Nutburgers, Covid variants, and yes, good news stories

Back in December, an overnight pharmacist at a Wisconsin hospital left 57 Covid vaccine vials–each holding enough for 10 doses– out of the refrigerator so they’d spoil. He was convinced they’d make people infertile and implant them with microchips. He also believed the earth is flat and the sky isn’t real. Seriously. That wasn’t me saying something absurd to make you laugh, and I put his beliefs in the past tense, but for all I know he still believes that.

What is the sky if it’s not real? It’s a shield that the government put up to keep people from seeing god. What the microchips do is anyone’s guess. Make you dance like a carrot, maybe.

He pled guilty to deliberately spoiling the vaccine. Do I need to say that he doesn’t work at the hospital anymore?

Irrelevant photo: a hellebore.

…and meanwhile in Britain

Some dozen hospitals around Britain have seen Covid deniers barging in, denouncing the staff, and taking photos for social media. At one, a group of I’m not sure how many insisted that a Covid patient be sent home and treated with vitamins and zinc. 

“He will die if he is taken from from here,” a doctor told them before they were thrown out. 

Some of the photos they’ve posted on social media have been of empty hospital corridors, which are shown as proof that the hospitals, and intensive care units in particular, aren’t overstretched. NHS staff are being denounced as “ventilator killers,” and are being harassed and threatened on social media.

Seven people have faced fines and arrests, and posts have been taken off social media but more keep cropping up. 

“Staff are exhausted and are running on fumes,” said said Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, the president of the Doctors Association UK. “They should not be having to deal with abuse and even death threats on social media. Nor should they be worried about turning up for their shift due to crowds of people chanting ‘Covid is a hoax’ outside hospitals full of patients who are sick and dying. This is decimating morale, but worse still, could be obstructing patient care.”

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The Wales office of Britain’s Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency turned itself into a pandemic hotspot by–employees say–encouraging workers to come back to work while they still had symptoms and turning down the requests to work from home, even when the people involved were vulnerable. The IT systems, apparently, are so outdated that it’s not always possible for people to use them from home.

One complaint to Public Health Wales said the DVLA had asked people to turn off their test and trace apps so that their phones wouldn’t ping. Because who wants to be bothered at work with news that you’ve been exposed to Covid and should get yourself tested? 

People who did take time off for Covid-related reasons had that time taken off their sick leave. If they took more than ten days off, they got a warning.

The office has had more than 500 Covid cases since September, in an office with 1,800 employees.

A DVLA spokesperson said that safety is a priority. Want to bet whoever it is is working from home, or at least in a different office?

*

The Covid variant first found in Britain seems to have somewhat different symptoms than the earlier variants. Coughs, sore throats, fatigue, and muscle pain are common, but loss of smell and taste are less likely.

As for the South African variant, over 100 cases have been identified in England. It’s not known to be more dangerous, but it has mutations that may–emphasis on may–make the current crop of vaccines less effective. It also may not. The experts are working frantically to figure that out right now. 

It’s not time to panic over this one. A couple of the vaccines may be less effective against it, but they’re not ineffective. One, the Pfizer, looks like it will be fine, but that’s in early tests. And keep in mind that when they talk about the vaccines being effective, they’re talking about people not getting sick at all, not about preventing hospitalization and death and all those things that have a way of focusing our attention on the disease. The statistics on the most severe aspects of the disease are better. 

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And having learned nothing from the Covid spike that followed the Christmas loosening of restrictions, caused the current lockdown, and brought our stats up to more than 100,000 deaths, Boris Johnson, Britain’s booster-in-chief and part-time prime minister, tells us that we may all be able to go on vacation–or in British, on holiday–this summer. Because, yeah, that’s what we should really be thinking about right now. 

I won’t even mention last summer’s encouragement to go on holiday, go out for a drink, go out for a meal, and join in the great germ exchange.

 

What are people doing in lockdown?

In the first lockdown, we read about people baking. Not people who’d been baking since they were twelve, but people who had to call helplines before they could reliably recognize their ovens. Flour was hard to buy unless you were buying in industrial quantities. Experimental banana bread loaves were, some of them, so heavy that if they’d been dropped from third-floor windows they’d have been more dangerous than Covid itself. 

This time, sure, some people are baking, but we’re not talking about that anymore. The focus has moved on and we’re talking about people fitting itty bitty jigsaw pieces together. 

In 2020, sales of jigsaw puzzles were up 38% in Britain compared to 2019. That’s over £100 million spent on something that’s completely useless. Unless, of course, you consider it useful to save your sanity and keep your family members from spilling each other’s blood. People, understandably, have different opinions about that. 

Traditionally, the jigsaw market (a phrase I never expected to find myself typing) skews heavily toward kids, but the best sellers last year were the thousand-piece ones that are meant for adults. I’ll skip the breakdown of what graphics are most popular, but manufacturers reported that they could sell just about any image, even plain white.

*

Scandinavia’s biggest film festival, the Gothenburg Film Festival, will go ahead this year, in spite of the pandemic, but it’ll be held on an isolated island and movies will be screened for an audience of one. They invited applications and got 12,000, and I’m not sure if they chose Lisa Enroth because she’s a nurse or because someone drew her name out of a hat, but the festival’s chief exec said, “It feels particularly right to be able to give this unique experience to one of the many heroes of the healthcare system who are all working so hard against Covid-19.”

Enroth will watch a week’s worth of movies and post a daily video diary on the festival’s website, and I’m sure we’ll all be welcome to read it, so polish up your Swedish. (Parts of the website are in English, but the audience member is Swedish. I admit, I’m making assumptions here.)

*

We can all take a more active part in the Great Big Art Exhibition, which is inviting people to make art at home and display it in their windows or on balconies or porches, or wherever their neighbors can appreciate it. The first theme, launched at the end of January, is animals. 

The arts organization sponsoring it, FirstSite, has organized British galleries to make work available for people to download as inspiration. When I looked, a handful of people had already posted their work on the site, and it’s wonderful. 

The project will run through April.

33 thoughts on “Nutburgers, Covid variants, and yes, good news stories

  1. This “encouraging workers to come back to work while they still had symptoms and turning down the requests to work from home,” this is why we are where we are. This, go out and have fun. If anything, this virus has revealed the brainless among us.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I used to use an online jigsaw, where you could customise the difficulty level (I stuck to one that could be done in about 5 minutes). But curiously, it just hasn’t appealed all through this lockdown.

    On the other hand, now the Seville oranges are in the supermarket, I made some marmalade and some orange curd (took two goes, since the first attempts were a bit runny, but still, it’s something tangible).

    Words fail me for the self-righteous idiot hospital invaders – where do they get these bizarre convictions and how is it they lack any self-doubt?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good question. The culture seems to accept that referring to evidence is passe. I guess self-doubt went with it. Fuel yourself with enough anger, enough self-righteousness. Gather a crowd. You’re there.

      Or make marmalade. It strikes me as more useful,

      Like

  3. Athletic teams in the US know more about the spread of covid than the experts. The NFL has had almost a regular season because of their own research. They have discovered with intense tracing and testing that the 6 foot (two meters) distance is not effective when in a closed space or when not using a mask such as when eating meals. Even though US football is a close contact sport, most of the outbreaks have not happened on the field. They have also installed far uvc lighting in their locker rooms and inside training areas. Happy Groundhog day!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I should never read your post in the morning – I am clearly way too slow as in can’t quite keep up slow.
    I kept waiting for the description of what kind of nuts the British add to their hamburgers.
    I now realized the same kind we add to ours here in Qanon land.
    I need another shot of caffeine.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I love the idea of the revolving gallery of art in people’s windows. I generally feel like one of the very few silver linings to emerge from this pandemic year is the pace of life slowing down for many people (obviously not healthcare workers and others) and, in doing so, appreciating the joy to be found in small pleasures such as learning to bake or completing a puzzle or taking up a new hobby. I somehow manage to still be over-scheduled (I chose to have four kids so it’s a bit of an own goal) but my baking skills have definitely improved and my repertoire of recipes has increased.

    BoJo encouraging people to book holidays and anticipate summer vacations is not just ridiculous but also dangerous. I don’t have a good bead on the pace of vaccine rollout in he UK but where I am in the US it is going so painfully slowly that I don’t even know if my kids will be safe to resume in-person schooling in September (especially since they will not be eligible for the vaccine, three of them being under 16). We are a family who love traveling but there is no way we are making even modest travel plans for 2021.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I’ll hazard a guess as to where that former hospital employee was on January 6.
    Yesterday a mob of anti-vaxxers stormed the inoculation site in Dodger Stadium (in Los Angeles – it’s a huge baseball stadium) and disrupted the whole clinic. If they are anti-vax why the $%^& didn’t they stay away from the people that obviously weren’t ?? Could it be to get themselves on TV ??

    In another form of good art news – there will be no Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans this year – last year it was right at the beginning of the outbreak and led to much hand-wringing (justified) over how much that helped spread Covid. But this year New Orleans residents are signing up to decorate their homes as parade floats. Those should eclipse even the Christmas and Halloween displays we former colonists are so given to !

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I suppose flat-earthers need pharmacies, too, but really, where did this guy get his degree and how did he get hired on to a hospital?

    As for empty hospital corridors as evidence of the system NOT being overtaxed – my son works in a long term care facility that just ended an outbreak episode. When the floor is in this mode, everyone is in their rooms. No one is allowed to wander. Staff, that is if any staff show up, are in the rooms donning and doffing all manner of PPE, a change of clothing for each engagement with a resident. (About absentee staff: so many are burned out, sick, or afraid of getting sick, some shifts only one out of a half dozen employees make it to work.)

    As is likely the case in the UK, it only takes one case for an outbreak to be declared. In this instance, it turned out to be a false positive. For the better part of 2 weeks, everyone was on high alert, taking extra precautions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Taking a picture of an empty hospital corridor to prove it’s not overstretched is about as useful as taking a picture of my feet when I’m sitting on the couch to prove that I don’t walk. But these aren’t people who are doing what you’d call rigorous fact checking. Or possibly who are even in contact with consensual reality. My hat’s off to your son for doing the work he does in what must be horrendous conditions. I don’t know how people are keeping themselves going. I really don’t.

      Liked by 1 person

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