When I look at the calendar, I know we’ve been in the second half of the year for a while. I “know” it, but it’s still hard to comprehend.
I see the milkweed pods ripening and goldenrods just starting to reach their full heights, yellow flower buds swelling. The bird cacophonies of spring have largely been replaced by the equally loud and diverse calls of millions of insects like grasshoppers, crickets, and cicadas. Overhead, tree leaves are starting to darken, dry, and some are already falling as the season’s wear shows. The shortening daylight is causing the trees to begin preparing for what’s to come. Life is living now, but it’s also readying.
The human species is readying, too. We always have some feelings (positive and negative) for what fall and winter typically bring to our lives. This year, it’s a bit different. Actually, significantly different. We are in a space and time none of us have experienced before. And that newness is causing a ton of responses including anxiety, sadness, anger, frustration, fear, and apathy.
Months ago, I claimed that if we had to go through all this to get to a place where we have forged constructive plans for and actual changes to our health care, education, social justice, clean water/air/land, climate policy, and criminal justice systems, it would be worth it. I still do. It’s just extra ugly right now as many people are clinging to their old ways. They are trying as hard as they can to hold onto their vision of summer while the seasons march on. They are using everything they have in them to push back against what’s around them because they are drowning in those heavy emotional responses I listed above- especially in their fear.
I’ve been trying to track my county’s covid situation on a weekly basis since May. I generally enjoy studying things and trying to figure out what they are, what they mean, and what they could be. I love logic and the beauty of patterns and connections that come out when you really look at something. With covid19, I want to try to understand what it really is, what we might know/not know, and how it’s developing based on both its abilities and how it responds to what we humans are doing.
I’m preparing myself by using as many resources as I can to know what is going on around me. In my mind, it’s no different than the trees, plants, birds, and other species responding to their surroundings and using their adaptations to survive and thrive.
As of 8/14, Waukesha County now has 64 dead, a jump of 6 more lives lost compared to a week ago. Our 14-day percent positive is now 11%, 4% higher than Milwaukee County, which has steadily reduced theirs from their early days of high losses and percentages. That 11% seems fairly steady, but only goes through 8/12. The 154 positives from 8/13 aren’t included. 8/14 numbers have not been posted at all.
The Waukesha County dashboard is supposed to be revamped this week. I’m really hoping because the data being examined is not very substantial. The color codes right now indicate 5 greens out of 6 possible. We haven’t had a better color pattern for 60 days. On June 14, we had all greens. Back then, the 14-day average was 3% and our death count was 35. Having a “steady” 11% infection rate is not the same as a steady 3%.
The one “red” parameter deals with healthcare worker infections. That’s both sad and scary. While our hospitals are not filled with covid patients, our healthcare workers are taking hits. I can only hope they are all OK and do not suffer long-term problems for risking their lives. Others in their workplaces are risking their health, as well. Currently, the county has 148 active cases in either long-term healthcare facilities or other workplaces. That’s 25 more than last week. Those are in places where spread can occur through multiple groups of people.
We have come to this level of infection and death because of what we all do. If a person who is changing their behaviors towards containment happens to cross paths with someone who isn’t, transmission could very well occur. When 2 or more meet where there are no thoughts for containment, spread is that much more likely. Milwaukee County has had much stricter containment protocols in place for a while and it shows in their results. Their trajectory is -13 whereas Waukesha County’s is flat. Their burden is 278 cases per 100,000 residents while WC’s is 280. Both counties are described as “high activity”.
That commonality of high activity is probably because none of us ever fully quarantined, tested, or invested in contact-traced aggressively. We have little means to truly know how far or how deeply this organism has spread. We could have herd immunity right now and not know it. Or we could have only 1.1% of our 5,822,000 residents having truly gone through it if the positive cases are counted as the only ones who have gotten it. We don’t know because we don’t have the data. Other places around the world have done this hard work and the virus is almost non-existent in their communities. In South Korea, which has been almost clear for about 5 months, just 170 positive tests in Seoul on Friday triggered a new set of restrictions in the city. They have installed body temperature triggers on train doors that won’t open if a fever is registered and air sterilizing equipment to clean public transport air of viruses.
Within all this, my kids’ school district voted in-person hybrid for 6-12th grade. If parents weren’t comfortable with that, they were told to sign up for the online school that has been in place. Of those 2 choices, we picked the latter. 4K-5th have the option of 5-day in-person, virtual with school building teachers, or the online school. In other countries and states, we would all be in lock-down. Here, folks are hopeful sports will all go and life will begin again. Perfect like summer. With a waiver that holds everyone harmless for even the classroom settings.
IHME predicts 3,708 deaths in Wisconsin by December 1. That works out to about 220-240 total deaths in Waukesha County. I really hope that’s not the case. Their prediction through Aug 4th was actually a couple of hundred short of actual.
I hope we can all breathe a bit and give both ourselves and each other support. Change is tough and can feel threatening and frightening. But we should be able to use our abilities to not only get through this, but to make things better- healthier, more sustaining, more sustainable, and more just for even more people than before. We can have a beautiful spring after the winter if we work and prepare together.
Time will tell.