a vaccine trial

Our family physicians’ practice has a research department that works in conjunction with national trials. I have done several studies with them in the past, including vaccines for seasonal flu and adult RSV (respiratory syncytial virus).

I got a call the other day because they are signing people up for a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine trial. This is the virus that causes COVID-19. It will be a two-year study looking at the effectiveness of the study vaccine. I qualified and enrolled in the study, as did spouse B and daughter T.

We don’t know whether this vaccine will prove to be effective or for how long, but we are committed to being part of the process to find out. Even if it isn’t protective, that information will be helpful in the search for finding a vaccine that is.

They are looking for more participants. If you are in the Binghamton NY area and are interested, please contact me for a referral to the researchers who can provide full information about the study. You may leave a message in the comments so we can work out how to communicate privately or contact me through Facebook Messenger or email if we are already connected.

SoCS: New York State re-opening

I live in the Southern Tier region of New York State (USA), where we are undertaking a methodical re-opening of businesses after we successfully drastically lowered our number of COVID-19 cases.

Every day, I listen to the press briefings from Governor Cuomo. He has been very transparent on what the state is doing and what the role of the public is in protecting public health during our stay-at-home period and now our phased re-opening.

The Southern Tier region is about to enter Phase 3. One of the services that is allowed in phase 3 is nail salons. Hair salons were allowed to resume, with masks and other safeguards in place in phase 2, but nail salons had to wait for phase three as it involves longer face-to-face interaction.

I don’t do manicures, but I do have an appointment for a haircut in a couple of weeks. After that, I’ll be able to go without the headband that has become part of my wardrobe in order to keep my bangs out of my eyes.

Long bangs is an infinitesimal price to pay for what has been great news for New York State. Unlike other states that were less careful about re-opening businesses, our infection rates have continued to decline. The numbers are constantly monitored with widespread testing and contact tracing for positive tests so that we know we are not starting an outbreak. As soon as the numbers in a region start to creep up, there are plans in place to cut back on the re-opening until the infection rate is under control again.

I’m proud of everyone in New York and our leadership team for the thoughtful, caring, science-based, and successful way we have tackled this challenge. I hope that more states and countries, seeing our approach working so well, will follow our lead and be able to save their people from further suffering from the pandemic.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “nail.” Join us! Find out how here: https://lindaghill.com/2020/06/12/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-june-13-2020/

2019-2020 SoCS Badge by Shelley!
 https://www.quaintrevival.com/

Memorial Day 2020

Today, the United States observes Memorial Day. It originated as a day to honor Union soldiers who died during the Civil War, but expanded over time to include service members who died in any armed conflict.

I am also thinking today of all the civilians who lose their lives in wars. Perhaps, this is because I just finished watching World on Fire on Masterpiece, which is about people from various countries in World War II Europe.

As the country continues its struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, we often hear politicians and media describe it as a war. The medical personnel, first responders, and caregivers are called the front line, a term that is sometimes also applied to other essential workers, such as transit, delivery, and grocery workers. I am confused, though, by the use of the term “warrior.” Sometimes, it seems that the general public are considered warriors, serving others by staying at home to avoid spreading the virus further. Others are using the term warriors to describe those who are giving up on stay-at-home orders and going back to “normal” whether or not the public health officials say it is wise.

I am extraordinarily grateful to be living in New York State, where our governor and other leaders are methodically working to expand economic activity while safeguarding public health. National news reports have shared data that twenty-four states are re-opening their economies with the rate of infection still increasing, even though the national guideline is that at least two weeks of declining infections is required first.

While I remain unsure of who the “warriors” are, I am painfully aware of who the casualties are in this war. As I write this, there are 98,000+ confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the United States. The number will surely reach 100,000 within the next two days. Over these last few months, the United States has lost more lives to coronavirus that it has service personnel in all the wars since the end of World War II combined.

Today, I am commemorating all the service members and civilians who died in war and all the pandemic victims. May their memories strengthen us to serve others.

SoCS: re-opening?

I want to believe that our region’s re-opening of some businesses will not spark more cases of COVID-19.

I wrote earlier in the week about our area of New York State qualifying to re-open certain businesses. As of yesterday, non-essential retail can be open for curbside pick-up. Some construction and manufacturing can start up with appropriate precautions to protect workers. Plans have to be filed with our regional commission to make sure that they comply with CDC and state guidelines. This is stage one of four. All seven metrics that govern re-opening have to be met at all times. If something slips, signalling a possible outbreak, businesses will have to close again until conditions improve.

It’s bothering me that the media are lumping New York State in with the other 47 states that are ending stay-at-home policies. The vast majority of those states have not met the CDC guidelines for two weeks of declining cases, making public interaction much more dangerous. Those states are not trying to contain the virus but to mitigate it.

New York is putting in place a much different strategy. Only those areas of the state that have the virus contained are eligible. There is a requirement to do a certain number of tests weekly and there are contact tracers, so many for every thousand residents, so that if a case is detected, they can quarantine all contacts that have been close to the infected person so that we don’t get community spread. We hope that the testing, tracing, and monitoring will keep the virus contained, allowing more businesses and services to re-open over the coming weeks and months, while protecting public health. If the program is effective, we won’t need to back off and go back to stay-at-home, but we can if infection rates go up. More importantly, we would know that infection rates are climbing before they get out of control. It turns out that the reason New York had so many cases is that the virus was already out in the community months before anyone realized, coming into New York/New Jersey airports from Europe when everyone was thinking that it was only travel to China that was worrisome. Even now, the downstate region is still under stay-at-home for at least another month. The other area of the state that is still under stay-at-home is western New York, including Buffalo.

Because New York State’s plan is so well-thought-out and relies on science and the experiences of other countries in re-opening, I am hopeful that we will be able to protect public health while gradually getting more people back to work.

I am very afraid for the states that are re-opening more haphazardly, which is, sadly, most of them. They didn’t even follow the CDC guideline to have two weeks of declining infection rates before opening businesses. Many places also opened high-risk businesses, such as hair salons and bars, where social distancing is impossible. The experts who model suspected outcomes have all raised their estimates for infections and fatalities because so many states are taking such a risky path.

I’m sad and scared.

I want New York’s path to work. If it does, I want other states to adopt similar plans, so that we can save as many people as possible from illness and death.

Is that too much to ask?
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is using the word “want” within the first three words of the post. Join us! Find out more here:  https://lindaghill.com/2020/05/15/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-may-16-2020/

2019-2020 SoCS Badge by Shelley!
https://www.quaintrevival.com/

New York’s reopening plan

I’ve posted several times about how my state is handling the pandemic. Unlike many other states, New York State has taken a methodical, metric-based approach.

The whole state has been under a program called PAUSE, which is a stay-at-home order for all but essential workers and shopping for necessities. Starting on May 15th, certain regions of the state that have met the criteria will be moving into phase one of four for re-opening certain businesses.

My region, the Southern Tier, is qualified to re-open companies with worker and customer safety plans in place in construction, manufacturing, delivery/curbside pick-up retail, wholesale, agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting. The region needs to continue to meet the criteria each week, including testing and having contact tracers available. If criteria continue to be met, other businesses will open in phases. If the statistics show an outbreak is developing, the phased-in businesses will close until all the criteria are again met.

The state has a website called New York Forward, which has up-to-date information about the plan and the current status of each region. There is more information about the phase-in of businesses here. For those who would like more detail, there are many different pages and sections available on different aspects of the plan from the New York Forward main page link above, as well as a 50 page book, which includes some history, the basics of the plan itself, and future goals.

While there are no certainties in dealing with the pandemic, I am reassured that there is a detailed plan with metrics based on science and the experiences of other places dealing with the virus. It’s also good to know that there is continuous monitoring of the situation so that we can adapt the implementation as needed.

For the good of our state and the health and well-being of our residents, I hope the plan works well. If it does, I hope other governments will be able to use it as a template for their own plans.

We are better off if we make thoughtful, science-based decisions. This pandemic has shown how connected the world is. We all need to cooperate if we are ever going to end this diesase.

New York State and plans

Every day, I listen to Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York give his daily coronavirus briefing and take questions from the press.

I am definitely not alone.

I often watch through Facebook Live, so there is a comment stream during the briefing. While some of the people are, like me, New York residents, many others tune in from other states and countries. While there are some trolls, many people thank Governor Cuomo for his candid, factual presentation and his compassion. There are always some calls for him to run for president. I admit to having the occasional, totally improbable political fantasy that both the nominating conventions decide to choose a governor who has handled the pandemic as well as possible to run for president, so that instead of Trump versus Biden, we would have, say, Hogan versus Cuomo. Not going to happen, but I, for one, would breathe easier if it did.

This is a big week for New York State. Our current stay-at-home order expires May 15 and it is expected that some regions, including the Southern Tier where I live, will qualify to enter phase one (of four) for expanding what businesses and services may be opened and under what circumstances. There are a number of criteria to meet before being eligible, including at least a two-week decline of new cases, hospital and intensive care unit availability, and testing and contact tracing capabilities. All the businesses have to have plans in place for safe working conditions and customer delivery protocols. If COVID-19 cases start to increase, the state will go back to its prior level of operations until conditions improve again. The New York plan is based on medical science and the experiences of other countries and cities around the world as they try to increase economic and social activities after outbreaks of the virus. For reference, businesses like hair salons and dine-in restaurants don’t re-open until phase three.

Because of the planning and vigilance of our state government, I feel relatively secure that New York will be able to protect public health while gradually opening more and more public and private entities. I remain very worried, however, about the majority of states who are re-opening without even having had a decline in the number of cases. Indeed, right now, if you take New York out of the national statistics, you find that while New York’s infection rate is on a steady decline, the rest of the country is still on the increase. In addition, some countries that had contained the outbreak, such as Germany and South Korea, are having to back off with some of their re-opening of businesses because their case numbers are rising again.

I am hopeful that our region and other New York State regions that qualify will be able to move forward with our slow and thoughtful plans while still protecting public health. If that happens, I hope other states and countries will study our approach and adapt it to their regions.

With over four million confirmed cases world-wide, we need the best practices devised and enacted as soon as possible around the world.

re-opening fears

Some of the states here in the US are re-opening stores, hair, salons, dine-in restaurants, recreation activities, and other businesses, even though they haven’t met the not-very-ambitious federal benchmarks to do so during the pandemic.  They feel safe enough because they are not large cities like New York City or Chicago and they don’t have thousands of new cases every day in their state – or are ignoring it if they do.

I’m afraid they are ignoring not only science but also the experience of my state, New York.

The health guidelines are that limited re-opening should not occur until a state has had two weeks of decline in the number of cases. The reason for the two week timeframe is that fourteen days is considered the maximum incubation period, although people can develop symptoms as few as two days after exposure. If numbers are declining for two weeks, it signals that the outbreak is under some measure of control, so careful resumption of some business and recreational activities can resume in conjunction with testing widespread enough to quickly detect a rise in cases, in which case stricter measures would be resumed until there was again a two week decline. Not only do the states that are opening not meet the two-week decline criteria but also they don’t have the testing capacity to quickly detect an uptick in cases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in studying the virus’s path in the United States, now realize that the strain that has caused so much illness and death in New York came through Europe, not directly from China. This strain appears to be even more virulent than the strain that came to the western US directly from China. During the weeks when the administration was banning travel from China, thousands upon thousands of travellers arrived from Europe to NYC area airports, some of them bringing the virus with them. It’s now estimated that there were 10,000 cases in the NYC area before any were officially recognized as COVID-19; this explains why New York State has so many more cases and, unfortunately, deaths than other states. The virus was already wide-spread in an area with a high population density weeks before anyone realized it.

New York, through closing all but essential or work-from-home businesses and encouraging most people to stay at home except to buy needed supplies, has managed to bring down the number of new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, although not yet for long enough to enter phase one re-opening of some businesses. Plans are being made for eventual re-opening with testing in place to make sure that things will not get so out of hand that our hospitals will be overwhelmed with critical cases. There is the very real possibility that, despite all the planning and precautions, we might have to reverse course and close down again if the numbers start climbing. Until there is a vaccine, it is unlikely we will be able to get the case number down to zero or resume large-scale gatherings.

It’s not that Governor Cuomo and other state leaders don’t want to open more of the economy. They do, but not at the cost of more debilitating illness and death. As a community, we are all responsible for trying to protect the health of others, especially those most vulnerable to complications and those who are working in health care, food service, delivery, transit, custodial, and the other essential businesses that have been continuing to serve throughout the pandemic and who have been getting sick at much higher rates than other New Yorkers.

Our state leaders are also acutely aware of those who are unable to work because of the restrictions in place. There is enhanced unemployment insurance in place, as well as emergency food, utility, health, and homeless outreach programs. They are refusing the false dichotomy of illness/death or the economy, trying to prioritize health and life for everyone so that we are healthy to re-build our economy.

There are some New Yorkers and some folks in other states who are claiming that they have a right to be anywhere they want and do anything they want and that government has never interfered in people’s lives like this. They are overlooking that with our rights, both political and human, come responsibilities. The individual has the right to risk their own health, for example by drinking alcohol, but with that comes the responsibility not to harm others through violence or driving drunk. National and state governments have taken action to protect the public health in prior epidemics, such as the 1918 flu pandemic and the waves of polio that afflicted the world before the development of the vaccine. As I am fond of pointing out, in the Preamble of the Constitution, we the people of the United States established our national government to “promote the general welfare.” Each person has that responsibility to all the others. While some may have fallen into the illusion that individual freedom entitles them to do whatever they want, our system has always been a social one. One person’s freedom can’t interfere with others’ well-being, at least, not without challenge.

As I watch the news of opening of businesses in other states and see people in large gatherings without personal protection, I worry that, within a couple of weeks, there will be coverage of spikes in cases, more hospitalizations, and more deaths, especially because some of the states have re-opened with major outbreaks in factories, nursing homes, and prisons, as though those cases won’t spread beyond facility walls. Maybe the strain they have circulating is not the more virulent one we have suffered with in New York.

Or, maybe, our collective burden of sorrow will be increased, knowing that learning lessons from New York’s experience could have saved heartbreak and lives, if only people had heeded them.

JC’s Confessions #11

In the first few seasons of The Late Show, Stephen Colbert did a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.
~ JC

I find it easier to deal with suffering that isn’t right in front of me.

There is still concern and worry, but it is much less likely to reach a paralyzing level.

With the pandemic, I know there are many people suffering in many places around the world. There is a certain level of continuing worry and heartache.

Still, it is not as painful for me as being with someone who is suffering.

Some of the most difficult things I have had to deal with in my adult life have been medical issues with my family. Some of these have been difficult to diagnosis conditions with my children which have resulted in being home with them continually and not having effective treatment available. It was so stressful to see someone need to hold onto things to be able to navigate, to know that there was only enough strength to make one trip a day up and down the stairs to the bedroom, to not be able to relieve constant pain.

And it is always there in front of you and, despite different doctors and their opinions and hours on the phone with the insurance company and trying everything the doctors recommend, you are helpless.

Somehow, though, when suffering is at a distance, I can imagine that, perhaps, things are not as dire, that things are bearable or treatable or maybe even okay. Sometimes, I can even banish worry for a little while.

I don’t know if other people find it more painful to witness suffering of a loved one firsthand or to be seperated from them. It’s not something that people tend to discuss.

I only know that it is much more painful for me to watch a loved one suffer, especially when everything I can do seems so small in the face of the problem.

One-Liner Wednesday: COVID-19

I’m thinking today of the 3,000,000+ people worldwide, including 1,000,000+ in the United States, who have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, their friends and family, and all those working in the medical field and all the essential workers serving to keep our communities functioning. ❤
*****
Please join us for Linda’s One-Liner Wednesday! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2020/04/29/one-liner-wednesday-april-29th-2020-ladies

Badge by Laura @ riddlefromthemiddle.com

how things are here and there

I know there are other things to write about than novel coronavirus status at the moment, but it’s hard for me to write about them without doing the update first. It’s top of mind for millions upon millions of people around the globe.

I live in New York State in the Northeastern United States. Our state is very hard-hit right now, although the majority of the cases are down near New York City, about 150 miles (240 km) from Broome County, where I live. As of this moment, there are 32 known cases in the county and three deaths. The health department is trying to quarantine contacts, but we are seeing community spread.

B is working from home and will continue to for the foreseeable future. We are staying at home, other than for walks in the neighborhood, during which we keep our distance if we happen to see someone else out, and for necessary food and supplies shopping, which is usually my job. I haven’t shopped for a few days, but the last time I tried to do weekly shopping I had to go to several stores. There aren’t real shortages of anything; it’s just that some people are still panic buying and the stores run out of categories of items until they can get their next shipment from the warehouse.

The biggest change in the last week is that we aren’t going to Paco’s everyday. Because my dad lives in a senior community – in other words, a collection of people who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 complications – we are trying to restrict our visits to only the most necessary ones. Even though I had tried to set up things so that Paco can manage with just telephone reminders, it is difficult not to be able to be there. I’m afraid, though, that it will be many weeks before it is considered advisable to visit frequently.

Meanwhile, daughter E, her spouse L, their daughter ABC, and L’s parents live in one of the global hotspots, London, UK. They were all exposed to the virus the last Sunday that people were allowed to go to church. E and L have both been sick with something that, symptom-wise, could be COVID-19, but they don’t know because tests are only being run on people sick enough to be hospitalized, which, thankfully, they are not. Once this outbreak calms down, E, at least, will probably have an antibody test to confirm if she has had the virus, because she will be having a baby, most likely in August. (This is what is known as burying the lead.)

We are all very happy that there will be a new member in the family. ABC will be three by the time her new brother or sister arrives. We had hoped to visit this spring and then again after the baby’s birth, but all travel plans are on indefinite hold because of the virus and travel restrictions.

It will certainly be very different than having ABC living with us for her first two years, but at least E, L, ABC, and Baby will in the same country and under the same roof. I’m sure L’s parents will enjoy having so much time with the new baby, as we did having ABC on this side of the pond when she was little.

Wishing everyone good health and safety in these difficult times.