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.