Our statistics aren’t feeling well

The boys have been back to in-person schooling for more than a month now, and the world hasn’t ended. To hear them complain about having to change out of their pajamas in the morning, you might think it has, but not really.

They’ve had some kids in their classes test positive for COVID. The affected kids stay out for a week or so, then come back, and life goes on. It seems like a normal school year, except that all the students look like they’re about to rob a train.

With everything going along so near normal, you might be surprised to learn that our schools have suffered multiple outbreaks of COVID. That’s because, up until last week, our state defined an outbreak as two positive cases.

Little did I know that my family has been suffering outbreaks of all sorts of childhood diseases for the past 10 years. I always thought of it as just a couple of kids with the pukes, but according to the state health department, it was an outbreak of vomit. It was probably even newsworthy, had I known to call the papers.

There’s probably a vomit heat map buried within the health department web site, with a big, red circle centered over my house.

“There’s puke everywhere!”

I’m tempted to write a biological thriller, titled Outbreak, in which a total of two people come down with a mysterious illness. I haven’t settled on the catalyst for this spine-tingling plot, but I’m leaning toward the sharing of an expired carton of potato salad.

Now, the state has announced a change in this criterion of an outbreak to three positive cases. I give them credit for reducing the ridiculousness of their definition by a whopping 50%. That kind of swift improvement is difficult to achieve in government work.

The reasons for this change are murky, but the obvious conclusion is that outbreaks have become less politically useful to the state than they used to be. In the US, COVID statistics have become an interstate competition. Perhaps, our outbreak totals began to look awkward in comparison to our competitor states, until someone at the big meeting raised his hand and said, “Maybe we should find a way to have fewer outbreaks.” Give that man a raise.

So now we’ll have fewer school outbreaks. As a parent, that’s a huge relief to me. I’m proud to live in a state that is taking such strong measures to defeat this pandemic.

But as I was saying, the kids are back at school. The younger ones complain, but I think there is a secret part inside them that is happy to be back among their friends, despite the school lunches, which are reported to have taken a turn for the worse.

The older one doesn’t complain. He’s in 8th grade now, and girls are starting to become important. And as every schoolboy (who has spent a year of schooling online) knows, girls are much more intriguing in person than they are on Zoom.

Conversations with my wife: Vitamins

Back when we were first preparing for stay-at-home orders, we, like many people, scrambled to make sure we had a good supply of the family’s prescription medications. On one of her trips to the pharmacy, my wife picked up a bottle of daily vitamins for each of us. I hadn’t been in the habit of taking general vitamin pills, but it wasn’t a bad idea to keep the levels up, with pathogens potentially lurking around every corner.

A contrast between the bottle of Women’s vitamins and the bottle of Men’s vitamins was immediately apparent. I thought perhaps her pills were larger than mine, because maybe the vitamins a man needs are smaller than the vitamins a woman needs. I don’t know how big an individual vitamin is. Or maybe she needs extra supplements to give her the strength to deal with me in isolation.

A vitamin gap?

These notions were dispelled when I read the labels side by side. Her bottle had 200 daily doses, while my bottle held only 120.

I found interesting the theory that I would not need to be kept in optimal health for as long as she would.

ME: Your vitamin bottle is bigger than mine.

WIFE: So it is.

ME: Yours has 80 more pills in it that mine does.

WIFE: Yeah, I know.

ME: Why did you get me fewer pills?

WIFE: Women live longer than men. You don’t like it when I waste money on things we might not need.