Another COVID Winter – The Corona Diaries – Part Six

Another Covid winter – I can’t believe I’m writing those words.  With the arrival of vaccines last spring who would have thought we would still be in this mess, and getting worse, and now with the Omicron variant spreading faster than a wildfire should we be distancing twelve feet apart instead of six?

(Photo from the animal farm last fall)

Did anyone watch the simulated video where the cloud of Omicron virus emitted from a cough launched itself airborne twelve feet and then hung about in the air like some menacing green Grinch, waiting for an innocent victim to walk by.  They then repeated the simulation with a mask on, and those wily particles still escaped from the sides and top.  I’ve since upgraded to N95’s, if I can find them, although when I had to visit the ER department with a family member on Boxing Day, they made us remove them and don one of their flimsy blue ones.

Yes, I spent Boxing Day and the day after, in the ER dept, for a non-COVID matter, and we consider ourselves lucky to have escaped with only a six hour wait each day. The second day was for an ultrasound to rule out a blood clot (negative) as they were too busy to do it on the holiday, and then a three hour wait for results – twelve hours in total, in a cubicle breathing in potential COVID germs.  It was a scary thought, and I spent the week after counting down the days until we could be considered safe again.  This was just before the Omicron tsunami hit, and the staff were barely coping then.  I hate to think what will happen when things get worse and they can’t get enough staff…not just in health care but in any essential worker category.  

We were lucky enough to get our third COVID shots in early December before Omicron even existed.  They allowed me to get mine early, as my mother’s caregiver, although technically my age category wasn’t eligible until two days later, but then a week after they announced anyone over eighteen could, and the Hunger Games of Online Booking began.  So, they’re telling people to get boosters, but no one can get one, at least in a timely fashion. Rapid tests are equally scarce. Parents are scrambling to get second doses for their kids before school starts again. I know high risk people who are booked a month from now, and feel fortunate to have gotten that.  The health unit ran out of Pfizer and they are substituting Moderna again, which causes a problem when you have to provide proof for travel.  Meanwhile the provincial government, in a priceless pass-the-buck news conference suggested to “just walk into” your local pharmacy.  Without an appointment? The same pharmacies who are struggling to cope with the Christmas medication rush and flu shots and are already short-staffed? (Have I mentioned lately how glad I am to be retired.) Mine has stopped taking waiting lists – with 250 names already, and only receiving a paltry 60 doses a week, it’s rather pointless.

With only about a third of the population here having received their boosters, it’s hard to know where to lay the blame, the federal government, the provincial government or the local health unit? They are just now starting to add in more clinics to get the essential workers done, including health care workers, long term care, teachers, police, fire, ambulance – to me this seems inexcusable.

Needless to say, I’ve had a few sleepless nights, and am now back to just skimming the news again –  you want to be informed, but not deluged with doom and gloom, especially before bed.  For those who are struggling with these difficult times, check out last week’s book review – Wintering – by Katherine May.  

I do feel somewhat hopeful that things will be better by spring, and that we will have achieved herd immunity, similar to what happened with the Spanish flu – two rough years, then two years of sporadic cases until it ran out of people to infect.  Of course, it could mutate again, and we’ll be back at square one – take your pick – depending on if you’re a pessimist or an optimist. Some days I’m both.

It reminds me of studying microbiology in second year. Our lectures were in the old Banting and Best building at U of T in a room filled with rows of wooden desks, which I’m sure were there when insulin was discovered. I always liked being in that lecture hall, as I loved history. I once read a biography of Banting and Best and found it fascinating. Type One diabetes was a death sentence back then – one of their first patients was a 13 year old girl – imagine being able to save someone from the brink of death with a substance you had extracted from an animal pancreas. In my early working years, insulin was still sourced from Beef and Pork. It wasn’t until the 80’s that it was genetically manufactured to match the human type. Anyway, microbiology was taught by an old professor with a thick East European accent who used to snort into the microphone, the occurrence of which used to make us laugh hysterically, but in all seriousness, it was an interesting course and we learned about exponential growth, replication, mutations and all the things in the news these days……it’s funny your recollections forty years later. Science has conquered many things over the years, and will eventually conquer COVID too.

(January’s jigsaw puzzle)

Since cases have skyrocketed here, and there seems to be no stopping it, other than taking the usual precautions and staying in, I’ve armed myself with books, (see next weeks Winter Literary Review), jigsaw puzzles, DVD’s, and even signed up for Netflix – although I’m not that impressed with what’s on – most of the movies they suggest based on My List, I’ve already seen.  If anyone has any recommendations please leave a comment.   

(Snowmen – real and otherwise)

The only good thing about the winter so far is that the weather has been fairly decent, unlike other parts of the country which have been deluged with snow and cold.  We’ve had a few inches now and then, barely enough to make a snowman, which melted quickly as many days the temps were in the 30-40’s. A mild December is always a bonus as it shortens up the winter.  Now, in the depths of January, it’s been colder but we’ve hardly had any snow, certainly nothing worth shoveling. I like it when it’s not too blizzardy out, as I tend to feel claustrophobic in snow storms.  I don’t want to go anywhere, but I like to know I could if I needed to.

(Just the right amount of white stuff)

They had been predicting such a bad winter that I decided to get new tires for my old Honda – way overdue but the mechanic kept saying they were okay as long as I did do any long-distance driving??? (really – like where?)  So my big expedition for the month was hanging out in the relatively deserted waiting room of Canadian Tire (a gigantic hardware store with an automotive division), where I felt reasonably safe, but not brave enough to visit the adjacent mall.  

(My big outing for the month, other than the ER dept.)

Of course I had to wait for the tires to come in (supply issue – what else is new), and then had them put on the week before Christmas (the mall was a zoo), and then had to go back for the alignment as they were too busy to do it that day, which was a blessing in a way, as I found a car part in the driveway, (never a good sign), which turned out to be a wheel weight, requiring a wheel re-balance. If the snow hadn’t melted I wouldn’t have noticed it.  I also had them check the battery.   So now I feel safe with my new old car – if only there was someplace to go…

(Even the birds are staying in, except for the partridge in the pear tree)

I haven’t set any new goals or bucket list for this year, as I have in the past, as what would be the point, we have so little control over the circumstances. Masks have been mandatory here for two years, and some degree of lock-down depending on the stats, but there’s little to do even when restrictions are lifted.

(Many people have left their decorations up to shine a little light)

I’m still walking every day, except for a few slippery days, for the fresh air and exercise but mostly for the immune boost – admiring the decorations and lights, and listening to my daily dose of music.  

This catchy tune was on a Lincoln car TV commercial recently. It really has been a most unusual year…..but I have hope for the future.

PS. How are things in your neck of the woods? Do you know anyone who has had COVID? I’m starting to know of a few people who have had it, more friends of friends than people I know specifically.

49 thoughts on “Another COVID Winter – The Corona Diaries – Part Six

  1. Anne says:

    I found this an interesting read, Joni. Of course you would feel the isolation more acutely with it being winter. When Omicron reared its head I feared the provincial borders would be closed. Instead my youngest and her family were able to join us for Christmas after all, including a three-day visit to a nearby national park. One of my children contracted the Delta variant last year and was very ill, although did not require hospitalisation. The strange thing is (is it because of summer?) that the numbers are not rising as they seem to be in the northern hemisphere: 6 762 cases in the whole country yesterday. The difficulty here is not getting a vaccine (we had our Pfizer booster sans making an appointment) but encouraging more people to actually get vaccinated. Masks remain mandatory. I really hope the situation improves your end before long.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Joni says:

      It’s very frustrating to see the lack of long term planning here, two years in. We have a fairly high vaccination rate 83%, with only 17% who chose to be vaccinated, but only 30% have had their boosters. They expect it to peak in a couple of weeks, but I went out yesterday and stocked us up on a month’s worth of groceries. They are now saying everyone will eventually encounter it, but we just don’t want everyone doing so at the same time, or the health care system and essential businesses will break. I find the news so depressing these days. You are lucky it is summer there!

      Like

  2. J P says:

    The whole thing is frustrating. It is interesting that in my area, life is more or less back to normal, while we are seeing the same thing you are, with wide ranging infection and busy hospitals. So do these lockdowns accomplish anything?

    The vaccines seem to have the most effect in lessening the severity of the disease when (not if) you catch it and spread it. It was not widely reported but a life insurance exec in my city has said that non-Covid death rates among working age people are up in a massive way from pre-pandemic. Something has changed, whether vaccines or lockdown side effects, or something else.

    But your musical selection made it all better. I know virtually nothing about Beverly Kenny but will have to investigate. Thanks for identifying the artist used in that commercial. BTW, that particular video was “unavailable ” when I clicked it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Life is only normal here for those people who are lucky enough to have to go to work! The rest of us just stay home. I don’t know if lockdowns work or not – they seem to temporarily put the brakes on, but you can’t run businesses that way. Next week they are sending the kids back to school again – I don’t know if that is good or bad? I think where things got screwed up here is they didn’t offer boosters soon enough, when they knew it was coming, because it was the Christmas break and the hockey arenas are full of ice, so now they are trying to play catch up with smaller clinics… I suspect the non-covid death rates are up because people are neglecting other health issues too, or can’t get help in a timely fashion, or suicides etc. I liked the song too when I first heard it on the car commercial, such a clear distinctive voice. I’ve noticed a few other ads using older songs lately. I’ll check the link. When I was searching youtube for the song, I noticed she had an album of songs for Playboy, so maybe she was from the 50’s? It might make an interesting blog?

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  3. Ally Bean says:

    I cannot imagine sitting in an ER right about now, but I know that you did it safely. As for new tires on an old Honda, I did the same thing last fall. Hated to spend the money but also love that I did. We remain two peas in a pod here, isolating from the world as much as possible, fully vaccinated for which we are grateful, waiting to see what happens next. Stay safe, be healthy

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Ha! We are two peas in a pod, new tires and all! We hardly left the cubicle in ER, but we were in green/low acuity and the patients there were not respiratory, but appendix and another swollen knee (I wondered if she was 2 weeks post vaccine too) etc. Believe me I had plenty of time to eavesdrop on the other cases. But it did bother me that they made us sit in the triage waiting room for twenty minutes with the respiratory cases. It being a stat holiday, there was nothing open in the hospital – and not having eaten that day at 3pm I wandered down to the atrium to find some food – first time I’ve used Visa-tap to pay for something from a vending machine….was happy we had all those turkey leftovers when we finally got home.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Joni says:

        It’s been years? decades? since I used a vending machine and last I knew they took coins or small bills. The parking machines in the hospital do both, but this food vending machine only had a tap function. And they were out of orange juice, so I had to have apple, but they had Fritos, so it was alright! Never go to the ER dept, without a book and a snack. Before the pandemic, I hardly ever used my debit card period, I mostly used cash for small purchases, but now it’s become routine, but Visa Tap – never!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Kate Crimmins says:

    We are in for some bitterly cold weather that is predicted to break records. Sigh. That usually means no flowers on the temperamental hydrangeas! We know people who have had it recently. Even when it’s considered a mild case, it’s no fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. throughrosetintedglasses54 says:

    Ah Joni, it really can be grim can’t it. I do hope that the reasons for your hospital visits have passed and that everyone is ok. I have set one goal for the New Year and that is to stop try and enjoy my morning cup of tea before picking up my phone. I guess like many its become a real habit and one that I intend to break. Happy New Year to you x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Thanks! ER problem all resolved now…..I think it was related to the booster shot myself, from the timing, but lucky no clot, but I would think twice about going there now as the ER is so clogged up with covid cases, and every day more deaths announced. I think things will be better by spring.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Linda Schaub says:

    Joni – your Christmas decorations still look fresh – must be that frosty air keeping it looking good. I like the two snowman side-by-side. My high school friend who lives in NY had the same situation about removing her mask at the hospital and being forced to wear a blue paper surgical mask. She had one of the 3M tight-fitting N95 masks and had to leave it behind. Her husband had most of his pancreas removed and his spleen as well; now he is in a step-down health care facility as the hospital said he was no longer critical. All elective surgeries here are suggested to be put off it at all possible and we have a big blood shortage now too.

    You were lucky that the wheel weight fell off – now I know what it is. It worries me when things happen like that … when the rollover/anti-skid brakes warning light went on. Too many worries these days without car worries for either of us. The puzzle looks nice – I think I’ve mentioned I have saved some of my mom’s puzzles for retirement. I don’t want to on here staring at a laptop screen all day long …. I will have books and puzzles to occupy my mind portions of the day.

    I think Canada will achieve herd immunity as your vaccination rate is so high. I don’t see America getting that done, though today I heard them say that endemic status is in sight, so we should not give up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      It is puzzling that we now have so many people in the hospital with COVID – 56? but fortunately only 8 in ICU, but I blame that on the lack of third boosters, as with the 82% immunized our stats shouldn’t be as bad as they are…..they are coming down though, and most are in congregate settings like nursing homes etc. We have about 600 active cases in our area of 100,000, but were up to 1500 shortly after Xmas, but it’s hard to tell as they say you can multiple the caseload 3 or 4 times due to the lack of testing. Every day in the local paper there’s another death or two. I don’t think the US will ever achieve herd immunity?

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      • Linda Schaub says:

        A woman walker at the Park is a couple of years older than me, prone to respiratory issues every Winter and she was dead set against getting the vaccine. She lives with her mom (or mom lives with her … I don’t know the situation). The mom is in her 90s and I said “if you don’t do it for yourself, do it for your mom’s sake – she may not be able to fight off COVID” and this walker said she didn’t take her mom as her mom never goes out of the house. So she reluctantly got the two Pfizer shots, but won’t get the booster shot. I didn’t see her for a few weeks and she saw me and said “did you get a booster shot?” I said “yes, the first full day they were available, back in October.” She says “I don’t want it, did Joyce get it?” (Another walker in the Park?” (So what … if Joyce did, then she gets it? This Joyce also is prone to respiratory issues.) People amaze me – there is a free vaccine, you can find them on every streetcorner and you don’t get them. Now the government is mailing out 4 at-home instant COVID tests to every family. I signed up to get them and hope I’m not sick enough to even have to test myself. And, next week, every person in the U.S. can go to drug stores and get free N95 masks. I was out in public today getting gas and was a “Nervous Nellie” about it. I have three 3M N95 masks I bought for doing a silicone project back in 2017. I wore it to the gas station – great fit and fit my face even better than the ones I’ve been wearing. So I see lots of people there – they have multiple pumps and a convenience store … only two with masks. I don’t think we’ll achieve herd immunity which is 70% I believe … Michigan has an average number of new confirmed cases at 16,776 per day. Hopefully I’m unscathed by today’s gas station visit, because the stupid handle didn’t work and had to go to two pumps and ask someone (people with SUVs or trucks fix the handle so it pumps on its own and I couldn’t get the handle to go back to default … grrr). So I had to ask three people before someone helped – I was there and not intending to come back!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Linda Schaub says:

        I thought about ordering a few when I ordered the N95 masks from Amazon just after the holidays, but I only intended to go buy gas until March when supposedly we’ll be in better shape and okay to go out for groceries (if needed – I still have pantry items, but no fresh dairy for now … I’m fine with that).

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joni says:

        I would not be fine with that as I like to eat too much! I got a few perishables last Friday, but at a quiet time and was in and out in ten minutes. I figure if I go once a month for a big shop, and we still have lots of stuff left from the last one, and then do a quick pickup in 2 weeks, it’s relatively low risk. I try to distance from people in the store as much as possible.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Linda Schaub says:

        When my grocery store did the big renovation last year, they changed the U-scan. I always used the large U-scan lanes where there was no limit on your order. You could go to the twelve items or less or use the big lane. So I did the scanning, packed the way I wanted – then they changed to this stupid conglomeration of U-scans and nowhere to put the bags. A carousel with 3-4 bags at a time, no more. So I will have to resign myself to using the cashier to ring me up as I usually have more than a few items and that will have to be on a Sunday morning where fewer people are there – that essentially kills one weekend day, unless I can go before work on a weekday when the sun is up earlier. They are delivering groceries to your home for free until the end of January (Meijer) and Kroger is delivering for $1.00.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joni says:

        I would try the delivery. You can order online here from Walmart and a few grocery stores but you have to go pick it up. I prefer to pick out my own produce though.

        Like

    • Joni says:

      JP said that it didn’t work for him either, but it works okay on my website. I run into that sometimes, where someone will post a video and it will say something about this is not available in your country. Could be the browser too maybe?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Linda Schaub says:

        I was thinking it was because I am Windows 7 but it could be Chrome browser … I only use Firefox for writing posts … I had to start using it for banking as Chrome was no longer supported by the bank.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joni says:

        It’s possible. JP was interested in blogging about the singer, so you can either check her out on youtube or wait until her posts. I find a lot of car commercials use older vintage tunes….it was a catchy song.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Linda Schaub says:

        I try to save Firefox just for banking and for writing posts only … on Comcast, I never heard back from the computer guy and my boss said he cannot get into the system either … so I’m hoping the computer guy just gets a new security certificate and I can transition to Windows 10 later … not now. I would like to get things off this computer as I don’t have anywhere else I can go. I have a table and I bought two risers but where do I plug them in … that’s the question.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. ruthsoaper says:

    I know many people who have had covid. Two who both had severe underlying conditions have passed away. My 87-year-old father-in-law, in October 2020, was hospitalized with it for 10 days then in a rehab for two weeks then came and stayed with us for another 5 weeks before he was able to go home on his own. He got a vaccine early on – I think it was April 2021. By July he could no longer live on his own and ended up in a LTC facility. He passed away in September. I couldn’t say if covid or vaccine had anything to do with his death. Two of my daughters have had it, my Aunt, my sister and brother-in-law and nephew all were able to get over it with no long-term effects. I’ve had a few days where I have had possible symptoms but nothing that ever lasted long enough to consider getting tested.
    How are your grocery stores stocked over there? I think here food shortages are considered as big of a threat as covid.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      I’m sorry to hear that Ruth about the deaths. It’s good that most of the people you know who had it have recovered okay. Our grocery stores are okay, but I’ve noticed some things out of stock, and if they are out, they are out for weeks. Same with the pharmacy shelves.

      Liked by 1 person

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