This is a good week for the Pennsylvania part of the family.
Our oldest grandchild, George, forgot to check his email Monday, until 2 o’clock in the morning. Then he sent the above text message to his parents, down the hall.
I keep telling George he reminds me of me, a late bloomer. He fell in love with the state university at Bloomsburg, where he has some family history, along the Susquehanna River, two hours from his home.
He’s had a pretty good year – made himself into a reliable wrestler, holds a job in a nice supermarket chain, got his license and a car, but was sweating out college, until he discovered the email from Admissions.
George’s enthusiasm at getting into the college he wanted reminded me how I felt at home the first time I walked onto the nice little campus of Hofstra College a long time ago.
There are many right colleges for people, as Frank Bruni is saying in his latest book, “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be,” aimed at people facing the elite-college-admissions rat race. All colleges have good teachers, good courses, a mix of students. We think he’s going to thrive.
George's sister is also having a good week. Lulu and her dad Peter (and later her mom Corinna) are flying to Las Vegas for the Players College Showcase soccer tournament, attended by many college coaches.
Lulu plays for the FC Pennsylvania Strikers, currently rated fourth nationally in the 15-and-Under class, coached by Jim McLoughlin, a former Canadian Olympian and member of the old New York Arrows.
Lulu travels from Harrisburg to the Philadelphia suburbs once or twice a week for practice, competes with very good players for playing time, and also plays for the high school team with her friends from home. She’s an A student and is thinking about becoming a doctor.
There are no guarantees, plenty of work ahead, day by day. For the moment, George and Lulu are having a good week.
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.