I don't want to die. I do want to see friends in person, not just on a Zoom screen.
That's my basic dilemma, finding the right balance between safety and socializing. Being 71, rather than 17, makes the question of To gather or not to gather more consequential, since I'm in a high risk Covid group because of my age.
And my wife is in the same situation, with the added complication of having asthma. Still, both of us have been edging into the To gather side of the question.
After honing our Covid prevention skills by going to grocery stores and pharmacies, armed with a mask and sometimes several pairs of plastic gloves that we only use once per store and then wash for reuse, we've started to get together with friends in person.
Always outdoors, though. (For example, see "Having coffee with an old friend on Father's Day is a great gift.")
This fits with an informative New York Times story I came across today, How Safe Are Outdoor Gatherings? Good news is, quite safe. At least as compared to indoor gatherings. Some excerpts:
Is it still safe to socialize outside?
As the coronavirus continues to rage throughout the country, public health officials are telling us to stay home this holiday weekend. Beaches in Texas, Florida and California are closed. And now some recent backyard gatherings are being blamed for new cases of Covid-19.
The new restrictions and outbreaks have led to new confusion about the safety of socializing outdoors. But experts say the science hasn’t changed: Your risk of catching the virus is much lower outdoors than indoors. If you want to spend time with friends, taking the party outside will reduce your risk of contracting Covid-19.
“Outside is definitely safer,” said Erin Bromage, a comparative immunologist and biology professor at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. “But it’s the type of interactions you have when you’re outside that are important.”
A Japanese study of 100 cases found that the odds of catching the coronavirus are nearly 20 times higher indoors than outdoors. Outdoor gatherings lower risk because wind disperses viral droplets, and sunlight can kill some of the virus.
...“Outdoors is what will save us,” Dr. Marcus said. “Why can’t the message be: ‘We understand you want to get together with friends. There are ways to do this safely.’ We’re just telling them not to gather. That doesn’t recognize basic human behavior and basic human needs.”
...If you attend a social event and find yourself in close conversation with someone from outside your household, even outdoors, wear a mask. Keep music levels low so people don’t have to shout. (Loud speaking expels more droplets than a quiet voice.) Don’t share food or serving utensils.
My wife has been attending meetings in a park of a discussion group she organized. She's become adept at hosting Zoom meetings, but finds they are considerably less satisfying than talking in person.
Zoom is better than nothing, for sure. It's just more tiresome to be continually focusing on who is talking, who wants to talk, and not talking over each other. So I think I'm ready to make the jump from meeting outside with a single friend to getting together with a larger group.
Still, I'm somewhat conflicted. I want to start getting back to normal social interactions. I also would feel terrible, to put it mildly, if in doing that I got infected with the Covid virus. And doubly terrible if I passed it on to my wife or someone else.
In addition to the New York Times story, today I also read a story in New Scientist that was decidedly disturbing, The enduring grip of covid-19.
Yikes! Scary! Not only is death a possibility, so are nasty health problems of many sorts that can last for months or even longer. Have a read.
Download New Scientist article re COVID
Here's how the story starts out.
WITHIN 24 hours of asking an online covid-19 support group if anyone had been experiencing prolonged or unusual symptoms, I had been messaged by 140 people. The list was mind-boggling and deeply upsetting. “I feel like I'm in the middle of a waking nightmare,” said Zoe Wall, who was previously fit and healthy. Two months after developing covid-19-like symptoms, she was still experiencing chest pains and “fatigue beyond description”.
Harry's symptoms started with a terrible headache and itchy body, followed by shortness of breath. He was still experiencing breathing difficulties, chest pain, numbness in his arm and bloating 10 weeks later. Jenn had had no sense of smell or taste since testing positive for covid-19 on 31 March. Abbi had minimal respiratory symptoms, but very bad gastric ones and lost 19 kilograms in two months. Others reported fatigue, headaches, tingling fingertips and brain fog.
As the months tick by since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and we learn more about covid-19, it is becoming increasingly evident that even mild cases can have distressing and long-lasting effects.
“There's clearly something going on here. It is not their imagination or hypochondria. It doesn't even seem to be linked to how severely they had the disease, as far as I can see,” says Danny Altmann, an immunologist at Imperial College London. All this means we need to rethink how we diagnose and treat covid-19. The long list of symptoms also seems to suggest there might even be several subtypes of the disease, which could help us predict which cases will become serious.