COVID-19

I’m boosted

I got my booster shot of the Moderna vaccine yesterday. There’s so little demand for the booster here that I was able to schedule it at will at the CVS Pharmacy within walking distance of my house. When I got the initial two doses, demand was so high that in order for me to wait only a couple weeks, rather than a couple months, I had to schedule them at a Walmart 15 miles away.

I feel pretty good today. The area around the vaccination site (my upper left arm) is sore, and I’m a little more fatigued than normal. I’m taking it easy today, but if I had to I could put in a full day and be fine.

As I’ve written before, I’ve returned to more or less a normal life, going to events and restaurants and such. I live in a red state with no government mask requirement. Among the places I’ve gone in Indianapolis and Zionsville, most stores strongly recommending masks and a small number require them. Some event venues require proof of vaccination and some don’t; some require masks and some merely recommend them. Bars and restaurants here neither require nor recommend masks.

I wavered briefly on masking, in large part because of poor mask compliance in the places I go. It felt pointless to mask up when hardly anybody else was doing it. But after rethinking it, I’m back to following recommendations and requirements in the places I go.

COVID-19 isn’t done with Indiana yet. Here’s the latest positive cases graph.

Source: https://www.coronavirus.in.gov/2393.htm, November 27, 2021

New vaccinations have stalled in Indiana. When I last wrote about it in early September, just over 3 million Hoosiers were fully vaccinated. Now it’s 3.4 million fully vaccinated against a state population of 6.7 million.

Source: https://www.coronavirus.in.gov/vaccine/2680.htm, November 27, 2021

I’m still working from home most days. I average about one day a week in the office, usually Tuesday. I thought surely by now I would have added more in-office days to my schedule. But on a normal day in the office, I encounter five or six other people in a company of about 150 employees. As a result, I spend my whole day on Zoom no matter where I work from. Might as well skip the commute!

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COVID-19

Trusting my vaccination

I hardly know whether to bother wearing a mask anymore. The places I go, no less than half of people aren’t wearing theirs. Last time I went grocery shopping, my estimate is that four out of five bared their faces.

I know that the point of wearing the mask is for me not to spread COVID if I happen to be carrying it. But if most people aren’t wearing masks, it makes the whole thing seem ineffective. Masking works best when we all cooperate and do it.

Beers with some co-workers

I had a surprisingly severe cold in October. It drove me to take a couple days off work to rest, but to be fair I have also been suffering from very real exhaustion thanks to extreme work stress. My symptoms were more consistent with a cold than with COVID. But on the chance it was COVID, I didn’t go into places unless it was critically necessary, and when I did, I masked up and didn’t linger.

Otherwise, I’m going out and doing things that I want to do. In places where masks are required, I mask. In places where they’re optional, I mask only if most other people are masking.

I still work from home most days. It’s no longer about COVID, but about not commuting. I suppose that if more people were in the office every day I might go in more often to enjoy the office buzz. On a normal day in the office I encounter three or four people. I still spend most of my day on Zoom; I just do it from a different place. I don’t see the point in spending so much time in the car just for that.

The major upside of this pandemic is that my car is going to last a good long time – I hardly use it!

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COVID-19

What I lack in smarts I make up for in luck

I’ve done two things recently I’m not so sure were all that smart during this pandemic. Let’s just say I tested the limits of my vaccination.

First, I went to the Indianapolis Colts season opener — with 68,000 of my closest friends. It was a sellout crowd. The Colts lost, of course.

My wife’s boss has season tickets in about 10 rows back on the 15 yard line. He was otherwise occupied this day, and gave his tickets to my wife. I was so excited about doing this that it didn’t hit me until we had parked and were walking toward the stadium: holy frijoles, there’s a global pandemic on! I decided not to turn back.

A week later, our youngest son and I saw Megadeth and three other heavy-metal bands at an outdoor ampitheater. It looked like a sellout crowd to me, and the place holds 25,000 people. Here’s a snippet of the band performing. I can’t believe my iPhone’s microphone picked up this extremely loud music with such clarity.

Our youngest is a major metalhead, as was I back in the day. I’ve tried to bond with him by taking him to see the Big Four thrash metal bands of my time: Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer. We had seen all but Megadeth, and what a journey it was to be able to see them. We had tickets to see the band in 2019 when founder Dave Mustaine was diagnosed with throat cancer and canceled the tour. He recovered, and the band tried again to tour only to be stymied by the coronavirus. They rescheduled our show either two or three times over more than a year trying to outrun the pandemic. They decided to press on with this date despite the Delta variant being in full swing.

Despite being so close to so many people, some of which had to be carrying the coronavirus, I came through untouched.

That I’ve done these things is not a declaration that I’m done being cautious. Let’s call them temporary pauses in my caution. I have no more pauses planned. But good God, were these pauses fun.

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COVID-19

American disunity at a critical time

Please remember my comment policy. Also, I’ve slightly revised this post to remove some language that might have been taken as condescending toward people who don’t share my views — that was fully unintentional. I also changed controversial phrasing “for the common good” to “taking care of each other,” which better captures my intent.

I’ve been masking up again when inside public spaces. I’m doing it because of news reports that vaccinated people like me are still able to carry the virus, especially the Delta variant. But when I wander masked around the grocery store, most people unmasked, it feels much more like a symbolic gesture and a statement of my beliefs.

While I was on the Ride Across Indiana I forgot to bring a mask, which wasn’t the end of the world because I was entirely alone the vast majority of the time. However, I did eat breakfast and dinner inside restaurants. Also, when I got that flat tire and in the repair lost the nut and bolt that secures my coaster brake, I did walk into a hardware store for a replacement. Even then, I was reasonably certain I wasn’t making anyone sick, because I had this:

The week before my Ride Across Indiana, I felt exhausted and I had a stuffy nose. It was bad enough that I took a full day and a couple partial days off work that week. I got a COVID test and, thankfully, it came back negative.

I think I was just suffering from stress. Work has been a skull crusher lately. I wasn’t fully recovered when I started the Ride Across Indiana, but I pressed on anyway. But I’m not here to write about work or the ride. I’m here to write about the new COVID spike in Indiana.

Source: https://www.coronavirus.in.gov/2393.htm, September 8, 2021

Eeeeeeyikes!

News organizations across Indiana are calling this “the Delta spike,” which seems fair. I’ve heard government leaders call it “a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” which is pithy and sure sounds like it oughta be true. Yet in Indiana, vaccination rates have stalled:

That represents just over 3 million fully vaccinated Hoosiers, when the state has 6.7 million residents. Less than half of us are vaccinated.

Some of my connections on Facebook have ranted against the stupidity of the unvaccinated. Some of them have pointed their fingers squarely at the conservative media machine that’s feeding them the talking points they’re using to justify their anti-mask and anti-vax positions. But who on this side of the mask/vax fence is trying to understand where they’re coming from, and to build bridges to them?

Last Saturday morning as I prepared for the last day of my Ride Across Indiana, I had breakfast in a truck stop restaurant. Truck stops and and Waffle Houses are my secret pleasure when I’m on the road!

This large restaurant had just four people in it: the cook, the waitress, me, and a fellow the waitress chatted up so familiarly that he must have been a regular. They spoke at length of the vaccine and all of the reasons they wouldn’t take it. They repeated all of the talking points from conservative media, sometimes even in their own words. But it was easy to tell that they very much enjoyed these common beliefs and the feeling of a bond, of being on the same team, that they created.

The waitress said that she was in nursing school, close to graduation, but that she was unemployable because she wouldn’t be vaccinated. She also said that her mother, also a nurse, faced losing her job at a big hospital in Indianapolis because she wouldn’t take the vaccine either. The waitress and the fellow lamented the sad state of personal freedom in this country.

I was relieved that they never asked my opinion. I’m not sure what I would have said, as I couldn’t disagree with them more and wasn’t interested in an argument. It’s not about personal freedom, it’s about us taking care of each other. I seriously doubt their assertions that these vaccines are insufficiently tested, that they’re insufficiently effective, and that they can be deadly. I don’t fancy myself an expert in immunology or vaccine science, but in the end I have more faith in the CDC than I do in conservative media or in hearsay — even hearsay from people I trust.

What seemed clear to me, however, was that these two people believed that they couldn’t trust their government, and that they felt like the side of all of this that I’m on are alien to core American values.

I’m not sure I can trust my government, either, but I do not believe agencies like the CDC to be meaningfully corrupt. Therefore, I choose to have faith in the CDC’s guidance. And I think that American values need to expand beyond personal freedom to caring for each other. But therein lies the divide.

How did we get this way as a country? More importantly, how do we find out way back to unity? Even more importantly, what are you doing to encourage it? I worry that this fracturing of our national unity could well be our undoing as a nation, and how we lose our primary world power status to China in the coming years.

Regardless of which side you’re on, we all need to build bridges.

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COVID-19

Trending the wrong way

It’s been a while since I wrote a COVID report. It’s been an even longer while since I showed the Indiana positive cases graph. We looked like we were coming out of the woods for a while, but the Delta variant has caused a new surge.

Some headlines have read that this is now a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” But someone on my team at work tested positive for COVID this week despite being fully vaccinated. She didn’t have a bad case — she was out of work only for a couple of days, and reported fatigue as her primary symptom. It remains to be seen whether vaccinated people who get COVID are at risk of long-term effects.

In Indiana, Delta and this spike have not led government to order lockdowns or even masks. There’s a tussle in our state government over whether the Governor has the powers to invoke the emergency measures he did in months past. The state legislature passed a law giving it powers to intervene during public health emergencies, curtailing the Governor’s power. In response, the Governor sued the state legislature. In response to that, the state Attorney General asked the state Supreme Court to prevent this suit, but the Supreme Court refused.

To me, this all seems like a bid to prove who’s the reddest Republican. Our state government is fully controlled by Republicans — this is the party fighting within itself.

Whitestown Meijer

Meanwhile, in this climate the government has issued no orders, not even advice, for how we should behave in the face of Delta. We’re on our own. Some stores are requesting masks of everyone, even those vaccinated; the Meijer across the street is among them. The CDC recommends masks for everyone in areas of high transmission. That would, it appears, include grocery stores and restaurants.

Yet I am loath to give up the freedoms we have only recently won back. I don’t mind masking up in the store, but every part of me wants to pretend that my vaccination will cover me when I sit at a bar or enjoy a burrito in the Mexican joint around the corner.

Indiana’s government is surely dysfunctional right now. But I wonder if a part of the reason it hasn’t ordered any COVID protections is because they would be unpopular with everyday people like me.

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COVID-19

Returning to the world

It was quite a week: I went to church, and I went to work.

Margaret and I are both vaccinated, as is one of Margaret’s kids who lives with us. The other isn’t, despite our admonitions. But she works in retail, and with nobody masking anymore she’s far more likely to get sick at work than because Margaret or I brought COVID home. So Margaret and I are no longer restricting ourselves. We’re also not rushing to Do All the Things in the world, either. We’re taking measured and deliberate steps.

When I walked in at church, everyone about fell over. I didn’t tell anyone I was coming, I just showed up. We hadn’t seen each other in 15 months! I took my usual place in the back and enjoyed the service. I was almost overcome with happiness when communion was passed. In my faith tradition, we take communion every week. I really missed it.

Last month I said that when Margaret and I felt safe to return to worship, we’d find a new church together. That’s still our aim, but in the short term I will attend at my current church about every other Sunday. There needs to be someone from church leadership in attendance every week, and the fellow we’d been leaning on for that is going to be away most of the summer. So one of the other leaders and I are alternating weeks.

I won’t go every week because our granddaughter comes to visit on Sunday mornings. Without getting into all of the complications around this, I’ll just say that this is the time her mom can bring her, and that’s that.

I worked in the office on Tuesday. The company opened its office on Monday, allowing anyone vaccinated to work unmasked. I had to provide a scan of my vaccination card. I understand how some people might find this to be too invasive, but in this instance I didn’t at all mind sending in my scan.

This is a brand new office for my company. We were in the building next door until March, and then we were homeless for several weeks while finishing touches were placed on the new office, which is in a new building. The photo above is from the window near my desk, where I have a commanding view of the Eli Lilly & Co. building. The pharmaceutical giant is headquartered here.

My company is allowing us to work some days at home and some days in the office. My plan is to work in the office Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday for sure, and maybe on Monday. But I’ll work from home every Wednesday for sure.

I’m going to add in-office days slowly. I found it to be intensely stressful to suddenly work from home every day last year when all this began. I hope that by easing back into my in-office schedule, I can adapt more easily.

It’s as if I am given a limited number of “energy cards” every day, and when I’ve given all of those cards out in the course of a day’s events, I’m out of energy. Truly, when that happens, I’m fried. I make routines out of anything I can, because it reduces how much I have to think about them, which conserves energy. When the pandemic sent me home to work, every last one of my workday routines was upended. I had to figure out all new ones, and until I did I was exhausted at the end of each day.

Sure enough, working in the office on Tuesday left me spent. It had been a long time since I’d dealt with rush-hour traffic, and that spent a whole energy card by itself. It didn’t used to, probably by sheer daily repetition. But after a 15-month hiatus, I had lost my chops, I guess.

Of course, I did all the things you do when you work for the first time in a new office: set up my desk, figure out how to work the coffee machine, and find the restrooms. But I also took all of my meetings over Zoom just as I did the day before working at home, as nobody I met with was in the office that day. So I had Zoom fatigue on top of everything-is-new fatigue.

When I go back to the office this Tuesday, I won’t have so many new things to figure out. But I’m sure the commute will still be tiring, until I get used to it again.

Another reason I plan to add in-office days slowly is because when I work from home, I can ride my bike on my lunch hour. I’m reluctant to give that up, as this is the last summer I will get to do it. I’m even considering taking a long bike tour later this year, covering 150 miles or so over a few days. Riding most weekdays will help me prepare for that. I’ve wanted to do a tour for years, and if ever there’s a year to do it, this is it.

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