Is the pandemic over? OVER over?

another booster?

Mark Evanier wrote a post two weeks ago, his Question of the Day. Here it is in its entirety. “Was President Biden right to say The Pandemic is over? Well, it depends.”

The link is to a FactCheck.org article describing the debate. The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah, though, hit the nail on the head. Once some people have had COVID, they’re thinking that COVID is over for them and everyone.

From WebMD: “Biden’s comment has split experts in medicine and public health. Some adamantly disagree that the pandemic is over, pointing out that COVID-19 remains a public health emergency in the United States, the World Health Organization still considers it a global pandemic, and most significantly, the virus is still killing over 400 people a day in the U.S.

“Others point out that most of the country is protected by vaccination, infection, or a combination, at least for now. They say the time is right to declare the pandemic’s end and recognize what much of society has already decided.” Mass transit has dropped mask mandates in New York State and elsewhere.

Local spike?

Non-medical places that still require mask wearing are making people grumpy, I’ve noticed. Albany County and adjacent Rensselaer County have remained stubbornly in the yellow (medium) zone for the past six months, even as nearby counties fluctuate.

Then this past week, they bumped up to the red zone, even though the hospitalizations have remained steady.  A statistician friend of mine wondered if the CDC got the numbers wrong.

Instead, “in recent months, New York health officials and those in other states have started using cases per 100,000 residents, and not the more traditional percentage of positive results of those who have been tested, as a more accurate way of measuring infection rates.”

This may explain how nine of the 55 counties north of New York City are in red, but only 109 of more than 3000 counties in the country. 

A fifth shot?

The CDC recommends that “getting a COVID-19 vaccine after you recover from COVID-19 infection provides added protection against COVID-19.” However, I saw my primary care physician for my annual checkup in late September. They believe that I won’t need an Omicron-specific booster because having had the disease, probably BA.4 or BA.5, has given me sufficient immunity. I’m feeling conflicted, but I’m not even eligible until December, so I’ll ponder it further.

Meanwhile, my baby sister got COVID in the latter part of September, even though she was fully vaxxed and boosted. She’s a thousand miles away, so she didn’t get it from me.

There are people, particularly those with long COVID, for which the disease is clearly NOT over. Some desperate patients are turning to unproven alternative therapies.

The Census Bureau notes that 2.9% of adults ages 55-70 employed in January 2020 said they retired early or planned to retire early due to the pandemic, while 2.3% said they either delayed or planned to delay retirement for the same reason.

Not incidentally, my doctor’s office DID give me a flu shot. All indications from the Southern Hemisphere are that it will be a nasty season. I’ve been getting this shot annually for about a decade and a half after having influenza, which kept me out of work for a week.

Imgur as a source of information

Martha’s Vineyard immigrants

imgurIn late September, I was perusing a friend’s Facebook page who had posted, “I stand with the Iranian protests.” One of their friends indicated that they had gotten their information about it from TikTok and Imgur because they didn’t trust news outlets.

Oh, I’ll own it. I had no freaking idea what Imgur was. It “is an image hosting and sharing site, favoured by users of social media and social news sites including Reddit, Twitter, and Digg because of its ease of use and flexibility.” At first glance, it looks so… random. Pets, ads, dance videos, and various tweets.

I searched Iran and #Iran, but found nothing pertinent. But Iranian gave me 118 hits, only some of which were relevant.

Still, this fascinated me. I had seen several pieces in the New York Times, such as this one. Women Take Center Stage in Antigovernment Protests Shaking Iran. “Women have been casting off their legally required head scarves, forming the primary image of the protests. But grievances against a repressive regime go far beyond the hijab.”

This is not to say that one can’t find important stories almost anywhere. I just don’t see myself using Imgur as my go-to for the latest news.

DeSantis

On the other hand, Imgur is the answer to the question, “How did an image of a fake Massachusetts flag end up in a brochure for Martha’s Vineyard migrants?”

From the Boston Globe. Two summers ago, Will Bodine of Pittsfield, MA whipped up a flag redesign in “‘upwards of 10 minutes’ on his computer. The concept was simple: a blue shield emblazoned with the official state flower — the mayflower — encircled by six blue stars, all splashed against a white backdrop.

“Bodine… shared it on Facebook. He also uploaded it to Imgur, an image-hosting website, where, until recently, it had only been viewed a few times.

“Before nearly 50 migrants arrived from Texas on planes chartered by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, lawyers said they were handed brochures containing erroneous information about cash assistance and other benefits they would receive in Massachusetts.

“While it remains unclear who created the pamphlets, they included a rudimentary map of the state, a picture of a lighthouse, a photo of a sign reading ‘Massachusetts Welcomes You’ — and Bodine’s obscure reimagining of the state flag, rather than the real one.”

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver noted this event in the first five minutes of his 9/25/22 program.

I suppose this gets to my point about checking reliable sources of information. As Bodine noted, “’No one had seen this flag until some idiot staffer for DeSantis or whoever’ stumbled across it… ‘I cannot fathom why they would use the wrong one.'”

October 2022 book reviews

Jon Rice on Ocrtober 25

In another hyper-local post, here’s the list of October 2022 book reviews, offered by the Friends and Foundation of the Albany Public Library.

October 4 | Book Review | Islam: A Short History by Karen Armstrong. Reviewer: Carl Strock, author & prize-winning journalist.

October 11 |Book Review | Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant. Reviewer: Gene Damm, former president, Friends of APL.

October 18 | Book Review | Probable Impossibilities: Musings on Beginnings and OEndings by Alan Lightman. Reviewer: David Guistina, WAMC.

October 25 | Book Review | No Bad Parts: Healing Trauma and Restoring Wholeness with the Internal Family Systems Model by Richard Schwartz, Ph.D. Reviewer: Jon S. Rice, MSW, LCSW-R, Albany Health Management Associates, Inc.

Book reviews or author talks are offered every Tuesday at noon at the Washington Avenue branch of the Albany Public Library, 161 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY.

I post this to inform you that you are welcome to attend these events. Recently, in this not-quite-post-COVID period, coffee and snacks are being offered again.

The pitch

But my ulterior motive is to offer YOU the opportunity to participate in a more substantial level. If you’re going to be in the area and would like to provide a book review, please let me know and we can work on that. I’ve conned, I mean persuaded my friend Jon Rice to give a talk on October 25.

Or, if you are a writer of books, you could give an author talk. Holly Planells McKenna was the President of the Albany Public Library Foundation from 2012 until 2020 and was the first president of the combined Friends and Foundation of Albany Public Library. In September 2022, she gave an author talk about her book Across the River Jordan: The Journey to Bring My Son Home.

We are generally scheduling these events for three months out so that they make it onto the Albany Public Library calendar. If you’re interested in doing a book review or author talk, contact me via email or Messenger on Facebook.

Sunday Stealing Fall Meme (autumn)

Halloween 1978

autumn memeThe Sunday Stealing is a fall meme, appropriate because it’s autumn in the Northern Hemisphere.

1. Fave fall Holiday: Thanksgiving. Although there are complications about the origin story in the US (see this blog in eight days), it’s the event that was most tolerable when the family wasn’t around
2. The best thing about fall walks: walking on crunchy leaves
3. Favorite fall chore: Taking out the air conditioner, which is much easier than installing it

4. Least favorite fall chore: Raking leaves, which, BTW, my wife seems to enjoy. The thing about raking is that it is the perfect example of the law of diminishing returns, which I learned about in my freshman economics class in college. That first raking is quite satisfying, as one gathers up a good number of leaves, But subsequent raking in that area is less and less productive and, therefore, much less enjoyable
5. Best change in the home: Usually, the coins I find in the cushions of the sofa

6. Best tree in the fall: oak, maple, almost any deciduous tree
7. Fall ritual: watching (American) football on Thanksgiving and thereafter; I don’t really really pay attention until then
8. Most frustrating thing about fall: Getting darker earlier and getting lighter later

9. Favorite fall decorations: Some neighbors have creative Halloween displays. (And others are hideous, but we won’t talk about those…)
10. Favorite clothing: Any creative costume
11. Traditional fall candy: Junior Mints

Say it! Say it!

12. Favorite sound: Parents trying to coax their young Halloweeners to say “trick or treat.” Come on, my four-year-old, comply with the norms!
13. When does fall begin for you? October 1. There’s an argument between those who are in the meteorological calendar camp and the astronomical calendar camp. The former picks September 1, while the latter prefers September 22 or 23. But with global warming, I’m opting for the full month that everyone agrees is autumnal.

14. What is your favorite aspect of fall? I’m losing the feeling quite a bit, actually. It was the new television season and the arrival of serious Oscar-worthy films. But there are no seasons for TV anymore, plus I watch far less of it. And I haven’t gotten back into my pre-pandemic movie attending, plus so many are only streaming.

15. What are your favorite fall memories? Halloween parties I attended as an adult, especially in 1978 
16. What do you like to drink in the fall? Mulled cider. I lived in a coffeehouse when I attended college, and we often had it
17. What’s your favorite fall food? Turkey. I can always eat turkey, not just in November

18. What color is the fall? Burnt orange, not that bright candy corn orange
19. What does fall smell like? Wood stoves
20. If you could go anywhere in the fall, where would you go? Vermont has great colors

1992 #1 the long haulers

double digits

The BodyguardThere were two songs that were 1992 #1 hits for a double-digit number of weeks. This is the first time this had happened since the 1950s when there were multiple charts to pad the opportunities. However, the phenomenon would occur three more times during the decade. Unlike 1991, which had 27 chart-toppers, this year had but a dozen.

I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston, 14 weeks at #1, quadruple platinum record. This is the song from the movie The Bodyguard with Houston and Kevin Costner, which I have never seen. I’m sure that Dolly Parton is happy that she didn’t give away half the publishing rights to Elvis so that he would cover it. Whitney’s track kept If I Ever Love You by Shai out of the top spot for seven weeks, and Rump Shaker by Wreckx-N-Effect for three.

End Of The Road – Boyz II Men, 13 weeks at #1, platinum record. The group would have two even longer streaks in the next three years. This one kept Baby-Baby-Baby by TLC, then Sometimes Just Ain’t Enough by Patty Smyth with Don Henley, out of the top spot for six consecutive weeks EACH. Yes, I own that second Boyz album.

Jump – Kris Kross, 8 weeks at #1, double platinum record.

Baby Got Back – Sir Mix-A-Lot, 5 weeks at #1, double platinum record
Save The Best For Last – Vanessa Williams, 5 weeks at #1, gold record

I’m Too Sexy – Right Said Fred, 3 weeks at #1, platinum record. This is listed as a novelty song, and I suppose it is. I own a medley that includes this and Baby Got Back
To Be With You – Mr. Big, 3 weeks at #1, gold record

Two weeks at #1

How Do You Talk To An Angel – The Heights, gold record. The #1 song between Whitney and Boyz
I’ll Be There – Mariah Carey. The Jackson Five cover, with Trey Lorenz.
All 4 Love – Color Me Badd, gold record.

A single week

Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me – George Michael/Elton John, gold record
This Used To Be My Playground – Madonna, gold record

Bohemian Rhapsody ONLY got to #2

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