Yes, I’m really talking about poop. One could make innumerable scatalogical exclamations upon absorbing today’s graph of SARS-CoV-2 virus levels as measured in the greater Boston sewage (created by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority):
Basically, the numbers we’re seeing today are WAY higher than the numbers we saw back in April. Our local NBC News explains the significance of this graph:
“Unlike coronavirus cases — which are detected when people get tested — COVID-19 data from sewage measures how prevalent the virus is in the community at large, including among people who don’t have symptoms and don’t get tested, since the virus they shed through body waste would contribute to levels found in sewage.”
Basically, the sewage COVID-19 level is a more accurate measure of viral activity in our community than actual population testing, because many people don’t have symptoms and don’t get tested. Also, tests are getting harder to come by, especially for people in less-resourced communities. As researchers in Nature Biotechnology point out, tracking the amount of COVID-19 in the sewage “is a cost-effective way to survey transmission dynamics of entire communities. It avoids the biases of other epidemiological indicators. It collects data from people who lack access to healthcare. And if it were successful in revealing infection dynamics earlier than diagnostic testing, it could provide public-health officials with near-real-time information on disease prevalence.”
The sewage is telling us that the surge we have now is WAY worse than the surge we had in the spring, and the local news is definitely picking up on it.
Meanwhile, over on the COVIDActNow website, the current infection rate is literally off the charts:
Back in July, I had fretted about a daily new cases rate of 3.9 per 100K citizens. I remember turning to my husband and saying (probably with significantly audible anxiety): “Hon, we’re in the yellow.”
Now we’ve got a daily new cases rate of 70.2 per 100K citizens, and we’re so far in the red, the line is practically glowing. The graph’s going to blow up or something.
And then there’s the Massachusetts Department of Health COVID-19 Dashboard numbers that tell us about the actual humans who are infected right now, and we’re again well over 5000:
This all pretty well matches my own lived experience: We know so many people who’ve gotten sick. Family members, many many family members, on both mine and Hubby’s sides. Friends, neighbors, colleagues, and their families, so many people are getting sick. Most of these infections can be traced back to social occasions of all kinds.
I especially appreciate physician colleague Robin Schoenthaler’s near-miss account of her Thanksgiving, published in the Boston Globe yesterday: We Used Science To Make Thanksgiving As Safe As Possible. Here’s What Happened Next. In it, she describes how she and her family did everything they could to prevent infection at their family gathering. As it turns out, one person was unknowingly infected and infectious, but somehow they lucked out. She concludes:
“Am I ever going to hold another Thanksgiving in the middle of a pandemic? Absolutely not. And Christmas in 2020? No possible way. Not a bit. Not a chance.”
Because of all this, we have been more careful ourselves. Yes, we are in a quarantine bubble with our close family, but we have limited contact with everyone else. Yes, Hubby and I go to work, but we’re doing less and less in-person if we can help it. The virus is all around us, and it’s time to buckle down. This is on all of us.
But what about the vaccines on the horizon? Yes, the media is replete with vaccine articles and news updates. My patients are asking me all the time now, what do I think about the vaccines, will this all be over soon, when can they get a vaccine, which vaccine is the best. My answer is still the same: I’m waiting for official guidelines and information as well. I’m assuring folks that if our hospital team OK’s a vaccine for us, I’ll line up for mine and I’ll sign up my family when it’s their turn.
With all of that as a backdrop, we try to focus on positive things. It gets us through our days. Like last weekend when I walked into the living room and thought: “Why is the tree shaking?“
The reason why is visible in the photo below, if you’re really paying attention. There is something in the tree that clearly should not be there:
Need a closeup? Here you go!
It did take awhile and alot of careful cajoling to get Little Kitty out of the tree without a major catastrophe.
(Get it? CAT-astrophe?)
I know, I know. But again, it’s these little positive things that will get us through this pretty damn dark time.
As long as I’m featuring Little Kitty, I’ll throw in this one of our other two fur-babies. I should Tweet it out with a “Caption This!” invitation. Who knows what these two were discussing, what deep philosophical musings I interrupted with my camera!
Our family and our animals are a big part of what’s keeping us sane. I will also add that Hubby and I regularly “cover” each other so we can get exercise. I got in a rare late afternoon run along the Neponset River Basin trail yesterday, a beautiful brisk run that cleared my brain and helped me to create this post. Science shows us that physical activity of all kinds really boosts our mood. It doesn’t take much, either: Even jogging for fifteen minutes can effectively elevate one’s outlook. So this weekend, get out and get moving! I certainly will, because I know it will help me to deal with all the sh*t going on around us, for sure.