Humans are really bad at evaluating odds and acting rationally (see casinos, fear of flying, etc) – this reminds me I want to read The Biggest Bluff and compare it to Thinking in Bets. I’ve decided there’s acceptable risk to things like riding my OneWheel, driving, riding my bike, drinking alcohol regularly, etc, but COVID is so much harder for me.
The information overload and politicization doesn’t help. At the end of June, when my brother and his wife were visiting (pre-delta spike) we debated whether it was prudent to recommend indoor masking, and I was thinking it was irresponsible of experts to talk about indoor masking while the country was trying to re-open; the news was full of optimism, with the idea that SF may be at herd immunity, indoor dining being a thing again, etc. Of course, today, it looks like those folks advocating for masking/caution around delta were the canaries and not Chicken Littles.
Last week, my brother was saying that SF was fine, that it was back, at which point he pulled up the case chart and we could see the numbers were basically similar to the summer wave (and probably peaking/trending back down). It’s interesting that the declining numbers had been enough for my brother to suggest things were fine, while I was thinking the numbers are the same as the summer, and I wouldn’t have considered traveling then. Now there’s the calculus of what’s riskier, i.e. less people vaccinated but delta not really having traction or more people vaccinated and engaging in protective behaviors (e.g. masking, distancing, etc), but with high rates of delta?
Delta of course is another factor now. I trust the vaccine, I know that my odds of serious illness are less, that early signs point to the vaccines reducing the risk of long COVID (my biggest fear, as brain fog sounds absolutely horrifying). I know that the case numbers I see today are predominantly the unvaccinated. That vaccinated folks have lower viral loads. I know I’m masking, socially distancing, avoiding indoor activities.
Yet I’m still scared to travel. Even last week, before I went to the airport, I ended up doom-scrolling, seeing tweets about outdoor events of fully vaccinated groups ending up witb breakthrough cases, and debating canceling my flight then and there. I found some N95 masks, though I didn’t realize that the airlines didn’t allow masks with exhalation valves, the CDC says they’re fine for source control as long as you don’t need fluid resistant respirators – i.e. surgical settings:
A NIOSH-approved N95 filtering facepiece respirator with an exhalation valve offers the same protection to the wearer as one that does not have a valve. As source control, findings from NIOSH research suggest that, even without covering the valve, N95 respirators with exhalation valves provide the same or better source control than surgical masks, procedure masks, cloth masks, or fabric coverings. In general, individuals wearing NIOSH-approved N95s with an exhalation valve should not be asked to use one without an exhalation valve or to cover it with a face covering or mask. However, NIOSH-approved N95 respirators with an exhalation valve are not fluid resistant. Therefore, in situations where a fluid resistant respirator is indicated (e.g., in surgical settings), individuals should wear a surgical N95 or, if a surgical N95 is not available, cover their respirator with a surgical mask or a face shield. Be careful not to compromise the fit of the respirator when placing a facemask over the respirator.
Regardless, my step-sister’s ask for her first-baby shower and seeing some family in person I haven’t seen for close to 2 years seemed like it was worth the risk, and I got up at 4 AM and spent 4 hours trying to get to Oakland, but was thwarted as the flight was cancelled. Some paranoia the next day as I had a tickle in my throat (I’ve had them on and off all summer and it seems to correlate directly with the AQI; yay for my overly sensitive body).
In any case, I’m still trying to think about going to visit my family, not sure if I’d go to SoCal or NorCal (i.e. my parents or my siblings), but I’m still very hesitant to travel (and I was a home body even in the pre-pandemic times), but realizing just how bad I am at making a rational decision around travel and being comfortable with the risk.