The Covid Chronicles #14

Little did I know when I started posting these chronicles of our times back in March last year, that I would still be doing so nearly two years later. It was December 2019 when we first started hearing about a nasty flu virus in Wuhan in China (although apparently our governments had been talking about it quietly for a month before that). Some reports suggest that a case (or cases) have now been identified, from as early as November 2019 in Brazil, France and possibly Italy as well.

Since the beginning of Covid-19, I have read numerous books about previous plagues, pandemics and epidemics. Two – three years was the norm for such things to make their way around the world and wreck their havoc. Many of the health officials are telling us that five years is more likely with this one.

I’m sure as time goes by, more testing and research will be done and the epidemiologists will be able to pinpoint the various stages and progress of Covid-19, and it’s variants, as they made their way around the world and back again. I go through personal phases of wanting to know the nitty-gritty details, and phases when I want to bury my head in the sand and pretend it’s not happening.

After a long winter lockdown in NSW, we have been gradually opening up and ‘learning to live with Covid’, as our politicians keep saying. December 15 was a milestone day in NSW with nearly all the Covid mandates being relaxed.

The state is just shy of 95% double vaxxed (94.9% first vax; 93.3% double vaxxed).

Freedom day was not exactly what we thought it would be though. The Omicron variant put paid to that. On Wednesday, businesses and shops happily took down QR check-in codes and many people gleefully flung off their masks. By Thursday though, we all woke to the news that 1742 new cases of Covid-19 had been detected in the state (mostly Sydney and Newcastle and most likely Omicron).

Our politicians were not backing down from the no masks/no check-in stance, but they and our health officials started talking about personal responsibility. Our new Premier insisted it was up to the individual what measures they took to protect themselves, while our health officials were clearly telling us that the best way to protect ourselves and others was to wear masks inside and practice social distancing.

Maybe this is a good thing in the end. The last few days have seen around 90% of people in my local area choosing to wear masks when they enter shops and a number of customers have asked shops and cafes to reinstate a QR code. On Friday the daily numbers jumped up to 2213, Saturday another 2482 and today 2566 more cases, which means we have just had a five day period were the new cases jumped to a total of more than 10 000. The first time NSW has seen such Covid numbers. It’s rather confronting.

However we have been told that these numbers are not the ones to watch anymore, now that we are so close to 95% vaxxed. The numbers to keep an eye on are hospitalisations. Today there are 227 people in NSW hospitals with 28 in ICU. Six people have died from Covid-19 this week in NSW; 42 in the same period across all of Australia. Which is pretty low compared to other countries. I hope they still look like that in a week’s time.

The streets and shops in my area are unusually sedate for the last shopping weekend before Christmas.

Anecdotally I can also tell you that many people have cancelled events leading up to Christmas, including B21 who chose not to go out with his mates clubbing this weekend. He does not want to risk being sick and missing Christmas with the family, and perhaps more importantly for him, being forced to go into isolation or lockdown again.

This is living with Covid.

I hear that travel bans, mandates and lockdowns are reappearing across Europe as Omicron quickly moves in. If this is you, please take care; take heart. And let us know how you are doing.

Everyone.

Take care; take heart.

  • This post was written on the traditional land of the Wangal clan, one of the 29 clans of the Eora Nation within the Sydney basin.

25 thoughts on “The Covid Chronicles #14

  1. It’s all very well for them to tell us not to focus on cases, but we’re not being info that we ought to have in order to make informed decisions about our own behaviour. I know it’s too soon for anyone to know much about the severity of Omicron, but we ought to know the age groups of the dying and the hospitalisations, and which variant they have, and the proportion of these that are vaxxed or not.
    Because right now, those of us who are double-vaxxed with AZ have waning immunity and are not yet eligible for boosters, so getting out and about may be a serious risk. We just don’t know, and they aren’t telling us…

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    1. One of the articles I read for this post was by an epidemiologist from Melb Uni, Nancy Baxter who was concerned that officials were following a roadmap designed long before Omicron.
      She said “We’re really relying on Omicron being quite mild, because if it’s not very mild, we’re going to be in a great deal of trouble with the number of people getting sick and needing to be hospitalised overwhelming our system.”
      It’s too soon to know for sure about Omicron and she urges everyone to exercise caution until more is known. It makes sense to me too.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I guess it’s easier from the sidelines, and all we can do is take care of ourselves and those around us. I do feel so sorry for our doctors and nurses though, who thought they might finally have some time off this summer…

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  2. News conference last night and our PM Mark Rutte was visibly shaken by the tsunami Omicron that is on the horizon. He said this is The MOST serious moment in the pandemic crisis for us. Health care workers are stretched to the limit and are ready to snap!
    Total lockdown started 2 hours ago…here in The Netherlands. Everything…and I mean everything is cancelled.
    I’m cancelling my Xmas dinner with friends (both anti- vax). My vaccine jabs are waning…and my booster ( one of the lucky 60+’ers to get one!) will kick in as of two weeks after jab on 12 December.The #Omicron wave will hit hospitals hard—pray for doctors, nurses & respiratory therapists over the holidays. #MaskUp #GetBoosted Stay safe …stay @home.

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    1. Oh Nancy that sounds ghastly. I’m so sorry about your Christmas dinner plans, I know how much planning and prep you had put into it.

      It’s easy to talk about living with Covid when you’re not someone who works in a hospital. The stress on our doctors and nurses is something that really needs to be factored in, probably even more so than the number of beds and ventilators available. Beds and machines are no good to anyone if there are not enough staff to man them.

      It seems like the main thing to hope for right now is that Omicron continues to be as mild as it first appears and that hospitalisations are kept to a minimum.

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      1. Let this sink in— worldwide cumulative #Omicron spiked up Upwards arrow 31% in just **one day**. You can try to delude yourself that a slightly “milder” virus won’t kill many people — but only if you lie to yourself about how exponential math works.
        PLEASE …anyone not protected…, please get the vaccine!!

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      2. I wish more people – particularly the anti-vaxxers – would really consider the impact of their decisions on the health services (that they are likely to need.) I feel so much for the health workers. They just can’t keep this intensity up forever.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I do have some sympathy for world leaders right now. They’re dealing with many unknowns and trying to juggle the Ned to protect public health with her need to protect jobs and people’s livelihoods. Whatever they do , they will get criticised.

    Here in Wales we are seeing case numbers doubling every 48 hours, hospitalisation are increasing though not as rapidly as with previous spikes. Booster vaccines are being ramped up rapidly. But otherwise it’s mostly advice to work from home. Limit contact etc. If the government tried anything like lockdowns before Xmas they know they would not be obeyed. But we’re expecting the restrictions to happen in January.

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    1. I appreciate it’s a juggle and a constantly evolving situation, but it has been interesting seeing what has happened in Sydney this weekend. With no confidence in enough people wearing masks and no QR code check-ins, customers have voted with their feet. The supermarkets have still been relatively busy (but not the usual crazy they should be the week before Christmas) but most of the restaurants have had about 80% cancellations.

      B21 was meant to go to a large staff dinner tonight, but they’ve cancelled it. An acquaintance went to a local restaurant last night that is always booked out, often weeks in advance – they were only one of two tables there.

      Our new premier can claim that as a victory for people showing responsibility for their own health, but it’s not helping livelihoods right now that were booming with business just last week.

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  4. It’s a sorry state everywhere, sadly; each time one thinks things are improving and one might relax, it starts all over again. One can only try one’s best to stay safe and observe all the precautions.

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    1. The number of variants are certainly something that I don’t remember reading about with previous plagues or pandemics. I have heard several times now, that this is going to be with us for at least five years. It makes me feel tired just thinking about it!

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      1. So true; one is really feeling the effects now, however much one tries to keep one’s spirits, and to have to do it for so much longer is really going to take its toll. Thank goodness for books and our interactions here.

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  5. WA feels like a bubble right now – a bit like Melbourne in On the Beach (Neville Shute, 1956) – waiting for the Omicron wave to sweep over us. Son, Lou is in lockdown in remotest Tennant Creek, can’t even get to Darwin to have christmas with his sister. There are no masks anywhere in Perth – well, not in the suburbs I go to – I hope we adopt them when the borders open. Though, you know, complacency.
    Could your bookshop enforce a mask mandate for customers, do you think? Seeing as your let-it-rip government won’t (and our not-my-problem Federal government concentrates on … well nothing really).

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    1. We haven’t had to in the end Bill. On Friday at least 90% of our customers were wearing masks and when I ducked into the supermarket yesterday, I would have said it was closer to 95% of customers choosing to wear a mask. There was also an exodus from Sydney this weekend. Anyone who could leave (i.e. had a holiday home or a family member to stay with and could work from home) left for their summer break early…just in case Sydney gets locked down again.

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  6. I very much appreciate your post. Like you, I never thought that two years into the plague the situation would be this grime.
    in the U.S. the response to the pandemic has become totally politicized. Many here interpret a willingness to be vaccinated and to take basic precautions (social distancing; mask wearing) as indicia of political loyalty. I now live in a fairly conservative area in a very conservative state (Florida) where the vaccination rate (which I believe is defined as one shot) is in the low 60th percentile. Mask wearing has been totally optional for quite some time, there have been no restrictions on social gatherings/distancing and there are no inquiries into one’s vaccination status (by contrast, my home until early 2020 was heavily demoncratic politically and has a vaccination rate, at least the county in which I lived, of around 95%). I now see very little discussion/awareness of Omicron at the state or local (county, municipality) level; as far as the population of west coast Florida is concerned, the pandemic is over.
    Thankfully, I don’t think this is true at the national level. Political and public health leaders are sounding the alarm about Omicron, which is now present in the U.S. It’s hard to see how this could be avoided as New York state is setting daily records for new covid cases (I think it’s still unclear how many are the Omicron variant). Still, I suspect the response to the latest variant will be the same as the response to the next to the latest variant, i.e., a patchwork of whatever state and local officials deem appropriate, which won’t be much in large swaths of the country. It’s depressing to learn that, although boosters are readily available here to any adult, only about 30% of the fully vaxed have taken this additional precaution.

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    1. I find it rather sad, that what should be a simple health and safety process for all of us has become caught up by politics. I guess all we can do is take care of ourselves and our family and trust that will be enough.

      Thanks for filling us in on where things are at in the States.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. That’s an amazing vaccination rate and I’m so pleased for you – how are boosters going? We’ve been boosted but the rate in our city is one of the lowest in the country: there is a big push to get people vaccinated with local faith buildings and pharmacies rolling it out as well as GP surgeries. In England there is just a mask mandate back and work from home if you can – wishy washy from the politicians (wish we were in Wales or Scotland, frankly) and just trying to be careful. Mr Liz had a work Christmas do on Friday and took the risk (restaurant meal but in a separate area of the venue then his colleague’s outside bar in his garden) and as I wanted to see my dear friend who is Extremely Vulnerable on Sat, I slept in the guest room and didn’t interact with him till I’d seen her and come back. I’d run that all past her so she felt safe with it, just feel it’s so important to protect people.

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  8. I’m in Israel and despite our good vaccination rates, there is an air of fear here. The biggest problem is that younger people are getting it, and they are the least vaccinated (those aged 12-18). Boosters are now available for anyone fully vaccinated who got their second shot over 5 months ago, and that’s going well. But the youngest group have only had a chance to get their second dose. Very worrying.

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  9. I saw this come through Brona, but have had a frenetic week getting ready for Melbourne and then coming to Melbourne. All a bit nerve-wracking with increasing numbers, and then daughter having two COVID scare-test-and-isolate-until-results situations in the last 10 days. However, we made it here and it is so lovely to be with family again. We had our boosters 10 days ago

    We were horrified by NSW’s complete about face re QR codes etc. The ACT continued QR codes though, to be honest, I think many people were becoming slack about doing them. However, at least keeping them in place is a reminder that this thing has not gone. As much as I hate them, I’m glad masks are back, though the mask wearing here on Melbourne’s public transport is rather less than you’d desire – either no masks or down around the chin.

    Anyhow, have a lovely Christmas … look forward to more book chats in 2022.

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