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Rescind Social Distancing

Today, the Covid pandemic has receded definitively. A large majority of people have been vaccinated. The case rate stays low. Death from Covid is vanishing. We are finally coming out from the emergency. With most restrictions lifted, what are we going to do now? Should we stop wearing masks? Should we go on long delayed vacations? Going back to the office? Jump back into events with large crowds?

Too much energy has been put into the mask wearing debate. It is neither the most effective prevention, nor is it too restrictive to use. I don’t mind continuing to wear a mask in some settings, like in public transit or schools, if only as a gesture to help people to ease back into normal. While there is an itch from the travel bug, I don’t have a strong urge to make up for the lost time. The offices will take more time to be filled again, more because of people’s hate of commuting than the threat of Covid. It was frustrating not to be able to go to restaurants, sports events, or traveling. But none of these is truly essential.

The most important change to make today is to end social distancing.

If you have not seen your parents or children for sometime, go see them now. Don’t skip your regular family gathering. Spending time with extended families is one of the most beneficial things you can do to your wellbeing.

Go meet your friends. What a delight it is to see them again after a long time?

We need hugging. Have we forgotten that? Two people embrace each other in their arms, chest pushing against chest. This is the proper greeting to someone who you have known for years.

Talk to your neighbors. We have acquired the habit to dodge others when they are approaching on the sidewalk, jumping off into the street if necessary to maintain six feet of space. Not anymore. Relax. Smile. There is no need to avoid other people like plague.

Go to a church service. Go to a group spiritual practice. While it is beneficial to meditate alone, meditating in a group reinforces and resonates with others. That’s why people practice in groups. The energy flows without even needing to talk.

I trust that you and your friends have made the good decision to get vaccinated. Do not feel guilty for hugging. Feel guilty if you are not vaccinated.

Human beings are social animals. Social interaction is essential to our wellbeing. We live in cities to be close to others. We trade, we learn and we socialize. When the pandemic hits, we responded to blunt its impact. Stay Home, Save Lives. We accepted the difficult bargain. But this bargain needs to be reassessed constantly. When it is no longer useful, it is unhealthy to continue the sacrifice out of fear or habit.

At the end of the day, I believe love and bonding will help to pull us through any challenges and catastrophes. We should never neglect to foster social connections.




Dreams can be surprisingly creative. Regrettably, I forgot most of them. The wild dreams I had while sleeping evaporated quickly once I woke up. Only on some occasions, I remembered enough and cared to write them down. This leaves me with some complex and intriguing stories.

This morning, my dream lingered long enough in my mind that I decided to write them down. It has three separate stories. My real life is woven into the dream. Therefore, I added some brief background to give some relevant context of my real life.

Story I - The Fish Cohort Movie

Background - At work, we were talking about “fish cohort”. Our business is to serve the aquaculture industry in Norway. My Norgwegian colleague explained to us the industrial practice. “Fish cohort” is a group of fish that were grown together. They might get moved to other places and mix with other cohorts.

I was in the audience watching a fish cohort movie. The fish pen is a large farm house (a house on land). There are many cohorts, or groups, of fishes inside. They were played by adult men. They weren't wearing fish suits or had any sign to suggest they are fishes. They dressed in regular clothes. We simply accepted that they play fish cohorts. Soon we recognize individuals and their respective cohort. After living for some time in the farm house, they marched out of the house to be harvested. They were vaguely aware of their fate on the way to the slaughterhouse. I was part of the last cohort to leave.

Story II - The bike trip

Background - I have just made a major bike trip to climb the highest peak in the Bay Area. It was a strenuous all day ride that tested my stamina.

After the first movie ended, I left the farm house. I have made a major bike trip to this place for vacation. Now it was time for me to go home. I changed my mind to go back by car. I decided to bike back via another route and use rail for part of the trip. I started to research the travel plan. Where and when can I catch a train? The pressure to be there at the right time has become stressful (stress about getting somewhere on time is a recurring theme in my dream.)

Before I could figure out the schedule, I heard the horn from an approaching train. The station was within sight. So I sped toward there on my bike. I ran down a hillside. There was no trail. I just ran over the dirt and through the shrubs. I got down to the track. Unfortunately, the wire fence stopped me from reaching it. I found an opening further ahead. Passengers were getting out from the opening.

I finally made it onboard. It was a very short train with only two cars. One is like a cattle car with no seats, just a completely open floor. As I was catching my breath, I noticed I have not worn a mask like everyone else. I searched for the mask in my pockets.

I haven’t figured out the travel plan yet. So I went to the next car to look for a printed schedule. The main area of the car was taped off. There was a man struggling on the floor. He might be suffering from a heart attack. I was told the space was tape off to create social distance space, not to make room for medical personnel as I expected.

Story III - The Boy

Background: I have recently watched a retrospective of a Hollywood director Mitchell Leisen. He was well known in the first half of the 20th century but was very much forgotten today. I like his movies and their humanistic story. This story is a psychodrama falsely attributed to Leisen. It is actually my dream.

The characters were a couple. He has experienced childhood trauma as a boy. His father had ran into financial problem and it ended in his suicide. The long shadow might have been the root of some couple issues they have today.

I don't recall the main part of the movie. It goes straight to the final scene.

Filmed in black and white, the boy was standing on the rooftop peering over the white stone rails to below. The camera panned to his wife, a close up of her in a room. Her hair style and makeup were of the pre-war era. She looked straight at him and said, "It was you". "It was me", the boy peered over the stone rails. "It wasn't my father who killed himself. He died from another clause. When he died, it was me who jumped off the building and survived". The wife answered, "I know. Your sister has told me".

*** The end ***



End Of Covid - Check In

At the end of February, I have predicted that the COVID-19 pandemic will recede definitively. I said I will hold myself accountable and evaluate my prediction after three months. The time is due. As promised, I reviewed the current situation.

As of 6/4/2021, 79% of San Francisco over 12 have received at least one dose of vaccine. My elder son is going to get his second dose today. The vaccination effort in SF is hitting a plateau. Nevertheless, 79% is a great milestone to attain. Congratulations to the citizens and health workers.

SF COVID cases 2021
SF COVID cases 2021

As you can see from the data, new COVID-19 cases in San Francisco have fallen from about 50 per day at the end of February to about 12 per day now. The threat is now at minimal level. Further large-scale outbreak is very unlikely.

I did not have any extra information or used any sophisticated model to make my prediction. I thought the trend was pretty obvious just from public data reported. The winter surge has clearly passed. At that point, many people have already been infected. The vaccine supply and adoption is robust (contrary what many health officials said). The pandemic will end, one way or the other. I thought it was so clear that everyone should see what I have seen. It is perplexing to me that so many people still have a fatalistic view. This includes public quotes from many epidemic experts. For example, this article from March is titled Why another COVID surge could hit the Bay Area in the months ahead. Specific predictions made by experts includes

Dr. John Swartzberg, a UC Berkeley infectious disease expert, gives the likelihood of another surge a 45% chance. If it occurs, it will hit at the end of March and into April, he says.
Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, a UCSF infectious disease expert, has a bleaker prediction: The likelihood is 100%, he said.

I wish the press would hold themselves and the experts accountable like what I have done here. It is to the best interest of the public when we check the statement people made about the future. Granted they can hedge by saying there is a surge somewhere around the country. But that is the pandemic has receded in the San Francisco Bay Area rather than surging. This article actually quoted similar data and used similar arguments like what I have done here. Why we come up with polar opposite prognosis is a mystery. The stakes are higher than just who wins the wager. It is about trust and credibility. For their own good, they should do a post-mortem to analyze why some of the things they have said are so off.

Back to the big question, when does the pandemic end? I think of this from two perspectives. From one perspective, there is still much going on. A significant portion of the population do not plan to receive vaccines. Inflection and death from COVID still happen everyday. Problems are flaring in the rest of the world, where vaccination is lacking behind the developed countries. And then there are variants to worry about. In the fight against COVID, there is no end in sight.

The other perspective says that political leadership means the ability to make decisive decisions in a messy world. There is never a time when things are 100% alright or when people are 100% in agreement. Yet we cannot afford to delay decisions forever waiting for perfection. From time to time, we have to make a clear decision. From this perspective, I say the pandemic is now over. Take a second look at the data I quoted in the beginning of this post. They are sufficient information. I hurray Governor Newsom’s plan to end all pandemic measures in California by Jun 15th, or President Biden’s goal for the citizens to properly celebrate 4th of July. These are great rituals to signal the end of our main pandemic responses.

The next phrase will be to make the best effort to vaccinate the rest of the US, and more importantly, the rest of the world. To my surprise, like the puzzling fatalistic view of the medical experts, a portion of the population are not comfortable with the idea that the pandemic is over. They have dutifully practiced all the COVID precautions since last year, it is hard to put them down. In particular, some people are very uncomfortable that we are not all wearing masks anymore. They seem to be less concerned with the actual efficacy in real life, but more about doing everything to eliminate any risk no matter how small they are. As COVID-19 cases and death continue to drop, the gap between their fear and the reality widens. At some point we would ask if this is irrational fear? I name this condition COVID-phobia. Those people who believe they have legitimate health concerns may find this offense. On the other hand, I sincerely believe that a large-scale phobia is of real public health concern. It could manifest as the Hikikomori phenomenon observed in Japan. Or it could manifest as the problem that US public school teachers continue to refuse to return to school, unconvinced by the efficacy of vaccines, and unconcerned that they are out of step with the rest of the society.

My new prediction is the medical community will become aware of the problem of COVID-phobia in the coming months. I admit this is less certain than the COVID-19 is waning prediction I made a few months ago. But if a prediction is risk free and unsurprising, it is not much of a prediction. I will again revisit this in six months. I hope the story will end well.



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