Pandemic Failures: Testing

Almost two years into the pandemic and testing has failed, as Omicron surges. Where I live, we can’t get tests. This includes PCR and rapid antigen tests. To clarify, testing is available for a limited group of people who meet strict criteria.

For the rest of us, we’ve been told to assume every symptom is covid and to self-isolate for 5 days. This includes headaches, sniffles, runny noses, and more serious symptoms. However, without testing to confirm, how can we know if we’ve actually had covid? If I get a runny nose, or a headache, four times this winter, how can I know if I had covid one of those times? Or maybe none of those times? Or maybe I had it more than once? Each time, I’m assuming and self-isolating, as instructed. What about the people who don’t have jobs where they can work from home?

More importantly, people who have symptoms and don’t have covid, will be delaying treatment. For example, a friend of mine had to keep her kid home from daycare due to an outbreak. After four days her kid still had a temperature. She was finally able to take the kid to the doctor and found out the fever was from an ear infection. Did her kid start out with covid that turned into an ear infection? She’ll never know.

Rapid tests aren’t readily available. If they are, they cost hundreds of times more what they cost to produce (e.g., $40 for one test at the pharmacy). It’s obnoxious to be price gouging for a thing like this during a severe outbreak.

Schools were closed for the first weeks in January. They’re open today, but the province has already declared they won’t be tracking covid outbreaks in schools. Instead they’ll report absences, but without qualifying what the absences are from.

When I blogged about problems with testing last year, it was about the trouble booking them. Now the problem is we can’t get them. Without testing, there’s no tracking. Without tracking, there’s no accurate data to actually know who got infected, or when. It’s all based on assumption. Personally, I’d like to know if the headache and malaise I experienced last week after a known exposure was covid. Maybe I got lucky with mild symptoms. Then again, maybe it was just a headache and pandemic fatigue. I’ll never know.

The 450th Posting

It always feels good to hit another milestone with The Deletist. Throughout the pandemic adhering to my three, simple blog rules has felt like a real feat. In other ways it’s been a touchpoint and an anchor for me. We’ve all faced so many life-changing disruptions the past two years. Even so, The Deletist still gets posted every Monday, 400 words or less.

Reflecting on my posts over the past year, a few distinct themes emerged. Not surprisingly, many blogs focused on technology and the new ways it’s consuming our lives due to lockdowns, distancing, and isolation protocols. Interestingly, it seemed for every way technology is helping us through this tough time, it’s also hindering us. Read more about this in Bad Tech vs. Bad with Tech or The Infodemic vs. the Pandemic. Almost two years into Covid, the disinformation and misinformation is at least as dangerous as the disease itself. Social media exacerbates the situation, combined with the mob mentality.

Naturally, there have been a lot of disappointments with how poor some tech still remains, such as my experience getting my driver’s license renewed or filling out online forms.

And of course, who could overlook the advances made with all the realities: augmented, virtual, and meta. Last year I attended my first VR Conference, complete with an avatar and my first augmented reality art show. This inspired a new segment of the Technombie series about a first grader attending virtual school. Mommy Marsupial features its own brand of altered reality by exploring the wonderful world of gene editing, a continuation of last year’s post, Mommy Three Arm.

The pandemic has separated us and brought us together in ways we never expected. All of a sudden, Lunching with friends feels both ordinary and exotic. Or the Exhilaration of re-experiencing something again after so many months of lockdown. Or read my thoughts on how we thrive in Adaptation: Clever Like the Fox.

If you’ve had enough tech to last you a lifetime, change the pace and call someone. Relive the joy of Phone Calls: The Old-Fashioned Way of communicating with someone. Or marvel in The Universality of the Junk Drawer. That’s probably the most low tech thing I can think of.

Junk Drawer



Pelican Flying

Like many people, my life was hit hard by the pandemic. My two decades-long hobbies halted abruptly. Swimming and playing in orchestra are my two life lines, both regular fixtures in my life for over twenty years.

I began lap swimming in the 1990’s to rehabilitate my leg after an accident. Instead of physiotherapy, I used to swim three times a week. After two years my leg was healed and I had a new routine. When the pandemic hit, followed by waves of severe lock downs, it was impossible to find an open pool. After avoiding pools, and public places in general, I finally dusted off my swim cap. I found a few public pools with lap hours that fit my schedule. I made a plan to go once a week, starting slow at first. Then Omicron.

I started ensemble playing practically the same week I started playing bassoon in the 1980’s. The two are inseparable in my mind. Practicing by myself is lonely without the thought that orchestra would be a possibility again. I reached out to a local orchestra and discovered there might be an opening for me starting this year. Then Omicron. Now I’m not sure if there will be more delays.

The constant starting and stopping of my beloved routines has been disruptive. When the pandemic started, it was hard to not to fixate on all the things I couldn’t do. Things I loved so dearly. Slowly, over time, without realizing, I found new ways to reclaim the missing parts of my life. It happened quietly and with an imperceptible detection. In fact, I didn’t realize what had happened until I was preparing holiday gifts for my friends.

This year I made homemade granola for everyone. Some even had raisins I made myself in my dehydrator. All of a sudden I realized my new hobby, and passion, had become food preservation. I’ve always hated food waste. I suppose since we started bulk buying groceries to avoid frequent trips to the grocery store, we were no longer able to finish everything before it went bad. My first project was learning how to dehydrate fruit. Now I’m about to expand production to homemade yogurt.

In this small way, I’ve been able to reclaim some of the many things lost, or missing, due to the pandemic.

It’s Just Math

Against my better judgement, I went to a store on Christmas Eve to buy something. It wasn’t a gift, but something I wanted to start using over the extended break. When I entered the store, a worker informed me the computers were down. She explained I could either put my items on hold and pick them up later, when the machines were working. Or go through the manual process.

I think I was the first sale of the day. I placed my items on the counter amidst a flurry of activity. Someone whipped out a paper receipt pad. Another person started muttering about the back-up manual. I didn’t think too much of it, until I saw the cashier. I don’t want to seem ageist, but this particular cashier was from a generation where kids are no longer taught the basics and fine art of math. Smart phone out, she looked ready. Luckily, a more senior cashier stepped in. The first cashier didn’t even know how to figure out sales tax.

To add to the complication, there were two separate tax charges. A lower tax (5%) for the clothing and a higher one (13%) for the other item. Through my mask and the heavy, plexi-glass partition, I told the younger cashier she could add 13% right on her calculator to figure out the sales tax. The other cashier was using a different method (amount x 1.13), from an earlier era when we had to do math in our head and knew how to make change without using a machine. Either way, it should have worked.

I checked the receipt. The 13% tax was wrong. I mentioned the tax was lower than it should have been. In the background I could hear the other workers discussing they should just close for the day. The senior cashier was saying one thing (the right total) and writing another (the wrong tax). With the confusion sorted out, she walked away as I paid. I pointed out that while charged the correct amount, this was not reflected on the receipt and could the cashier please fix it.

Instead of adjusting the receipt, the cashier carefully and painstakingly copied by hand the barcode numbers, amounts, different taxes, etc. onto a new receipt. The result: right total, wrong tax. Again! I collected my purchases and the freshly, written receipt and walked out, remaining silent beneath my mask.

The Hybrid Workplace: Postponed

After a lot of communications and preparations to get us back into the office in mid-November, now we’re all back to working from home. All the time. Before Omicron, I made peace with the idea of going back to the office. Every week I went through one drawer, or closet, of my clothes. I’m not done yet, but I’m committed to finishing, even though I’m working from home full time. The act, though small, was long overdue.

Spending so much time in lockdown, without interacting with others physically, I hadn’t realized what I was missing. Going to the office two days a week motivated me enough to start going through my clothes. All of a sudden, I had a new lens on the tattered, ratty condition of them. I didn’t wear any of these things to work, obviously. However, it occurred to me that my collection of “at home,” “messy project,” and “yardwork” clothes was taking over. I think this happened as a I pawed through them looking for something acceptable to wear to the office. Admittedly, I only made it to the office five times. However, I selected each outfit the night before to save time. It gave me a taste of what to expect when we do go back, for real.

Aside from wardrobe considerations, I also started thinking about the amount of paper people would, or wouldn’t use, coming back to the office. I’m responsible for coordinating shredding services at our locations. Although it seems like a straightforward task, it’s actually kind of complicated. With people partially in the office, and then not at all, I reduced the frequency of the service. Or postponed it indefinitely.

The whole time I kept wondering, when we do go back to the office, will people still be so dependent on paper? I suppose some people have hooked up home printers and still produce the same amount of paper. But others, like myself, have likely never bothered to hook up a printer. Instead I changed my habits. I take notes electronically, especially with my favorite app, sticky notes.

I’m curious to see if my predictions are right, that people will produce less paper when we return. And that we’ll be able to maintain our reduced services going forward without any complications. And if a problem does arise, I’ll be dressed appropriately to handle it.

Holiday Shopping in the Pandemic

Last year I didn’t do any holiday shopping. It was a strange year, full of lockdowns, isolation, and a move right in December. This year, so far not much better in terms of the pandemic. But the longer it goes, the more we find our own ways to create a new normal. Or resume our old, normal things in new ways.

For the first time in over a year and a half,I went holiday shopping in person. Twice. I have a feeling I won’t be able to exchange the gifts face to face. More likely I’ll drop them off at a door. Or do a gift exchange standing awkwardly distanced, smiles hidden beneath masks. But still, it felt like some kind of progress to go shopping in a store. It also felt like some kind of advancement to think about buying gifts for other people.

This weekend I went to an outdoor holiday market. Normally, I would avoid events with people since the pandemic started. However, this is one of those things we’ve learned how to do in a new “normal” way, masked, distanced, and armed with hand sanitizer.

Except for having to wear a mask, the other difficult adjustment was the social distancing. Usually people crowd around the stands at a holiday market. The vendors engage with multiple customers at the same time. The booths, at least the good ones, have lots of activity. This time, it was all different.

The booths were prohibitively small. Many of them only large enough to accommodate two people, barely distanced. I waited patiently to look at the artisanal selections, sometimes only behind one other person who happened to be taking their time, or conversing with the vendor. Pre-pandemic, I would’ve been able to get close enough to at least have a look and see if I was interested. Or be near enough to hear the description of the products. Instead, I meandered around, trying not to seem stalkerish, figuring out which booths I wanted to wait at to peruse and purchase something. The mask felt uncomfortably warm and I couldn’t wear my sunglasses because they kept fogging up. In the end, I walked away triumphant with a few nice things clanking around in my bag.

I suppose I could have shopped online for everybody’s gifts, but somehow that just felt so pre-pandemic.