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Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021

Only 58 days until the Pandemic Anniversary! I see Thursday, March 11 as a turning point, a time when we hear news about fewer cases/hospitalizations/deaths and more about openings, reunions, and summertime. On that day we begin the six months toward normal life, the final third of the eighteen months that I expect the pandemic to last. The news tends to focus on the negative and the experts don’t want us to get too confident too soon. Still I see signs of hope as spring approaches. Because I look for good news.

If you want to find good news you need to first define what good news means to you and then consciously seek it out. You already use a mental filter as you scan subject lines and headings to decide what to read. What words do you look for when you skim? Remember: news is not limited to politics. Try other sections. To echo Marie Kondo, decide what sparks joy for you.

You may want to see what’s new in astronomy, finance, travel, art, or the latest book reviews. When you click on these stories in conventional news sources you will begin to spot specialty news sources on these topics that will be happy to send newsletters to your mailbox. Train your brain to react to positive signals and your neural pathways will act as your own personal filter. (Yes, I’m reading Sanjay Gupta’s new book, Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age.)

For example, as a historian and medical technologist, I’m particularly interested in the dynamics of the pandemic: the scientific discoveries, the medical challenges, and the dramatic impact it has on everyday life. Yes, I scan the mainstream news, but I get more interesting information from the selected newsfeeds in my mailbox.

With the help of these newsletters, here are some reasons I see the pandemic anniversary as a turning point:

Found vintage Valentine postcard on Amazon
  • Although we see the hospitals overwhelmed right now, the major holidays for family and social gathering are behind us. Good-bye holiday surges. Valentine’s Day is not known for mass socializing. Have fun with it! I’m sending out vintage postcards this year. By the Fourth of July we will be in a different mode.
  • Progress in treatment options: One example: If convalescent plasma with high antibody titers is given to older adults within 72 hours of onset of COVID symptoms, it reduces the risk of severe respiratory disease in older adults by 48%. Previously, when the plasma was given later after hospitalization it was not nearly as effective. (New England Journal of Medicine, see below). Referred by Nature Briefing. Monoclonal antibodies are also found to be more effective when administered early. (NPR article below.)
  • Immunity may last longer than 8 months. The further we are into the pandemic, the more we learn about how long immunity lasts. Studies about durability have to be done in real time. A recent study written up in Science found that different components of the immune system–antibodies, T-cells, and B-cells–show distinct reactivity to the Covid spike protein at different intervals after exposure with immune memory lasting as long as 8 months. In a few months we will know if it lasts as long as a year. (Science, see below, cited in MedicalNewsToday).
  • The vaccine rollout is expanding both in the U. S. and worldwide. New York and California have just expanded their criteria for vaccine recipients. By March many more of us will be vaccinated, which will slow community spread and make socializing safer for all of us.
  • The travel industry is coming up with safer travel solutions. Tourist travel may seem nonessential, but it’s big business and many jobs depend on it. In addition, travel is a vital component of family connections and medical needs as many industries, charities, scientific collaboration, and world organizations. New developments include plans to require documentation of negative test results or vaccination, new sanitation and food service protocols, and easier cancellation policies. One newsletter I subscribe to is Scott McCartney’s “The Middle Seat” from the Wall Street Journal.

I understand the public health experts and epidemiologists recommending caution. We are in the middle of a health crisis, especially here in California right now. Not a good time to let down our guard or have unreasonable expectations. We made that mistake last March, when the communicated impression was that life might be normal in a few weeks.

But I have a feeling this March will be different. 58 more days to the recovery phase. Look for the signs.

Today’s Notable Headlines

“U.S. to change Covid vaccine allocation to favor states that quickly administer shots,” CNBC, Jan. 12, 2021. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/12/covid-vaccine-us-to-change-allocation-to-favor-states-that-quickly-administer-shots.html

“Doctors Encouraged By Antibody Treatments For COVID-19,” NPR, Jan. 6, 2021. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/01/06/953946994/doctors-encouraged-by-antibody-treatments-for-covid-19

“Travelers boarding international flights to the US will need proof of negative COVID-19 test, CDC says,” USA Today, Jan. 12, 2021. https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/airline-news/2021/01/12/covid-test-required-international-passengers-flying-into-us/6640424002/

“Holiday surge of COVID cases starts to decline in Charlotte County,” SunPort Charlotte, Jan. 12. https://www.yoursun.com/charlotte/news/holiday-surge-of-covid-cases-starts-to-decline-in-charlotte-county/article_7be7b99a-550b-11eb-a8c1-a7b50b6dca11.html

“These Illinois regions could see Covid restrictions relaxed Friday as state reports 6,642 cases, 117 deaths,” WGN9. Jan. 12, 2021. https://wgntv.com/news/these-illinois-regions-could-see-covid-restrictions-relaxed-friday-as-state-reports-6642-cases-117-deaths/

Sources:

“A deeper dive into the principles of the KonMari Method™.” https://konmari.com/category/konmari-philosophy/

“Early High-Titer Plasma Therapy to Prevent Severe Covid-19 in Older Adults,” New England Journal of Medicine, Jan. 6, 2021. https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2033700

“Immunological memory to SARS-CoV-2 assessed for up to 8 months after infection,” Science, Jan. 6, 2021. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2021/01/06/science.abf4063

“What to Expect From Travel in 2021,” Scott McCartney, The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 6, 2021. https://www.wsj.com/articles/what-to-expect-from-travel-in-2021-if-anything-11609941849?mod=djemTECH_h

Why am I doing this?

The coronavirus pandemic will be indelibly written on our memories just as the Great Depression or the Battle of Britain left their mark on past generations. I intend to journal the pandemic experience from three perspectives: as a retired medical technologist, as a historian (Ph.D., 2014), and an ordinary person living through an estraordinary world crisis.

You are on History’s Edge.

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