Yes, I still try to wear a facemask whenever I go to an indoor public space, whether it be the grocery store or the sportsbook. I even wear a mask most of the day at the office, unless the people in the desks closest to mine aren't in that day. I just don't want to get sick. I'm vaccinated for both the flue and COVID, and am up-to-date on my COVID boosters, so I'm not terribly concerned about getting severely sick. But I would just prefer not to be sick at all, if I can take reasonable precautions to avoid it.

Unfortunately, I haven't always been as strict about it as I probably should have been. I did catch COVID a few months ago. It was pretty mild. I had a pretty bad fever for a day, with my temperature almost getting up to 104 degrees. After the fever broke, I was coughing and sniffly for a week or so, but was able to function. I still kept myself in quarantine though, since I'm lucky enough to work at a company that allows remote work.

The cough lingered on and off for a few weeks, which made exercise a bit more difficult. But otherwise, I haven't had any lasting effects (that I'm aware of).

I am still wearing a face mask in indoor public places, and sometimes at home.

Ironically, I had just been in the pharmacy a couple weeks before getting COVID, and the pharmacist had asked if I wanted a booster. I didn't think they took walk-ins, but I was like "sure!". Unfortunately, I didn't have my vaccine card on my person at that time, so the pharmacist asked me to come back again later. I planned on going back later that week, but kept putting it off and didn't get around to it. Then I caught the damn thing and got sick.

If I had gotten that booster, and had been more consistent about wearing my mask, it is possible that I could have avoided getting sick at all. But I didn't, so now I've joined the ranks of the overwhelming majority who has caught COVID. Even so, I am now back to wearing a mask when I go out. Even though I'm unlikely to catch COVID again so soon, there are still regular colds and the flu floating around out there, and I don't want to catch those either.

Honestly, even after the COVID pandemic is finally over and COVID has settled into being little worse than a regular cold, I might still continue wearing a mask under certain conditions. I've actually found a lot more value to wearing a mask beyond just the prevention or mitigation of COVID.

First and foremost, quarantine and masks have proven effective at preventing the spread of regular cold and flu. So I'll probably continue to mask up during cold and flu season, whether there's an ongoing pandemic or not. I have a teenage daughter in middle school, and a toddler son who goes to daycare occasionally. Kids bring home bugs all the time. So I might still catch things from them, at home, no matter what I do. But might as well take precautions so as not to catch anything from strangers when I'm out and about.

The other big advantage that I've found to wearing a mask has been the mitigation of allergy symptoms. I suffer from seasonal allergies, and I know there is something in my neighborhood that is a major trigger for my allergies, but I just don't know what, specifically it is. Maybe it's mulberry; or maybe it's oleander. I'm not sure. Whatever it is, it can mess me up really bad. I've had to take time off of work in the past because my allergy attacks were almost as bad as having the flu.

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Last summer I wrote that my experience with the COVID-19 pandemic at that time was "pretty pedestrian". At the time, I was optimistic that the pandemic would soon be well under control, despite the absolute ineptitude of our government's initial response. But here we are, a year and a half later, and community spread of COVID is still causing almost as many deaths on a weekly basis as it did at the height of the pandemic a year ago. This is despite the widespread availability of free, CDC and FDA-approved vaccines!

Vaccines are now available for children as young as 5.

My partner and I are vaccinated, as are most of our friends and relatives, but we have a 11-year old child attending public school, and a 2 1/2 month old infant. Neither child is vaccinated yet. The vaccines weren't approved for use in children under 12 until recently, and even then, they are only approved for children as young as 5. We had scheduled for our 11-year old to get the first vaccine shot in early November (the week after it was approved for children in her age group). But in a twisted bit of irony, COVID made it into our household before she could get that shot.

Close calls

We narrowly avoided contracting COVID earlier in October. I was asked by a neighbor to walk their children to school one morning because she and her husband had to go into work early. I was happy to oblige. It's the neighborly thing to do. What I didn't know was that the father is unvaccinated. Had I known, I likely would have refused. And I would have been vindicated in that refusal because their entire household came down with COVID that week. The father is a teacher and was required to do weekly testing. He tested on Monday, I walked the kids to school on Tuesday, the father received his positive result on Wednesday, and the kids and their mother began showing symptoms that weekend.

Lucky for us, none of us got sick. The kids either weren't contagious yet, or we just weren't close enough to contract it from them. And don't worry, our neighbors and their kids are all recovered now.

The next exposure, we weren't quite so lucky.

Our luck runs out

The week before our daughter was scheduled to get her first vaccine shot, my partner contracted COVID. The likely vector for the virus was another child of un-vaccinated parents who went trick-or-treating with our daughter on Halloween. The mother of one of our daughter's friends had been watching him on weekends because his deadbeat mom kept dumping him off on her. He had been feeling sick the week before, but didn't bother to tell us, nor did his mother bother to tell us. I think she just wanted to get him out of the house so that she could get some booty calls.

It's too bad the CDC couldn't have authorized the vaccine for younger children before Halloween.
I imagine we weren't the only ones to catch COVID while trick-or-treating.

We had 2 occasions in which we socialized with children of un-vaccinated parents, and in both cases, we were exposed to COVID. We had been rigorous about making sure that any adults we socialized with were vaccinated. But children couldn't be vaccinated, and we couldn't deny letting our daughter visit with friends. All of her friends' parents were vaccinated, so it never really occurred to us to make a policy of verifying the vaccination status of other childrens' parents. It seems obvious in hindsight, but we just never thought of it.

We avoided COVID for a year and a half,
but our luck ran out this November.

Anyway, he tested positive the day after Halloween, and our kid's friend's mom tested positive a couple days after that. A week after Halloween, my partner started sniffling and coughing while breast-feeding our son. I had her take a home COVID test, and sure enough, it was positive. We promptly put her into quarantine in our guest room (thankfully we have a house large enough to allow us to keep a guest room). And since we couldn't be certain that we had quarantined her before she spread it to myself or our 11-year-old, we were forced to all start wearing masks in the house whenever we were around each other, or whenever any of us was handling the baby.

It sucked. You think it's uncomfortable and inconvenient to wear a mask in public? Imagine having to do it all day in your own home!

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There are days in all of our lives in which our life irreversibly changes forever. A few weeks ago, I had such a day. My partner of 7 years and I welcomed into the world a new baby boy. Little Julian was born via C-section in early September at 7 pounds and 3 ounces, and is so far healthy and happy.

My partner and I welcomed our baby son, Julian into the world in early September.

Regular readers might know that I already have a child for all intents and purposes. When I met my partner, she already had a 3 year old daughter from a previous relationship. We've had full custody of that child, and so I've been raising as my own. Since I didn't even meet her until she was 3 years old, I missed out on all the baby stuff. In fact, she was just finishing up potty training when I met her, so I never had to deal with diapers. I had a daughter, but I never had a baby.

The only time I've ever had to deal with infants and diapers and bottles was years ago when a co-worker and friend friend had twin daughters through (I think) in vitro fertilization. She was raising the girls as a single mother and needed some extra help, and since she lived a few minutes from me, I offered to go over and help watch the babies from time to time so that she could take care of chores around the house. She taught me how to change diapers, feed babies, hold them, and calm them when they were crying. One of the twins was particularly responsive to me, and always seemed to calm down when I held her.

They were my little "practice babies", and I was sad when their mother decided to move out of state to the midwest to be with family. She had limited support here (even with friends and colleagues like me trying to help out whenever we could), so I can't blame or fault her for the decision.

But now I have a little baby of my own, and so that practice is finally paying off!

With my partner bed-ridden after the C-section, I was responsible for diaper changes in the first couple days.

In fact, I had to put that practice into effect almost immediately. Since my partner had to have a C-section, she was bed-ridden for the first couple days after the delivery. This meant that during those first couple days in the hospital, I was on full-time diaper duty. Newborn diapers weren't exactly what I was prepared for. The thick, black, sticky meconium was quite a bit different than what I remembered from the practice twins. Having a boy also meant I had the risk of being peed on during a diaper change, which isn't really a problem with baby girls (as far as I've been told). Though Julian has actually yet to pee on us directly. He did pee on his own face once though. I was holding is legs up to clean him after a dirty diaper, he started peeing while pointing right at his face. He was not a happy baby.

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In the last post, I talked about how the COVID-19 pandemic affected me personally -- which [thankfully] was not much. This time, I want to present some of my thoughts and opinions on the response to the pandemic from a policy and societal perspective, as well as what I perceive to be the lessons that we (as a society) should have learned.

Some of the most essential workers in our economy are the ones who are paid the least. Health care workers, delivery persons, postal workers, grocery clerks, warehouse workers, restaurant workers, and so forth were the people who had to keep going to work because our economy and lifestyles would grind to a complete halt without them. The median wages among employed individuals in the United States is around $49k per year. Yet according to Salary.com, the average salary for a professional truck driver is only around $42k. Contract or gig drivers (such as Amazon couriers) make far, far less.

Restaurant and grocery store workers also make far less than delivery drivers, often earning minimum wage (or less than minimum wage if you also make tips). Those who maybe kept their jobs, but were reliant on tips were especially hurt during the lockdowns, due to a lack of business and in-person contact.

Low-paid delivery persons and fast food workers were essential,
and had to keep working while the rest of us stayed home and safe.

And then there's the healthcare workers, who were literally putting their lives on the line every day, helping to take care of sick people and possibly exposing themselves to infection on a daily basis. Registered nurses (usually employed in hospitals) make decent pay, but the majority of support staff in private clinics are not necessarily registered nurses. This includes receptionists, phlebotomist, clerical staff, and other assistants. As of 2018, medical support staff earned an average of less than $40k per year!

Remember, these are the people who, during a pandemic, were considered "essential" workers who had to keep working (while everyone else stayed home) in order to keep a bare minimum economy running, and to allow the rest of us to continue to go about our daily lives. When shit hit the fan, we didn't look to lawyers, or corporate CEOs, or hedge fund managers, or brokers, or realtors, or movie stars, or athletes. Aside from doctors, we didn't need any of the traditionally highest-paid classes of workers. We needed truck drivers, postal workers, warehouse workers, grocery clerks, and food service workers, and of course medical staff. So I hope you remember this next time you hear someone say that these workers deserve higher pay, or that minimum wage should be increased.

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As we all know, the world has been gripped by a pandemic since the winter / early spring of 2020. The high infection and mortality rates of the novel caronavirus and its associated disease, COVID-19, lead to a mass panic that resulted in governments all over the world completely shutting down economies and recommending social distancing measures intended to mitigate the spread of the disease long enough to get it under control. This seemed to work up through April, when declining cases and general public boredness and frustration lead to the premature re-opening of businesses, and a few weeks later we started seeing huge increases in cases. As a society, we put money before the life and dignity of people, and tens of thousands of people have unnecessarily died because people couldn't wait three more weeks before going to the hair solon or the beach.

I wanted to write about the pandemic back during the height of the lockdown in April, but I kept putting it off until it seemed like a resolution was in sight. I didn't want to publish my thoughts on the issue until I actually knew how it would all turn out, and whether or not I would be personally affected by it. But now it appears that we are nowhere near the end of this pandemic, and the general public and our political leaders have seemingly lost all will to take any meaningful steps to deal with it. I guess now is as good a time as any to start talking about it.

The Las Vegas Strip was shut down for over a month. Shortly after it re-opened, casino workers started getting sick.

I want to talk about the broader socio-political impacts of the pandemic, but I want to take more time to get my thoughts together and do the proper research to make sure I get the facts right. So I'll be writing later about the lessons that I think society (American society more specifically) should have learned from this pandemic (but apparently didn't). First, I'm going to write about the impacts that the pandemic had on me, personally -- which (admittedly) isn't particularly dramatic.

We had a couple of minor scares, but they all turned out to be false alarms. Early in the pandemic, a friend had cold or flu-like symptoms within a day of us having her husband over. Turned out, she just had tonsillitis. Though a regular cold seems to have gone around their house a couple times over the months of the pandemic. We had another friend who works in a local supermarket and had a co-worker test positive for COVID. Her and her roommates all had tests and all came back negative, thankfully. I also had a couple work colleagues who had direct business contacts who got sick and tested positive, though none of my colleagues ever showed symptoms. As I said, multiple close calls.

Commuting from the Bedroom to the Living Room

Unlike many people who were furloughed or laid off, I was fortunate enough to keep my job and be able to work from home during the lockdowns. We were scheduled to re-open the office in mid-July, but the resurgence in local cases prompted our boss to keep everyone working from home indefinitely until new cases drop again. It was a good call.

Many of my friends and family weren't as lucky. I had several friends get furloughed, and most of them ended up being permanently laid off. My mom was also furloughed, and she does not expect to go back to work. Well, I guess she gets an early retirement. My sister also works in a health clinic, so was an essential worker who was potentially at high risk. Her clinic shortened its hours and only takes patients by appointment, so it wasn't nearly as stressful or dangerous as it could have been if she had been working at a hospital, but she still had a very rough few months.

Thankfully, I had my partner and proxy-daughter to keep me company while locked down in work-from-home mode. As for my partner, she's a teacher and was doing the whole tele-education thing over Google classroom, phone calls, and emails for the few weeks that were left in the school year. Then she got the summer off anyway, so she was even less impacted than I was. She was going to have paid vacation for the whole summer anyway. As for what's going to happen when the 2020 school year starts ... that's still up in the air as of the time of this publication. Our local school district has a plan for re-opening, but it's not ideal. I don't think any plan would be ideal in this situation. It's just all different degrees of bad.

Public schools are the last thing we should be re-opening during a pandemic.
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