Friday, October 30, 2020

COVID-19 When Doctors Disagree- Controlling the Pandemic

 When Doctors Disagree- Controlling the Pandemic

My angle: Parenting and Covid-

A drive-by event

This article from the latest edition of The Economist brings up a topic discussed at PTA meetings, playground play dates and class “drive-bys.” A new COVID term is a drive-by: an informal party compliant to health guidelines by adhering to a format of “driving by” a predetermined location decked out with a banner, window-painted car and everybody wearing a mask. When people get out of their cars at a drive-by the adults stand far apart and the kids play and everybody hopes nobody says anything about the event escalating to more of a social-distance party.

Should we allow ourselves to achieve herd immunity by not preventing the spread of the disease throughout the population? Or should we maximize suppression of the disease by testing, tracing and isolating those who test positive? The two sides of this discussion are at odds with each other and both are supported by online petitions available for signature. One side of the argument is the Great Barrington Declaration- the side of herd immunity: let the disease take its natural course through the population with extra protection provided for the most vulnerable members of society. The greatest risk in this approach is calculating who is most at risk and successfully isolating and protecting that group. The casualties from this approach mean more short term death and loss. The opposing view is called the John Snow Memorandum named for an epidemiologist in the 1850s: we should take all preventative measures and precautions to protect everybody from Covid-19 at all times. Although more protective in the short term, this could cause longer term loss from the ripples of the economic stagnation.

The PTA and playground version of the aristocratic debate is the following: Should we isolate in our homes and not participate in group play dates, garage social gatherings and drive-by parties (especially when they morph into an event where everybody gets out of the car) or should we relax the rules and gather outside school for birthday parties, play dates and other social events. Should our kids attend school with social distancing implemented, or remain in a remote learning situation? It’s a very real debate amongst parents because the health and education of our children is at stake.

On one hand, I know parents who don’t want to deal with all the turmoil of change. For kids onsite- how long will that last before they are forced to switch back to a completely online model when kids test COVID positive? On the flip side of the turmoil of change is the dullness of staying home- for kids doing just remote learning- how do these kids socialize, get exercise and participate in any organized group activity? This tension has been somewhat relieved most recently by the reopening of playgrounds. Up until a few weeks ago, all social distance and drive-by events took place in large public areas like parking lots and open fields - not public parks. The images in this entry were taken at an event that took place in a large open field available for “passive use.” Technically, people were not supposed to gather on this field- but technically we were a ‘drive by” event where people happened to get out of their cars for a “few minutes.” These few minutes may have been the only few that some of the kids had to socialize with other kids in weeks.

Play dates in people’s houses are another issue. How quarantined are the kids in each household? Do they match in their policy regarding exposure to other people? So far, the consensus seems to be that a play date in someone’s driveway with masks and social distancing is low enough risk that COVID won’t be spread. But this is amongst my social group. And it is usually just two kids.

I know parents who think COVID just needs to take its course through the population and wreak its havoc before it will just go away- the herd immunity philosophy. Those are the people who don’t wear masks, don’t social distance and generally don’t stop the spread of the disease. And they have the freedom to do that- but it makes it harder for families who choose to social distance. It creates two opposing factions of parents- the last thing we all need is more division amongst us.

It’s really an impossible situation- but notable that the argument going on amongst scientists has a PTA manifestation.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Music during a pandemic and beyond

“ It might seem like a no-brainer that togetherness is a primary benefit of music. But think about that idea in relation to the ways of listening enabled by 20th- and 21st-century technology. When you tune your earbuds to a playlist on a crowded subway, or blast your favorite album alone in your car, what are you doing? You’re regulating your own mood. You’re occupying your mind. You’re enjoying an art form that captures the ineffable. These are great things. But if you’re plugging into a greater human whole, it’s only in a notional way: a feeling of closeness with the singer, perhaps, and with their far-flung fan scene, maybe.”

This quotation taken from an article from Atlantic web page contrasts the traditional ways of experiencing music with the more modern methods of using technology to participate. 

The traditional community centered around a gathering for choir practice, chamber music, orchestra or wind symphony rehearsal  is threatened by the limitations of Covid-19. The traditional community centered around the celebration of a popular singer or rock group suffers from the same. Just as the Internet and home office have eliminated the social interactions of the professional environment, so have ipods, virtual performances and audio-engineered choirs on social media eliminated the requirement of live interactions required for creating and enjoying music. While some of this technology has been available for quite a long time, the increase in sophistication and platform has catapulted its use into making live performances, especially during the pandemic, more atypical than the norm.  We have marginalized the community within the music world- you can create the illusion of the musical experience in a virtual environment and charge money for such events.

One attempt at a substitution for a live performance are the “drive in” performances in empty parking lots. I say substitution because this is still not the same as the acoustics in a performance hall with proper seating and a view of the performers. It is an inferior substitution for a dire situation.

And virtual is never quite the same. My own musical society meets once a month, normally, during the academic year. Since Covid-19 we have resorted to zoom meetings only. Surprisingly, however, this brings some unexpected benefits. The more amateur members of our group (like me) are more likely to volunteer to perform and present slides in a virtual environment. Zoom is more forgiving of subtleties only noticeable at small, live events by sophisticated listeners. In some ways then, virtual meetings open more opportunities for people to participate and build their skills.

But it doesn’t make me any less nostalgic for my season tickets to the San Diego Symphony (given up long ago when I gave birth to my daughter), or my monthly meetings at rotating houses for my music society, informal gatherings of chamber musicians and small local, even free performances all centered around the celebration of music. Not to mention my weekly rehearsals for a local community wind symphony and quarterly concerts at local churches.

The absence of live music is such a hole during this time of isolation. Somewhere in that hole we must find an escape-the drive-in experience or the zoom recital. It is better to create an illusion of connection between people than have none at all.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

A Wave of Vegetable Pride

 Glowing neurons flashed through my subconscious- the feeling of pride. It was a moment of relief from the day-to-day failings of a parent- unfinished homework, missed timelines, mess not cleaned...You see, my daughter’s choice of topic for “how to” for her third grade writing assignment was “How to be responsible.” As shown to me by her teacher, she wrote “You can prepare a tray of vegetables including cauliflower, carrots, celery and green pepper for the family to munch on before dinner.” So if I have achieved nothing else as a parent,I have instilled a palate for healthy snacks. (Ok, the palate for vegetables is stretching it a bit, but at least they know they are healthy.)  But she knows. This sense of nutrition will follow her through her life, dictate her weight as an adult, and even potentially save her from life threatening conditions.

I looked at my own face in the mirror closely as I dried the water and rubbed it with a towel. Not only was it clear of all blemishes, if was actually glowing a peachy tan color typical of the end of summer- except that summer had not yet started. I felt energetic too- like I could do a full workout in the gym after an already full day of work. I knew it had to be true- my temporary change of diet during Lent had to be the difference. Husband and I had switched to a dark green vegetable, legume and fruit diet- the diet of a vegan. And our skin showed the evidence.

Diet is so important for everyone and especially important for developing children. Their hydration improves with watery vegetables like celery, their eyesight benefits from carrots, and all digestion seems to benefit from various kinds of lettuces- kale, spinach, romaine, to name a few. Not only does a vegetable diet cause the outward glow of healthy skin but it is complemented by increased function of internal organs as well.

I happen to be newly familiar with how easy it is to grow cucumbers- as I just harvested my own first batch of fresh cucumbers from my garden. In Southern California, the main impediment to keeping a vegetable garden in the backyard seems to be caterpillars- they ravaged and killed my bush beans. However, with the help of a little cardboard underneath the pots for my lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes; and a few organic pesticides like neem oil, spinosad, and Bt, my harvest is starting to yield mouth watering results.  The lettuces especially were nearly a caterpillar hotel until I sprayed the Bt and added cardboard boxes under the pots. I don’t know exactly why cardboard deters caterpillars but it seems to be helping. My bush beans weren’t so lucky. They were the first plant that sprouted and yielded results- but I hadn’t yet figured out I needed the Bt and the cardboard. That plant turned into pitiful stalks of yellowish green sticks- no remaining leaves but a few browning beans that didn’t look very appealing.
A brand new cucumber from my garden

Cucumber and tomatoes with a glimpse of my caterpillar ravaged bush beans on the far right. There are no leaves left- the caterpillars demolished it. Everything grown from seed.

For ideas on vegetables that can be cut raw and served on a tray- here is a list of important nutritional vegetables. Each has a slightly different health benefit but all are beneficial to an overall balanced diet for adults and children.

#1 Avocadoes

#2 Bell Peppers

#3 Broccoli

#4 Carrots


#5 Cauliflower

#6 Celery

#7 Sweet Corn

#8 Cucumbers

#9 Green Beans & Pea Pods

#10 Potatoes

#11 Spinach 

#12 Sweet Potatoes

#13 Tomatoes