Risky Business, Part 2

Okay: No medical issues for me; the cat returned from the vet’s after his high fever went down, with a note on his chart about his adverse vaccine reaction; all would be well, except for where Lynn, who has waited nine months — nine months — to get her lower teeth implanted, did not get the new teeth yesterday, since the very expensive lab her dentist uses because it doesn’t make mistakes made a mistake. At Lynn’s expense. Teeth next week. Maybe.

tma chart 0720
It’s not just my eyes — this is a little blurry, right? Sorry: that’s how it came off the internet.

Yesterday we reviewed how sometimes “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” can win both a bay and an election, although we’re not sure of the cost, and how sometimes it doesn’t win anything and gets a lot of people killed in the process.

Then, as I was warming up to the thought that sometimes this administration decides leadership works best if it’s done from the ground up, and sometimes — usually in places where there is very little federal authority to begin with — it attempts to exert control over everything. So, no medical supplies from the national stash for anyone because it’s a “national” stash not for states’ use, but every single school in the land, regardless of local conditions or desires, needs to re-open to make his re-election happen.

The president made this executive tweet; his CDC director caved; the vice president once again abdicated any authority over his own virus commission; and the secretary of education momentarily paused her campaign against public education to assure us schools will reopen.

George W. Bush’s secretary of education was very politic in her response, but hers came down to traditional Republican thought: this is a decision best left to the local and state levels, where the bulk of school funding comes from to begin with, not the feds, who just don’t have any authority nor much of a purse to put this executive tweet into effect.

So, as cases scream up and intensive care units are overrun across multiple southern states it’s clear we aren’t going to come up with any national strategy other than: damn the virus, full re-election ahead.

With a complete lack of useful guidance at the federal level, along with the total abdication of any productive anti-virus efforts (Tulsa, once again part of the Creek Nation, saw 500 new cases earlier this week, coincidentally two weeks after an indoor rally for the president), we have to look elsewhere.

Above, the Texas Medical Association has provided this very handy “risk” chart that covers a broad range of activities you might want to undertake. From it, I can see the riskiest thing I’ve done was the one I didn’t intend to participate in: my out-of-town friend who came into my shop unmasked offered a hug I wasn’t excited about.

I also did get my hair cut once, by my barber in his new shop with his double doors wide open. I’m not enthused about a return, but I should probably do it before the unmasked Texans filling our valley cause everything to close back down.

Last week, the Washington Post asked six esteemed epidemiologists not for their abstract advice, but for what they are doing in their personal lives regarding some of these risk factors. Weighing in was heavyweight Anthony Fauci, along with Elizabeth Connick of Arizona, Paul Volberding of San Francisco, Linda Bell of South Carolina, Barry Bloom from Harvard, and David Satcher, a former Surgeon General and director of the CDC.

What we learned is: the very last thing to go in a pandemic is your house cleaner.

All of these people, obviously of some means, have closed their houses to most visitors — the Faucis’ school-teacher daughter decided she could teach her New Orleans class just as remotely from her parents’ house, but she spent the first 14 days of her visit in the basement without so much as a parental sighting — but the house cleaners come on schedule.

(Actually, Dr. Connick said her housekeeper was afraid to come for six weeks, but the doctor paid the cleaner anyway, and eventually she returned, working when the doctor is not home.)

They all wear masks; Dr. Volberding thinks “people are crazy to not wear masks,” although Dr. Connick walks around her Arizona neighborhood without one, and Dr. Satcher confessed his daughter is not happy with the number of unmasked visitors he allows in his house.

They all go to grocery stores and don’t disinfect the packages they bring home, although they do wash their hands upon return. They don’t worry too much about handling their mail anymore, although they used to. Dr. Bloom still lets his sit for a day, allowing as how that’s “probably irrational, but I do it that way.”

Most of them are not going to barbers or hair salons. Dr. Volberding doesn’t “because I’m quite bald,” so he trims what’s left himself. He allowed as how his wife would dearly love to go to a salon but hasn’t yet. Dr. Fauci went twice as long as usual without a cut before he couldn’t stand it any longer, then asked for a 7 a.m. appointment where both he and his stylist wore masks. Dr. Connick pays her stylist to come to her house, where the first cut was outside, but now takes place inside, monthly.

They are more willing, but only slightly, to dine in-home with friends rather than go to a restaurant. All six are saying “no” to inside restaurant dining, although five — everyone but Dr. Fauci — said they “would,” suggesting they haven’t yet done so, dine outdoors. They’re all okay with takeout, especially Dr. Connick, who would “die” without it.

When the good doctors have friends over to dine, it’s a small number, the guest list consists of those who have been quarantining, and everyone stays outside. Dr. Bell occasionally allows “friends in the home whose practices I’m confident in.”

Which leaves travel, which the doctors are generally leaving. Not spokespeople for the travel industry, they didn’t offer the air industry much hope. “I’m 79. I’m not getting on a plane,” was Dr. Fauci’s flat response. Dr. Connick said she would fly “in an emergency,” but only with an N95 mask firmly in place.

Dr. Volberding got on the Bay Area Rapid Transit once, to see a new grandbaby while a Black Lives Matter protest blocked the bridge he would have driven over. But he did note his transport was not crowded. Dr. Bloom also has a new grandbaby, two months old, but he would have to fly to get there, so the baby remains unseen in person.

Travel seemed to be the biggest reason to not see family, but even during visits there’s not much hugging, and most family get-togethers seem to take place via Zoom.

They’re also not a commercial for gyms (none of the six would go), or even medical check-ups or dental exams. Dr. Satcher has been to the doctor a couple of times, and was satisfied with the safety provisions, but most others were a flat-out no on routine exams. Dr. Volberding feels sorry for dentists, whose risk factor does appear pretty high.

On the school issue, Dr. Bell is alone with the president in a blanket willingness to send kids back this fall, and Dr. Bloom is concerned about socialization and the effects of long-term deprivation. The other four settled for, “That’s a difficult question.”

The bad news, for those of us waiting for some instance of sanity to take over at our rudderless national helm: the earliest any of the six of them projected the availability of a vaccine is the end of the year. Dr. Satcher thinks it’s “a long shot” to have one ready even in 2021.

So there you have it. In your effort to not become cannon fodder for the re-election Panzer division trampling anything that resembles science, here are scientific recommendations for you to navigate your way forward. Tools in the arsenal to protect you from the Tool in Chief.

One thought on “Risky Business, Part 2

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