Yep, it was only a month ago that my last COVID post appeared. 20% of hospital beds have been occupied with COVID-19+ patients for that month, so my turn has come up again.
COVID is blasting through my department. My co-workers who are getting it are the parents of unvaccinated toddlers who are bringing it home from daycare. We old folks are doing fine.
The hospital COVID census is starting to come down. They are starting elective surgeries again. I hope folks don’t take this as meaning we’re out of the woods. I hope mask mandates don’t end. I hope bars don’t fill up. I hope the hospital doesn’t refill. That’s a lot of hope for one day. I’m not very hopeful. (Since I wrote that paragraph, our city and county public health department announced that the mandate that expires at the end of February will not be renewed.)
I would like to go out in public next summer. I would like to not carry a mask everywhere I go. I would like leaving the house to mean more than quick trips to the grocery store and library in addition to going to work or outdoor recreation alone or in small groups. I would like to eat inside of a restaurant again, not just on a patio after checking out table spacing.
I even have plans. In my mind I say “COVID willing” in relation to all of those plans.
The state legislature in WI passes a lot of stupid bills. The Republican Party is in control firmly of both houses, thanks to gerrymandering after the 2010 elections. Few of these bills become law, as they are vetoed by the Democratic Governor. Are they utterly stupid, or are they pandering to their base, knowing that their idiotic bills will not become law but look good on the campaign trail? Of note, this is the legislature that didn’t convene for the first year of the pandemic, as they had no clue what to do.
A package of bills passed today. They include the “Natural Immunity” bill, which states that having had COVID-19 precludes the need for vaccination or testing. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Mary Felzkowski, stated , “This is a vote very much based on science and recognizing the God-given ability to fight off infections that our creator gave us.” It should be noted that she has had COVID-19 twice so far, so god apparently didn’t give her a very good ability to fight off infections. Personally, I have trouble trusting my God-given ability to fight off tuberculosis, malaria, dengue, HIV, yellow fever, cholera, typhoid, ebola, anthrax..or COVID-19.
Another bill allows you to draw unemployment if you quit your job because a vaccine is required. Yet another forbids any employer from requiring a vaccine. (Yes, it would be hard to quit your job because your employer required a vaccine if the law forbids your employer from requiring a vaccine.) And finally, if you are “injured” because your employer required you to get vaccinated, you are eligible for Worker’s Compensation.
So yes, I am back to the
salt mines COVID units once again. The hospital COVID census dropped from 95 to 50, the mask mandate is about to expire, and all is right with the world. This downward trend has continued for a whole two weeks, so clearly we are out of the woods and can go back to crowding into bars and throwing up on each other again.
If 10% of hospital beds were occupied by people with the same disease (other than this one), we’d think it was a disaster. Now we call it good news. It did delay my COVID rotation by a week.
Since I wrote that paragraph, the census has dropped again. Today (February 28) the mask mandate ends and, instead of the parents of pre-school kids being the new sick population, it will be the parents of school-age kids. I’ll try not to say “I told you so.” (The good news is several school districts announced that they will continue to recommend masks. I think I can predict which suburbs and in town, which schools will continue masking.)
But COVID isn’t the only stupidity in the news. (Now former) Hudson, OH Mayor Greg Shubert has spoken out against ice fishing, warning of the slippery slope. If we allow ice fishing, then they’ll want shanties. If they get shanties, prostitution will follow. While this “If You Give a Moose a Muffin” reasoning is more than I can handle, I couldn’t get the image out of my mind of sex workers in snowmobile suits, Sorel boots, and balaclavas going door-to-door among the ice fishing shanties. Maybe guys will put fake fur in the shanty windows and post a bumper sticker that says “If this shanty’s rockin’/Don’t bother knockin'”. Doesn’t the mayor know that would scare the fish? And if it were really a problem, wouldn’t STIs be rampant in Wisconsin in the winter?
But back to work. By now, everyone has heard that, statistically, the Omicron variant is pretty mild. My vaccinated and boosted co-workers who got it from their kids didn’t like it, but they weren’t sick all that long. But tell my patient who had the severe stroke that it is mild. Oh, wait, that won’t be helpful, as that person has aphasia and can’t understand what you’re saying. Or tell it to the person whose heart stopped twice and only restarted after surgeons cut open their chest and rhythmically squeezed their heart for a half hour to keep blood circulating until they could get it to pump on its own again…which was only temporary until they could implant a machine to help it along. Another patient didn’t need a machine once the defibrillator did its job and the cardiologists removed the clots from their coronary arteries, but they did complain to me about how much the broken ribs and sternum (from CPR) hurt.
Therapy with one of my patients consisted of working on breath control while we talked, so they could carry on a conversation without the non-rebreather mask in addition to the high-flow nasal cannula. They could speak in full sentences, a vast improvement over when it was one word at a time due to shortness of breath. But that was a couple of days ago. Now I’m not sure they will survive the weekend.
I know anecdotes aren’t statistics – but statistics aren’t people. These non-vaccinated folks are real people with real suffering. I hope they live to learn something from this.
Here are a few statistics for you. During a 6 week period in December 2021-January 2022, a large midwestern teaching hospital admitted 735 COVID-19 patients. Of those, 74% were unvaccinated, 3% were vaccinated and boosted. They admitted 120 of those patients to an ICU. Of those, 77% were unvaccinated and 3% boosted. (The number in between, 23% in the first instance and 20% in the second, were those vaccinated but not boosted.)
I’ve probably told you before that my daughter likes to collect, from obituaries, euphemisms for death. I have to say this is one of my favorites. In December, 2020, he posted this:
A bit over a year later, his brother posted this:
Note that he didn’t die of COVID-19, but of “post viral Covid symptoms”. He was cured of COVID by the “complete healing” of death. Oh, but it’s not death, because he “passed into life”. Not sure what he passed out of, but since he said “you spent an entire year of your life…”, I think he thought this was life even if his little brother doesn’t. I guess I can say that 3 years from that post I might be able to look back at that time I spent wearing a mask and staying home. He won’t be able to.