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Some observations on Covid-19 from recent personal experience

  • A few hours before I developed symptoms I had a negative screening nasal swab. By the time I got a positive test three days later the symptoms were well on their way to resolving. Good thing I didn’t believe that first result.
  • What helped my not believing was that I had textbook Covid-19 which was moderate bordering on severe: fever 39.5°C (~103°F), chills, body aches, nasal congestion, rhinorhea, and a dry cough that was mild enough for me not to worry. But thankfully no anosmia.
  • Read the preceding paragraph again. The nasal swab done just before I developed all those symptoms (and arguably while having chills - though I didn’t know they were chills at the time) was negative. Covid-19 testing is no better or worse than any other clinical test we have, which is to say caveat medicus.
  • Considering our family’s practices I was surprised that it managed to get in and suspected it was one of the new strains. Lo and behold not 7 days later the UK strain was found in Maryland. I won’t know the sequence of the one that got me for a few more months, but I’d say it’s likely.
  • Said practices did contribute to containment, as there seemed to be no spread outside of the household (there is a small asterisk there which I will leave for another time).
  • The new strains being so much easier to get makes any delays in administering the vaccine that more deadly. This is hard to overstate: shots in arms now, doesn’t matter how and to whom.
  • Speaking of shots, I did get my first dose a few days before the likely exposure, and plan on getting the second one as scheduled if available.
  • Masks aren’t 100% effective, particularly in areas of high prevalence which is right now most of the world. The new strains shift the equilibrium even more. Holier-that-though memes about things being OK again if only people did what’s good for them (i.e. wore a mask) are misguided at best and quite likely counterproductive.
  • Another misguided effort: a DC health professional telling the sole member of a large family without a fever to use a separate bathroom, wear a mask at all times and open all the (quite tall) windows of their 1200 sq ft 7th floor apartment. Hard to tell if this was more comical or dangerous.
  • DC health professional’s misguided advice #2: to get everyone in the household tested. If mine was positive and four more people also have fevers do we really think they have something else? Why risk the tester’s exposure and waste reagents: count these people as positive and move on.
  • But as things stand right now, if these household members don’t get tested they don’t count as positive. How prevalent is this situation, I wonder? Even with test availability not being a bottleneck I’d multiply the current counts by at least 2, probably 3 to get the real number (and I’m sure there are epidemiologists who have a more scientific explanation for why we should be doing that anyway).
  • Symptoms in children seem to be no different than any other febrile viremia of childhood (and in fact may be slightly better as they didn’t seem to sap any of their energy, for better or worse). Does this make in-person school more or less safe? I can see both sides of the argument but if you thought children as asymptomatic carriers would be a big risk that risk is probably overblown as they do in fact get symptoms — they just won’t telegraph them.
  • And if you are worried about long-term effects of Covid-19 in children, well, sure, but how is that different from long-term effects of any febrile viremia of childhood? I’m sure our parenting style will ruin their prospects enough that Covid-19 will be just a drop in the bucket.
  • I have been getting lists of home remedies from people who should know better. This includes aspirin (as an anti-platelet agent, not an antipyretic), azithromycin (still!) zinc, turmeric, propolis. What I took: a little bit of APAP and a lot of H2O.
  • I have a new appreciation for the gig workers, who are the unsung heroes of the pandemic. Tip your Dasher.
  • 2021 is certainly off to an interesting start.

Corona 300

March 7, 2020 was a Saturday. I woke up at 8am, which is as late as it gets, since the night before we watched Breathless and The Graduate back-to-back (the 1960s were a good decade for movies). Most of they was spent in visiting friends in downtown DC. They are a family of four in a tiny one-bedroom; we compared notes on where best to stash the extra flour, rice, pasta, and other staples1 we stocked up on expecting the inevitable. The inevitable came that night as we were heading out, when Mayor Bowser announced in a late news conference that yes indeed Washington DC had its first confirmed case of Covid-19: a man with no recent travel and no confirmed exposures, which is to say, there was already community spread. We got back to our apartment and closed the door; the next time that apartment would be empty of people again, as it usually had been on weekends and later summer afternoons before the pandemic, was more than five months later.

That was 300 days ago to the day, and as my favorite columnist and fellow millennial Janan Ganesh astutely noted, there were no grand lessons that these 300 days gave me, unless you count confirmation that humans can muddle their way through anything as a lesson. Harambe may have been killed in 2016, but 2020 was his year: a tragic, sensless event where everyone is responsible but no one is to blame — though I may be an exception in thinking this, since 2020 was the year of confirmation bias, the year of suppressing the opposing view points, the year of shaming. To complicate matters some more, it was also the year when crackpots and idiots joined into the Grand Coalition of Stoopid, expressing some points of view that maybe ought to be suppressed, and doing some things for which maybe they should be ashamed. Harambe indeed.

I finished the last year with a post about the great things that happened to me personally as the world stagnated in the 2010s. In the spirit of this year, I’ll finish with a list of failures instead, and I’ll do my best not to make it into a thinly veiled list of successes:

  • I read far fewer books and watched far fewer movies than any year before.
  • I wrote far fewer (medical) articles than planned.
  • I wasted time on Twitter like never before (and, let’s hope, never again).
  • I dropped more projects than ever before, including piano lessons, learning a new language, speed-completing the Rubik’s cube, and running in cold weather, among many others.
  • I walked less than any other year since I started walking.2
  • I commuted more by car than ever since moving to DC.
  • I ordered more takeout than ever.
  • And the one that hurts the most: I did not finish a single video game, or even play anything for more than 15 minutes, unless you count Good Sudoku which is truly a masterpiece of design and the highlight of the year. Yes, the highlight.

  1. Though not, funnily enough, toilet paper. 

  2. This may be an exaggeration, but not by much. 

The culture that is Nortwest Washington DC

I have cut my commute down to 40 minutes door-door (from ~2 hours), 25 of which are walking, and we only have to pay 1.69 times the rent. Yay?

Some observations about our new neighborhood from a Serbian/European/Baltimorean transplant.

Dogs are everywhere.

Runners and cyclists too.

And a couple of homeless people. One seems to have staked out a bench I pass by every day.

Very few children. Assuming all the little Audreys and Maddisons are attending their ballet lessons, or whatnot.

Restaurants with street seating. It’s like I’m back in Belgrade. Alas, most of them serve nothing but greasy American classics, only they call it Southern-style and put even more grease.

Are people who eat at these places the same ones doing all the running?

Why do two different streets in the same neighborhood have the exact same name? If you put a super-block that cuts a road in half, does it not make sense to rename one of them?

Safeway is a dump.

The title may remind you of Marginal revolution. That’s on purpose. Go read it.

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