It’s been a while since I’ve written one of these, and as I watched one cruise ship pull out of Húsavík, Iceland and another cruise ship pull in to take its place, I realized I should probably write one. I was laughing to myself because I envisioned the world having a discussion about this chart:
While in my head, the below ship was pulling into the harbor, piloted by Captain Obvious:
Chuckles aside, it feels like right now the world is split into two different camps.
One group sees the rising case numbers from the Delta variant, sees how it seems to be wildly contagious amongst both vaccinated and unvaccinated folks, and believes that the answer is to continue vaccinations, lockdowns, quarantines, and remote work. That group focuses on the new case numbers.
The other group points at low hospitalization and death rates, points at how the vaccines don’t seem to stop Delta’s transmission, and says we’ve been locked down for too long at too high of a cost. Unvaccinated folks in this group don’t seem to have any intention to get vaccinated, or they make vague hand-wavy excuses about how they’ll get vaccinated when there’s more evidence. That group says forget the new case numbers, and focus on the new DEATH numbers, which point a very different picture:
Just looking at that graph, I am so thankful. I am so thankful that the science community sprang into action to figure out how this thing works and how to stop it, that the medical community figured out effective treatment methods, and that the public did the right things that we knew at the time: stayed home, masked up when they left the house, and got vaccinated.
Back to the two groups. The latter group is willing to tolerate dozens of US deaths per day as the cost of getting back to work. They point out the death rates from the flu and say that we don’t do shutdowns due to the flu.
So which group am I in? Well, I’m extremely privileged. I’ve been able to make my living working from home, without being in contact with other human beings unless I want to, and when I do want to, I’m able to pick and choose where I go. I use all the protections I can: I’m vaccinated, I avoid close contact with others, and when I do have to be near people, I mask up. I mask up because it doesn’t cost me anything, and it doesn’t hurt me, and for bonus points, it makes other people more comfortable. It’s just a no-brainer bet.
Having said all that, I understand why people who aren’t so privileged would want to restart the world before all of the fixes and information are in. I know times are really tough right now.
Iceland’s struggling with this.
Up until this summer, Icelanders kept the borders mostly closed while they worked on getting the population vaccinated. They did such a great job on vaccinations that the vaccination staff actually took over a month off for vacation!
With so many residents vaccinated, and with rising calls from the tourism industry to start bringing in revenue again, Iceland opened the borders. Not only did they let unvaccinated folks in, but they didn’t even bother testing vaccinated folks at the border. That turned out to be a huge mistake, now that we know that even vaccinated folks can carry and transmit the Delta variant. Over a hundred cases per day have turned up for several days in a row – a huge jump for a country that had zero cases per day for quite a while.
As I write this, it’s Iceland’s biggest holiday, Merchant’s Weekend. It’s a 3-day weekend that traditionally plays host to a lot of outdoor and music festivals. Late last month, though, in the wake of rising case numbers, the government started locking things down again, limiting gatherings to 200 people max – thereby canceling all of the festivals. That’s smart, but…I don’t think it’s going to be enough. I’m sitting in the Húsavík harbor watching boat after boat go out to see whales, with customers packed in shoulder to shoulder. Restaurants are packed. Tour buses are packed. I gotta think the case numbers are going to hit record highs over the next two weeks.
I think Iceland’s going to fare alright, though, given their really high vaccination rates. The two COVID19 folks in intensive care are both unvaccinated, and frankly, if you’re an unvaccinated adult in Iceland (or the US), that’s your own fault. I don’t even think health insurance should cover unvaccinated folks who end up in the hospital with COVID19. If you wanna take your health advice from Dr. Facebook, go for it, but I’m not subsidizing your gambling with my health insurance payments. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.
In-person events are still mostly off.
The infrastructure is just starting to open up. The San Diego Convention Center just reopened, and I think that says a lot because it’s California, who’s been pretty conservative til now about reopening things. However, just because there are places to meet doesn’t mean there are willing attendees, or governments that are willing to let them cross borders.
Dev Intersections held an event in Orlando in July, but attendance must have been (understandingly) really sparse given the lack of buzz and photos on social media. They’ve got an event scheduled for December 2021 in Las Vegas as well. In October 2021, there’s a SQLSaturday Orlando and a dataMinds Connect in Belgium. As far as I’ve seen, there hasn’t been a rallying cry of excitement from attendees.
I don’t know how event organizers deal with the constantly changing regulations. Take Iceland as an example: in the span of just a few months, gatherings have been off, then on, then off again, all with relatively short notice. And then there are the travel rules for attendees! Who knows who’s going to be able to travel where in the next 3-6 months.
Planning an event now has to be like juggling, but with someone else constantly changing the objects you’re juggling, and how many. You can go from juggling 3 tennis balls to juggling 5 chainsaws in a matter of moments.
We’ll return to the US in October.
We postponed this as long as we could, exhausting the 9 months that Iceland would let us stay. If regulations changed and we were able to stay here longer, we would in a heartbeat.
We’ll apply for the teleworker visa again for 2022, but we’re not planning to fly back to Iceland right away. We’ll keep an eye on the situation in both America and Iceland, and then depending on how things go, fly back if it makes the most sense. We did actually consider getting a furnished apartment in the US for 3 months, just long enough for the visa clock to expire and us to come back again.
I’m really curious to see how safe (or unsafe) we feel in San Diego. Iceland’s been so safe and idyllic, and I have this sinking feeling that we’re going to have a jarring return.
Interesting reading, thanks for posting.
I really wish that more peopled looked at the virus like you do. My wife was diagnosed with cancer, right at the beginning of the pandemic, that makes here very immune compromised. The vaccine does not work for her. Because so many won’t get vaccinated (on 37% here in Idaho have gotten even one dose), she is imprisoned in our home. So sad.
That’s terrible, and I’m so sorry to hear that, Scott.
I agree with you completely around “which group am I in” and aspects around insurance coverage now that (at least within the US) vaccine availability has been universal for long enough that there’s been the opportunity for everyone to receive it. If we’re going to allow for personal choice there, then with that choice has to come the responsibility for any results that follow. I like your explanation of the two major sides to the current discussion, as I had seen those but hadn’t visualized it nearly as clearly as your explanation.
I do feel bad for those that are trying to plan events because after looking like things were finally getting to a good place (late June, early July) and could plan out some future events there’s been a huge wrench thrown into what looked like solid plans. Best wishes to you and hopefully things will look a lot better by the time October rolls around!