Teaching Street Crossing

When Lily was about four we started practicing crossing streets. There were two small streets on the way to the farther park, and Lily was very excited about the idea of crossing them by herself. After talking through the process (look both ways, then if you don't see any cars coming across slowly and steadily while continuing to look both ways) I would stand with her at the corner and say "cross when you think it safe", watching for cars myself so I could stop her if she stepped out when she shouldn't.

Unfortunately, she took looking both ways to be about pointing her head, not about actually looking. She would wiggle her head as fast as possible, trying to maximize how many times she could look left and right, much faster than she could actually tell what she was seeing. (Lily: "when I first started learning how to cross streets I would turn my head like a maniac.") This was not useful practice, and after trying and failing to show her how to look I decided to wait until she was older. After a while I stopped bringing up the idea, she stopped bringing it up, and this was on hold for a couple years.

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Omicron in Biobot

I wrote a few weeks ago about how the increase in covid in Boston's sewage was seasonal, and didn't yet reflect Omicron. Now this, though, this is Omicron:

We're at about 8x the previous peak and still climbing:

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Careful With Trailing Averages

With covid, it is common for people to look at seven day trailing averages. For example, the MA Covid Dashboard has "the seven day average of percent positivity is 18.42%". While this isn't exactly wrong, it's not a good fit for a rapidly rising number. Here's how it's usually presented:

This gives the impression that 18.4% is the number for 12/30, but it's clearer to think of it as a number for 12/27. That way it represents our best guess of how things were on the 27th by looking three days into the future and three days into the past to average out fluctuations:

On the other hand, these variations are clearly not noise; it's a weekly cycle. People are much more likely to test positive on the weekend than during the week:

Monday 89%
Tuesday 85%
Wednesday 96%
Thursday 93%
Friday 113%
Saturday 172%
Sunday 145%

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Personal Response to Omicron

Throughout the pandemic, our household has been on the careful end. We started preparing in February 2020, isolated thoroughly from March to July, moderately over the summer, and then thoroughly again from October until all the adults in our house were vaccinated. Because I was immunocompromised, we had a newborn, and kids under five couldn't get vaccinated yet, however, our family's 2021 was still a lot like 2020. Then, in doing Christmas holidays with family I was very careful individually in the two weeks leading up to it and I was the one working on precautions and making sure we had enough tests: some of the people I really wanted to spend Christmas with are at elevated risk.

I wrote last week about how there are a range of paths we could take with Omicron as a society, but now that Christmas is over what am I going to do personally?

Well, what's the weather out there?

That's a lot of covid in the sewer, 5x the previous peak and still going up.

I think if it were critical that I or a housemate didn't get Omicron, it would be possible, but very difficult. We would need to go back to isolating the way we were in Fall 2020, treating vaccinated people as about as risky as unvaccinated people, pulling the kids out of school, and never going indoors anywhere. Given the likely effects of contracting covid as a child or boosted adult, this is not worth it for us or I suspect most people.

Instead, I expect that I, the people in my house, and pretty much everyone who doesn't take intense and careful effort to avoid it will be exposed to Omicron at some point in the next ~month. It's not a good thing, but it is what it is. Afterward, people's immune systems will have had yet another covid exposure, and I expect cases to go low until next fall. So I'm not going to stress about it: I'll follow official guidance and mask regulations, cheerfully go along with precautions others need, and test+isolate when sick, but I'm not going to go above and beyond to attempt to reduce spread the way I did for earlier parts of the pandemic.

I'm thinking of Omicron as the first wave of the endemic phase of covid-19. While "it's just the flu" was completely wrong in 2020, in 2022 the situation has changed enough of that "what would I do in flu season" is now a good guide.

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Perpetual Dickensian Poverty?

Several of my friends have been sharing screenshots of this Twitter post:

Time for your annual reminder that, according to A Christmas Carol, Bob Cratchit makes 15 shillings a week. Adjusted for inflation, that's $530.27/wk, $27,574/yr, or $13.50/hr.

Most Americans on minimum wage earn less than a Dickensian allegory for destitution.

  —Chris Thompson

It's wrong, but it's wrong in an interesting way!

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Omicron Paths

While there is still a lot we don't know about Omicron, things are starting to come together. We know it is able to infect people who've previously had covid or been vaccinated, and that it spreads extremely quickly. Combine this with the US having very limited tracking of variants, and what should we expect to see?

Here's what cases look like in London:

London cases from coronavirus.data.gov.uk split by SGTF percentages from the Omicron daily overview. Inspired by Theo Sanderson's chart.

Now imagine that instead of seeing nice colored lines, you just saw a single line representing overall cases:

Instead of the rise in cases being apparent in the data from ~2021-12-01, it's not until ~2021-12-12 that we see it.

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