– Ben Martens

COVID: Day 276

needle in vaccine vial

Friday was an exciting day: the FDA approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine and since then, the CDC has also recommended it! Health care workers have been bearing a heavy load this year, but they will be rewarded with the first vaccines and a dramatic increase to their safety while they do their jobs. My family and I are probably still looking at waiting until at least next summer before we get it. This New York Times calculator gives a rough idea of what part of the line we’re in and as expected, we’re pretty much at the end of the line.

Globally, it’s hard to imagine how long it will take to distribute this. In the US it’s maybe a bit easier to estimate but the numbers are sobering when you think about the current death rate. I’ve seen a couple charts like this one that show the number of deaths per day over the last ~10 years, but I’ve only see them for other countries. From what I’ve seen, it takes the US a year or two to collect the final statistics, but using data from 1999-2018 and provisional numbers from 2019 and 2020 is still interesting. If you take the maximum number of monthly US deaths from 1999-2018 and compare them with this year, you can see the impact of COVID. April was 37% (+86,000 deaths) higher than the previous max, May was 18% higher (+42,000) and June was 11% higher (+24,000). The data only goes through June, but given the peak in July and the one that we’re going through now, I expect it to continue to be ugly. There are some other small factors that contribute to the increase like increasing population, but if you look at the trends, these numbers are extreme outliers and they’re in the same ballpark as the COVID death totals we’re seeing. [UPDATE: I found better data. See this follow up post.]

Someone recently mentioned that stem cells were used to produce vaccines and it felt like a gut punch. I’ve been so excited for the development of the vaccines that I hadn’t even considered that. Thankfully that wasn’t totally correct. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were created without the use of stem cells.

On the home front not much has changed. We were hunkered down for Thanksgiving and we’ll do the same for Christmas. Hospitalization rates are almost back up to where they were at the end of March and the numbers are still going up. The isolation gets old but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and we’re not giving up now.

Tyla and I have been plowing through the episodes of Bill Gates and Rashida Jones Ask Big Questions. There’s so much good content in each episode and it’s really helpful to hear smart people talking about tough issues.

Pastor is putting out a series of videos covering the psalms and one of the most recent was Psalm 34. It’s full of reminders to take refuge in the Lord and put our trust in him:

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears.
From all their distress he delivers them.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.
He saves those whose spirits have been crushed.
Many are the troubles of the righteous,
but the Lord delivers him from them all.

Psalm 34:17-19