Tag Archives: omicron

COVID-19: CDC Says Mask Up Indoors, Again!

Well, if you haven’t paid attention to my COVID-19 posts of the last couple of months, or the steady climb of test positivity during the same period, it looks like the Feds are recognizing COVID-19 as a problem, again. Surprise? Hardly.

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows about one-third of the U.S. population is now living in a county with a “high COVID-19 community level,” which means the agency recommends universal indoor masking.

Johns Hopkins University reports new COVID-19 cases rising slowly, which 108,000 new cases reported every day over the past two weeks. That is up 6% from the two weeks prior.

A recent pre-print study based on health records from the Veteran’s Administration shows that catching COVID-19 over and over again appears to increase the chances a person will experience new and sometimes lasting health problems after their infection.

People who had two or more documented infections had more than twice the risk of dying and three times the risk of being hospitalized within six months of their last infection.

Houston Health reports positivity is at 29.2% (probably undercounted) and that hospitalizations are indeed increasing. Moreover, Houston Health is now telling folks to mask-up indoors no matter their vaccination status based on CDC recommendations. The Texas Tribune and local news outlets also report that hospitalizations have doubled in the last week. All of this because of the newest variant that seems to be among the majority of infections.

But the omicron variant, which doctors say appears to be as contagious as the measles, could wind up sending more people to the hospital than during previous surges — even if it is a milder version of the virus — simply due to the sheer volume of people it’s infecting, Dr. Jason Bowling, epidemiologist at University Health in San Antonio.

Omicron has become the dominant variant in the state less than a month after it was first detected. The delta variant took several months to become dominant in Texas. That means the state’s medical community could be in for a bumpy ride this month as the virus infects people at an unprecedented rate.

Frankly it pisses me off that pundits continue to say that current numbers are “lower than last year’s peak,” as there are still people getting sick and spreading it a lot easier than with past variants. People are still acting as if this is over and it is pretty obvious it is not. Waiting for the numbers to get bad, instead of staying vigilant and proactive, is the problem. This new data that shows people infected multiple times have a higher chance of dying or hospitalization is pretty scary, too.

Now (or during the last few months) is not the time to continue to be lax in preventing disease. If masking had still been pushed while the numbers were lowering, perhaps we wouldn’t be in this current uptick in infections. But, hell, when people at the highest levels of government went unmasked at mass events, including some of our favorite Democrats, they ceased to be an example of prevention to the people. If anything, they were the excuse people needed to flick off their masks. And any new push by them to have the people mask up, I predict, will faceplant because of this.

What pisses me off even more is that the immunocompromised are still under constant threat. People still need to work and are in unmasked workplaces that insist on putting employees in danger. Mass events are being held with little to no recommendations for masking. Look, no one is telling you to close down, but mask the hell up! I really don’t need to see y’alls faces.

I preferred the politics of COVID-19 when Greg Abbott’s ineptitude wasn’t getting the help of everyone else in politics.

Back At Orange; CDC Unmasking

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has placed us back at COVID-19 Level Orange.

BREAKING: I’ve just lowered our COVID19 Threat Level Indicator from Level 1: Red to Level 2: Orange, as cases/ICU populations are decreasing. We’re moving in the right direction but we can always see another wave. Please get vaxxed and boosted, and help us keep the virus at bay.

Just in time for the OmicRodeo! Not that any warnings or suggestions would have done anything to keep people masked or distanced at crowded places like NRG. We’ve been on our own the whole damn time to do the right thing and have failed miserably, especially Texas-wide.

Today, the CDC begins to unmask America.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday will announce a change to the metrics it uses to determine whether to recommend face coverings, shifting from looking at COVID-19 case counts to a more holistic view of risk from the coronavirus to a community. Under current guidelines, masks are recommended for people residing in communities of substantial or high transmission — roughly 95% of U.S. counties, according to the latest data.

The new metrics will still consider caseloads, but also take into account hospitalizations and local hospital capacity, which have been markedly improved during the emergence of the omicron variant. That strain is highly transmissible, but indications are that it is less severe than earlier strains, particularly for people who are fully vaccinated and boosted. Under the new guidelines, the vast majority of Americans will no longer live in areas where indoor masking in public is recommended, based on current data.

No doubt, there will be more confusion. That’s OK, even the bluest of states and cities want to pretend the pandemic is over and are getting rid of masks. Or, at least confusing people as to whether masks are required, recommended, or go fuck yourself.

Anyway, we’re still at CODE RED at DC HQ. We wear N-95, KN-95 and KF-94 masks in all places with breathing people, sometimes with a cloth mask over it just because we have some pretty cool cloth masks that we still want to show off. And we breathe just fine and don’t whine about it. We work in places with weak masking and vaccination regs thanks to the bad leadership of Greg Abbott and others, thus, keeping us on a testing regimen whenever some unmasked fool breathes on us. All these threats with no support for our family members who are immunocompromised–whether from workplaces or our government, or even friends/family who insist on going to mass events unmasked.

Yes, COVID-19 is here to stay, they just haven’t thrown the word “endemic” at us locally like they have in California; at least, not officially.

Yes, Another COVID-19 Week

Did You Order Your Free Test?

The Biden Administration’s 1 billion at-home COVID-19 tests are now available for all to order at COVIDtests.gov. Also, if one is insured, get information on how to get reimbursed by ones health insurance at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website. Since we’re Texas, there are different and varying ways in which workplaces are dealing with in-house infections (or trying to avoid them), so, there is an unfortunate chance that one can get infected if some boss or co-worker is walking around unmasked and coughing up a lung at work. PCR Testing is probably better to get to the bottom of ones status, but if one is showing symptoms, then an at-home rapid test could be helpful. Get Vax’d/boosted, wear a mask in public places, and avoid crowds.

Free N-95s?

The Biden Administration also announced that 400 million N-95 masks will become available to the public starting next week. Higher level masks, like N-95, KN-95, and KF-94 masks increase the time for COVID-19 to spread; meaning, if you’re in a workplace setting with a lot of people or a crowd, these masks can be more effective.

The plan consists of working with pharmacies and community health centers to distribute the nonsurgical masks, which will come from the Strategic National Stockpile. The administration will begin shipments this week and hopes to have the program fully operational by early February, the White House official said.

That’s nice and all, but I wish there was a way for Biden and company to lower the costs of higher-level masks. No sooner had I ordered a batch of 50 KN-95 masks at a good price, Omicron arrived in full-force and so did the profiteering, thus, doubling + the price within days. Instead, Biden is making stuff available from the stockpile while manufacturing capacity has somewhat increased, but costs have not been controlled.

It’s Getting Better?

Notwithstanding several exposures that required more than one test in my own family over the last month, there are reports that COVID-19 measured through our Houston wastewater is seeing a decrease, and hospitalizations might be waning in a few places. That kind of talk worries me because people begin to act like fools as if they can go back to their most recent “normal,” which means unmasked mass events with people beyond their circle of trust. Don’t! It’s going in the right direction, but we’re still at almost 40% positivity.

Bottom line, we are still in the thick of it. With schools and universities reopening after the holiday, the “end” of this surge may be delayed. If schools have access to testing, masks, and vaccinations, then there is hope. But it will not be an easy task.

Many state universities are doing “soft openings,” which will begin with online instruction before going back to full capacity. For all the complaining about having to go back to virtual learning, if people wore masks indoors all the time and got vaccinated/boosted, and if higher ed leaders were to stand up to the likes of Greg Abbott, we may have had a better shot at keeping things open. But even the simple tasks are too much for people at all levels.

As always, mask up, get vax’d and boosted, and stay away from big crowds.

We Suck Even More! Back at Red

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has placed us back at threat level RED–the highest level. All while blaming record hospitalizations and the unvaccinated.

DosCentavos.net will add that the vaccinated and unmasked attending all sorts of holiday parties and continued mass events in this new year helped drive the percentage of COVID-19 positive tests to almost 40% of those testing.

From the County Public Health Office:

Today, Office of County Judge Lina Hidalgo increased the COVID-19 Threat Level Indicator from level 2 (Orange) to level 1 (Red). Unvaccinated individuals should continue to mask, physical distance, and avoid all gatherings. Vaccinated individuals follow the latest local public health guidance on wearing a mask while indoors in public places, in crowded outdoor settings, and for activities with close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated. We urge all unvaccinated people to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Visit vacstrac.hctx.net or call 832-927-8787 for scheduling and appointments are not required, although recommended.

I think it’s better to just have one blanket suggestion to not go to crowded settings and to always wear masks. One may hang out with someone who is vaccinated, but we never know where that vaccinated person may have been. I think that’s one reason why so many vax’d people got Omicron after attending holiday parties and mass events. And I’m just tired of rewarding bad behavior.

Hopefully, more workplaces will be pushing vaccinations and masking in the office if forcing employees to sacrifice themselves at work. Otherwise, let’s hope for at least some lower density work environments calling for split shifts and a couple of days of working at home. And hope that managers aren’t up the hindside of Greg Abbott.

And do we really think the unvaccinated are going to avoid crowds, wear masks, and get vaccinated? We don’t hear about it until their family members start their GoFundMes with, “Covid ain’t no joke.”

Because of comorbidities and other issues, I’ve remained at RED since Day 1. Don’t expect me to be out and about. (There have been a couple of nervous attempts at patio dining pre-Omicron.) As far as deciding on whom to vote for in the Democratic Primary, my only source of information will be unmasked (-vs- masked) selfies and blockwalking pics on Facebook and/or Instagram.

My policy of not giving to GoFundMe funeral fundraisers for the unmasked and unvax’d will remain in place. Those who die from being vax’d, yet unmasked and endangering themselves, will go through a committee vote.

In other words, stay masked, get boosted, and stay away from gatherings for now. And if you’re an elected official or candidate, be a damn example. I’d like for whom I am voting to not get COVID and die while in office.

Kuff adds a similar sentiment while asking if anyone is listening anymore.

Y’all Suck! We Are Back At Orange!

Looks like we are back at Code Orange in the COVID-19 threat level in Harris County.

“Due to the explosive growth of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus across Harris County, public health officials are strongly urging all eligible Harris County residents, especially individuals 65 and older, to get their booster shots as soon as possible,” county officials said in a statement released Monday. “Residents who are not vaccinated are cautioned to do so immediately. Regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask and get tested before attending holiday gatherings.

I don’t like to second guess leaders that I support, but the masking/testing suggestion for all should have continued, instead of going “Yellow.” Instead, we’ve seen so many maskless mass events attended by the unmasked, yet vaccinated, as holiday parties and graduations have been celebrated and, unsurprisingly, the numbers took a turn for the worse in a very bad and quick way. Some of our Democratic stars are getting breakthrough infections. My worry is also with workplaces who have “fully opened” and have gone unmasked as they follow Greg Abbott.

Let’s not forget that when we went to “Yellow” the other day, word of Omicron surfaced. And what we know about Omicron now is that we will have more breakthrough infections. And the worry is that many of those breakthrough infections will hit hospital and medical staff.

We should have remained careful. Hell, I did and continue double-masking and avoiding maskless crowds, but that’s because I have my own comorbidities and I have family members who are immunosuppressed that I’d much rather hang-out with than all other humans. I’m not going to risk them.

I know leaders want to provide citizens some sort of incentive or reward or relief from masks for bringing numbers down, but, with so many still unvaccinated and unmasked scoffing at our leaders who are trying to do something good, well, idiocy should not be rewarded. Certainly, the maskholes didn’t feel the need to vax and mask while those of us who have done our part were the ones who were actually being rewarded.

President Biden will speak on Omicron on Tuesday. While I hear chatter from some considered experts that “COVID-19 is here to stay” and that “we will all get it, eventually,” I hope leaders at the very top don’t listen to them and actually lead. Some of us just don’t want to get sick, no matter how “mild” the symptoms.

For more, here’s Kuff.

The Omicron Wave is Upon Us

We’ve known about the Omicron variant for a few weeks now and the health authorities have been prompt at gathering information regarding how well the COVID-19 vaccines will work against it. Unfortunately, its existence hasn’t done much to make people cautious and cognizant of its ability to spread faster than other variants, so, the numbers of people testing positive and being hospitalized for COVID are increasing locally, according to a report in Houston Public Media.

Methodist confirmed a total of 307 positive COVID-19 tests on Monday and Tuesday of this week, according to the hospital. That’s up from 76 positive tests reported last Monday and Tuesday. Additionally, the hospital confirmed on Wednesday that 54 cases of the omicron variant have been identified by Methodist’s sequencing lab since early December.

Unfortunately, some people are still acting like the pandemic is over because they are fully vax’d or boosted. That’s their prerogative, I guess. They’re OK with getting infected and suffering through mild symptoms, so they attend all the big christmas gatherings with people not in their immediate circle. Just don’t expect to ever be around me. Your mild infection can still affect those with other health concerns.

As I drove around my area this week, I’ve noticed lines at testing kiosks and facilities. So, some folks are either sick or getting worried about Omicron enough to test themselves.

But there is a concern that even if omicron doesn’t affect most people, even a small percentage of patients could quickly overwhelm hospitals in the Houston area, Boom said.

“If this spreads so rapidly that there are massive numbers of infected people, even if on average they’re very mild, if that hits the vulnerable in our population and they end up hospitalized, that can still be an incredibly challenging time,” Boom said.

So, the push for vaccination and boosters continues, but Texas is still ass-backward Texas with folks complaining about a tiny needle and a shot that’s been tested on hundreds of millions of Americans. My new motto for the holidays: My money is not going to your DeathFundMe accounts for funerals because of your stupidity.

Speaking of, I’ve seen too many unmasked events going on from folks on my side of the aisle. Like I said, it’s their prerogative. But how easy is it to spread disease? Well, anecdotally, one local workplace I was told about had some unmasked fool walking around, supposedly vaccinated. He got sick because he was probably unmasked at a gathering, tested negative and then was coughing up a lung at work. The person finally tested positive and protocols went into effect. Thankfully, because most co-workers were vax’d and masked at work despite Abbott’s no-mask-mandate idiocy, COVID-19 tests are coming back negative for the co-workers, thus far, but what an inconvenience! But all it takes is one person, even among folks you see everyday at work and who think they’re invincible to spread it to unmasked others. So, mask up!

I must give out a tip of my Stetson to State Rep. Penny Morales Shaw (148) for turning an in-person fundraiser to a Zoom-only event because of health concerns for the people she serves. The politicians I respect the most are the ones who set examples for the community. So, give her a few bucks for her efforts.

2:50PM Update: Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner just announced that he has tested positive for COVID-19. He has mild symptoms and will rest. He’s been to a lot of unmasked events, so, how does the contact tracing work in this situation?

So, yeah, y’all need to stop with the unmasked events.

Back At Yellow Despite Omicron Threat

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has placed us back at threat level YELLOW as the COVID-19 positivity rate is less than 5% and hospitalizations are down-trending. The definition of YELLOW is:

Level 3 signifies a moderate and controlled  level of COVID-19 in Harris County, meaning a further demonstrated reduction transmission and the local healthcare system is well within capacity. Unvaccinated residents should remain vigilant, but can resume contact with others and resume leaving home. Unvaccinated individuals should continue to mask and physical distance. Fully vaccinated individuals may resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules and regulations and including local business and workplace guidance. 

ReadyHarris.com (Emphasis mine)

Yet, today, President Biden in trying to calm fears about the Omicron variant was also telling us to continue masking, practice social distancing, and keep clean just in case COVID-19 is in our mist, er, midst. That’s exactly my plan: To continue being proactive as if we are still in a pandemic and staying within my circle of trust, which is basically four people whose activities and precautions I know.

As Kuff reminds us, the local traffic is telling us that people are going back to work at their workplaces rather than being productive at home. The holiday season also means that stores will also be full of people. Workplaces and shopping establishments do not seem to be pushing masking and distancing , but I’m guessing it’s 50-50 when left up to the individual. The smart individuals are the ones that continue masking at the office (and everywhere else) despite workplace and supervisor/coworker attitudes toward these policies.

So, the suggestions behind “Code Yellow” aren’t something I’m trusting because I don’t want to get sick–even if I am boosted by Moderna. They keep telling us to follow the science, but people with comorbidities need to follow the realities that COVID-19 can hit them harder than what the skinny, healthier, well-insured folks on TV tell us. Hell, breakthroughs are still not being adequately reported and Texas and Greg Abbott suck at reporting anything, anyway.

The scientists are studying Omicron and the vaccine’s effectiveness against it. I say we stay masked up and distanced. The unmasked and unvax’d pendejos will surely still be out there helping the spread.

Also, get vaccinated. If vaccinated, get boosted.