know, the President was recently infected with the coronavirus BA 5 subvariant.  He was fully vaccinated and boosted twice.  He started a course of Paxlovid right way.  He is now testing negative and didn’t seem to have a serious illness.  He will continue to wear a mask per CDC guidance to protect others.

My symptoms were mild, my recovery was quick and I’m feeling great. The entire time I was in isolation I was able to work, to carry out the duties of the office without any interruption. It’s a real statement on where we are in the fight against COVID-19,” Biden said.

President Biden, 7/27/2022

To me, this proves that an older person can ‘live’ and even work with COVID-19, providing they follow the same precautions as the President! 

We are all living with the coronavirus these days and have been for 2 1/2 years! My husband and I are among the few remaining ‘COVID super dodgers’ out there – to the best of our knowledge!  We are fully vaxxed and have been boosted twice.  We are pretty good at wearing masks, but not perfect.  We test periodically. My husband goes to the gym everyday in his surgical mask.  He says only 5 out of maybe 25 fellow gym goers are masked.  I do eat in an indoor restaurant at times and don’t have a mask on while I eat.  I do mask up in grocery stores and every other indoor space.  But we have traveled, visited friends and family, and are living our lives. 

I am by no means cocky!  As soon as I publish this, we will probably get COVID -19, although I certainly hope we don’t 😊!   With this highly infectious variant you can do everything right and still get infected.

“There’s a lot of people who feel like they failed,” said Wallace, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Public Health. “ ‘I’ve been so good for so long’ — I hear that every day.” She assures those people that they’re not bad — it’s the new variants that are bad. “They have done really well if they are just getting it now,” Wallace said.

Katrine Wallace, 7/21/22

If we do test positive, we will immediately be on the phone to our University of Washington doctors for a Paxlovid prescription.  And, hopefully, we will be as fortunate as the President and have an uneventful recovery.

Looking ahead, we will be anxious for the new boosters that target the recent variants to become available. 

In the meantime, we will continue to live our lives, mask up indoors (most of the time), test if we get any symptoms, and keep our doctor’s phone number in our contacts so we can call for a Paxlovid prescription at the first sign of a positive test!

Allene

The Mountain

People who live in the Puget Sound area tend to refer to Mount Rainier as ‘the mountain’.  The mountain is out; did you see the mountain today?; is there a view of the mountain?, etc.

While I see the mountain almost every day, I must admit that I have only been to Mount Rainier National Park twice.  Thursday marked my second visit.

As part of our ‘staycation’, my husband and I drove to Sunrise.  Sunrise’ elevation is 6,400 feet and it is the highest spot in Mount Rainier National Park that you can go by car.  It is a little over 2 hours from our house, including a stop for the inevitable summer road construction

We went on a Thursday and the (large) parking lot barely had a spot available.  There are a number of trails so fortunately it didn’t feel too crowded.  We did an out and back and checked out the Emmons glacier overlooks along the Silver Forest trail.  It is supposed to be an ‘easy’ trail, but it was plenty for us in the warm weather! It was pretty toasty for that high up – 72 degrees and the sun was blazing! 

The views of the mountain were spectacular, as were the views of Emmons glacier. Both can be seen from nearly every vista!  Normally, this is the peak of the wildflower bloom, but we had a wet spring.  The wildflowers are a few weeks late, but we did see lupin, paintbrush, and spreading phlox.  They were all so lovely!

“Of all the fire mountains which like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest.”

-John Muir

On another note, I think we all heard that the President tested positive for COVID 19 on Thursday.

I got an additional dose of the vaccine on Tuesday and breezed through it with just a sore arm and a little fatigue.

And for people who are 50 years of age or older, my message is simple: If you have not gotten a vaccine shot in the year 2022, if you’ve not gotten one this year, please go get another vaccine shot.  You are eligible for your first booster or second booster wherever you are in your vaccination schedule.  If you’ve not gotten a vaccine shot this year, go get one now.  It could save your life.

Ashish Jha, M.D., COVID 19 Response Coordinator for the White House, 7/12/22

The President clearly followed Dr. Jha’s advise and is fully vaccinated and has been boosted twice.  He is also taking Paxlovid and reporting mild symptoms.

Wishing him a speedy and uneventful recovery.

Allene

Staycation

My husband and I feel like we have been traveling non-stop for the past few months.  So, now it is staycation time for me!

STAY-CA-TION:

a vacation spent in one’s home country rather than abroad, or one spent at home and involving day trips to local attractions.

I am not a fan of the summer months in general but, since summer happens regardless, the Pacific Northwest is the place to be!  We usually have mild summers with temps in the 70’s.  We have occasional hot spells and sometimes a chilly marine layer.  But by and large, it is lovely here. And the flowers can’t be beat.

So why not enjoy a staycation for the next few months? And it feels like the safest call with COVID 19 on the rise again.

I do have a bit of work to do and an appointment or two.  Other than that, it is clear staycation sailing.

I am looking forward to lots of reading on my deck or front porch.  I will be taking daily long walks with some ice coffee as a treat afterward. I have friends nearby to meet for walks, lunch, and a happy hour or two.  I am sure there will also be at least one movie that catches our eye. My girlfriend and I just saw Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris and thought it was delightful. What’s not to like about Dior couture from the 1950’s?

But most of my time will be spent outside.

I hope we can catch up with some of our nearby family. My husband and I plan a day trip to Mt. Rainier for a wildflower hike.

Back to the topic of reading, I have a stack as usual.  I am now getting eBooks from the library and have more downloaded than I can possibly manage. 

Here is my list so far:

I just finished Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty and LOVED it!  It didn’t hurt that the main character is also 69 years old. I tried listening to it but the narrator’s voice irritated me 😊.  But I loved reading it!

I am just starting the Tommy and Tuppence mysteries by Agatha Christie.  They were first published in the 1920’s, just after World War 1.  The language is priceless, old girl!

My mystery club girlfriends are starting the Maggie Hope series, set during World War 2.  We will also be reading Crying in H Mart.

I’m carefully reading The Whole Body Reset which is based on a Mediterranean diet with a focus on spreading adequate protein and fiber throughout the day. It was developed by AARP for the midlife+ age group.

And I have a laundry list of other books in the mix, as usual.

“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.”

Mason Cooley

I am sure more staycation ideas will pop up but, for now, I’m the one with a nose in a book!

Allene

Ask your doctor

I saw my doctor recently and she said, “you are eligible for another COVID vaccine booster”.  I, like many of you, have had 4 doses of the current vaccine.  But my last dose was in February! 

I had planned to wait until fall for a new version of the vaccine.  But, with the FDA stating that the next vaccine needs to cover the current Omicron variants, fall just turned into LATE fall (IMO).

So, I am out there without much in the way of current protection from the vaccine.  And, to my knowledge, I haven’t had COVID 19. BA.5 seems to be wreaking some havoc and cases are rising across the country and it looks like hospitalizations are now rising too.

So, I said to myself, self I said, self, maybe I do want to get another booster in the near future.  I asked my doctor if I should stick with Moderna or make a switch to Pfizer.  She said that I should get another Moderna booster if it is readily available.  She strongly agreed with my plan to go ahead and get another booster soon. 

She also urged me to contact her office if I test positive at any point.  She has been prescribing Paxlovid on a regular basis and says the supply is now plentiful (at least in the Seattle area). 

With my various risk factors, I am a candidate for Paxlovid and at high risk for hospitalization if I do get sick.

I have been carefully following the science during the course of the pandemic and felt pretty comfortable making my own decisions on when to get vaccinated and boosted. 

But, yet again, we are in uncharted territory.  Cases are up, a new variant is dominant, and we don’t yet have a new vaccine.

There doesn’t seem to be agreement on the benefits of additional boosters.  My husband’s doctor isn’t recommending a booster of the current vaccine for him at this point.

Here is an article from a recent Washington Post coronavirus update about boosters.

“Safety doesn’t appear to be an issue,” (Dr. Anthony) Fauci told The Post, listing other considerations too, like expiring supply. “We got a lot of doses, if we don’t get them into people soon, they’re going to be wasted.”

The Washington Post, 7/8/22

So, my advice is that you ask YOUR doctor about YOUR best course of action.  And bring up Paxlovid while you are at it.

I will be getting a booster this month 😊.

Allene

P.S. On a side note, our drugstore shelves are pretty bare in the cough drop area.  That tells me a lot of people in my neighborhood are coughing these days (symptoms of BA.4 and BA.5 include cough, fatigue, headache, and muscle pains)

SNELKLINIEK

Well, we made it home after spending almost a month in Europe. Our last stop was Amsterdam. 

This is our second visit to Amsterdam and we left this time thinking we are just a bit too old for the central Amsterdam scene. Not that we don’t love the ubiquitous smell of weed 😊.

We did love our hotel though! We stayed at the Amsterdam Marriott which is near Museum Square and Vondelpark, the largest city park in Amsterdam (a great spot for a walk). The room was lovely and the staff were so helpful. The highlight was probably the very best breakfast buffet ever – I love their made to order omelets and wonderful brown bread toasted! 

We took a canal cruise (meh). We took the route that started at the City Center which was not great and involved a fair amount of open water. There are other routes that would have been lovely, but those were already booked (of course).

We also visited the Rijksmuseum. Yet another meh for us. The building is incredible, but it is completely overwhelming in size and many of their famous paintings were out on loan. On our previous visit to Amsterdam, we went to the Van Gogh Museum which we both loved and highly recommend!

A true highlight was the Anne Frank House. Talk about a powerful and moving experience! I was completely claustrophobic just going into the tiny rooms where 8 people lived together for over 700 days.  I think it is a must see for everyone.  Tickets are sold well in advance and I am so glad I made the effort to get ours.

There are many wonderful quotes from Anne Frank, but this one was so poignant to me because it was written just 2 months before she was arrested (4 August 1944):

I would love to go to Paris for a year and London for a year to learn the language and study art history

Anne Frank, 6 May 1944

We had to take a COVID antigen test, which is still required to return to the U.S. We had purchased tests from eMed for a ‘simple’ online process. We couldn’t get our passwords to work despite multiple tries. I was in a bit of a panic because time was running out and called the hotel front desk. They directed us to a nearby Snelkliniek and we were able to make an appointment for that afternoon. We got our results via email in 30 minutes and the service was excellent.

Note: It is a true miracle that our antigen tests were negative! We were in lots of crowded indoor settings during our journey and masks were rarely used by anyone but us.

I had some trepidation that we would be able to successfully navigate this journey and deal with the inevitable glitches, COVID 19, and the ongoing war in Ukraine, but we did fine! And we are so happy we took the plunge!

That being said, the Europe we saw was crowded with tourists, even this early in the season. Everyone seems to be trying to make up for lost time. I can’t even imagine what the summer months are going to be like!

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.

Mark Twain

Allene

‘Pandemia’

We took a very crowded boat trip this week to a very crowded Cinque Terre. My theory is that everyone who wanted to go there over the past 3 years descended on Monday. It was truly a sea of unmasked people on sea and on land. It was pretty much all outdoors, but still!

That brings me to the ‘pandemia’ (pandemic in Italiano). I’m sure that everyone remembers that Italy, particularly Northern Italy, was hit hard early on. Over 80% of Italians are now fully vaccinated. And, fortunately, everyone traveling to Italy by air also needs to be fully vaxxed.

Italy has done away with almost all COVID restrictions. The Green Pass (proof of vaccination for all indoor venues) has gone by the wayside. Just before we left the US, they stopped requiring the EU Digital Passport Locator.

As I noted in earlier posts, masks are required on all forms of Italian transit. The compliance varies, but rarely exceeds 50% of travelers who wear masks that cover their NOSE and mouth! And there appears to be no enforcement, just signs and announcements.

We do see people with masks in restaurants or walking down the street. However, the masks rarely cover their noses. ‘Chin/neck masks’ are a fairly common sight!

Our Italian friends are fully vaccinated and boosted. Two have also had ‘il COVID’. We had dinner with 4 of them and talked a bit about the ‘pandemia’.

Early on, it sounds like the Italian government was a bit heavy handed. Our friends talked about taking a walk outside in a nearby park. They were given a warning because they had ventured a few meters too far from their house. If it happened again, they would have been ticketed.

They aren’t fans of wearing masks at this point (despite some health risks).

We continue to wear masks indoors here and try and eat outdoors when possible – but it isn’t always possible.

And speaking of us. We will be returning home soon. We will need to take rapid tests within 24 hours of departure (we are flying out of Amsterdam). So far, knock wood, we have been COVID symptom free during our travels.

We just need to hold out a bit longer…….

Allene

Americans in Genoa

That would be us! While Genoa has a population of almost 700,000, it tends to be off the American tourist map. We have always liked the city, we especially enjoyed being back after 3 long years!

It was only a 45 minute train ride. The length of the journey varies based on the number of stops on the schedule.

A note on masks, while they are required and there is a penalty, there is no enforcement. I’m not sure if a ‘no train’ list is maintained, but I doubt it. I would guess that 80% were masked and about 50% actually covered their noses.

But back to Genoa. We were able to see a Monet exhibit at the Palazzo Ducale. What a treat! We saw Monet’s Rose Garden series for the first time. I was in awe and the setting inside the Palazzo was perfect.

We had lunch nearby at our favorite outdoor cafe. While I didn’t see anybody sleeping in a tent, people asking for money is pretty common. We had 4 people approach us just while we were eating lunch.

Going to Genoa is always a BIG day for us, so we made it an early night.

Sorry these posts are on the short side. My set up is kind of clunky!

Stay tuned for a fashion update next week.

Ciao,

Allene