AndyO Blog

Friday, June 24, 2022

COVID: June 24, 2022 - Gas masks and portable toilets

By Friday, Drew had convinced me that we should be wearing masks in all the common areas in the quarantine zone. I didn't want to, but his logic made sense: If he was positive (after being exposed to Faith on Tuesday), then he'd be spreading it to me. We both put on masks. 

I have to say, this reminded me of the scene in Close Encounters when Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) and Jillian Guiler (Melinda Dillon) are driving through Wyoming and seeing "dead" animals. After some hesitation, their fear compels them to put on gas masks.

While we're at it: Another family "gas mask" joke from Close Encounters, one that took on greater relevance during the pandemic, was the guy selling the gas masks to people in Gillette, Wyoming (filmed in Bay Minette, Alabama). He utters the immortal words: "And now, you're gonna be real disappointed and sorry if you don't have an early-warning system, such as a bird, a gas mask. Why, even my dog has a gas mask. And any of you folks are worth more than a dog." (Below is the best screenshot I could find of this scene--note how the other guy is holding his hand over his mouth and nose, because the dog has the gas mask.)

Back to my house situation: I started thinking about whether there were other ways to reduce trips to our lone bathroom. A few times since I instituted quarantine, I'd used a small, plastic garbage can when I couldn't wait or didn't want to go in the bathroom right after one of the "infected." But I always felt weird doing this -- even if it seemed necessary. This got me thinking: there had to be portable options.

As I browsed Amazon, I saw every kind of portable potty or urine collection device ever created. I was astonished by the selection, which always makes choosing more difficult. I ended up buying some "hospital style" urine collection bottles, including one that women and men could use. 

As it turned out, on Friday Cameron finally tested positive for COVID and developed fever and chills. By the time night came around, I heard him going to the bathroom all night. When I told him later about the portable potties coming on Saturday, he texted back, "Sounds amazing." There's nothing worse than having to walk up a flight of stairs to use the bathroom when you're in a fever state.


posted by AndyO @ 10:00 PM   0 comments

Thursday, June 23, 2022

COVID: June 23, 2022 - Quarantine

On Thursday, as I talked at a weekly counselor appointment, it became clear I'd already given up on trying to remain COVID free. Like a lot of people, I was rationalizing it as being like a cold. She reminded me that we still needed to treat it like a serious disease, especially given how the virus reacts with different people. 

The conversation brought me back to reality and the danger that still lurked. I knew there were people in this same situation who thought they were safe -- because they were vaccinated, young, or healthy -- people who were now dead. I was also reminded, as I was at the beginning of the COVID pandemic, of the summer of 1976, when I first felt the invisible danger of disease. I watched a nightly news report about an unknown disease rampaging at a Legionnaire's meeting in Philadelphia, and it sent me into a tailspin. ("We're all gonna die!" I think I remember telling my parents.)

I'd come a long way since my childhood, mostly being able to contain my anxiety and fear for the past two-and-a-half years, but still being worn down by the fatigue of a pandemic. I resigned myself to keep fighting. 

Drew and I tested again at 7:00 p.m., and we were still negative.

I called Cameron about a new strategy for our house -- one that would reduce the risk for Drew and me. Cameron and Faith could use the bathroom, but nothing else. We'd deliver their food to the top of the stairs. We'd all wear KN95 masks (the N95s were too uncomfortable). I also told them they'd need to sterilize the bathroom (light switches, toilet seat, flusher handle, sink, etc.) after every use. I thought this was a good compromise for having Faith stay with us, and I knew it would be helpful in the long run -- as I was sure Cameron would be positive soon.

With the new strategy established, I felt a wave confidence as I ordered paper plates, forks, Red Solo cups, and a bunch of other stuff on Amazon Fresh. Cameron and Faith would need supplies to eat and drink. I set the delivery for 10 p.m - 12:00 a.m. window again. 

As I was waiting, I wondered what else I could buy to reduce exposure while making Cameron and Faith more comfortable. Before long, I was adding a cheap microwave, toaster, and other assorted items to my cart. 

I knew I'd gone too far when I started looking at 32-inch 4K TVs to replace the 720p TV that I watched upstairs in the living room. I suppose I missed the Sony 65-inch OLED "home theater" downstairs -- a TV that Cameron and Faith were watching constantly now.


posted by AndyO @ 3:25 PM   0 comments

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

COVID: June 22, 2022 - It begins

On Wednesday, Cameron's girlfriend Faith wasn't feeling well. As she lay on the couch with a stuffy nose, she said she'd lost smell and taste. Obviously, this was a red alert, so Faith and Cameron (who typically live in a garage bedroom) started wearing masks everywhere. But no one tested yet.

My main concern was that I'd gone into the office on Tuesday and had seen at least 10 of my coworkers; I was hoping that Faith hadn't been contagious until Wednesday. And because I'd asked Cameron and Faith to include Drew in their outings when possible (he was out of school for the summer), they'd taken him out with them in her car the day before. Finally, I thought about how I'd helped my neighbor, Pat, who had had surgery, get from his car to the house (45 minutes of close contact, since I was helping him walk). 

Cameron started wondering where Faith had potentially picked up the virus. Since they had both started working for the cruise lines in Seattle on the weekends, where they loaded and unloaded up to 5,000 passengers per day, I thought it was obvious. 

"But we always wear masks," Cameron's said.

I explained how Omicron was twice as contagious as the Delta variant. 

For those who are curious, cruise ship passengers are required to have a negative COVID test before setting sail, and if people get sick on the cruise they are taken off the ship after everyone else, using a quarantine protocol. But given what I'd heard about Omicron, I knew it didn't take much for one person to infect someone in close contact.  

Later in the day, in between my usual work calls, I asked Cameron if Faith had tested, and he didn't know where the tests were. He said he'd been doing his own "tests" with his array of hot sauces to see if Faith could taste those (including the Carolina Reaper Pepper although I don't think he used this one). I pointed him to the stack of COVID tests in the basket by the door (where they'd always been).

"Could she taste the hot sauces?" I asked.

"Not at first, but eventually."   

Not a good sign, I thought. 

He took a test and headed downstairs. After hearing the results of the hot sauce test, Drew and I put on masks in the living room. After about 15 minutes, Cameron came upstairs wearing a more surgical- looking mask. 

I looked at him, and he nodded. Faith was positive. 

"I've never seen the two lines before," Cameron said, referring to the "test" and "control" lines in the window of the test. Since he figured he'd already been exposed both Tuesday and Wednesday, he decided he would stay downstairs with her. They would only come upstairs to use the one bathroom and also cook (although I was already having second thoughts about that). 

It's worth noting that when Cameron was in Boston for school this year, his roommate got COVID. Cameron was diligent about using a mask and staying in his room most of the time (even if his roommate hadn't), and had avoided it. It was an interesting case study, even with people living in the same house, and one I'd see repeated by other people I knew in Seattle.

My first COVID test

For some reason, I always thought that you only tested when you showed symptoms of COVID. The guys I play music with said I should test right away, as it was important to know the first day you're positive. We downloaded the iHealth app for the testing kit, swabbed our nostrils, and put the sample into the test apparatus (which looked a lot like a home pregnancy test). 

After 15 minutes, we were both negative. 

It felt good in the way you feel after landing safely on vacation after turbulence -- but still knowing you needed to fly home. I knew there would be a lot of testing happening over the next week.

Next, I put together a $300-plus Amazon Fresh order. The last order had arrived about a week before, and we'd gone through all of the essentials. I was happy to be able to get a delivery window between 10:00 and 12:00 a.m. that very night (and it actually arrived by 11:00 p.m.).

Finally, before I went to bed, I texted Brenda about the COVID situation. She'd already been away for a week, hiking around southwest England on a walking tour with our neighbor, Charlotte. They'd been planning this trip for at least six months, which requires being able to walk up to 12 miles a day. 

I told her not to worry, and that I had everything under control. (Like the valet handling the Ferrari in Ferris Bueller's Day Off: "You fellas have nothing to worry about. I'm a professional.")

She texted, "I'm not worried."

Labels: ,

posted by AndyO @ 11:30 PM   0 comments

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

COVID: Update 2022

Since the last time I wrote in this blog, the pandemic has continued to mutate and cause deaths around the world. We've been through four variants, including the original, Delta (last summer/fall in the U.S.), Omicron, and additional Omicron sub-variants.

Here's what the waves have looked like since the beginning. The big spike at the end of 2021 and beginning of 2022 was Delta. 

Last year at the end of June, I ended up going on vacation to try to deal with work burnout. It was the first time I'd stayed in a hotel, and I felt safe enough to eat out. By the time Brenda and I were scheduled to go on another summer vacation, Delta was already starting to ramp up and everyone. But it was the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in the United States that eventually caused the giant spike.

Here's an image from the Johns Hopkins website that shows current numbers of cases, deaths, and vaccines:

Here are the current variants in the United States, showing that Omicron BA 2.12.1 is 56.0% of the infections.

Finally, as one might wonder in the middle of the pandemic, how does COVID-19 compare to other viruses? As you can see, it's not the worst -- but also not the best. The Spanish Flu and HIV/AIDS recorded many more deaths. H1N1 Influenza infected the most people of any pandemic. But as a virus appearing in the modern age, COVID-19 has recorded the most deaths of any coronavirus or influenza since the Spanish Flu.

It's because of the advances of modern medicine and technology that COVID-19 didn't cause more deaths. The 2.1 million deaths around the world are still too many, but it was still a miracle that the new mRNA, genetically-engineered vaccines were developed in less than a year -- instead of four years (which is what it took for the mumps). 


posted by AndyO @ 12:44 AM   0 comments