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Three Years On
Yesterday was the 3rd anniversary of the press conference that announced the lockdown protocols. Maybe you’ve seen the video of Fauci, et al., describing their recommendations with strange laughter and dissonant enthusiasm. Two weeks. Spread, stopped.
My memories of the early lockdowns are not bad. Strange, unnerving — but not bad, not yet. Daughter was home from college, a refugee, and it was just grand to have her back. We had an exchange student from Barcelona, who was unflappable. I was an essential worker, so I was able to move around downtown, my papers tucked in my pocket in case I was stopped. The grocery store was the only place besides the office I visited, and it was surreal — all that fresh produce, the distant mood music, the empty expanses where flour and pasta were once stocked. We made bread and homemade spaghetti and played games. When you walked the dog you crossed the street if someone was coming towards you. When you woke you checked for symptoms that might have announced themselves overnight.
The news was bad, of course. Not enough ventilators. Hospitals crushed, although nurses had time to do TikTok dances. The news was full of red arrows. Emergency morgues and mass graves dug, just in case. But at the end of two weeks, you felt as though this wasn’t the plague we’d all feared. Bad, yes. But the world was still turning. The lights and gas didn’t fail because the utility workers were dying. The stores didn’t close because the clerks were huddled home, sick. Eric Idle was not coming down the street with the cart shouting BRING OUT YOUR DEAD. This wasn’t the movie “Contagion,” with the Armory in downtown Minneapolis heaped with the dying and the dead.
Maybe we could open up and bring back the world when the fortnight concluded?
No, we could not. I remember texting with a friend in early April about how I was absolutely done with this, with wearing a mask everywhere, with living in this new paranoid paradigm. My friend texted back that she was most certainly not done with it. I was surprised. I thought people would want to free-face as soon as possible, but it turned out that the masks, and the rules, were comforting to many. They were an unexpected source of clarity and virtue, like planting a Victory Garden — except that the people who didn’t plant carrots were some variety of Nazi, or a Floridian.
When the two-week lockdown was replaced with another, something was sundered. Clean break, in retrospect, but we didn’t know it at the time.
Today on the drive home from work I passed two cars with lone occupants wearing masks. Three years on.
If only we’d known, you think, but then you remember: we did.Published in General
Indeed they were and are. I see that as early as March 21, 2020, I was calling this affair a panic, and on July 28, 2020 I wrote that quite a few people may keep wearing masks voluntarily, “and be happier if it’s permanently obligatory. Where flair or calm was needed, modern political leadership showed neither, indeed had none to show. It is a bunch of spendthrift clods, more dully unresourceful than cunningly sinister. Yet this may suit the electorate, which seems relieved that low energy and low initiative are now civic virtues.”
Not that I’m taking credit for powerful vision, or claiming exceptional rationality. My reasons for being unimpressed with the disease were quite personal: I’ve been to lots of filthy places. I’ve eaten Brazilian food. I’ve eaten, in Africa. I’ve been to India, for heaven’s sake. I can roll with a little pestilence. Because even in Brazil, Africa, and India, pestilence is never saturating. Health abides. Anyway, two things now give me selfish comfort: there remains online written evidence that I did not freak out, and nobody freaked out about monkeypox. Remember that? I hope not! But I confess I was worried when it threatened to become “a thing.” That it did not is pretty amazing. The world certainly seemed ready for another wild overestimation of hazard.
It sure worked on Trump. For all the opposition he had from the deep state, I think that Covid was the key in his loss of the election. Not only the ballot cheating, but the slowing of the economy and the heightened fear factor.
Yes. Exactly this.
I’ve mentioned before that Mr. Charlotte and I went on a lovely spring hike in Shenandoah National Park in early April 2020. The park was officially “closed” due to covid (eye roll) but there were places you could get around the fences to the trails. We saw not one other solitary human or vehicle during an entire weekend day of hiking. It was then that I knew something was terribly wrong with my fellow Americans.
I’m surprised you weren’t arrested.
Likewise I recall going out for a hike probably April 2020, and was shocked to encounter a woman out walking her dog along the trail . . . and she was wearing a mask. Outside. Far from anyone.
Parks were dangerous. 40-70% of white-tailed deer actually were/are COVID seropositive based on several studies. How many other wild, maskless, unlocked-down critters are lurking in the woods waiting to exhale at you?
Better to hunker down at home and watch Dr. Fauci in one of his estimated 12,356 TV appearances reassure you with ever-changing science and where the only risk is if you open the door while the masked Grub Hub/pizza/Door Dash guy is still there.
As we plotted our escape from Oakland to our mountain redoubt in the Sierras in 2020 the sheer amount of stupid from the state, city, and county was evident. I grant that some of the inconsistencies were due to individual or corporate interpretation.
– My friend’s chocolate shop was shuttered for months. As boutiques go, it was a space too big for what he did and there’d never be more than six customers at a time there. There’s no real reason why he or other similar business could have operated in some fashion – curbside, etc.
– Trader Joe’s required masks, metered the number of people in the store, sprayed your hands as you entered, and tried to enforce one-way aisles.
– My Ace Hardware did none of those things. Wear your mask, but tight aisles, no metering of customers. They did away with queueing up at each register so you had a single socially distanced line that encircled the entire store, intersected by the merchandise aisles. It made the store more densely crowded because you had to go through the line of people multiple times to shop.
– Emeryville’s Home Depot mostly masked and pretty much the same miserable experience as always. No other evidence of rules.
– The city of Piedmont closed a pocket park with yellow caution tape, sawhorses and signs. The park consists of a concrete pad in a small redwood grove, a bench, trash can, poop bags and a recycling bin. The dog park which is essentially paved trails in a sprawling wooded area was shut down with scary signs/sawhorses and then reopened with mask requirements.
– When I did work in my yard I was unmasked. All the hipsters going by were masked. Most of the time my neighbor across the street wore a mask and he was nowhere near pedestrians. Why?
Governor Hair Gel would be on TV each day for 40+ minutes attempting to show he was in charge and sapping any remaining will to live with his unique consultant speak patois. Would we get info about the lifting of restrictions? No. We’d get info about “equity.” “Look at me! I’m in charge doing…stuff.” Gaah!
The tiny kids’ park near where I lived remained open, but the police closed the swing set with yellow POLICE LINE tape, probably in the dead of night to avoid being laughed at. On a visit back to Illinois, the governor had closed all sit-down restaurants. I noticed one open in flagrant violation of gubernatorial diktat and went in. There were two local cops inside finishing up their pancakes. When I enquired as to the status of the restaurant, one of them said “If that [expression insinuating profound character deficiency] wants it closed, he can send the Staties to close it.”
The worst thing about two weeks to bend the curve is the first 1094 days.
Yes this sign is still up since the first lockdown March 17 2020. And it is still exactly as useless – nobody gets an airborne virus OUTDOORS. Whether 2m apart or not.
While I refused to change my lifestyle (as much as possible – the local pubs were closed for weeks), my office building required the wearing of masks.
Fun Fact: A significant number of woodland creatures were wearing masks and driving for Door Dash just so they could infect more people.
What I remember from those early days was that there was a genuine “we’re all in this together” spirit that was almost uplifting. Musicians releasing special “lockdown” performances on YouTube; John Krasinski’s “Some Good News” videos; news stories about pitching in to help in various ways. I remember thinking how remarkable it was that the entire world was going through the same thing at the same time.
It was kind of like the days right after 9/11, when everybody came together for a brief time. Remember that moment when Republicans and Democrats stood together on the steps of the Capitol and sang “God Bless America” without a hint of irony? In such situations there’s always that brief moment before people have a chance to sort themselves into political tribes and start fighting with each other.
What I find hard to believe is how scary it all seemed before we knew anything. I was able to work from home, so I remember adopting a fortress mentality. I was determined to keep my family safe, so my wife and daughter didn’t leave the house at all. I went to the grocery store, but I shopped as quickly as possible and practically held my breath the whole time. When I got back to the car, I sanitized my hands and then wiped down every surface I had touched. It was insane.
But I can forgive myself the overreaction, because we really didn’t know much in those early days, and I knew I was going overboard (a sort of “better safe than sorry” approach). And I didn’t keep it up for long; as soon as it became clear that this wasn’t going to be that bad, I couldn’t get back to normal fast enough.
When I see people still wearing masks today, I honestly can’t fathom what they’re thinking. The rest of us obviously aren’t dropping like flies, so why don’t the maskers feel like idiots?
The church we are now attending never required masks, I think. A few couples still are wearing them. The one that got me was the organist. We don’t have a full-time one and rely on a guest fill-in and a computer when he can’t do it. The guest organist has been wearing a mask since we started attending two years ago. Yesterday, when he came down for communion, I was pleasantly shocked to see him without a mask. He’s young too. Probably around thirty. Why he held out this long, I don’t know.
I think I see more young people wearing masks than middle-aged or older people.
Which doesn’t bode well for the future.
I suspect that for some people the overreaction was actually panic reinforced by the constant government, news, and signage, while the idea that you could kill everyone you love unless you performed the masking and cleaning ‘religiously’ created a cycle where a fear state could only be calmed through repeated rituals.
These are the ingredients of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I do not make this as diagnosis, but the comparison is useful and it suggests why so many people can’t go back to normal.
Besides which, COVID remains and can come back suddenly like any good boogieman.
During our plague year(s) there were articles written about ‘the new normal’, positing that masking would be forever.
Some of our people bleached the packaging and drank the Kool-Aid.
Some of our people are broken.
Young people have less normal life banked against the Masked Panic*.
*Not actually a Marvel supervillain.
I am thankful that I was spared knowing anything about this. I kinda wish I still didn’t know about it.
You could ask them. Might be the most reliable way to find out.
It was kind of nice, really. Musicians, some of them quite famous, some otherwise long retired, making intimate home studio recordings to distract from the boredom and cabin fever (not to mention anxious uncertainty) everyone was feeling. There are some gems among these and they will make nice historical snapshots for the lockdown times as well.
That’s right, Masked Panic is DC (in more than one sense…).
If you try to get close enough to ask, they might run away.
Might. Keep track of your encounters in a notebook so we can do a quantitative analysis.
That’s not an experiment I can run. Nobody in my area wears a mask now, and few ever did. Except at the Post Office, and that wasn’t their choice.
Our county government usefully included in its published weekly statistics more categories of data than many were reporting so that the general public could see early on (April and May 2020) that 1) most people who were tested did not have Covid, 2) very few of the people who did test “positive” for Covid did not require hospitalization (though this number was never precise because a number of county residents go to larger hospitals in an adjacent county), and perhaps most importantly 3) the vast, vast majority of people who tested “positive” for Covid soon recovered. This data led our county to be among those pushing early for the state government (Texas) to let places that wanted to to open up do so.
Although Texas (where I live) never implemented formal rules that only “essential workers” were allowed on the streets, that some places in the United States of American did, and that American citizens were genuinely concerned about a “Papers Please” demand from law enforcement was one of the most frightening aspects of the initial lockdown. I did see utility trucks around town with bumper stickers announcing some variation of the “essential worker” claim for the truck and its occupant. That Americans were not permitted to leave their houses without government permission was a sign that maybe America was truly broken.
Am I the only one who’s really tired of the “Heroes work here” signs at local hospitals/medical clinic?
I was feeling very tired last night. A vigorous (indoor) bike ride made me feel a lot better.
We have largely lost our ability to recognize the heroic.
The left sneers at heroes who take risks unless they are properly certified and supervised by government experts. They view such heroes as a threat, as they should.
I am not tired of it. I am energized, and I am keeping score.
There is the grandma who tackled a thief at her hairdresser shop, and the guys who took out the hijackers of Flight 93. All are the subject of sneers.
Took this photo outside my local post office last month.
And the health-care workers and many others stopped being heroes as soon as they refused to get jabbed.
My favorite memory of the early covid days (i was also “essential”) was driving 75 mph through downtown Atlanta at 5:30 in the afternoon, southbound on 75. The lack of traffic was a bit weird but still glorious! It did have a Walking Dead feel to it however.
I miss having the DC Metro all to myself. It is still not back to where it was. Oddly enough, commuter traffic on Mondays and Fridays is noticeably lower volume due to people “working remotely” (Ha! Yeah, right).
We should have also noticed that the country survived quite well with 90%+ of federal employees not coming to work for months.