Reluctance to get the newest booster

I’ve read about people who got the first vaccine and are now refusing to get the booster and I know some of these personally.

Of course, understanding why would require study by qualified professionals and not just some unqualified blogger throwing some thoughts together.

But here is my guess:

In the US, the vaccination rates of the older age groups are higher than those of the younger age groups. And boosters are recommended for the older age groups.

Now think about what happens as we age: things start to go wrong with our bodies. For example: my blog, at times, is a boring status update of my current health problems.

Within the past 3-4 years, as I went from 59 to 63 years of age, knee problems (long standing) have gotten bad enough to make me stop running. Shoulder problems took away swimming and made me alter lifting (and to do life long physical therapy). Back: yes, I first got treated in 1977, but the problems (spondylolisthesis) got bad enough for me to get an MRI and a referral to a spine surgeon. My psoriasis has flared up from time to time and excessive caffeine intake lead to urinary tract issues (happily resolved, though COVID brought some of it back)

And, if you look at my Facebook timeline, my “problems” are sort of normal for someone my age who tries to remain active.

And now go back to older people getting spaced out vaccinations and boosters. Chances are, these shots will probably coincide with something going wrong with their is the age.

In fact, I have a reverse coincidence: right around the time I got my omicron specific booster (September 2022) my back related glute pain started to improve quite a bit…but of course, my ongoing PT, activity modification and management and slow gradual increase in walking were probably the reason.

But oh my, the timing.

The TL;DR summary: old people get shots right around the time when something goes wrong with their bodies, and they ascribe the shot as the cause.

I think this is good old “post hoc ergo propter hoc.”

Social media and “pick a side” discourse

Normally, I see sports as a low-stakes subject to be passionate about. Example: I completely enjoyed the less than perfect Illinois vs. Chattanooga basketball game (54-53 Illini win, won in the last few seconds). But had the Moccs won (and I was expecting them to when they got the ball with 12 seconds to go) my life would be none the poorer.

But now we have the “transgenders in women’s sports” debate and, well, those who often vote the same way I do are making nonsensical arguments. So we see a former “top 500” male take chemicals and then become “no. 1” female this year. And then we see arguments like this one..made by “Doctors”:

Good Lord. All one has to do is to look at women’s track and field world records then look a the results of a men’s D1 track meet.

(never mind the other “Dr.” who are perplexed that they’ve made N payments on loan and yet the principal has not is as if these self proclaimed geniuses have never heard of “interest.” )

And THIS is one of many reasons professors are disrespected. Yes, every one of us has broad gaps in our knowledge. But that does not mean that we have to go around proudly displaying our ignorance while thinking that WE are the ones who know.

As much as I love to laugh at MAGA ignorance, we have plenty of it in our own house. And it embarrasses me to no end.

Now back to my own mundane workout;

2 hours…yes, 2 hours. It was broken down by 1 hour outside, 16 minutes PT, 44 minutes indoor weights.

Start: McKenzie, spinal balance, one leg bridges, open book indoor, dead bug (8 minutes)

pull ups: 10, 5-5, 10, 10, 10, 5, 5 with the following inbetween:

rotator cuff: 2 sets of 3 different exercises

single leg chair (2 sets each leg)

knee raises (3 sets each leg)

sit to stand single leg (3 sets each leg)

banded walks (2 sets)

And of course push ups: 30 sissy, 30 feet elevated, 30 sissy, 15 deficit (a few extra for depth)

That took 1 hour.

Inside: more single leg bridge (1 set), dead bug (2 sets) side leg lifts (2 sets) spinal balance (1 set) fire hydrants (2 sets) prone knee lifts (2 sets) 16 minutes

Basement: bench press: 10 x 134, 3 sets of 5 x 174 (every 5 minutes); hips down but kind of rough.

one arm rows: 3 sets of 10 each arm (60)

curls: 3 sets of 10 with 50

high incline presses: 2 sets of 10 with 110; have to work on body position; want to avoid pressure on the lumbar.

Other notes: last time, I had 3 sets of 5: 171, 171, 176. Don’t know if today was a regression or not. But I do know that pull ups felt easy and that one legged chair is getting easier. Need to keep with the back stretches.

Some videos

On the verge of getting going…I’ll have to make some progress on my two papers. This will require some weekend/evening work, I think.


I used the fact that our area is 50 percent vaccinated to do some efficacy calculation: efficacy with respect to hospitalization is about 77 percent..not taking into account risk groups.

So, no, “breakthrough hospitalizations are not “rare.”

Workout notes: kind of sore glutes so no cycling or walking today; (though forgetting my keys did help me make the campus trip and 4 flights a 3’rd time)

Pull ups (60 reps, 3 sets of 10, 1 set of 10 singles, 4 sets of 5), push ups (25, 25, 20 with legs up), rehab, curls (3 sets of 10), rows (3 sets of 10..lighter weight), seated presses (10 x 44, 8 x 66..pathetic)

Why COVID/delta is so difficult to discuss

This tweet sparked quite a bit of discussion:

The short answer might be something like:

  1. Risk factors have a bad direction:

2. Delta CAN (and has) spread outdoors:

Two recent studies have found that outdoor transmission of COVID could be more likely as the Delta variant continues to spread through the population. The first paper, which is still awaiting peer review, outlines a wedding in Texas in April. Even though the wedding was held outdoors under an open-air tent, an outbreak of the virus led to six fully vaccinated people becoming infected and one subsequently dying, Salon reports.

The authors point out two guests who had tested negative for the variant before traveling from India, but likely infected the other guests, who all later tested positive for the variant. They wrote: “With no histories of vaccine breakthrough, this suggests Delta variant may possess immune evasion in patients that received the Pfizer [vaccine], Moderna mRNA [vaccine], and [the] Covaxin [vaccine].”

The second case in question involves the Pendleton Whisky Music Fest, an outdoor concert held on July 10 in Oregon that has so far had 64 COVID infections connected to it. While it’s unclear how many of those who contracted the virus were vaccinated, state health officials launched an investigation into the event, saying in a press statement: “This outbreak is the first one of its size and scope to be traced to an outdoor entertainment event since the lifting of statewide COVID-19 prevention measures at the end of June.”

3. Infections are increasing among the vaccinated.

Now as far as the science goes: true, most spread is via aerosols…indoor. But the delta variant is much more contagious and the outdoor spread is more like droplet spread.

So…these together means that “masking makes sense” in that situation.

But discussion…OMG… it is problematic because:

  1. Things change very rapidly. It was only weeks ago that mainstream articles declared that “breakthrough infections are rare.” (pre delta articles). So, someone who is reasonably well read might have bad information.
  2. Conditional probability is hard for some to grasp. Example: a few weeks ago, it was said that there were 1400 deaths out of 125K breakthrough infections. That is 1.1 percent..similar to the 1.7 percent overall. But that was conditioned on having a breakthrough, and it is a reasonable conjecture that the elderly and more immunocompromised might be more prone to breakthroughs.

    Or, when the NYT released an article that vaxxed people could spread it as easily as vaccinated ones, that was, yes, conditioned on being infected to begin with and the best current data I’ve seen would indicate that a unvaccinated person is 9 times more likely to become infected to begin with.
  3. Mitigation is hard for some to understand. “you might need a mask even if vaccinated” means, to them “oh, vaccinations don’t work?” Or: “X got infected though they were masked” means “your mask doesn’t work?” Risk REDUCTION is the goal; risk ELIMINATION is impossible.

And so…discussion is often confused and frustrating, even when talking to others in good faith..even when the others are neither evil nor stupid.

COVID update: how I see it

This was posted on my FB:

My updated COVID post: (thoughtful, respectful responses are welcome, even if you wish to disagree with some of these points)

1. Vaccines: cases. We are seeing some interesting data about how well vaccines prevent infection, hospitalizations and deaths. Some of the stats are misleading. “The reported share of COVID-19 cases among those not fully vaccinated ranged from 94.1% in Arizona to 99.85% Connecticut.”(reference in comment 1) The problem here is that this just reports “total unvaccinated who got infected”/total who got infected” and this includes cases that occurred when vaccines were just getting going.

A more useful stat would be “infection rate of unvaccinated” vs. “infection rate of vaccinated” IN THE SAME location (don’t compare Vermont to Arkansas” and the first figure I show does that in San Diego County. It appears that in a similar situation, an unvaccinated person is about 9 times more likely than a vaccinated person to get infected.This area: 18 cases per 100,000 in a week for unvaccinated vs. 2 per 100,000 vaccinated. In an area with 100000 people, and say, 60 percent vaccinated, this would be a case rate of (.6)(2) + .4(18) = 8.4 per 100000, with 23.8 percent of cases coming from vaccinated people.

2. However, vaccines are even much better at preventing hospitalizations and deaths. Example: of the 125000 breakthrough infections recently recorded, there were 1400 deaths. That is 1.12 percent. But given that one has a much lower chance of even being infected to begin with, that is outstanding protection against death. The US ratio is 1.74 percent for all cases (vaxxed and unvaxxed)

3. Masks and spread (see reference in second comment)It turns out that the spread is primarily aerosol. It was first thought to be droplets because the “droplet” spread model fit well for reasonably ventilated spaces. But for poorly ventilated spaces, it appears to be aerosol, which means that one can get infected even if one is well away from the infected individual.But the big deal is that, formerly, it was though that aerosol droplets were 5 microns in size or less; it turns out that it is about 100 microns or less.So, as before, masks work to keep the infected from spreading it AND a good mask does provide extra protection for the non-infected as well, even in this aerosol type situation.

4. Delta is much more infectious; a brief encounter can induce an infection (not as true with the previous variants) So it isn’t surprising to see cases go up so rapidly.5. A vaccinated person who gets infected carries about the same load as an unvaccinated person. Vaccines reduce the spread as a vaccinated person is less likely to get infected. My own practices:1. I mask outdoors (2 layer fabric or better) if I will be around people (say at a game concourse, or if some are sitting somewhat close to me..often not the case 2. I use a special 3 layer mask indoors for the gym (my two gyms have good ventilation, high ceilings, and are often not crowded3. I use KN 95 for other indoor things where I am around people I don’t know.4. I avoid excessively crowded things (Chiefs games are not a problem)

5. I don’t mask for small gatherings of known, trusted, vaccinated people who are asymptomatic. I do isolate from infected people.

Hope: we ARE starting too see more people getting vaccinated.

Division, mistrust and difficult to deal with data

Sadly, COVID measures have become part of politics and that is deeply unfortunate.

Yes, smart, informed people can disagree on cost-benefit analysis; after all, I take just that sort of analysis when I decide on whether to go to a yoga class, ball game, or even when I decided to go to “in person” teaching last year (following the vaccination of my higher risk wife).

But some things really are black and white.

The trouble is, “black and white” doesn’t mean “easy to understand.” For example, take the issue of how effective masks are at “preventing infecting the user” of said masks. There was debate over “droplet spread” vs. “aerosol spread”, with the latter having much smaller droplets. But, as we see:

“According to them, particles bigger than 100 microns sank within seconds. Smaller particles stayed in the air. Randall paused at the curve they’d drawn. To her, it seemed to foreshadow the idea of a droplet-aerosol dichotomy, but one that should have pivoted around 100 microns, not 5. “

What this means: yes, aerosol transmission of COVID is is airborne and can easily defeat the 6 feet distance in poorly ventilated spaces. But the droplets are still big enough for a mask to be useful in mitigation effects.

Then there is the issue of vaccines, and what does it mean if there are a large number of breakthrough infections?

This article looks at data from states that measures breakthrough infections:

Almost all (more than 9 in 10) COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have occurred among people who are unvaccinated or not yet fully vaccinated, in those states reporting breakthrough data (see Figure 2).

BUT…how far back does this data go? Remember that vaccines started in mass in January, often with priority to those in certain groups. So of course, the “vaccinated vs unvaccinated” numbers would be lopsided during this time. And delta has just arrived here. That is, what would “cases in the last 1-2 weeks of July” look like? Remember this:

“Nearly three out of four people (346 of 469) who tested positive for COVID-19 in a Massachusetts outbreak were fully vaccinated, according to data released by the CDC Friday.

This is post-delta and includes a population with high vaccination rates.

I hasten to point out this was a mass gathering event, and that vaccines almost certainly kept the total number of who would become infected much lower (I’ve heard 5 times lower) than they otherwise might have been. And few of these ended up in the hospital..that too is important.

Evidence: in San Diego County, the unvaccinated COVID rate is 18 per 100,000 whereas it is 2 per 100,000 for the vaccinated.

I am “Mr. Get the Damned Shot”..make no mistake about it. But honestly and accurately interpreting the data is not that easy.

Why I am masking up again…

Simple: infections are ticking upward again and my wife’s recent experience shows that breakthrough infections are both possible and nasty.

In the past, I masked up to help “stop the spread.” Now, I just don’t want that crap.

What I did before: masks in stores, medical places. No mask at outdoor stuff, walking around, at work, or in the gym (high ceilings, lots of fans)

Now: masking up in the gym, masking up at work (indoor, not in my private office), masking up if sitting near anyone at a game or in the concourse. If I am isolated, then no.

And, as before, no indoor dining.

This time, I am doing it for me.

About that delta variant: note the sharp rise and fall in the UK..and one in India.
I wonder if we will see that here.

The above shows the gauntlet I drove through; the county numbers in Muskogee were ok; Austin WAS alright (but just upticked), Rolla is horrible (too tired to drive more) and Peoria lost our “green” rating, though it is still better than the other places.

Travel and COVID, part II

In my previous post, I described my trip. Now I’ll talk about COVID.

Last Tuesday, my wife left for a trip with vaccinated friends; she went to Chicago. Note: though she masked up on the train as required, she did eat in some restaurants and she didn’t wear a mask in the hotel or elivator.
She felt ill on Thursday; it turns out that she came down with COVID and got antibody treatments. She is isolating at home.

Personally: the only indoor place I don’t/did not mask up in..or was, the larger gyms (Riverplex, university gym) which have high ceilings and constant fans/ceiling fans. I masked up in stores, the hotel gyms, gas stations, rest stops, etc. And yes, from now on, I will mask in the gyms.

But…and this applies locally too…if you mask up, you’ll be the rare exception. I did see one hotel clerk masked and one gas station attendant. At the Texas Natural History Museum, everyone was masked.

But everywhere else, masks were an rarity…I’d say, 5-10 percent, tops? Yes, I know what the CDC guidelines are for vaccinated individuals, and I know that too many are not.

Be careful out there; this delta variant is no joke and this infection is no fun.

Attention in shape athletes: COVID can still kill you

Yes, the death rate to COVID is about 0.5 to 1 percent, and about 1-5 percent of cases require being hospitalized and about 20 percent of cases require medial attention.

And about 80 percent can have lingering symptoms even after recovery.

Now it is true that those with comorbidities have a greater risk, but even superbly conditioned athletes can end up in the hospital and in the ICU…and yes, that includes those who have run 100 mile footraces while in their 60’s.

You might be rightfully pride of your Cross Fit workouts, your big bench press or your blazing 5K…or even your Boston Qualifying Marathon.
But that is not immunity and, though COVID “probably” won’t kill you, it can mess you up for a long time and severely degrade your future athletic performance.

Take it seriously; mask up, and get that shot when you can!

Covid: our sorry response.

There is plenty of blame to go around. One is our tepid government response:

“The truth, as Covid-19 has shown us, is this individualistic approach doesn’t work well for public health (even if it does serve us well in other areas). The alternative to not taking collective action is more death. The countries that have done the best against Covid-19 — including Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and, to a now lesser degree, Germany — all approached the issue collectively, leveraging government aid and public health systems to let people stay home without losing as much income or health insurance, to test and trace infections, and, when necessary, to close down to stop the spread.”

Individual response? Sure, we were pretty bad here but:

“Despite that, officials across the country have by and large resisted shutting down again. Many of them, instead, have cited another culprit for Covid-19 spread: private gatherings. New York, for example, put out a PSA to stop “living room spread,” and the state published data suggesting households and private gatherings are driving 74 percent of coronavirus spread.

It’s true private gatherings and households are driving some transmission. Most experts agree Thanksgiving dinners likely led to a surge on top of a surge, and similar Christmas and New Year’s events likely will too.

But that’s why at least some experts believe there’s a need for more focus on systemic action, not the individualistic approach. “People, in general, are horrendous risk assessors — we’re awful at assessing risk,” Daniel Goldberg, a medical historian and public health ethicist at the University of Colorado, told me. “I hate to say people can’t be trusted, but.”

There are other problems with this framing. For one, the New York data doesn’t separate within-household transmissions from social gatherings — so the 74 percent figure includes someone spreading Covid-19 to the husband he lives with (not as avoidable) and someone spreading the virus to someone he invited over for drinks one night (very avoidable). This also only includes the cases that New York could actually contact trace, and it’s much easier to trace transmission between family and friends in a household than strangers in a bar.

The big problem, though, is that there’s nothing unusual about Covid-19 spreading among people who live together. It’s typical for the bulk, even the majority, of the transmission of any disease to happen within households. If you’re infected, the people you live with or come into close contact with at home are simply likely to get it too. That’s how pathogens work. What matters most, though, is where that virus originated from in the first place.

To put it another way: People couldn’t infect others in their homes if they hadn’t picked up the coronavirus in bars, restaurants, or other public spaces. So if these places weren’t open, individual choices to gather — including over Thanksgiving and Christmas — would be of far less concern. There would simply be much less virus out there jumping from person to person.”

Yes, the onus is on us when the government is so weak, but then again, people aren’t going to follow directions, though it might be easier to do so if the government, well, plaid businesses to stay closed and payed people to stay home.

Of course, too many “leaders” set dreadful examples.

And, this kind of thing sickens and kills remotely. If you need a spreadsheet to see it, your emotional response won’t be as strong.

But the vaccines are on the way. That is great news, but we’ll still need to social distance and wear masks for a while. Why? Well, if a vaccine is 95 percent effective, it means that one is far LESS likely to get sick with an exposure. But if exposure goes up, that increases the chances of getting sick. The idea is that we need BOTH less vulnerability to getting sick once exposed AND less exposure.

Too many Americans have this idea that measures such as masks and vaccines are perfect instead of risk mitigators. (witness the stupid “why do you care if I am not wearing a mask if you are wearing one” remarks).

There is good news though: fewer new cases today than in the past few months; hopefully this is not mere “statistical noise.”