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As good as it gets

Started: 2023-03-06 20:05:58

Submitted: 2023-03-06 21:34:36

Visibility: World-readable

For better or worse, this is it

Three years ago today was my first day working from my house, exiled from my office as the first wave of the COVID-19 overtook Seattle and the West Coast and the United States. I never saw the inside of a Google office again.

Walton Lighthouse before the storm comes in
Walton Lighthouse before the storm comes in

No one in my household ever tested positive for COVID-19. We spent the first two years of the pandemic not getting sick at all; I'd wake up and feel my throat getting scratchy or my nose start to get stuffy or start to run and I'd worry I was coming down with something and wonder if it was finally COVID-19 and try to remember everywhere I'd been for the past three or five or seven or ten or fourteen days to try to guess whether I'd been infected there. But then I'd ignore it for a couple of hours (or, if I started sneezing, take allergy meds) and I'd feel fine and assume it was a false alarm. I took antigen tests before going into the office and they always came back negative.

Then when school started in August last year everyone in my household (myself included) was sick for a month with a sequence of colds, like we were catching up for all the colds we didn't catch for the previous two years. Even when we kept one or the other kid home from school because they had a particularly bad cold and we had to take them to get a PCR test (provided by the county education office, in a drive-up tent in their parking lot) their tests would come back negative and we'd send them back to school as soon as they felt better.

California ended its COVID-19 emergency last week, and as a result the kids' school district stopped opt-in PCR surveillance testing in schools. (Both of my kids have been fully vaccinated and boosted as long as they've been eligible, so I'm not sure how useful surveillance testing really is.) The district is still offering drive-up PCR testing, for anyone in "the school community" (which explicitly includes parents and household members of students, and probably anyone who can coherently articulate any connection to the school), but they'll accept rapid home antigen tests instead of PCR tests for students returning to school after being out sick. I feel like our local public school district, Santa Cruz City Schools, is big enough to have the capacity to do things, like set up in-school surveillance testing and vaccination clinics and drive-up PCR testing in parking lots, while still small enough to avoid getting bogged down in the big-city politics like San Francisco (and, to a lesser extent, Seattle), or the right-wing "parents' rights" crowd.

I've stopped tracking case counts, because they were getting unreliable anyway, and it hasn't been clear for a long time that I was supposed to do anything with that information anyway. I leave my house, eat indoors, go to museums and concerts, and travel internationally. (I'm still working almost entirely remotely, but that's mostly because I got a job that lets me avoid the hassle of travelling over highway 17 on any sort of regular basis. If I could take the train to the office I'd do so more often, but Santa Cruz County is currently engaged in a multi-decade argument about what to do with its branch line to Watsonville so we'll probably never get anything.)

But I still wear a mask when I'm indoors around other people, and the rest of my household does the same. I don't have any coherent framework for continuing to wear a mask, except that it's cheap and easy and might be worth a couple micromorts. I don't think that I'll wear a mask forever, but I don't have any plans to stop now.

Jaeger rides the Capitol Corridor past San Pablo Bay
Jaeger rides the Capitol Corridor past San Pablo Bay

I'm still disappointed about what this says about us collectively as people. Nothing we do is going to make anyone put on a mask if they don't want to (even if they're sick, ugh) or get their vaccines and boosters. It feels like we failed this as a society; but I guess the warning signs were there all along.

I still don't think I'm comfortable declaring that the pandemic is over, but I am absolutely positive this is as good as it gets.