Strike a Balance: COVID Info Plus Some Fun
Scroll down if you just want to check out the fun distractions--that's what balance is all about!
Tip: Too much news, too much doomscrolling, is unhealthy.
1. COVID Info and Resources
Okay--so the COVID news at this two year mark for the pandemic --the first cases in the US were reported in January 2020--is certainly not what we want it to be!
You have probably heard or seen something like this recently: "The world reported more than 9.5 million cases last week, which is a 71% increase compared to the previous week. Although the greatest increase is still in the Americas (+100%), every region in the world now has increasing case trends" (Your Local Epidemiologist).
Even though most of these cases are due to the omicron variant, and a lot fewer people get extremely sick and die from omicron than the other variants, because there are a truly vast numbers of cases, hospitals and ICUs across the country and the world are still getting way overloaded. Our University hospital here in Charlottesville reported the highest number of COVID cases this week since the pandemic began.
So please--minimize your indoor interactions with others, remember that old social distancing (it works very well, especially if you add in a good mask!) and wear your N95/KN95N94 mask any time when you're inside public buildings, etc. Check out the graph below--and please note that this study was done in April 2021, before the omicron variant emerged. So all transmission times will be much shorter. And take a look at the difference between a surgical mask and an N95--it's pretty stunning, since a lot of us have been thinking that surgical masks offered decent protection.
Pity the poor nurses, and doctors, and housekeeping aids, and respiratory therapists, and anyone else who works in a hospital. (Remember, it is possible to get reinfected, though much less likely if you are fully vaccinated.)
Here are some mask resources that I've posted in earlier blogs:
AARON COLLINS, MASK NERD: Extensive research on mask effectiveness by type and manufacturer. He has a YouTube Channel and a Twitter Account and even makes his Master Mask Testing Data Set available on Google Docs.
AVOIDING COUNTERFEIT MASKS: a good resource for finding genuine KN95s (periodically updated).
YOUR LOCAL EPIDEMIOLOGIST: Excellent summaries of the latest info on various aspects of the epidemic (much more than masks).
2. Good News About COVID (Yes!)
We forget--there IS some good COVID news. I thought these items were worth sharing in case you haven't heard about them.
1. New, Low-cost COVID-19 Vaccine Could Be a Game Changer for Low-income Countries
This pandemic will not end until rich and poor alike around the world are protected-. As long as there are unprotected hosts (and there are still about 7 billion of them out there!), the virus will continue to multiply and mutate. And cause illness and death. That's basic science. Even so, the developers of this cheap ($1.00 - $1.50/dose) and apparently very effective vaccine could not find anyone in the US who was willing to partner with them to test it! (Yes, unfortunately it's a rather messed up, profit-based system we have here.) So they did their study in India. And the results look very good.
2. More Good News. Your Local Epidemiologist did a post on January 4, 2022 entitled "There Is Good News." Here are some of the things she highlighted that we might tend to forget:
Vaccines are working really well to prevent death (see graph).
Omicron is less severe than previous variants. We are already taking this for granted but thank goodness it's true!
More antigen tests are being approved.
There is a "super" or variant-proof vaccine currently being tested that may work against all coronaviruses.
There is a really effective anti-viral that is saving lives, and more to come.
3. Anti-Anxiety Tool(s) of the Week: Fun Ways to Distract Yourself from the Bad News
You don't always have to face your anxiety or deal with it directly. In fact, distraction can be a wonderful anti-anxiety tool, a good way to take your mind (and nervous system) off the anxiety and on to something fun! So here are a few great distractors I've come across recently.
If you take one "awe walk" a week and check out all the articles noted below, you'll have 203 ways to distract yourself from all the bad news. Enjoy!
If you've been reading this blog for a while, you might remember the zapchen "wow" exercise. An "awe walk" is basically a "wow walk" during which you notice the amazingness of what you see around you--sky, clouds, trees, people, animals, insects, even human-made objects--and let it fill you up (while at the same time getting some exercise).
An article in The New York Times notes that "Consciously watching for small wonders in the world around you during an otherwise ordinary walk could amplify the mental health benefits of the stroll."
And there's some research to back that up.
Here's a link to the abstract about the original research in the journal Emotion and another to a brief article in Psychology Today.
Infectious disease physician and pandemic blogger Betsy Brown included some good links about awe walks in her most recent blog post.
BTW, Here's a Workaround (in Firefox) to avoid article limits in the New York Times and other news outlets. If you don't have a subscription, a lot of news outlets won't let you read articles that are not directly related to COVID--which can be very frustrating! Here's a way to get around that has worked for me in Firefox.
type or paste in URL and click/enter
there will be a star to the right of the URL for bookmarking; between the URL and the star, an icon that looks (a little) like a page will appear. If you roll over it, it will say, "Toggle reader view (F9)"). Click on this as soon as it appears.
The screen will probably go grey and tell you that you don't have access, but if you click that "reader view" icon again before that "grey" page fully loads, it should take you to a slightly larger print ("accessible) version of the article. Sometimes you won't get any pictures, and other times you seem to get double pics, but at least you can read the text!
Hopefully this will work for you. I don't know how to do it in other browsers.
NINETY-NINE FASCINATING FINDS REVEALED IN 2021
We've heard about and experienced so many losses this year, so much bad news. But Smithsonian Magazine is doing their best to let us know that many wonderful things have been found this year as well.
Each of the 99 thumbnail sketches in this article connects to a full Smithsonian article, so that's 99 ways to distract yourself from all the bad news!
Two of my favorites (so far--I've only read a few):
one of the blue-and-white dresses worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz—turned up in a trash bag at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC.
200,000-year-old handprints and footprints left in a cave by children in what is now Tibet- perhaps the oldest cave art in the world.
CALLING ALL TOLKIEN FANS AND/OR MOVIE BUFFS In honor of the 20th anniversary of "The Fellowship of the Ring,"the first movie of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, Polygon (a gaming site), in partnership with Vox Media, has been publishing weekly articles on various aspects of the movie trilogy collected now as "The Year of the Ring."
Here's the home page, which is sort of a patchwork of frames with links to various articles.
And here's the chronological list of all 52 articles with brief teasers and links for each one. Yes, 52!
I have to say, some of the articles are much better than others, and I would say one or two I've read are rather stupid and/or poorly written but most are fascinating.
If you are a Tolkien fan it's a great way to be distracted from bad news!
Until next time,
Girl Balancing, UMToy
Comparative mask-type table, ACGIH’s Pandemic Response Task Force
Rolling average of COVID deaths, Buckateer
Awe walk, Mohammed Ajwad, unSplash
Gandalf and Frodo, Middle Earth Enterprises (?)