NYT article on Covid 7-28-22 Credit to authors is in the post.

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Your Latest Covid Questions, Answered

When the Covid-19 pandemic began in 2020, we had a seemingly endless amount of questions and not so many answers. Now, more than two years later, we’re still learning how to live with the virus. And while many questions remain unanswered, there’s a lot we have learned about Covid-19 to navigate our lives amid the backdrop of a pandemic.

Here are answers to some of the latest Covid questions:

Contributors: Pam Belluck, Dani Blum, Apporva Mandavilli, Melinda Wenner Moyer, Sharon Otterman, Tara Parker-Pope, Knvul Sheikh, Nicole Stock

 

What are the symptoms of an infection with BA.5?

In July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the Omicron subvariant BA.5 had become overwhelmingly dominant in the U.S.

Experts said that, in general, this subvariant does not have markedly divergent symptoms from earlier versions of Omicron. People infected with BA.5 may develop a cough, runny nose, sore throat, fatigue, headaches and muscle pains. However, they are less likely to lose their senses of taste and smell, or to experience shortness of breath, as compared with those infected with Delta or other variants of the coronavirus, said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco.

Dr. Joseph Khabbaza, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Cleveland Clinic, said people tend to experience upper respiratory symptoms “from the vocal cords to the tip of the nose.” Anecdotally, he said, he has seen more patients with painful sinus congestion and severe sore throats who have tested positive for Covid-19 while BA.5 has been circulating. Some of those patients thought they had strep throat because they were in so much pain, he said.

There is not yet evidence to indicate that this subvariant causes more severe disease than past versions of Omicron. But BA.5 is more contagious, which means that as more people become infected, hospitalizations are increasing, said Dr. Adam Ratner, director of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at N.Y.U. Langone.

How often can you be infected with the coronavirus?

A virus that shows no signs of disappearing, variants that are adept at dodging the body’s defenses, and waves of infections two, maybe three times a year — this may be the future of Covid-19, some scientists now fear.

The central problem is that the coronavirus has become more adept at reinfecting people. Already, those infected with the first Omicron variant are reporting second infections with the newer versions of the variant — BA.2 or BA2.12.1 in the United States, or BA.4 and BA.5 in South Africa.

Those people may go on to have third or fourth infections, even within this year, researchers said in interviews. And some small fraction may have symptoms that persist for months or years, a condition known as long Covid.

“It seems likely to me that that’s going to sort of be a long-term pattern,” said Juliet Pulliam, an epidemiologist at Stellenbosch University in South Africa.

“The virus is going to keep evolving,” she added. “And there are probably going to be a lot of people getting many, many reinfections throughout their lives.”

It’s difficult to quantify how frequently people are reinfected, in part because many infections are now going unreported. Dr. Pulliam and her colleagues have collected enough data in South Africa to say that the rate is higher with Omicron than seen with previous variants.

This is not how it was supposed to be. Earlier in the pandemic, experts thought that immunity from vaccination or previous infection would forestall most reinfections.

The Omicron variant dashed those hopes. Unlike previous variants, Omicron and its many descendants seem to have evolved to partially dodge immunity. That leaves everyone — even those who have been vaccinated multiple times — vulnerable to multiple infections.

“If we manage it the way that we manage it now, then most people will get infected with it at least a couple of times a year,” said Kristian Andersen, a virologist at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego. “I would be very surprised if that’s not how it’s going to play out.”

The new variants have not altered the fundamental usefulness of the Covid vaccines. Most people who have received three or even just two doses will not become sick enough to need medical care if they test positive for the coronavirus. And a booster dose, like a previous bout with the virus, does seem to decrease the chance of reinfection — but not by much.

At the pandemic’s outset, many experts based their expectations of the coronavirus on influenza, the viral foe most familiar to them. They predicted that, as with the flu, there might be one big outbreak each year, most likely in the fall. The way to minimize its spread would be to vaccinate people before its arrival.

Instead, the coronavirus is behaving more like four of its closely related cousins, which circulate and cause colds year round. While studying common-cold coronaviruses, “we saw people with multiple infections within the space of a year,” said Jeffrey Shaman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University in New York.

If reinfection turns out to be the norm, the coronavirus is “not going to simply be this wintertime once-a-year thing,” he said, “and it’s not going to be a mild nuisance in terms of the amount of morbidity and mortality it causes.”

Reinfections with earlier variants, including Delta, did occur but were relatively infrequent. But in September, the pace of reinfections in South Africa seemed to pick up and was markedly high by November, when the Omicron variant was identified, Dr. Pulliam said.

Reinfections in South Africa, as in the United States, may seem even more noticeable because so many have been immunized or infected at least once by now.

“The perception magnifies what’s actually going on biologically,” Dr. Pulliam said. “It’s just that there are more people who are eligible for reinfection.”

The Omicron variant was different enough from Delta, and Delta from earlier versions of the virus, that some reinfections were to be expected. But now, Omicron seems to be evolving new forms that penetrate immune defenses with relatively few changes to its genetic code.

“This is actually for me a bit of a surprise,” said Alex Sigal, a virologist at the Africa Health Research Institute. “I thought we’ll need a kind of brand-new variant to escape from this one. But in fact, it seems like you don’t.”

An infection with Omicron produces a weaker immune response, which seems to wane quickly, compared with infections with previous variants. Although the newer versions of the variant are closely related, they vary enough from an immune perspective that infection with one doesn’t leave much protection against the others — and certainly not after three or four months.

Still, the good news is that most people who are reinfected with new versions of Omicron will not become seriously ill. At least at the moment, the virus has not hit upon a way to fully sidestep the immune system.

“That’s probably as good as it gets for now,” Dr. Sigal said. “The big danger might come when the variant will be completely different.”

Each infection may bring with it the possibility of long Covid, the constellation of symptoms that can persist for months or years. It’s too early to know how often an Omicron infection leads to long Covid, especially in vaccinated people.

To keep up with the evolving virus, other experts said, the Covid vaccines should be updated more quickly, even more quickly than flu vaccines are each year. Even an imperfect match to a new form of the coronavirus will still broaden immunity and offer some protection, they said.

“Every single time we think we’re through this, every single time we think we have the upper hand, the virus pulls a trick on us,” Dr. Andersen said. “The way to get it under control is not, ‘Let’s all get infected a few times a year and then hope for the best.’”

Is reinfection more common with BA.4 and BA.5?

These subvariants of Omicron are more adept than previous versions of the virus at evading immune protection, whether you have antibodies from vaccination or a prior Covid infection.

“They’re the Houdini of Covid,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco. “They’re the escape artists.”

Dr. Stuart Campbell Ray, a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine, said some patients are getting reinfected within just two to three months after recovering from Covid, but the symptoms are generally mild.

“Thankfully, the vaccines are still really helping protect people from hospitalization and severe illness,” said Dr. Joseph Khabbaza, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Cleveland Clinic. But when it comes to infection, he added, “it’s hard to view the immunity from Omicron as lasting very long at all.”

What can you do to reduce your risk of reinfection?

Many of the tools and behaviors that help protect against infection can still help you avoid reinfection, Dr. Abu-Raddad said. “There is no magical solution against Covid reinfection.”

Getting vaccinated and boosted, for example, is a good idea even after you’ve had Covid. You only need to wait a few weeks after an infection to get a shot. The vaccines will bolster your antibody levels, and research shows that they are effective in preventing severe outcomes if you get sick again. “Scientific confidence in vaccine-induced immunity was and is much higher than infection-induced immunity,” Dr. Crotty said.

Additional measures, like masking indoors and in crowded spaces, social distancing and improving ventilation where possible, can provide another layer of protection. But because most people and communities have largely dropped these protections, it is up to individuals to decide when to adopt extra precautions based on their risk of getting Covid and how much they’d like to avoid it.

“If you had an infection just last week, you probably don’t have to mask up,” Dr. Adalja said. “But as a month or so passes from your infection and new variants start circulating in the U.S., it may make sense for high risk individuals to do that. People who are trying to avoid getting Covid because they’re going on a cruise soon or because they need a negative P.C.R. test for some other reason may consider taking precautions. Covid protections don’t have to be one-size-fits-all.”

Does my mask protect me if nobody else is wearing one?

While it’s true that masks work best when everyone around you is wearing one, there is also plenty of evidence showing that masks protect the wearer, even when others around them are mask-free.

The amount of protection depends on the quality of the mask and how well it fits. Health experts recommend using an N95, KN95 or KF94 to protect yourself.

Other variables, such as how much time you are exposed to an infected person and how well a space is ventilated also will affect your risk.

“I know everyone talks about planes, but I would say buses are probably the riskiest, then trains and then planes, in order of highest to lowest,” said Linsey Marr of Virginia Tech, an expert in airborne transmission of viruses.

“People talk about planes having great ventilation filtration, and they do and that greatly helps reduce the risk of transmission,” she added. “But the virus is going to be in the air, no question in my mind, because there’s still large numbers of cases.”

How can I find a quality mask (and avoid counterfeits)?

The fast-spread of Omicron and its subvariants has prompted many people to try to upgrade to a higher-quality mask. But that’s easier said than done.

Anyone who has shopped for a mask online or in stores has discovered a dizzying array in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Knowing which mask to pick and making sure it’s not a counterfeit requires the sleuthing skills of a forensic investigator. And once you choose one, it’s still a gamble; many people discover they’ve ordered a mask that’s too big or too small for their face or just doesn’t fit right.

“No one has made this easy, that’s for sure,” said Bill Taubner, president of Bona Fide Masks, the exclusive distributor in the United States for both Powecom and Harley KN95 masks, which are from China. “A lot of people end up doing a lot of research.”

Unlike cloth masks, high-quality masks — called N95s, KN95s and KF94s — are made with layers of high-tech filtering material that trap at least 94 to 95 percent of the most risky particles. Early in the pandemic, high-quality medical and respirator-style masks were in short supply. Now the problem is there are so many different masks for sale, it’s tough to know which ones have been tested and certified by government agencies, and which are counterfeit. Testing studies have found that many counterfeit masks don’t even offer the same level of protection as a cloth mask. We interviewed mask manufacturers, importers, public health officials and independent researchers for advice on choosing a quality mask.

Masks come in different shapes and sizes. You’ll find “cup” style masks, “duck bill” masks and “flat-fold” masks. The best mask is the one that fits snugly against your face and is comfortable. Start by ordering in small quantities and try different styles to find the best one for your face. Many masks are described as “one size fits most.” But some come in small or larger sizes. “You’re not getting the full benefit of a respirator if you put it on and it’s not forming a seal to your face,” said Nicole Vars McCullough, vice president for personal safety at the 3M Company, the largest U.S. manufacturer of N95 masks.

N95 respirator

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In most situations, you don’t need to throw out your disposable mask after each use.
Credit...Sarah Kobos/Wirecutter

The N95 respirator mask is regulated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Almost all N95 masks use head straps — two elastic bands that wrap behind the head. If a mask claiming to be an N95 has ear loops, it’s most likely a fake. The C.D.C. has a guide for spotting fake N95s.

KN95 respirator

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4CAir AireTrust Nano mask.
Credit...Sarah Kobos/Wirecutter

The KN95 is similar to the N95, but it has ear loops and is made to meet Chinese standards for medical masks. Some people prefer them for comfort, and because they come in smaller sizes. While you can find legitimate KN95 masks, the supply chain is riddled with counterfeits and there’s little regulation or oversight of the product. One study found that 60 percent of the supply of KN95s in the United States are counterfeit. Keep reading for ways to spot them.

KF94

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Kyungin Flax KF94
Credit...Sarah Kobos/Wirecutter

The KF94 is a high-quality mask that folds flat and is made in Korea. It is designed specifically for the consumer market. The KF stands for “Korean filter,” and the 94 means it filters 94 percent of particles. The masks are heavily regulated in Korea, which lowers the risk of counterfeits. However, some fake masks made in China may be labeled KF94, so shoppers still need to do their homework.

Masks for children

The mask market is particularly tricky for parents trying to find masks for children. No N95 mask has been approved for children, so any mask that claims to be an N95 for kids is a fake. However, N95s do come in S/M sizes that might work for some older children. KN95 and KF94 masks have styles made for children, so once you find one, you need to go through the same vetting process that you would use for an adult mask, using the links below.

Big retailers like Home Depot and Lowes typically work directly with manufacturers approved by NIOSH or their distributors, so if you find an N95 mask in a major retail store you can be confident you’re getting the real thing. It’s a good idea to check manufacturer websites to see where they sell their products and who their authorized distributors are, Dr. McCullough said. 3M has a dedicated spot on its website to help consumers spot fake masks.

Finding a reliable mask on Amazon is trickier because you’ll see legitimate masks mixed in with counterfeits, although the differences won’t always be obvious. If you must use Amazon, try to shop directly in the on-site stores of mask makers like 3M or Kimberly-Clark. (You can usually find a link to a maker’s online store right below a product name.)

If you’re buying a KF94 on Amazon, look closely at the packaging to make sure it’s made in Korea and includes the required labeling (see below for more details). Aaron Collins, an engineer who routinely tests masks and who has gained a YouTube following as “Mask Nerd,” recommends buying KF94s from Korean beauty product importers like Be Healthy or KMact. Once you learn the names of a few KF94 manufacturers, you can try to find their websites to learn where they are sold. For instance, Happy Life lists its five U.S. distributors on its home page.

You can sometimes find N95 and KN95 masks for sale directly on the website of a mask maker, like Demetech and Armbrust USA. You can also look for companies that are exclusive distributors of KN95 masks, like Bona Fide Masks. The nonprofit site Project N95 is also a reliable place to shop. Many trusted sites are overwhelmed by demand right now, so you may encounter delays in fulfillment and shipping times.

Legitimate N95s and KN95s are required to have specific text stamped on the front of the mask. Although you may find one in a fun color, masks that are printed with fancy designs or don’t have text stamped on them are probably fake.

Your N95 should be stamped with “NIOSH,” as well as the company name, the model and lot numbers, and something called a “TC approval” number, which can be used to look up the mask on a list of approved ones. The C.D.C. has created an infographic showing you the printing to look for on your N95.

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KN95 and N95 masks are required to have specific text stamped on the front.
Credit...Charlie Rubin for The New York Times

A legitimate KN95 should also be stamped with text, including the name of the manufacturer, the model and “GB2626-2019,” which is a reference to a quality control standard approved by the Chinese government. (If your mask has a GB number that ends in 2006, which is a previous standard, just check the expiration date.)

The KF94 won’t be stamped with text, but the package should say “Made in Korea” and include the product name, manufacturer and distributor name. Each mask should be packaged individually in a flat, glossy rectangular wrapper with a textured border. The package will also have an expiration date and a lot number printed on it. (Masks that carry an electrostatic charge all have expiration dates.) If your mask comes from a Korean importer, the information on the package will be in Korean, but many companies have begun to create English-language packaging.

A number of resources have sprung up to help people navigate the mask-buying process. Project N95 is a nonprofit known for vetting its mask suppliers. Mr. Collins, the Mask Nerd, has created a number of lists and resources for mask buyers. You can check out his Twitter feed, his YouTube channel and a spreadsheet he has created of nearly 450 different masks and how they performed in his tests.

Mr. Collins may be best known for his list of children’s masks. While there is no N95 mask for kids approved in the United States, mask makers in China and Korea have created KN95s and KF94s for children, including some with child-friendly colors and prints. Mr. Collins created a video “primer for parents” about finding a high-quality mask for kids that has more than 100,000 views.

“I had retired from mask testing,” Mr. Collins said, noting that he doesn’t receive any compensation for his work. “But I came out of retirement to do the kids video. The only place I’ve seen a list of test data is unfortunately me.”

Wirecutter, a product review site owned by The New York Times, has a guide for buying quality masks, one for buying children’s masks and a list of 12 red flags that might signal your mask is a counterfeit.

It’s not easy, but the C.D.C. has a few lists you can use to confirm a mask has been vetted. A note of caution: If you don’t find a particular mask, make sure you’ve looked it up the correct way, said Anne Miller, executive director of Project N95. For instance, a Gerson N95 mask won’t be found under the letter “G.” It’s listed under “L” because the full name of the company that makes it is Louis M. Gerson.

For N95 masks, go to the C.D.C.’s alphabetical list of NIOSH-approved respirators. You can also look up the TC approval number using the certified equipment list.

For KN95 masks, you can use two checklists from the Food and Drug Administration. The F.D.A. created these lists early in the pandemic, when the agency issued an emergency use authorization that allowed health workers to use KN95 masks because of a shortage of N95s. Now that the N95 supply is adequate, the agency has revoked the authorization for these workers, but other people can still use KN95s. While the list is now a bit outdated, finding your mask on it adds reassurance that it’s less likely to be counterfeit — with the caveat that there’s no longer official U.S. oversight for any of these firms. You’ll need to scroll down to find the list and search box.

Use this F.D.A. list to find KN95 masks made in China, and this list for KN95 masks made in other countries.

Jin Yu Young contributed to this report.

What should I do if I was exposed to someone with Covid?

If you are an adult who’s been boosted or are a fully vaccinated child, you don’t need to quarantine after a potential exposure. But you should get tested at least five days after your exposure and wear masks around other people for 10 days.

If you’re unvaccinated, quarantine for five days after exposure and then get tested. Wear masks around other people for 10 days. This also applies to those who are eligible for booster shots but have not yet received them.

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The home test is negative, but could I still have Covid?

What does a negative result on a home Covid-19 test really mean?

That’s the question that has confounded many people who have reached for a home test because they have a sore throat, cough or runny nose. After swabbing their nose and waiting an anxious 15 minutes, the result is negative.

While there’s relief in getting a negative result, there’s also uncertainty. Am I really free of Covid? Or did the test just not detect it? Should I test again? Can I spend time with other people?

The confusion is justified, say testing and public health experts. It stems from a lack of understanding about how the tests work. Rapid home antigen tests look for pieces of viral proteins from a swab of your nose, and they are designed to identify whether you have an infectious level of the virus. But a negative test is not a guarantee you don’t have Covid.

It could be that your symptoms are an immune response signaling the arrival of Covid or another invader. The harder your immune system is working to tamp down the virus, particularly an immune system supercharged by vaccine antibodies, the more likely you are to get an early negative result on a rapid test, even if you’re infected.

I tested positive. Now what?

If you’re around other people when you get the bad news, the first thing you should do is put on a mask. Then, isolate yourself as quickly as possible, even if you don’t have symptoms and even if you are vaccinated.

Once you take a deep breath and have a moment, think about where you’ve been and who might have inhaled your germs. Then, let your employer know. Many workplaces have protocols for contact tracing when an employee tests positive. You should also alert anyone with whom you’ve spent time, going back at least two days before you got tested or started having symptoms, said Dr. Paul Sax, an infectious disease expert at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School. The C.D.C. defines a close contact as anyone who was less than six feet from you for 15 minutes or more.

Don’t forget to also tell your doctor, if you have one, particularly if you have an underlying medical condition, like high blood pressure or diabetes, that puts you at higher risk.

If your child tests positive, call the pediatrician. You also need to call your child’s school as well as anyone with whom your child has had close contact with at play dates, parties or other activities.

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What antiviral treatments are available and do I qualify for them?

There are two oral antiviral therapies currently available to treat Covid-19 in the United States.

One, called Paxlovid, was developed by Pfizer and was the first oral treatment authorized for high risk Covid-19 patients ages 12 and older in December. It is prescribed as three pills taken twice a day for five days.

The second drug, called molnupiravir, was developed by Merck and was granted emergency use authorization just one day after the Pfizer treatment in December. Molnupiravir treatment consists of four pills taken twice a day for five days and is available for high-risk adults ages 18 and up.

The Food and Drug Administration has also cleared an intravenous antiviral medication from Gilead Sciences called remdesivir, which is sold under the brand name Veklury, but it is most often administered at a clinic or an infusion center.

To get these treatments you must test positive with a P.C.R. or rapid test. This can be done at home, at a regular health care provider’s office, at a testing site or at one of the pharmacy chains, community health centers, long-term-care facilities or Veterans Affairs clinics participating in the “test to treat” program.

How long will my immunity last after getting Covid?

Before Omicron, reinfections were rare. A team of scientists, led by Laith Abu-Raddad at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar, estimated that a bout with Delta or an earlier coronavirus strain was roughly 90 percent effective in preventing a reinfection in both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. “But Omicron really changed that calculus,” said Dr. Abu-Raddad, an infectious disease epidemiologist.

After Omicron emerged, prior infections only provided about 50 percent protection against reinfection, Dr. Abu-Raddad’s study showed. The coronavirus had acquired so many mutations in its spike protein that newer versions became more transmissible and better able to evade immunity. That means you can catch a version of Omicron after recovering from an older, non-Omicron variant. You can even get sick with one of the newer Omicron subvariants after getting over a different version of it.

Other factors also increase your vulnerability to reinfection, starting with how long it has been since you had Covid. Immune defenses tend to wane after an infection. A study published in October 2021 estimated that reinfection could occur as soon as 3 months after contracting Covid-19. While these findings were based on the genome of the coronavirus and accounted for expected declines in antibodies that could fight off the virus, the study did not account for new variants like Omicron that were radically different from older variants. Because of how different Omicron is, your protection may wane even sooner. In a study published in February that has not yet been peer-reviewed, scientists from Denmark found that some people got reinfected with the BA.2 sublineage of Omicron as soon as 20 days after they got infected with the original Omicron BA.1.

Because the virus is infecting more people now, your chances of being exposed and getting reinfected are also higher, Dr. Abu-Raddad said. And while it’s unclear if some people are simply more susceptible to Covid-19 reinfection, researchers are beginning to find some clues. People who are older or immunocompromised may make very few or very poor quality antibodies, leaving them more vulnerable to reinfection, Dr. Abu-Raddad said. And early research shows that a small group of people have a genetic flaw that cripples a crucial immune molecule called interferon type I, putting them at higher risk of severe Covid symptoms. Further studies could find that such differences play a role in reinfection as well.

For now, you should treat any new symptoms, including a fever, sore throat, runny nose or change in taste or smell, as a potential case of Covid, and get tested to confirm if you are positive again.

Will subsequent infections be more or less severe?

The good news is that your body can call on immune cells, like T cells and B cells, to quash a reinfection if the virus sneaks past your initial antibody defenses. T cells and B cells can take a few days to get activated and start working, but they tend to remember how to battle the virus based on previous encounters.

“Your immune system has all kinds of weapons to try and stop the virus even if it gets past the front door,” said Shane Crotty, a virologist at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in California.

Many of these immune cells build up their protections iteratively, Dr. Crotty said. That means that people who are vaccinated and boosted are especially well equipped to duke it out with the coronavirus. Similarly, people who have been infected before are able to keep the virus from replicating at high levels if they get reinfected. And most people who have logged encounters with both the vaccine and the coronavirus build up a hybrid immunity that may offer the best protection.

The result is that second or third infections are likely to be shorter and less severe.

Dr. Abu-Raddad, who has been tracking reinfections among large groups of people in Qatar, has already started seeing this promising pattern in patient records: Of more than 1,300 reinfections that his team identified from the beginning of the pandemic to May 2021, none led to hospitalization in an I.C.U., and none were fatal.

What is long Covid? How will I know if I have it?

Among the many confounding aspects of the coronavirus is the spectrum of possible symptoms, as well as their severity and duration. Some people develop mild illness and recover quickly, with no lasting effects. But studies estimate that 10 to 30 percent of people report persistent or new medical issues months after their initial coronavirus infections — a constellation of symptoms known as long Covid. People who experience mild to moderate illness, as well as those without any underlying medical conditions, can nonetheless experience some debilitating long-term symptoms, including fatigue, shortness of breath, an erratic heart rate, headaches, dizziness, depression and problems with memory and concentration.

Such lingering medical issues are so varied that one study by a patient-led research group evaluated 203 symptoms that may fluctuate or even appear out of the blue after people seem to have recovered.

There is little consensus on the exact definition of long Covid, also known by the medical term PASC, or post-acute sequelae of Covid-19. The World Health Organization says long Covid starts three months after the original bout of illness or positive test result, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sets the timeline at just after one month. For now, doctors must rely on their patients’ descriptions of symptoms and rule out alternative explanations or causes. Some post-Covid clinics have multidisciplinary teams of specialists evaluate patients to figure out the best treatment options.

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Can vaccines protect against long Covid?

The picture is still coming into focus, but several studies suggest that getting a Covid vaccine can reduce — but not eliminate — the risk of long-term symptoms. The United Kingdom’s Health Security Agency conducted an analysis of eight studies that had looked at vaccines and long Covid before mid-January. Six found that vaccinated people who became infected with the coronavirus were less likely than unvaccinated patients to develop symptoms of long Covid. The remaining two studies found that vaccination did not appear to conclusively reduce the chances of developing long Covid. In that analysis, one study, which examined about 240,000 U.S. patients but has not been peer-reviewed, found that those who had received even one dose of a Covid vaccine before their infections were seven to 10 times less likely than unvaccinated patients to report symptoms of long Covid 12 to 20 weeks later. But another large study of electronic patient records at the U.S. Veterans Health Administration, also not yet peer reviewed, found that those who were vaccinated had only a 13 percent lower risk than unvaccinated patients of having symptoms six months later.

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Do I need a booster shot if I’ve already had Covid?

Yes. Federal health officials continue to recommend that everyone get vaccinated and boosted, regardless of whether they’ve had Covid-19 in the past.

That’s because vaccines can offer a more reliable and effective immunity boost than a natural infection can.

When you get infected with the coronavirus, your immune system mounts a series of responses that bulk up the body’s defenses against future infections. One of the best ways scientists know how to measure that response is to look at how many antibodies you’ve produced. In general, people who’ve been infected with the coronavirus tend to have lower levels of antibodies than those who’ve been vaccinated, said Aubree Gordon, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan.

One of the reasons for this difference is that infections trigger many different parts of the immune system, and the size of the antibody response will depend on factors like how much virus you inhaled, whether you have underlying medical conditions and the severity of your symptoms. “You may have a high level if you were sicker or sick for longer,” Dr. Gordon said. “But it’s still going to be lower than what we see with the vaccine.”

Vaccines provide a tailored set of instructions for the immune system to use in the absence of any distractions, such as an active infection, said Paul Thomas, an immunologist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. And most people who get vaccinated develop a strong and predictable antibody response. A booster shot reminds the body to bump up its defenses — even faster than the first or second shot — in a matter of days.

Who is currently eligible for a second booster shot?

Adults 50 and older and people 12 and older with weakened immune systems are now eligible to receive a second booster shot in the United States. This includes those who have had organ or stem cell transplants, are undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, have advanced or untreated H.I.V. or are on immune-suppressing drugs.

All of the new boosters can be administered four months after your last shot.

One reason older adults may benefit from an additional booster shot is that the immune system tends to weaken as it ages and does not produce the same quantity or quality of antibodies as it did when it was younger. On top of that, older adults often have other medical conditions that take up the body’s attention, putting them at higher risk of severe disease, said Dr. Christian Gaebler, an immunology researcher at Rockefeller University in New York City. “Diabetes, hypertension, obesity and chronic kidney disease are all risk factors for severe Covid,” he said. “And we know that these usually manifest in older age.”

While it takes your immune system about a week to 10 days to mount a strong response to the first series of shots, booster shots should start having an effect in just a few days.

What are the side effects of the vaccines in young kids?

The data so far suggest that the side effects in younger kids are milder than those in older kids, probably because a lower dose of the vaccine is given, Dr. Shirley said. Among children under 5, “the side effects were the sorts of things that we might expect in children after receiving a vaccine,” she added, including increased fussiness, sleepiness and pain at the injection site. Comparing the two vaccines, Pfizer’s resulted in fewer side effects overall, probably because it uses such a low dose.

No children in the vaccine trials developed heart issues like myocarditis, a form of heart inflammation that was seen in a small number of older children who received the vaccine, Dr. Shirley said, but this could be because the trials were not big enough to detect rare side-effects. It’s possible there will be some cases once the vaccines are given to enough kids, but experts don’t expect to see a significant number, because myocarditis “occurs more frequently in teenagers and young adults than younger kids,” said Dr. Ibukun Kalu, an infectious disease pediatrician at the Duke University School of Medicine. “I would not expect high rates of vaccine-related myocarditis in the under 5s,” she added. Dr. Kalu also pointed out that the risk of myocarditis is much higher among kids who catch Covid-19 than it is among those who get the vaccine.

It’s important to note that when the F.D.A. did not authorize the two-dose Pfizer vaccine back in February, that was because it didn’t work well enough, not because of any safety issues. (And that’s ultimately why the vaccine now has a three-dose regimen.)

How do the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for children under 5 differ?

The Moderna vaccine is authorized as two doses spaced four weeks apart, said Dr. Debbie-Ann Shirley, a pediatric infectious disease physician at the University of Virginia. Pfizer is authorized as a three-dose series, with the first two shots spaced three weeks apart, and the third shot given at least eight weeks later. (Pfizer’s third shot is not considered a booster. It’s likely that Moderna and Pfizer will eventually authorize an additional booster dose for young children.) Both vaccines are at lower doses than the vaccines given to older kids and adults.

Preliminary data released by Moderna in April suggested that two shots were 51 percent effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19 infection among children aged 6 months through 1 year, and that two shots were 37 percent effective at preventing infection among kids aged 2 through 5 years. Pfizer claimed that its three-dose series had an efficacy of 80 percent at preventing Covid-19 infection among kids aged 6 months through 4 years old, but that estimate was based on infections in just three children.

Covid-19 symptoms are often mild in young kids, and they can get the virus even if they’re vaccinated, so what’s the point of vaccinating my young child?

It’s true that Covid-19 is far less risky for kids than it is for those who are older. But more than 440 children aged 4 and under have died from Covid-19 since January 2020, and the infection is “one of the top 10 causes of death in children in the United States,” said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, a pediatric infectious disease physician at Stanford Medicine who chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on infectious diseases. Also, Covid-related hospitalization rates are higher for children 4 and younger than they are for older children, and more than half of pediatric hospitalizations among kids ages six months through 4 years occur in children with no known underlying risk factors. “I’ve had a number of friends who are health care providers whose children have wound up in the hospital, some on oxygen in the I.C.U., who have no risk factors,” Dr. Maldonado said.

“Vaccines are the most effective way that we have as clinicians to help prevent patients from developing severe forms of Covid,” Dr. Shirley said — and that includes little kids.

 

 

 

 


A Salon Rebirth?

I'm proposing these questions from the NYT as, perhaps, an early new discussion. What do you think?
These are All of the questions in an article about finding love, so they all may not fit easily for us.  These were also directed to younger people than we who were interested in dating opportunities. While that may be one or two of us, (ahem) we are not (to the best of my knowledge)
trying to date each other! :)   ...an FYI

36 Questions:

Set I

1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?

2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?

3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?

4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?

5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?

6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?

7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?

8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.

9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?

11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.

12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

Set II

13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?

14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?

16. What do you value most in a friendship?

17. What is your most treasured memory?

18. What is your most terrible memory?

19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?

20. What does friendship mean to you?

21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?

22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.

23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?

24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?

Set III

25. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling ... “

26. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share ... “

27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.

28. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.

29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.

30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?

31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.

32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?

33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?

34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?

36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
There is a YouTube group called Jubilee who has filmed many fascinating conversations from these questions. This link is to their Playlists; to see the series, scroll to the group called Tea for Two.
You might enjoy a further look around that site; they have made some amazing (to me) videos featuring opposites such as Minimum Wage Earners and Millionaires.  Many different subjects. 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Comments; questions?  Good idea? Bad idea?
What do we want now, as opposed to what we wanted pre-pandemic?
What do you need/want from this group?


 


Because I knew you...

I've not seen "Wicked", but I love this song: "For Good".
Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order...

Disclaimer:
I don't own the music or the recordings, nor do I benefit in any way from these postings.
Links go to public postings on YouTube where credit is given to those involved.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Be Yourself; Be authentic; Just Be...

"What advice does she have for people who feel judged and crave the societal approval that she craved for years? Post-pandemic, how do you avoid going back to a life that doesn’t feel quite right? “Notice that, when you’re not yourself because you want people to like you, you hate your life. There’s this idea called “the empty elevator”. Say you don’t like your life on the floor that you’re on and you want to go to a higher perspective … When you get in the elevator, not many people are going to come with you. So you get in anyway and you might be thinking: ‘I’ve made a terrible mistake. No one wanted to come with me. I’m all alone in this elevator.’ And then you get to your new level, the doors open and you find a room of people who are excited for you to be exactly where you wanted to be.”

..."So be true to yourself. Let yourself be seen as quirky or odd. Then the relationships you create with people will be real and solid and indestructible.”

from this article...
The coach in the article is Martha Beck.

I don't really have a thing for Oprah or for the coaching industry as it has evolved...
well, I haven't really looked at any of today's professional Coaches, in spite of studying and graduating from that training.

What this is talking about is learning to give up control. I don't do that well...yet.


A Pride of Crones

You know I'm a language lover. 

I've been playing with words having to do with 'old' for some time. I've enjoyed using "tribe" to describe my circle of friends.
But the other day I was thinking of collective nouns, like flock of sheep or a murder of crows... 
A tribe of crones didn't sound all that good to me, but a Pride of Crones does! Or a Pride of Elders. Yes, please.

What do you think?


"Life Will Break You"

“Life will break you.
Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning.
You have to love. You have to feel.
It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up.
And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness.
 
― Louise Erdrich (recipient of 2021 Pulitzer Prize)

Documenting Death

I found this video today. I may join Twitter just to see how this went forward.
I'm impressed, to say the least.

I still have pics of Joel from that last summer...
this is not those...

 

What do you think of this level of sharing?

What do you want to hear from friends and family if your death was to be similar to this?

More prep for the 'letter' I think.

 


"Why the World is Going Crazy" (and the un-quoted comments on this topic.

and maybe a part of an upcoming Re-introduction email (it's a 'letter' in my mind :). )

This video I found at random (?) on YouTube:

 



The author/commentor, Jamie Wheal, introduces himself in the video that came from Big Think.

I agree with most of what he is saying here.

leaving this unfinished in favor of a tall fresh homemade lemon-limeade pleasantly laced with vodka, and a movie... TTFN. :)


Ilu...If Only

"Dayenu"   

I found this posted on Facebook by a friend. 

Dayenu
It literally means "It would have been enough".   This site translates the text.
Ilu means "if only"

I played this video because I'm having a shortage of peace these days and any exploration could be helpful.
And also because, in my struggles with the G word, and spirit, and just plain wishing for more love in the world, it's good for me to peek into religious beliefs of others now & then to see if I might be missing something.

Remembering grammar, I felt something niggling at me. I did not remember it is called Past Conditional.
"Things would have been different if another situation or condition had been met."  an explanation of Past Conditional English from here.
So, IF this had happened (been done), it WOULD HAVE BEEN ENOUGH.

It looks like a catalogue of regrets to me.  Any comments?

 

 

 

 


2-3 more things to think/talk about...

 



https://eand.co/the-origins-of-americas-unique-and-spectacular-cruelty-74a91f53ce29
The Origins of America's Unique and Spectacular Cruelty

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2021/03/22/preachers-sneakers-instagram-wealth/
Preacher/church Wealth 

All this crap bothers me. possibly more than it should - possibly not enough.

I don't know whether to stop reading (can I?) or emigrate.  I don't know if there is anywhere else to go...  ?
I don't know how to be helpful. I'm a little embarrassed by all the physical comfort and 'things' that I have.
Let's talk...

 

 

 


One Year In on the Global Pandemic

"No matter how old you are, as you read you might ask yourself a question, too:
How has this year challenged and changed your generation?"   [emphasis mine] 
    
— Katherine Schulten, editor, The Learning Network

"For many American teens, this year will be the defining moment of their young lives.
In words, images and videos, they showed us how they’ve met these challenges in an unrecognizable world."


The subtitle and quote above come from NYT's Coming of Age article
about America's teens and how they have fared this first year. 
Here is just one of them:
    
    "This photo encompasses my own identity as an L.G.B.T.Q.+ Filipina-American woman. It highlights my role as an ally to the     movements of social justice. No longer do I talk about boys or paint my nails, but start to recognize the part I can play in fighting     for justice and how to tackle my implicit biases.
    Although this was not the summer I was expecting, it truly has brought on tremendous personal growth, which I would not trade     for anything."     --La Habra, Calif.  Christian Lee, 17


There are several others, each completely worth some of your time. (imo)


there is a paywall up at NYT, so if you want to read it and can't, let me know...)

       


and/or this one: "Where do the dead go in our Imaginations"

article...  where do they go in yours... ?

 

housekeeping... usually I categorize things as Covid related if that is the subject in any part of the post.
But.. I think that the pandemic is so pervasive, scary, politicized, depressing, killing!,...  I'm sure it colors my subjectivity!

so all the posts from March 2020 onward fit there too.


The Power of Touch

This article in the Guardian explores touching and its absence, especially in light of the current pandemic.   

"Everything we touch has its own specific shape, texture and firmness, its own special resistance to the pressure we place on it. Every hug feels different because everyone you hug takes up space in the world in a different way. No one else has quite the same contours, the same pleats and ripples in their clothes, the same warmth and weight, the same precise arrangement of flesh and bones. Your own body is a one-off, too. It folds into and nests with someone else’s in a way that no other body can."  

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                





I SO wanted to post this to Facebook!!

but I won't.

I’m confused by words, again.

I’ve been reading in an effort to understand the connection between evangelical Christians and Trump.

I started by looking up definitions in a few different dictionaries.
I read an article by NPR here, and this one from Christianity.com hereHere’s Wikipedia’s take on evangelism.

They all agree with my early religious education in describing evangelism as being all about spreading the Gospel and the story of Jesus. The message of Jesus, and indeed most of the New Testament is about love and caring for each other.

Who, What, Why are there so many angry Trumpers among those claiming to be Christian?
Here is an article on the text of Matthew 25:31–46
Where is love among them?
Where is charity among them?
What about helping those who are suffering? 
Where are the loaves and fishes?
How do they overlook Trump’s behavior, his treatment of women, of the disabled, of POC, of Rich v Poor?

Based on my own Christian education, these articles & others, and the words of Christian Trumpers there IS NO connection.
If you feel otherwise, I invite discussion. I confess, I expect only pushback.

In full disclosure, I no longer identify as Christian.
I identify as a human who wants to be morally conscious and generally accepting and loving.

https://www.npr.org/2020/11/08/932263516/2020-faith-vote-reflects-2016-patterns

https://www.christianity.com/wiki/christian-terms/what-is-evangelism.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evangelism

https://dmsbcatholic.com/catholic-faith/what-is-the-core-message-of-christianity/


I need this link to be here, even thopugh I found it after posting my article here.
American Christianity and white Supremacy
https://www.npr.org/2020/07/30/896712611/american-christianity-must-reckon-with-legacy-of-white-supremacy-author-says 


Happy New Year 2021

This new year is not the marker we all want right now. I hear people talk about 'getting back to normal' or 'the New normal'.
I think it is way too soon to make guesses about how that will look. There is this nice clean New Year, though. Each of us must make of it what we will.

Here is Pentatonix's version of Auld Lang Syne:

And this link is to a good article about the song and its lyrics.

And the lyrics:

Auld Lang Syne by Robert Burns

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
And surely you'll buy your pint cup!
and surely I'll buy mine!
And we'll take a cup o kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we've wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.

And there's a hand my trusty friend!
And give us a hand o thine!
And we'll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne*?

For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
well take a cup o kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp!
and surely I'll be mine!
And well take a cup o kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,
and pud the gowans fine;
But weve wanderd mony a weary fit,
sin auld lang syne.

We twa hae paddld i' the burn,
frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roard
sin auld lang syne.

And theres a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie's a hand o thine!
And well tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.

https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2020/12/31/auld-lang-syne-meaning-239618


HCR on Endings and Beginnings

Heather Cox Richardson has been the voice I've followed throughout most of this year.
It felt appropriate to post here her latest two posts:  December 31, 2020 and January 1, 2021 That is what follows.

And so, we are at the end of a year that has brought a presidential impeachment trial, a deadly pandemic that has killed more than 338,000 of us, a huge social movement for racial justice, a presidential election, and a president who has refused to accept the results of that election and is now trying to split his own political party.

It’s been quite a year.

But I had a chance to talk with history podcaster Bob Crawford of the Avett Brothers yesterday, and he asked a more interesting question. He pointed out that we are now twenty years into this century, and asked what I thought were the key changes of those twenty years. I chewed on this question for awhile and also asked readers what they thought. Pulling everything together, here is where I’ve come out.

In America, the twenty years since 2000 have seen the end game of the Reagan Revolution, begun in 1980.

In that era, political leaders on the right turned against the principles that had guided the country since the 1930s, when Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt guided the nation out of the Great Depression by using the government to stabilize the economy. During the Depression and World War Two, Americans of all parties had come to believe the government had a role to play in regulating the economy, providing a basic social safety net and promoting infrastructure.

But reactionary businessmen hated regulations and the taxes that leveled the playing field between employers and workers. They called for a return to the pro-business government of the 1920s, but got no traction until the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, when the Supreme Court, under the former Republican governor of California, Earl Warren, unanimously declared racial segregation unconstitutional. That decision, and others that promoted civil rights, enabled opponents of the New Deal government to attract supporters by insisting that the country’s postwar government was simply redistributing tax dollars from hardworking white men to people of color.

That argument echoed the political language of the Reconstruction years, when white southerners insisted that federal efforts to enable formerly enslaved men to participate in the economy on terms equal to white men were simply a redistribution of wealth, because the agents and policies required to achieve equality would cost tax dollars and, after the Civil War, most people with property were white. This, they insisted, was “socialism.”

To oppose the socialism they insisted was taking over the East, opponents of black rights looked to the American West. They called themselves Movement Conservatives, and they celebrated the cowboy who, in their inaccurate vision, was a hardworking white man who wanted nothing of the government but to be left alone to work out his own future. In this myth, the cowboys lived in a male-dominated world, where women were either wives and mothers or sexual playthings, and people of color were savage or subordinate.

With his cowboy hat and western ranch, Reagan deliberately tapped into this mythology, as well as the racism and sexism in it, when he promised to slash taxes and regulations to free individuals from a grasping government. He promised that cutting taxes and regulations would expand the economy. As wealthy people—the “supply side” of the economy-- regained control of their capital, they would invest in their businesses and provide more jobs. Everyone would make more money.

From the start, though, his economic system didn’t work. Money moved upward, dramatically, and voters began to think the cutting was going too far. To keep control of the government, Movement Conservatives at the end of the twentieth century ramped up their celebration of the individualist white American man, insisting that America was sliding into socialism even as they cut more and more domestic programs, insisting that the people of color and women who wanted the government to address inequities in the country simply wanted “free stuff.” They courted social conservatives and evangelicals, promising to stop the “secularization” they saw as a partner to communism.

After the end of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, talk radio spread the message that Black and Brown Americans and “feminazis” were trying to usher in socialism. In 1996, that narrative got a television channel that personified the idea of the strong man with subordinate women. The Fox News Channel told a story that reinforced the Movement Conservative narrative daily until it took over the Republican Party entirely.

The idea that people of color and women were trying to undermine society was enough of a rationale to justify keeping them from the vote, especially after Democrats passed the Motor Voter law in 1993, making it easier for poor people to register to vote. In 1997, Florida began the process of purging voter rolls of Black voters.

And so, 2000 came.

In that year, the presidential election came down to the electoral votes in Florida. Democratic candidate Al Gore won the popular vote by more than 540,000 votes over Republican candidate George W. Bush, but Florida would decide the election. During the required recount, Republican political operatives led by Roger Stone descended on the election canvassers in Miami-Dade County to stop the process. It worked, and the Supreme Court upheld the end of the recount. Bush won Florida by 537 votes and, thanks to its electoral votes, became president. Voter suppression was a success, and Republicans would use it, and after 2010, gerrymandering, to keep control of the government even as they lost popular support.

Bush had promised to unite the country, but his installation in the White House gave new power to the ideology of the Movement Conservative leaders of the Reagan Revolution. He inherited a budget surplus from his predecessor Democrat Bill Clinton, but immediately set out to get rid of it by cutting taxes. A balanced budget meant money for regulation and social programs, so it had to go. From his term onward, Republicans would continue to cut taxes even as budgets operated in the red, the debt climbed, and money moved upward.

The themes of Republican dominance and tax cuts were the backdrop of the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. That attack gave the country’s leaders a sense of mission after the end of the Cold War and, after launching a war in Afghanistan to stop al-Qaeda, they set out to export democracy to Iraq. This had been a goal for Republican leaders since the Clinton administration, in the belief that the United States needed to spread capitalism and democracy in its role as a world leader. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq strengthened the president and the federal government, creating the powerful Department of Homeland Security, for example, and leading Bush to assert the power of the presidency to interpret laws through signing statements.

The association of the Republican Party with patriotism enabled Republicans in this era to call for increased spending for the military and continued tax cuts, while attacking Democratic calls for domestic programs as wasteful. Increasingly, Republican media personalities derided those who called for such programs as dangerous, or anti-American.

But while Republicans increasingly looked inward to their party as the only real Americans and asserted power internationally, changes in technology were making the world larger. The Internet put the world at our fingertips and enabled researchers to decode the human genome, revolutionizing medical science. Smartphones both made communication easy. Online gaming created communities and empathy. And as many Americans were increasingly embracing rap music and tattoos and LGBTQ rights, as well as recognizing increasing inequality, books were pointing to the dangers of the power concentrating at the top of societies. In 1997, J.K. Rowling began her exploration of the rise of authoritarianism in her wildly popular Harry Potter books, but her series was only the most famous of a number of books in which young people conquered a dystopia created by adults.

In Bush’s second term, his ideology created a perfect storm. His administration's disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina, which killed more than 1,800 people and caused $125 billion in damage in and around New Orleans in 2005, revealed how badly the new economy had treated Black and Brown people, and how badly the destruction of domestic programs had affected our ability to respond to disasters. Computers permitted the overuse of credit default swaps that precipitated the 2008 crash, which then precipitated the housing crisis, as people who had bet on the individualist American dream lost their homes. Meanwhile, the ongoing wars, plagued with financial and moral scandals, made it clear that the Republicans optimistic vision of spreading democracy through military conflict was unrealistic.

In 2008, voters put Black American Barack Obama, a Democrat, into the White House. To Republicans, primed by now to believe that Democrats and Black people were socialists, this was an undermining of the nation itself, and they set out to hamper him. While many Americans saw Obama as the symbol of a new, fairer government with America embracing a multilateral world, reactionaries built a backlash based in racism and sexism. They vocally opposed a federal government they insisted was pushing socialism on hardworking white men, and insisted that America must show its strength by exerting its power unilaterally in the world. Increasingly, the Internet and cell phones enabled people to have their news cater to their worldview, moving Republicans into a world characterized by what a Republican spokesperson would later call "alternative facts."

And so, in 2016, we faced a clash between a relentlessly changing nation and the individualist ideology of the Movement Conservatives who had taken over the Republican Party. By then, that ideology had become openly radical extremism in the hands of Donald Trump, who referred to immigrants as criminals, boasted of sexually assaulting women, and promised to destroy the New Deal government once and for all.

In the 2016 election, the themes of the past 36 years came together. Embracing Movement Conservative individualist ideology taken to an extreme, Trump was eager enough to make sure a Democrat didn't win that, according to American intelligence services, he was willing to accept the help of Russian operatives. They, in turn, influenced the election through the manipulation of new social media, amplified by what had become by then a Republican echo chamber in which Democrats were dangerous socialists and the Democratic candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was a criminal. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision which permitted corporate money to flow into election campaigns, Trump also had the help of a wave of money from big business; financial institutions spent $2 billion to influence the election. He also had the support of evangelicals, who believed he would finally give them the anti-abortion laws they wanted.

Trump lost the popular vote by almost 3 million votes but, as George W. Bush before him, won in the Electoral College. Once in office, this president set out to destroy the New Deal state, as Movement Conservatives had called for, returning the country to the control of a small group of elite businessmen who, theoretically, would know how to move the country forward best by leveraging private sector networks and innovation. He also set out to put minorities and women back into subordinate positions, recreating a leadership structure that was almost entirely white and male.

As Trump tried to destroy an activist government once and for all, Americans woke up to how close we have come to turning our democracy over to a small group of oligarchs.

In the past four years, the Women’s March on Washington and the MeToo Movement has enabled women to articulate their demand for equality. The travel ban, child separation policy for Latin American refugees, and Trump’s attacks on Muslims, Latin American immigrants, and Chinese immigrants, has sparked a defense of America’s history of immigration. The Black Lives Matter Movement, begun in July 2013 after George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering teenager Trayvon Martin, has gained power as Black Americans have been murdered at the hands of law enforcement officers and white vigilantes, and as Black Americans have borne witness to those murders with cellphone videos.

The increasing voice of democracy clashed most dramatically with Trump’s ideology in summer 2020 when, with the support of his Attorney General William Barr, Trump used the law enforcement officers of the Executive Branch to attack peaceful protesters in Washington, D.C. and in Portland, Oregon. In June, on the heels of the assault on the protesters at Lafayette Square, military officers from all branches made it clear that they would not support any effort to use them against civilians. They reiterated that they would support the Constitution. The refusal of the military to support a further extension of Trump's power was no small thing.

And now, here we are. Trump lost the 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden by more than 7 million votes and by an Electoral College split of 306 to 232. Although the result was not close, Trump refuses to acknowledge the loss and is doing all he can to hamper Biden’s assumption of office. Many members of the Republican Party are joining him in his attempt to overturn the election, taking the final, logical step of Movement Conservatism: denying the legitimacy of anyone who does not share their ideology. This is unprecedented. It is a profound attack on our democracy. But it will not succeed.

And in this moment, we have, disastrously, discovered the final answer to whether or not it is a good idea to destroy the activist government that has protected us since 1933. In their zeal for reducing government, the Trump team undercut our ability to respond to a pandemic, and tried to deal with the deadly coronavirus through private enterprise or by ignoring it and calling for people to go back to work in service to the economy, willing to accept huge numbers of dead. They have carried individualism to an extreme, insisting that simple public health measures designed to save lives infringe on their liberty.

The result has been what is on track to be the greatest catastrophe in American history, with more than 338,000 of us dead and the disease continuing to spread like wildfire. It is for this that the Trump administration will be remembered, but it is more than that. It is a fitting end to the attempt to destroy our government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

 

December 31, 2020

As the sun sets on 2020, I want to thank you all.

It was not clear what this year would bring, and fear that we were seeing the end of American democracy was very real. Thanks to people like you, we have won a respite, at least, and now have the chance to articulate what this country can look like if we put all hands on deck.

I also thank you for your support for me, and for this project. It is no exaggeration to say we are in this together. I shape what I write according to your questions, and learn at least as much from you as you do from me. More, though, your personal support, especially in the face of the hate mail that comes over the transom, is what keeps me going.

So I thank you, all around.

I wish for you, and for us all, a better 2021.

                            

                                                             

                   


Sharing Christmas during the Pandemic

It's possible to 'share' things these days... just not kisses and hugs!
What a bummer that could be were we not crones and so highly evolved!

As keeper of the blog, I sent an email out Saturday morning:

Good Morning!  I hope you had a great Christmas. I certainly did! 8-9 hours with Jessica!! Wahoo!
We rocked out with Rummicube, had a good meal, and talked too long to watch "Soul" as we first planned.
I'm going to miss our conversations tremendously. We're really good at the Deep Dive.
And we were aware, without being maudlin, that she will be gone in 4 days. I think it enriched the experience rather than damping it.

So, what was your Favorite Part of your Christmas Day?   Santa slippers, perhaps? LOL!
I have not hidden your names on this email in hopes that you will 'reply to all' and add just a little extra "Community" feel to this weird holiday.
I love and miss each of you. ❤️
 
Kate
What follows are the responses as they came in:

So great to hear, Kate,about your full and loving day with Jessica. Give her our love as she leaves for a new chapter. We had a wonderful day with our new “household “ with Kathryn and Marcia, who have generously taken us in as we live next door in our 5th wheel.
We had FT calls with family, played Joker, ate great food (thanks to Marcia and Mel), sang and watched football.
I am so grateful for all the goodness in my life even in this difficult year. We miss you all. May you have a safe and improving 2021. ❤️  

Kate H.

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Nice healing from y’all. We had a quiet day. Long walk with Daisy, nice meal and a little football. 
Today is looking a lot like yesterday. Well, I did drive to Zocca’s for lattes. Delicious. And on that drive I watched the wild horses stroll across Mechem. What a gift. 
Hugs to all,

Angela

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Hello friends,
Kim, Verna and I had a quiet day. Verna is my aunt who has multiple health issues and has been living with us since early March. Other than the challenges of dealing with someone with dementia, it was a good day. We exchanged gifts with my kids and grandkids via Zoom and had a yummy meals of homemade tamales.

Much love to all. May 2021 bring access to COVID vaccine so we can get her once again!
Love, Nona

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Hi all,

The best part of hearing from everyone is that everyone seems to be healthy. That is a blessing in itself. Our day was very quiet,a little sad, but worked very hard at working past that. Fixed Carol a vodka martini and she was in bed before 10 pm. Hahaha...She cooked a down to earth camping recipe that was delicious. Watched football and hit the sack early.. so good to hear that everyone had a wonderful day.
We hope 2021 holds many positives, most of all seeing everyone again.
Love to you all,

Mary and Carol

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so happy to be hearing of everyone's enjoyment in their day, even amidst some challenges....
my day was indeed a blessing also, filled with love and fun and laughter that i will surely miss ❤️
big hugs to all....🤗 
Jessica
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Thank you Kate and everyone for sharing. So beautiful to hear that you all found joy and laughter through this bizarre holiday season.  I have had my grand boys for a week and that is a blessing in itself. Much and good food has been shared, great conversation with my oldest, he is now 17, love to watch the change as they mature. 
Jessica, much joy and happiness in your new adventure on this journey 🙏   
Blessings to you all.  May you be safe, happy and well in the New Year. 

Angie
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We found that it doesn't take much to entertain us! We received toilet lights from our friend and neighbor, Kim. The toilet light, for those who may not know, fits on the toilet and lights up in the middle of the night when you go to the bathroom. It even changes colors! So this was one of our favorite gifts. And another favorite was from Peggy. She had a jigsaw puzzle made from a picture she had taken of Frida. When we get it finished, I'll take a picture and email it to the group. Love and miss all of you and am looking forward to the day we all get to get together in person.
Love,

Susan

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Hi guys, I also had an extremely exciting holiday.....NOT!. I zoomed with my kids in LA , San Francisco, and DC Christmas day then went to Carrizozo to a yummy prime rib dinner at my friend Bonnie and her husband's. Spent the night so I could drink to my hearts content! With my usual lightweight limit of 1 cocktail, 1 glass of Cab, and 2 itty bitty glasses of limonchello! my favorite gift, The promised land by B Obama. No complaints, my life is good. Miss you all and can't wait for 2021.

Irma
 
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Good morning, all;
 
So nice to hear from all of you this week.  I feel like I’ve been in a tunnel the last few weeks.  I have pre-registered for the Covid vax, because I’m ready to see all your faces sooner, rather than later.
 
Christmas was quiet here.  Mike’s mom passed away Wednesday afternoon and we’ve got his dad with us, who is understandably a bit of a mess.  We know she suffers no more, but that seldom eases a loved one’s suffering.  
 
I’ve had the opportunity to do quite a bit of cooking this week, given the circumstances, and I almost always love being in the kitchen, and don’t often get to, so there’s that.
 
Looking forward to a new beginning after this week and, hopefully, some time off during our coldest month of February, to go be somewhere warm...or, at least different.
 
Love you all gobs.  I still offer La Junta Guest Ranch for a socially distanced gathering if/when you all have grown weary of a lack of human connection.
 
Hug and smooch to you all.  Happy...HAPPIER New Year!
 
Sheri

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I forgot to report the joy and wonder of watching elk stroll by here frequently, wild horses come to the fence and we toss carrots, and M and K saw a mountain lion go by couple weeks ago. Natures gifts! 
I’m reading A Promise Land too. Good to hear u Irma.

Kate H.
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"Every Minute Someone Leaves.."

A poem for dying by Courtney A. Walsh.

Every minute someone leaves this world behind.
Age has nothing to do with it.
We are all in this line without realizing it.
We never know how many people are before us.
We can not move to the back of the line.
We can not step out of the line.
We can not avoid the line.
So while we wait in line -
Make moments count.
Make a difference.
Make the call.
Make priorities.
Make the time.
Make your gifts known.
Make a nobody feel like a somebody.
Make your voice heard.
Make the small things big.
Make someone smile.
Make the change.
Make yourself a priority.
Make love.
Make up.
Make peace.
Make sure to tell your people they are loved.
Make waves.
Make sure to have no regrets.
Make sure you are ready.

Itsa Village Housekeeping update 10-5-20

There are many posts here, now, and many more links to other articles and information.
Lately, I've relied heavily on Ronni Bennett of Time Goes By, largely because she is living and sharing her dying.
Don't see how we can get more pertinent to our purpose than that.

I will keep posting here, because it's one of the things I do.

But I have become aware that this blog and, indeed, our Salon have fallen prey to the distractions of the pandemic, internet insecurity, politics, and a general lack of interest.  I haven't sent emails about new postings lately because they produce no evidence that any of you are engaged here any longer.  That's fine with me, sort of.
There are certainly many more important things on our individual & collective minds these days.

I miss you.   ...without intense longing for you. I'm conscious of pulling in.. not sure it is in any good way.

These days - these covid days - I am intensely aware of loneliness as something separate from solitude.
I've always known it, maybe, but I have a new respect for the difference, now.

The biggest critter in that wilderness of Alone that is not solitude, is fear. Fear that the Alone will continue forever.
That I will end up as Ronni is, without someone by the bed when I die. I will have hospice, if that is available then.
And, really, I sell my friends short when I think or assume that they don't care. I know that.
That, and other aspects relating to mental health are why I still talk to a therapist every month.


 

 

 


Sage's Play: Old at Heart

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Old at Heart: Reframing How We Talk about Aging and Being Old   by Gaea Yudron, a writer/artist + much more, and a FB friend.
                             You can find her thru the link to the article, or on FB.

https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-AhF2XUn9NqE/VYGZqp0DUgI/AAAAAAAABwg/y7eEsaw-8h8/s1600/11412110_10152979041348581_8675086500946453573_n.jpg

I am a fan of Tao Porchon-Lynch, the nonagenarian yogini and ballroom dancer, whom I have written about before in this blog. She is a wonderful example of vitality and joy in old age.

But what is wrong with this picture, or rather the quote that is included with it? Like Tao, I believe in energy, certainly. Energy. Vitality. Being uplifted. All that.

But I believe in age, too. And isn't Tao's comment a bit off key? To me it is. Perhaps it just needs a few more words. I think it would read better this way.

"I don't believe in stereotypes about age. I believe in tapping into cosmic energy."

I think that is what Tao is wanting to say here. I am sensitive to how words are used about aging. I don't really warm up to being addressed as 74-years young. I will not be happy to be called young at heart. I have live! live! lived! as Auntie Mame exhorted a repressed character to do in the wonderful old flick of that name.

I have 74 years' of life experience. I am old at heart. I don't want somebody who believes that youth is the main stage of life to be telling me I am young at heart. No thanks. Youth is not the pinnacle of life experience necessarily. Perhaps for some it is the peak and everything afterwards is downhill. But for many of us, life after youth contains a great deal of uplift, ecstasy and richness.  I am happy to be old at heart, with everything I know at this age. Which is certainly a great deal more than I knew when I was in my twenties, thirties or forties or even fifties. Just writing that line and taking a brief retrospective reminds me of how I have changed and matured. I am not perfected, but I have certainly changed and matured.

 
 

The experience of maturing, the depth a person can come to in maturity is something worth recognizing, not one to deny or ignore. I aspire to more maturity, to being even older at heart. To becoming more altruistic, kind, to having a more integrated, panoramic awareness, to being more loving.

If you have been reading this blog for awhile, you know I am on a campaign to reclaim the word OLD from the trashpile of corrupted words. Old has a lot of power, a lot of rich qualities. Be happy to be old at heart, my friend. Young at heart has delightful qualities. Old at heart is another territory, one whose qualities are deep and worthwhile--let's honor it!

 
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There was more to this blog post, but it is out of date & the links don't work; it's available thru the link.

I love that she is also interested in words, and in reclaiming the good ones.
Gaea would fit well in our group, I believe... if we still had one. ...


Are We a Tribe?

Why Women need a Tribe                  

Tanja Taljaard and Azriel Re'Shel, writing in 2016, think so.  So do I.
In truth, I think we are one...with some familial tension among us on most days...

I've posted this link, with only a quick scan, to save it for us, and to follow some interesting links...
My tribe, however, does not require chanting, incense, beads, shawls, or paint. 
Though it is quite possible that any or all of these things might come in handy at one point or another.