The latest advice on COVID is so clear! Get together definitively with your family! Or maybe not!


What? Are you afraid of long COVID? Check back later for more information. In the meantime, stop being so paranoid!

Welcome to the season of COVID confusion. We are bombarded with statistics. Infections, revolutionary cases, number of deaths, vaccine efficacy rate. Infographics and Q&A never stop. Dr Anthony Fauci covers the airwaves – the Meghan and Harry of the infectious disease world. And yet, at the dawn of our second donation of COVIDS, clarity seems more and more distant.

“We are at a point in the game where it becomes impossible to pretend that there is a definitive advice,” said Bethany Van Delft, a storyteller and actress from Boston.

“It’s like the emperor’s new clothes,” she said. “People are very afraid to say the obvious: we don’t know what’s going on.

In Stoneham, Joe Smith, a retired systems manager, described the confusion over COVID as a “big basket” filled with:

  • The complexities of modern life.
  • The unknown unknowns about COVID.
  • Scientific findings on COVID are correctly expressed as a range of probabilities (when we require absolutes).
  • Sometimes competing directives from public bodies.
  • Active campaigns of disinformation and disinformation.
  • Media misinterpretation, intentional or not, of all of the above.

“This ‘basket’ is what the average person has to negotiate and resolve in decisions all the time,” he said. “It’s no wonder we aren’t crazier than we are.”

Part of the problem is that an honest COVID risk analysis doesn’t allow us to live in denial, a place a lot of people like to inhabit – my own mother included. “I thought I was an 86 year old ‘active’ person,” she said. “But now I’m finding out that my age puts me in a high risk category. “

To assess the risks, you must not only determine the status of everyone you will be in contact with, she said, “but you have to accept who you are. It’s like coming face to face with your real self.

As university studies expand, people without a graduate degree, or even an understanding of science in elementary school, have become medical experts, wielding nuanced and technical articles to back up their arguments. for or against doing or not doing what they want to do. or do not want to do. And social awkwardness rises.

“How can I tell someone that I don’t feel safe going to their dinner after I just got back from a wedding with 250 people?” Said a woman.

At the start of the pandemic, she and her husband took “high moral standards” by remaining 100% isolated, she said, requesting anonymity. “But now what’s our excuse when we don’t want to do something?” “

Some people are so tired of it all that they use what you might call “diet logic”. It goes like this: I already blew today with these brownies so I might as well swallow fries.

In terms of COVID, this translates to: the more risk you take, the more risk you might as well take. If your son is in daycare and you work with the public, what the heck, why not party in a crowded bar.

Then there are people like husband and wife David Kay and Katy Weeks, retired Harvard engineers, who think in “risk budget” terms and check out an online risk assessment calculator before they start. any new activity.

The calculator comes from a nonprofit effort called Project MicroCOVID, and when the couple plugged in their favorite things to do, he was disappointed to learn that the ukulele band he loves gobbled up around 50% of their budget. weekly risk. Fun, but not worth it.

But full-body training at the local gym – when it also made up half of the weekly risk budget – was deemed worthy. “The inconvenience of not attending justified the risk of bringing COVID to it,” Kay said.

At the request of The Globe, a member of the MicroCOVID team calculated the risk of eating at a restaurant in downtown Boston, attending a Celtics game, and riding the MBTA.

With the caveat that the Boston-based estimates are rough estimates, here’s the deal:

Eating inside a Boston restaurant for 90 minutes is “high risk”, and going to an indoor stadium for three hours is “very high risk” (and could get worse if there is a lot of cheering. ).

But, there is good news for a band that needs it! MBTA runners. Driving a crowded train for 90 minutes is low risk, explained Michael Cohn, a member of the MicroCOVID team, because “most people wear masks, most don’t speak and the train is constantly running in the fresh air.” .

Meanwhile, with traditional sources of information insufficient, some people turn to the supernatural.

In Charlestown, during tarot card readings on Zoom, psychic MaryLee Trettenero warned two separate clients concerned about COVID not to come home for the holidays, and they did not. “I had a bad feeling about it,” she said.

Finally a little clarity!

Beth Teitell can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @bethteitell.

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