Category: health

Assessing COVID Risk for Kids

I’m going to lead off with the obvious: I’m not a doctor or a medical professional. I’m a librarian. I’m good at finding and evaluating information, but nothing in this post should be viewed as some sort of ironclad definitive statement when it comes to COVID risk for kids.

My main reason for posting this is that I’m the father of an 8-year-old, and I’m tired of vague statements floating around in the interwebs about “COVID isn’t as dangerous for kids, but it can still affect them.” My daughter can’t be vaccinated yet, but there’s a whole ton of things she’d like to do (and things we’d like to do as a family). Playing with friends. Going on trips. Heading to the store to go shopping. Mask mandates and usage are going down, and I recognize there are plenty of unvaccinated people who are going to be out and about not wearing masks.

What I really wanted to know is “how dangerous is it (really) for my daughter?” I understand that she might contract COVID. There are a whole ton of things that might happen to her in the course of any day. She could get eaten by a shark when we go to the beach. She could get struck by lightning. Where exactly does COVID rank in the order of “realistically dangerous”? Since I was already poking around online for the subject anyway, I thought I’d share what I came up with.

The CDC has a page that goes over some of this in a strange way. Using children age 5-17 as their reference group, they show how big of an impact COVID can have on different age groups in terms of hospitalizations and death. So looking at it, I can see that I’m 130 times as likely as my daughter to die from COVID. But that’s such a fuzzy number. I have a hard time wrapping my head around it in any meaningful way.

I tried to look for specific numbers from the CDC, but all I could find was this page that showed how many deaths occurred in children 0-17 years old. (As of this instant, 295 involving COVID. 1,152 if you include COVID and influenza and pneumonia.) That doesn’t seem like much. How many COVID cases have kids actually gotten?

The American Academy of Pediatrics answers that over here. 3.94 million. On the same page, it notes that kids were hospitalized in .1-1.9% of the cases. They died in 0.00-0.03% of their cases, which lines up with the CDC numbers I found. (0.03% of 3.94 million is 1,182, so if you attribute all influenza, pneumonia, and COVID cases as “potentially COVID,” then it’s about the same.)

I’m all about worst case scenarios. Let’s say that 1,152 number is all COVID (it isn’t), and let’s say all those deaths happened in a single year (they didn’t). How does that compare with other causes of death in children. (Talk about a chipper topic today . . .) I can’t find the data for 2020 yet, but here’s a study that details the leading causes of death for children in 2016.

  • 12,336 came from accidents
  • 4,074 came from car crashes
  • 3,143 came from firearms
  • 1,853 came from cancer
  • 1,430 came from suffocation
  • 995 came from drowning

So COVID deaths in American children rated (at worst) less likely than suffocating, and just a bit more likely than drowning. A more realistic view would put it much lower on the list. (Told you this was chipper.) But isn’t this line of argument the same thing that was criticized back in 2020 when people tried to downplay COVID as a whole? What exactly did the 2020 cause of death numbers end up at? Look no further. In the US, COVID was the third leading cause of death, below heart disease and cancer, but well above everything else. People trying to brush it off as No Big Deal would have to argue suicide, diabetes, Alzheimers, and strokes are NBD either.

Is COVID potentially dangerous? Yes, for children and adults. But it’s much more dangerous for adults. For kids, it’s around the same danger as drowning. And like drowning, that’s a danger that can be further reduced by taking a few basic steps. Avoid deep water. Learn how to swim. Don’t swim unsupervised. Water is a thing that’s familiar, and we know how to do things to make it safer. COVID’s getting to that point as well.

Mind you, this is just looking at deaths. It’s ignoring hospitalizations or long COVID, though the numbers for children in those areas are also much better than for adults. I heard someone say to treat unvaccinated children about the same as you’d treat vaccinated grandparents. The risk levels are about the same. So would I take MC to a huge indoor party, unmasked? Probably not. Would I be fine having her play with friends outside? That seems quite safe to me, as does smaller play dates inside.

COVID cases in the country and in our area continue to fall. I don’t think you have to treat everyone you see now as a potential carrier. In all likelihood, they don’t have it. As I’ve said before, for me fighting COVID was never about getting to 0 deaths. It was about keeping the curve low enough that our healthcare system wasn’t overwhelmed. And in most places in America, we did that. Unless cases begin to spike again for some unforeseen reason, I’m good with having my daughter return to normal in most aspects of her life.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Weekend Fun: Moderna Side Effects

I’m at the front end of many of the people I know who are getting vaccinated, and I know I had a lot of questions going into the second vaccine (Moderna for me), so I thought it might be helpful/interesting to go over what the experience of having side effects was like for yours truly. Heading into the shot, I thought I might get some side effects (definitely worried enough about them to Google a fair bit beforehand), but I also thought I’d be able to power through them okay. It was a day of feeling crummy, and I’d know I wasn’t actually sick. How hard could it be?

Very hard, friends.

First, this all comes with the big disclaimer that plenty of people are just having sore arms, or no side effects whatsoever. That’s fantastic, and I’m very happy for them. After the first shot, my injection site hurt for about a week afterward, and then it got red and itchy for a while as well. But that was the extent of it.

I got the second shot on Friday at 11:40am. It hurt a fair bit more than the first shot. Enough that I wondered if somehow it had gone into a muscle wrong or something. (Denisa got hers at the same time. She didn’t feel a thing.) Both of us felt fine for the rest of Friday. I was perhaps a bit more tired, and I had a slight headache, but nothing really to write home about. We went to bed around 11pm, and I was feeling pretty optimistic. It had been almost 12 hours since the shot, and maybe I’d dodged a bullet.

I woke up at 1:30am with chills so bad it felt like every muscle in my body was tensed up. Teeth chattering non-stop, despite being under my down comforter still. Denisa hadn’t fallen asleep yet, because she’d come down with a fever as well. I stumbled out to get a couple of extra strength Tylenol, and I managed to fall asleep about a half hour later. I slept through the night (Denisa didn’t sleep much at all), and got up at 8am to go let the dog out and check on how the rest of the house was doing. I thought I felt okay-ish. Still fevered, perhaps, but no more chills.

An hour later, and I gave up. The chills were back, headache, sensitive skin, sweating, and bad muscle aches. I went back to bed after taking some more Tylenol, and I stayed in bed for most of the rest of the day. I slept about 5 hours. I might have thought I’d just push through it, but I realized that’s a very easy thing to say when you’re well, and totally different when you’re actually in the middle of it all. I was very glad we’d prepped ahead of time to get things in order for the day. Denisa was feeling 70% better by around 5pm or so. I managed to get up and out of bed for a bit, mainly because I wanted to have some hope of sleeping later that night, but I had no energy and did very little other than lay there and read or watch TV.

I slept again the whole night (very abnormal for me during the pandemic, but I’m not complaining!). When I woke up, the chills were gone, as was the sensitive skin, headache, and muscle aches. I felt less feverish, as well. Instead, I felt more like I feel after a long bout of the flu. Very tired and dizzy. Again, I stayed in bed for most of the day. I got up for an hour long Zoom meeting in the evening, but that was enough to really drain my energy levels. Denisa felt well enough to go for a 4 mile jog. That said, neither of us had much of an appetite for the whole day. We both skipped lunch, and I think I had about 1000 calories total.

Today, I feel back to normal, as if I’d never been sick at all. My shoulder hurts maybe a tinge, but that’s it. It wasn’t a fun weekend, but it was definitely better than getting some of the longterm COVID side-effects I’ve read about, and infinitely better than being hospitalized and dying, or getting the disease and passing it on to someone who has that happen to them. I’m very much looking forward to being immune in a little less than two weeks, and I’m feeling quite a bit more optimistic about things than I’ve felt in a good long while.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Don’t Skip Leg Day

It’s a pretty well-documented fact that I’ve spent the last five or more years trying to do get myself into better shape, bit by bit. Reducing my sugar intake. Lowering my weight. Standing up straighter. Exercising more regularly. I added weight lifting to the mix for a while, though I stepped away from that when I hurt my shoulder. I’ve recently come back to it again, though. (Yay for a shoulder that’s feeling much better.)

One area I’ve never really paid any attention to is my legs, however. They move me around from place to place, and that’s about all the thought I’ve given them. A year and a half ago, however, I went to an exercise class with my sister, and after that one class, my legs stopped working. My muscles pretty much resigned and said they were taking a three day vacation in protest to what I’d put them through. Mind you, I hadn’t put them through anything that strenuous. Just some basic strength exercises. It was not a fun few days after that.

That experience inspired me to begin paying more attention to building up some leg muscle. As has been typical for me, however, it takes a while between having the first thought of doing something that will get me into better shape and then actually doing that thing to get into better shape. Now that I’m coming into the home stretch on my dieting goal, I’ve been focusing on building muscle again. (Mainly because muscle burns fat, and I thought if I were to add some more muscle, it would be easier to keep off the pounds.)

I’m not going to the gym. I’m still just too lazy to do anything that elaborate. Instead, I try to do basic things that I can do wherever I am. In this case, it’s just squats. 20 of them in a row, which you’d think would be something anyone in reasonable health could do. Let’s just say that my legs clearly aren’t in “reasonable health” I guess. I did 20 yesterday, and I’ve been walling wobbly since then. Which, of course, just highlights the need for me to keep this up.

The plan isn’t to turn myself into some supermensch. The plan is just to get myself to the point that I can do 20 or 40 squats at a time without feeling like my legs have turned to jello the next day. It’s a low bar. Wish me luck.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

First Vaccine: Check!

Like I assume all of you, I’ve been watching the vaccine rollout closely. This is the best/only path toward something like normalcy anytime soon, and it’s been encouraging to see those numbers in America slowly bump up. That said, as a healthy man in his 40s, I didn’t really think I’d be able to get a vaccine myself for another month or two at least. Maine just announced Friday that starting in mid-April, anyone could get a vaccine. That was encouraging, but I assumed as soon as that date arrived, the floodgates would open, and it would be very tricky to actually make an appointment.

So, basically, I was paying attention to the big picture of vaccines, but I wasn’t really doing anything to look into what I’d need to do personally to get one yet. I didn’t want to think too much about it, because I thought that would just make me more impatient. When President Biden announced he wanted all educators to have access to the vaccine right away, I was hopeful for a little bit that might include Denisa and me, since we’re both university employees. Reading the fine print (in multiple places), it was limited to K-12 educators. Which was fine. I’ve been working in person since August, and I haven’t felt really at risk, so I was content to wait my turn.

Imagine my surprise when Friday afternoon, I got an email from a friend at the university indicating Walmart was letting university employees get vaccinated. It went against everything I’d read (and I’d read a lot), and so I was really unwilling to believe it. “Let me know how that goes,” I believe I said, or something to that effect. If they were successful in getting it at Walmart, then maybe I’d start to think about it. But we had some more back and forth discussion about it, and a Walmart 40 minutes away had vaccine appointments available for the very next day. The more I thought about it, the more I thought it was at least worth a short trip on a Saturday. I called the Walmart pharmacy, spoke with them in person, double checked I’d qualify, and then made my appointment.

Honestly, I still was thinking I’d get to Skowhegan only to find out that it had all been a misunderstanding. (What can I say? I put a lot of faith in my research skills, and what I was hearing went against everything I’d researched.) Also, I didn’t want to get my hopes up only to be let down again. But Saturday morning, my friend texted to say they’d gotten the vaccine, and sure enough, Denisa and I got it five hours later. It was about the same as getting my annual flu shot. There was no line; the appointments we made lined up right with when we came, and it was a very easy process. (It felt surreally American, to be getting the vaccine in a Walmart, but I’m not complaining.) My arm has hurt since I got it, much more than with a flu shot, but it’s down to an almost imperceptible ache now, two days later. I did feel a bit dizzy Saturday night, but felt 100% fine the next day and haven’t had any other side effects.

We’ll be getting out second dose in mid-April, and then about two weeks after that the full immunity should kick in. It’s a big relief that we’re already this far along in the process, especially because it means I’m starting to actually make plans again. Not huge plans, but plans nonetheless. Plans like:

  • Denisa and I taking a vacation for our 20th anniversary. We’re looking at Puerto Rico. It’s about as international as I’m willing to bet at the moment. It’s not Aruba like we had planned last year, but I think it’ll still be great.
  • Seeing my parents again. (My dad will be coming out from Utah at the beginning of May. We’ll drive down to see my mom and step-dad as soon as we can.)
  • Camping with friends in July
  • Seeing my cousin in Boston in June
  • Maybe a trip to Cape Cod?

I do realize that vaccination doesn’t necessarily mean total immunity to the disease. It’s still possible to catch it and spread it, though they’re doing more studies around that, and I hope they have more solid information around that in the coming weeks. And we’re not planning at the moment anything too extravagant. (This would typically be our year to go to Europe. I don’t think that’s going to happen, sadly. Both just from a “looking at the European case rate” standpoint and an “even if we could get there, what in the world would we be able to do?” mindset.)

But as I wrote last week, once I’m vaccinated, my willingness to go and do things is going to much, much greater. I will still happily where a face mask wherever I’m asked. To me, that’s such a low bar. It’s like being asked to wear a shirt or pants. If me doing that can help others, then why would I even hesitate to agree to it? I will also test if and when asked to, though again, I’m hoping they do away with testing requirements for vaccinated people soon. I look forward to more guidelines coming out. I definitely don’t want to do anything to endanger anyone, but I anticipate primarily interacting more and more with vaccinated people, both at work and personally.

You know life is improving when I start looking at rewards points again and begin to wonder where they might take me . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

How Late Can You Sleep In?

Man. I remember the heady days of college, when I could sleep in until 10 or 11 easy. (I could also stay up late and not really pay the price for it later, but we’ll ignore that for now.) These days, I don’t have to set my alarm, because I feel lucky if I can sleep until 7am without waking up.

Some of that is due to having a much more regular sleep schedule, I realize, but a whole lot of it is probably more due to a general feeling of unrest and anxiety I have. (One I assume many of you share, though I hope it hasn’t affected your sleep routine as much.) I wake up each morning around 6am, and the first thing I think about is why I can’t sleep any longer than that.

It’s not that I’m not tired. I’ve got plenty of tired to go around. My eyes burn and I really want to take a nap most of the time. It also leaves me with a much shorter temper than I usually have. Frustrating.

The good news is that I generally don’t have a problem falling asleep (as long as I manage to get to bed before 11pm or so.) Insomnia used to be a big problem for me, and speaking from experience I’d much rather waking up early than just lying in bed wishing I could fall asleep in the first place . . .

Honestly, if it weren’t for the bit about being so tired, I’d be pretty fine with waking up early each day. (A far cry from earlier feelings I used to have around it.) When I wake up early, I can get a lot done. It feels like I have a head start on the day. It’s quieter, and I think more clearly. If I were sleeping until around 6:45am, I think that would be just fine. On the few times I’ve managed to sleep until 8am or so, I’ve felt like my day was just way too short. In an ideal world, I think I’d go to bed each night at 11 and wake up at 7.

How about you? Are you still able to sleep in, or am I not the only one who’s having trouble getting a full night’s rest?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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