Plague Diary Season 3 Week 18

Day 14+7+86+13, December 15. 74 in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Rotorua, and one in Canterbury. Nelson: 0 new/23 from this outbreak/15 active/8 recovered/0 in hospital. One death in Tauranga. A Taranaki town has an outbreak in a primary school, so unvaxed and non-scanning littlies. I'm not the praying type, but I hope they don't have to isolate during the holidays. Aucklanders are free to travel either with a vax pass or negative test 72 hours prior to being checked; on the road, though, checking is random, depending on the traffic, etc. 75% of population and 89% over 12 double-jabbed.  
Parliament broke for the summer; daily reporting from the Ministry will change a little; there will be no numbers published on December 25, January 1 and 8, but otherwise check their website, or... Twitter. Again, I worry about oldies without access or knowledge, not so much because oldies are necessarily tech-ignorant, but because I've got one foot in that group now.

While Nelson-Marlborough health district, (which includes Tasman,) is 1905 shots shy of 90% of over 12 being double-jabbed, a testing center in Richmond was closed due to abuse staff suffered from anti peeps, as the threats became increasing personal. I'll just leave it at that. 
The second care package awaiting us at the PO Box on Monday was loot from my sister's short trip to Kyoto. Well-deserved after taking a break from volunteering at a vax center. She was always the one who did things, as opposed to Dad, Mom, Bro and I shouting and criticizing since the ye olde pre-keybord era. No wonder she thought - wished? - she was adopted, except for her resemblance to Dad's side. 
There were more in the pack, but she noted these masks are just for show and not to wear in crowded places. Having had long discussions on mask types and prices just recently, I told her we'll wear them on top of proper ones, which defeats the purpose of Japanese gauze masks which are soft and lovely on the face, but needs must. 
Later, I asked a young checkout guy at the supermarket, if we forget masks, could we buy them at the entrance of the store, not boxes in the aisles but just to wear in the store, and he said they are 50c each at Customer Service. Then he told me they used to hand them out free of charge, but staff noticed customers "collecting" them, including to wear in the bar across the street. He saw a guy come in,  ask for one, swore when told there is a cost, walk out, get out his own from his car, and proceed to the bar.
Day 14+7+86+14, December 16. Newsy day. 91 new cases in the last 15 hours due to changes in reporting time frame; Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taupo/Lakes, Taranaki. Nelson: 0 new/23 from this outbreak/15 active/8 recovered/0 in hospital. Nobody else seems bothered any more that we still don't know how it reached Nelson. 
None in the rest of the South Island, but a border case from Germany via Dubai quarantining in Christchurch became our first Omicron case. This person arrived on Deceber 10, was tested on Day 1, and result came out on Day2, December 12. They were double-jabbed. Bloomfield says our quarantine system is well-set up to prevent spreading Omicron, and folks are not to come out of their rooms until Day 1 test results were known, but these folk were crammed in an airplane for, what, half a day? He must not read the articles I do, where in Europe 80% and 90% of folks in small and large gatherings are getting Omicron, albeit with less severe symptoms... Gisbourne, meanwhile, is still producing positive wastewater test results. We've now had 10,054 cases in this community Delta outbreak. 

Nelson is among five locations in the country where a fancy new "PCR analyser called Panther Fusion" has been installed. This cuts testing time to 24-48 hours, and smaller centers like we don't have to send specimens away when testing gets busy, not only for Covid, but flu, respiratory syncytial virus, and some STD. Good news ahead of influx of summer tourist, says the Panther project manager. :-D (I changed the order of the sentences in the article, because if you don't laugh...)
76% of population and 90% over 12 double-jabbed. Yay, 90%! But Nelson/Marlborough/Tasman is still at 88.6-88.8% depending on the website, or 1527 shots shy, between 9th and 11th place of the 20 District Health Boards. Vax for 5-11-year olds were provisionally approved; 2 doses, 21 days apart. Cabinet must approve next, so roll out will start late January 2022, just before the school year starts. 

Although Parliament finished for the year yesterday, there was another anti protest in Wellington, organized by the usual cohorts, disrupting bus schedules. 

Today I finished culling/tidying/reorganizing my art supplies, something I put off for a couple of years. The main aim was to free up more space for weaving. I used to keep art supplies in half a dozen cardboard boxes by category: acrylic, watercolor/gouache, print-making, dry drawing material, etc. When I worked, usually in the kitchen, I only needed to bring one box and maybe just a few other supplies. I wanted to put everything in one biggish plastic box, which is a physical impossibility, and in the end I managed to get rid of just one box but in a somewhat less organized way. It felt like tidying for the sake of tidying, so unsatisfying...
Still, it was worth sorting all the papers, (plenty for watercolor/gouache, in different weight and sizes;) getting rid of a whole host of stale collage material, and going through a box of "Not sure how to proceed" projects. 
Above is a small book I started in an Seth Apter workshop in Australia in 2014. It's about my Dad, and on the cover is the main office building of the university where he taught, and somewhere on the second floor is the window of his vice chancellor office, his last job before retirement. At the workshop I thought it was small enough project I could finish quickly, I could not only 15 months after he died. The pages are covered in sticky acrylic in spite of leaving it dry all that winter, but I might work on it this summer.
Day 14+7+86+15, December 17. 76 community cases in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Rotorua, Taranaki. Nelson: 0 new/23 from this outbreak/15 active/8 recovered/0 in hospital; 0 in the rest of the South Island. 76% of population and 90% over 12 double-jabbed. Nelson/Marlborough/Tasman is 1183 doses away from 90% qualifieds double-jab. 
In the last couple of days the number of Covid-related articles increased dramatically. I wonder if it has to do with the press getting a few final pieces out before closing down for the year. I've managed to read about a quarter of today's pieces, and haven't even started on Omicron coverage, but then hoping some issues will resolve/progress in the next couple of days, here are the first few that caught my blurry eye.
We have now have had 10,129 cases in the Delta community outbreak; 12,947 (community?) cases since the start of the pandemic; and 49 deaths. A boy under age 10 died in hospital (today?), and tested positive after death; it is not clear if he died of Covid, or for another reason, or was infected after death, but he was a contact of a known case and our youngest loss. Gisbourne wastewater tested negative after six positive results, but neighbouring Napier tested positive, possibly relating to a historic case. There were verbal confrontations at Wellington Airport between unmasked would-be passengers dressed as nuns and priests, (at least a couple with exemptions,) and masked, dressed-as-themselves passengers. Jetstar staff said it's a police matter, while police called to the scene said, "What can we do?" Jetstar also only spotchecks for vax passes. And in AotearoaNZ, there is still no discussion of ventilation.

Today Ben finished work for the year. He went into the office for the first time in 17 and a half weeks; put in a couple of hours from his desk; said hi to everybody; and good-bye to a colleague who resigned. Short of drastic changes/events, (still possible,) he'll resume working at work in the new year. And his work place will require all staff and students get vaxed, like most tertiary institutions in the country. 
Meanwhile I ran errands for a couple of hours. Now, my understanding of Code Orange was, shops/businesses, (other than pharmacies and supermarkets,) required a vax pass. I was shocked, but not shocked, having to show my pass at only one of the four places I visited. Slack staff mask-wearing practices was also worrying, and I still blame the government's wishy-washy "kind" non-commitment; at this point, there should be no doubt we're better off with than without them. In contrast, supermarkets are old hands at this by now, down to the trainee check-out teenager at the far left lane. They are now the safe, comforting retail oasis. (In reviewing the quick color code reference, I see I'm confusing the masks and vax passes. It's too fiddly to list here, but I see the government still likes to "encourage" mask use in some places.)    

Every year, we give our milkie a small gift, usually an inexpensive assorted choc box from the supermarket. They are not bad stuff, though; we buy the same for ourselves. This year, Ben thought we could put in a little more work, so we got the mini version of some of our favorites, and we'll mix and match and put them in a handmade bag or box with a message of thanks. I want to make a few packs for our courier delivery folks, too, even though sometimes they some can't be bothered driving down our windy driveway. 
I like this season of being thankful. I know handmade whatever pleases some, puzzles others, but making is for the gratification of the maker; what follows is extra.   
Day 14+7+86+16, December 18. 39 in Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Taupo/Lakes, Taranaki. Nelson stays at 0 new/23 from this outbreak/15 active/8 recovered/0 in hospital. Counted as border cases are four new cases of Omicron in addition to the first on Thursday and three I didn't mention yesterday; total is now eight, but only two are linked; they were from Europe, Africa, and Asia. 76% of population and 90% over 12 double-jabbed.    
I don't understand when the ministry says, "today's case numbers do not cover a full 24 hour period due to the change in reporting times to a midnight-to-midnight cycle from 9am-to-9aml" wasn't the switch take place midweek? The ministry's website I mentioned Wednesday has not been updated since Thursday. Otherwise today was a slow reporting day, giving me a chance to catch up. 

In Aotearoa NZ, up-your-nose PCR tests has been the only commonly used testing method. Though saliva testing has been in use in very limited number of places, it was not available to the wider public. BUT now they say we can get it for $115 a pop at some pharmacies if we really want one. AND the first NZ study found them 99.1% accurate. 
Lateral Flow Tests the UK government distributed free of charge, (until they ran out recently?) may be what is called the Rapid Antigen Tests here. Though they are not available to the general public as far as I've read, free testing has been conditionally available since December 15 until January 31 for the not-fully-vaccinated and under 12s to submit for travel purposes. With the new normal of living with Covid the world over, let's hope these will be widely available free or at low cost around the world. And hey, let the ready facilities in poorer places make their own vaccines already!! 

It's almost 8:30PM but I'm nearly caught up on the Covid reading for today. And that's great because all this month I've been reading printed books before I go to sleep, until the arrival of Omicron. Tonight I might finish one. 
I had an idea midweek and was going to have a little fun in the kitchen, but that'll have to wait until tomorrow.   
Day 14+7+86+17, December 19. 55 in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki. Nelson: 0 new/23 from this outbreak/15 active/8 recovered/0 in hospital; 0 in the rest of the South Island. Five new Omicron at managed isolation, total 13, but one has recovered and been released. 76% of population and 90% over 12 double-jabbed. 
It's been so hot today, I might see if there are Covid articles later, or not. Ben made another never-to-be-repeated cheesecake, coffee this time, and we had a lovely afternoon with friends. Among other things we compared notes about our aging parents. As we near old age ourselves, the best I can aim is not to complain (too much) and be grateful for everything I have/had in life; I better start training today, as it's not exactly my natural disposition.  

Pohutukawa, New Zealand Christmas Tree, is flowering late this year in Nelson, which is great because often they are in full bloom at the start of December. This is the view from our living room window, and why don't need a tree inside. It's actually one tree - the front part Ben managed to trim standing on the stairs outside the window in April last year; the tall part he couldn't reach. The photo is unedited. We are going to get professional tree guys to trim it nicely. Eventually. 
Day 14+7+86+18, December 20. 69 in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki. Nelson: 0 new/23 from this outbreak/15 active/8 recovered/0 in hospital; 0 in the rest of the South Island. New Omicron cases 9, total 22, one case released. 76% of population and 90% over 12 double-jabbed. As of midnight last night, Nelson-Marlborugh-Tasman had 550 doses to reach 90%.

A person who tested positive twice, (unspecified if Delta/Omicron,) [EDIT: my mistake, they tested negative twice,] and transferred from Managed Isolation to hospital "left" and is missing in Auckland. No more detail. I'm shocked the media is not all over this, but there is an (insert-adjective) reduction in Covid news coverage since the weekend.
We had another hot day, and all I did was read and doze off in different parts of the house as I looked for cooler spots every couple of hours. And a big thank you, Esther, we looked forward to and speculated what we'll be getting this year, but you have exceeded all our expectations. Meals will be served on these for the foreseeable future unless we cook something too runny.
Day 14+7+86+19, December 21. Remind me never to mention light news days. Because, whoa. 28 in Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki. Nelson: 0 new/23 from this outbreak/15 active/8 recovered/0 in hospital; none in the rest of the South Island. 
No new Omicron cases at the border; total 22. There was something that bothered me for a wee while; only a few days after Omicron arrived, the government snuck in one case already recovered and released. I wondered how a case could be deemed safe and be released so quickly, but it turns out this case arrived nine days before our "first" Omicron case. The person travelled from London via Singapore; arrived on December 7; tested positive on Day 0/1; stayed in managed isolation in Auckland; recovered and was out in the community around December 16 or 17. On December 9, when this case was reported, the Ministry did not know where the travel originated, (HUH???) and the test was not genomically sequenced until later, even though WHO had announced Omicron to be Variant of Concern on November 26, and by the time the person arrived UK had around 600 cases. This case was added to NZ's Omicron number on December 19 as "already recovered and released". So am I the only person freaking out a little at the Ministry's slackness??

The person who "left" the hospital yesterday has a young child with them and is still missing; this person tested negative twice, not positive as I wrote yesterday. Sorry. Meanwhile, a Santa visit is among Locations of Interest in Tauranga. The lottery for returning Kiwis to secure managed isolation is on hold until January 6. The government had announced some weeks ago Kiwis returning from Australia can go straight to self-isolation starting January 17; this has been pushed back to end of February, along with some rule changes. Air NZ will cancel around 120 flights, mostly trans-Tasman. I haven't seen anything about Kiwis returning from elsewhere going straight to self-isolation, which was to start on February 14 from memory. 
76% of population and 90% over 12 double-jabbed. Nelson-Marlborough-Tasman reached 90%, 10th of the 20 District Health Boards. Cabinet approved vaccination for 5-11 year olds; littlelies can start on January 17. Those over 18 can get 3rd/booster jabs four months after the second, starting early January, which puts us eligible for boosters on January 17. I thought maybe we'll give the system time to get used to littlelies, but Ben will be on campus by then, and I think he'd like it ASAP for now. We don't have to go together; heavens, we booked to get the second shots together, but we didn't get there together, so he had to wait for me afterwards. :-D

This time of year, we often get Blackball black pudding; it's "local" in that it's not from Nelson but the West Coast, a few hours away. Blackball brand is yummy and is "World-Famous in New Zealand"; catchy, but I stole it from another NZ brand. I love back and white puddings so much, when we visited Scotland, I had it as often as I could, including deep-fried black pud on a stick at a fish and chip shop in Orkney. Ben cooked in a more ordinary way this morning. 

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