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  • David Carlson

247: Nov 18, 2020: Eat outside if you can, wear masks. Cancel if you need. No one will blame you.

The vaccine news is good -- lots of unanswered questions but a lot of epidemiologists believe it's somewhere between likely and very likely that by next Thanksgiving, life will be pretty close to back to normal. The bottom line: We need to make it to next year.

But what about Thanksgiving this year? We've been fretting about Thanksgiving. We'd love to invite several people to our dinner and we keep thinking through our options. We know a couple of things:

  1. It will be outdoors or in a place with plenty of air circulation. If it rains we may cancel and deliver meals to the guests we had invited. Backup plan: dinner in the garage... turkey, and stuffing amid the paint cans and Amazon boxes.

  2. It will be a small gathering (no more than 7 people - all from our "pod."

  3. We will wear masks except when we're eating

  4. We may cancel the whole thing and order Chinese...

  5. How about a ZOOM Thanksgiving -- bring the whole family together for a celebration to remember ... Thanksgiving in a time of pandemic. We'll never forget.

As cases spike all over the country it's good to hear from a scientist and doctor.

Here's a brief interview with Dr. Bob Wachter, a professor and chair of the UCSF department of medicine, by a reporter for the New York Times:

Q: First, tell me about what you’re tracking most closely in California.

The state of the pandemic is just terrible across the country. But then you have this vaccine news, which is unbelievably hopeful. I think the human brain has a hard time reconciling those two data streams.

The vaccine news over the last couple of weeks has really changed the way I think about the next year, but we’ve got to make it through the next year.

Things are worse than I think I and others had predicted. California is in the early part of a surge, but it’s different than June, in that it’s much more national and distributed than the prior surges.

Q: How much do you think we’ve learned about things like indoor versus outdoor dining since the beginning of the pandemic? And have we learned enough to make it possible for restaurants to operate safely indoors at all?

We’re much smarter than we were 10 months ago. We know some things are riskier than we thought and some things are less risky than we thought. We do know that being outdoors and ventilation are extraordinarily important. And spaces with poor ventilation, where people spend time with their masks off is all the bad things stuffed into one.

The contact tracing data that’s emerging is supportive of the premise that when you start seeing exponential spread, what’s likely going on is people are spending more time indoors, in spaces with their masks off. Restaurants, by definition, fit that description, unfortunately.

Does this mean we’ll never get back to it until we’re all vaccinated? I don’t think so. But we’ll certainly never get back to crowded restaurants.

Q: California is in a very different spot from the last time we talked at length in terms of testing. How are you thinking about it now?

Testing is really complicated in all sorts of dimensions.

It’s partly why the failure of the C.D.C. during this is so maddening, because part of a vigorous federal response would have been to ramp up testing capacity and then to create clear guidelines for different situations. Lacking that, we’re all doing improv.

In a different world, you can imagine a widespread availability of rapid 15-minute turnaround tests that people take before they go into work to be sure that everybody in the workplace that day is not contagious. And if they are, they go home. If they don’t have the means to stay isolated, society says it’s worth using some communal money to be sure they have a place to stay so they don’t go and infect a whole bunch of other people. That would have been a reasonable and rational response to this. Of course, we’ve seen none of that.

Once these systems get overwhelmed, everything gets worse very quickly. We’ve not seen that yet in California, but we’ll see what happens in the next couple weeks.

Q:How worried are you about Thanksgiving?

I’m massively worried. We couldn’t be more poorly positioned and the timing is just optimally terrible. In California, things may be a little better. But if you wanted to design something to make things go worse, you would have designed Thanksgiving exactly when it’s coming.

So please everyone - be careful, eat outside if you can, wear masks, socially distance and cancel if you need to. No one will blame you for it.

And remember -- masking for Thanksgiving is nothing new. It's an American tradition along with crossdressing for the day and playing pranks -- kind of an extension of Halloween. These folks are called "Thanksgiving Maskers"


- David


For the Children

The rising hills, the slopes,

of statistics

lie before us.

the steep climb

of everything, going up,

up, as we all

go down.

In the next century

or the one beyond that,

they say,

are valleys, pastures,

we can meet there in peace

if we make it.

To climb these coming crests

one word to you, to

you and your children:

stay together

learn the flowers

go light

- Gary Snyder, from Turtle Island


"Thanksgiving Song," Mary Chapin Carpenter

Ray Charles & James Taylor “Sweet Potato Pie”

Johnny Cash "Thanksgiving Prayer"

Andrew Gold - Thank You For Being A Friend

Dear Dr. Fauci

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