Scott Hardie | February 28, 2020
Do you feel ready for the spread of COVID-19 in the United States? Do you fear any specific effects of this spreading pandemic?

NPR has run a home preparation guide and a general prevention guide. It's important that people take action.

Scott Hardie | March 1, 2020
Well, that was fast. I might already have it.

Florida's first case was just reported tonight at a local hospital, where a patient arrived in late February. A friend of ours works as the intake nurse there. Kelly had dinner with her on Friday, where papers were passed around.

I keep thinking, if I am infected, how many people have I met and touched, and how many will they go on to meet and touch? On Saturday, we had lunch with friends and hugged them, and they told us that their cousins from Indiana were staying over that night. Then we had dinner with family members and shook hands; they're flying back to North Carolina on Monday. Today, I passed and received items with a few strangers; I have no idea who they know.

A lot of our local friends are joking and saying that this local case is no big deal. I'm not panicking, but I don't feel like making jokes either. I can't shake the feeling of dread that we're about to go through something terrible.

I think of myself as mildly germophobic; I wash my hands frequently. But I found out, thanks to Slate, that I'm not even doing that correctly. I tend to scrub for 3-5 seconds, and 20 seconds is the appropriate amount. I'm picking up that habit immediately.

Even if I haven't caught this local case (nobody knows for sure how the virus is transmitted), I still feel anxiety about the pandemic overall. Hopefully soon the virus will pass, the news and the stock markets will turn their attention to other matters, and life will go on.

How do you feel about it?

Samir Mehta | March 2, 2020
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Scott Hardie | March 4, 2020
Some of those family members that we dined with on Saturday were my 80-year-old mother and her 87-year-old partner. Obviously they have more to fear from this sort of illness than we do. When I told them about the possible infection, they contacted their doctors, who ordered them to stay inside their apartments and self-quarantine for two weeks, as did the head nurse at their retirement home.

I've been staying home too, waiting for a clear answer from my doctor or the CDC about whether I should also self-quarantine for two weeks. I don't live in a village full of vulnerable seniors like my mother and her partner do, but I have the same risk of exposure that they do, so them being ordered to stay home sounds like it might be appropriate for me to do too. Kelly is going to work as normal. So far we are all asymptomatic.

Staying in is easy for me; I have little psychological need to go outside like many people do. But what is starting to drive me up the wall is being told to "calm down" when I explain the staying home as a precaution. I'm not afraid of the illness; I'm unlikely to have it, and even if I do, it will probably be no worse for me than a cold. I'm also not agitated; I'm perfectly calm and rational when explaining why I'd prefer to err on the safe side until I get confirmation from medical professionals that it's ok for me to go out in public. But I keep being told that I'm "panicking" and "need to chill out." Is this what it feels like to be a calm woman told by men that she's hysterical and emotional just for having a different opinion? It's very irritating.

Samir Mehta | March 5, 2020
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Scott Hardie | March 5, 2020
My motivation is trying to do the right thing. The CDC has been very clear about the need for isolation for anyone who is sick with the virus or suspected to have it. I'm in a gray area where I might have been exposed and don't have symptoms, for which a quarantine might or might not be appropriate, so I'm erring on the side of caution until I can get a clear instruction to the contrary. If I get confirmation that it's safe for me to go back in public -- from actual medical authorities, not from friends on Facebook -- then I'll do so. My attitude is in line with this L.A. Times editorial:

Here's one more reason to try to contain the coronavirus: Because we just might be able to do it.

"We don’t even talk about containment for seasonal flu—it's just not possible," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO. "But it is possible for COVID-19."

And if taking basic precautions saves even a few lives, isn’t that worth it?
Not everybody can self-quarantine easily, for a variety of reasons. I can. It seems like a reasonable precaution to me under my specific circumstances.

Chris Lemler | March 12, 2020
I don't understand how some people don't listen at all to what the authorities say. They say don't travel and people just say screw it i won't get the virus and im going. If someone can explain why people don't care about their health and do the opposite of what the health authorities tell them.

Erik Bates | March 12, 2020
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Scott Hardie | March 12, 2020
Chris, the L.A. Times wrote about this just today.

I suspect that part of the explanation is American selfishness. People reason that they're fine, or they'll be fine if they do get the illness, so why should they deprive themselves of a good time? They neglect to take herd immunity into account. We should all take reasonable precautions to slow the spread of the illness, because too many vulnerable people (elderly and immuno-compromised) getting sick at once can overwhelm the medical care system, resulting in deaths that could have been prevented. FlattenTheCurve makes an excellent argument about this.

I see that people are starting to avoid large events where they would come into contact with crowds, which is good. But we have to think about the same thing on a single-transaction scale too. For instance, if you go through a McDonald's drive-thru, you're only interacting with one or two staff members, but they've just interacted with hundreds of other people on their shift before you, and I doubt that there's enough hand sanitizer for them to apply it frequently. We should think about encounters like that the same way that we do about large crowds.

As for Kelly and me: I'm still asymptomatic and looking forward to the end my self-imposed quarantine on Saturday morning. But I'm wondering if I should continue working from home and skipping most public outings in general, which wouldn't be a hardship for me. And we're both worried about being out of work in a recession. Kelly is especially vulnerable to furlough or layoff, since her entire job involves preparing for industry conferences that are likely to be canceled soon, for who knows how long.

This is all going to get worse before it gets better. I hope that everyone reading this, and your loved ones, stay healthy and safe, and aren't impacted too badly by either the virus or the economic crisis.

Scott Hardie | March 12, 2020
My company just ordered everyone to work from home through at least the end of March, so I guess that settles one matter.

Scott Hardie | March 12, 2020
At some point in the future, do you think we'll see a societal shift towards touching your face being considered as rude as picking your nose or belching loudly?

Erik Bates | March 12, 2020
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Samir Mehta | March 12, 2020
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Samir Mehta | March 12, 2020
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Scott Hardie | March 12, 2020
I agree about how the messaging should be about saving other people's lives. I have a number of friends who are pro-vaccination for kids, who argue that the anti-vax movement is eroding herd immunity. And some of those same people argue in favor of going about our normal routines in the face of COVID-19, as though herd immunity to the virus isn't also a thing. I don't get it.

Scott Hardie | March 12, 2020
I don't know if a true hand-washing taboo will develop. Unlike face-touching, which tends to happen right in front of other people and could be called out for shame in the moment, not washing your hands in the bathroom tends to be done privately. And when it is noticed by another man in the bathroom, there's a contrary taboo against men talking to each other in the bathroom, especially if one is at a urinal or in a stall. That said, I *hope* that a hand-washing taboo develops, because it's long overdue and sorely needed, and not just for this coronavirus.

Denise Sawicki | March 13, 2020
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Scott Hardie | March 14, 2020
I'm sorry to hear that you've been sick, Denise! That sounds miserable. :-( I wish you a happy birthday in spite of all of the misery going on these days. Maybe you can go out to eat after all? I'm sure some restaurants are still open and hurting for business (some more than others). Kelly and I would normally eat dinner out for our wedding anniversary tomorrow; we might or might not this year.

Is anyone getting needless coronavirus emails from companies they do business with? I'm getting a bunch. Some of them make sense, like Disney informing me that I cannot use my annual pass while Disney World is closed. Others are marginally useful, like Taco Bell telling me they're closing dining rooms but keeping drive-thru and delivery, or Geico telling me that their local office is still open in case I need to see an agent. Others are just pointless, like the bank telling me that their call centers are still open, or my domain registrar for telling me that their call centers are still open. Yeah, I would expect that; what's your point? Tell me if it's not business as usual.

Denise Sawicki | March 14, 2020
I probably won't go out. My voice is still a little hoarse. Don't want to freak people out. I am at work catching up on some stuff while no one is around. It is not so bad, I was a little bored at home honestly. Yes, I am signed up to a ton of email lists thanks to my predilection for joining clubs to get free stuff on my birthday, lol, and I am getting emails from every single one of them telling me about their coronavirus plans. Mainly that everyone is making sure to clean more thoroughly and give their employees sick time.

Scott Hardie | March 14, 2020
Kelly and I just went for a drive and made a loop around Siesta Key. I'm sure that college kids on pre-planned spring break trips are partly to blame, but it was really hopping with people out enjoying the bars and restaurants. Apparently, the coronavirus isn't impacting nightlife, not yet anyway.

Scott Hardie | March 17, 2020
Sorry for the snark, but I have to vent: I can't help but notice that some of the people who told me I was "panicking" and "overreacting" have now done a 180 in attitude and have become busybodies telling other people to cancel small gatherings and shaming people over going out. Why mind your own business when it feels so good to mind other people's?

It hasn't even been a week since sports were canceled, but if you're jonesing for any kind of sports to watch during this dark time, Kelly sent me this cute video. I am amused.

Chris Lemler | March 17, 2020
Where I work the shelves are completely empty like TP, PT, water alot of can goods, frozen food items, and etc. It has been really really bad to be in retail.I have worked 23 hours in 2 days and off for 2 days.

Samir Mehta | March 19, 2020
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Scott Hardie | March 20, 2020
Chris, I'm really sorry to hear it. Working those hours must be brutal. :-( Have customers been understanding or rude about it?

Kelly and I are mostly fine so far. She's now working remotely too. We have had a little face-to-face human contact, like the door-to-door cable company saleswoman yesterday. There's nothing like people being trapped in their homes by a pandemic to bring out the door-to-door solicitors, I guess? We go for drives around town without getting out of the vehicle, mostly curious to see which places are closed and which are still busy. Siesta Key is still flooded with tourists as of last night. The closest thing I have to a complaint is, to my surprise, how much I miss board games with friends; they were a frequent activity before this (2-3 game nights per week), but Kelly won't play them with me, and I have a few 1-player games but it's not the same. So I have more downtime than usual, and I'm catching up on some old projects like some back-end improvements in Funeratic. My work has been unusually stressful this week due to some effects of the virus on our systems, but we're managing. I know that a lot of people are struggling right now with illness, unemployment, and exhaustion, so I'm very grateful that I have it so easy.

How are the rest of you holding up?

Chris Lemler | March 20, 2020
I appreciate that Scott but I finally got the rest I needed. But trying to keep the shelves full isn't easy. We get a 1,200 piece load and it doesn't fill the aisles. But I the best thing is that I got OT for those hours which I'm not complaining.

Steve West | March 20, 2020
Everyone is homebound. Me by choice, Brenda and Olivia because local schools are closed for at least two weeks as well as our church. Faring well except for Olivia's standard reaction (not good) to having her schedule changed.

Scott Hardie | March 20, 2020
If you're curious to see your score, Kelly found a questionnaire to see how much of a coronavirus risk you pose to society. I don't see why it asks about attitude, when action is what makes a real difference, but it's still interesting.

Scott Hardie | March 21, 2020
I'll miss a few restaurants around here if they don't survive a prolonged closure, but I'm more worried about the game stores. They're one of the few places in the community where game nerds like me can sit down at a table and play board games or card games with strangers for a few hours. We have three such businesses in town, two of them traditional stores and one a board game café. The stores are offering curbside pickup, which might help a little. It appears that the café is in the most trouble, since it serves meals and thus qualifies as a restaurant and has to comply with the governor's order that all restaurants close. (I knew it was a restaurant months ago because I had a good laugh when I came across it on DoorDash. Who wants to get a board game café's food delivered and skip the games? That's like going to a movie theater, buying popcorn and candy, and leaving with it instead of seeing a movie.)

Speaking of movie theaters, could this be the end of that industry? They've been under increasing pressure for years as the home entertainment experience has gotten better and better. With the coronavirus, people will potentially spend months at home watching their TVs and computers and phones, and getting accustomed to that form of entertainment. Even once people are able to go out again, I can't see them wanting to sit in a different dark room watching another screen; they'll want to go to bars and restaurants and parks and so on. I think the movie exhibition industry is still strong enough to withstand this crisis, but if indeed it collapses in another ten years as is widely predicted, this will have been a major nail in the coffin.

Erik Bates | March 21, 2020
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Samir Mehta | March 21, 2020
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Scott Hardie | March 25, 2020
Samir, why are you hostile to preppers? Do you mean people buying more supplies than they need and depriving other shoppers? To me a "prepper" is a person who builds underground bunkers or makes other preparations for disaster scenarios as a sort of hobby, and that sort of person is coming out of this coronavirus outbreak looking better I think.

I asked above if this would be the end of movie theaters. The L.A. Times wondered the same.

Though there are some outliers who refuse to stay home (not counting the folks who can't), overall I think Americans have done well at accepting this new stay-at-home reality we're sharing, certainly better than I would have guessed. But imposing and accepting a massive shared quarantine is one thing. Lifting it is another. When the infection rate decreases and we seem to be past the peak of this, there's going to be pressure on our leaders to get the economy going again by reopening businesses, and people are going to have lots of pent-up eagerness to get out of the house and socialize, and if we all do it at once, we'll just all spread the virus and the infection rates will spike again. There has to be some kind of slow, controlled lifting of the stay-at-home orders, but how? How do you send some small fraction of Americans back out into public spaces at once, without everyone going out together, and without risking infection for the most vulnerable Americans all over again? If we can't figure out a workable way to do that, the only alternative that I see is everyone staying in like this until the vaccine is ready next year, and that's discomforting to say the least.

Samir Mehta | March 25, 2020
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Lori Lancaster | March 26, 2020
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Scott Hardie | March 27, 2020
Lori, I second your "Aaahhhhh!!!!" Thanks for the words of support; I appreciate it. :-) I'm sorry to hear that your family has been through so much illness lately, and that there are still jerks out there questioning the wisdom of staying in or wearing masks. We see it around here too. I'm sick of people doubting the seriousness of this. Maybe Samir's right and it will take a tragic massive death toll for people finally to approach this with due seriousness. Good for you for working the election in general, but especially under these circumstances.

Chris Lemler | March 28, 2020
This may sound harsh but if people have the virus and some person decides to go out and break the lockdown order and go out to be around other people they deserve to get the virus. Now people who have jobs that have to go out and be the front lines need to take precautionary measures. People who have to go get gas or groceries need to try and get in and out as fast as they can. My parents ask me to pickup stuff and I don't mind doing it cause I'm already at the store working. I tend to think that people who just want to go out and do whatever us there business but, more receptive at picking it up and spreading it to their family. I hope everyone is staying safe. :)

Scott Hardie | March 29, 2020
If anyone deserves this virus, it might be the people who go out in defiance of stay-at-home orders. It's bad enough to risk their own health; it's far worse to risk the health of everyone else with whom they have contact. But I don't want to get into shaming; Twitter has become an engine driving some really hateful, righteous public shaming, and we should all steer clear of that sort of thinking. When I hear about someone getting sick, I try not to think "they shouldn't have risked it;" I try to think "that could have been me." :-(

Samir Mehta | March 29, 2020
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Scott Hardie | March 31, 2020
Samir: Shaming in moderation and proportion, I support. But online shaming has become a blood sport enjoyed by masses of people who take it much too far, ruining people's lives over misunderstandings and minor misdeeds. The worrisome trend is continuing in the coronavirus outbreak. I worry about out-of-control shaming and about shaming for the fun/thrill of it, and I encourage people to resist the urge to join in. That's where I was coming from. I don't know about "anti-shame" and I don't want to live in a society with no shame. As for your related question, I'm no fan of cancel culture; I'd prefer that the people disgusted by Louis CK cease to spend any money or time on him, rather than demanding that clubs cease to book him and studios cancel his productions. We have a criminal justice system precisely because public mobs cannot be trusted to be fair or just, and cancel culture often illustrates that.

I'm getting tired of the political polarization of this coronavirus crisis, as with all things. On the left: People out of work who are no longer able to pay rent, who have declared (I swear I am not making this up) that to charge money to rent a home is inherently evil and should be abolished. Setting aside the communist politics, I wouldn't make that moral judgment. I've had plenty of landlords, some jerks but none of them evil, certainly not just for having wealth. That's ridiculous. On the right: People in my local Nextdoor are worried about rich New Yorkers coming to our vacation-home state and bringing the virus with them, and have started monitoring cars with out-of-state plates to see where the owners live and walk around. I warned that this sort of vigilantism can result in false assumptions and dangerous escalation, sharing this article about a town in Maine that barricaded three renters inside their home after mistaking them for new arrivals. In response, I was criticized for relying on the New York Times as a news source. *annoyed sigh*

Samir Mehta | March 31, 2020
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Scott Hardie | March 31, 2020
Rural America is so spread out, though. It's not like all of rural America can get the coronavirus at once. Some towns will get it in early April, others in late April, others in May or June, others maybe even later than that if they're small and remote enough. So there will be a big but slow-moving wave of infections. Otherwise, yes, I agree, rural America is screwed. When this is eventually all over and the dead are counted, I expect that there will be more deaths from this in rural areas than urban (proportionate to population), and some small communities will be decimated or wiped out completely. This will be very, very hard on them.

Also -- and I really hate to say this because I don't want to lump decent, reasonable people in with the whiners -- but from my point of view, some number of rural Americans seem to bemoan their lot in life. They complain about their towns decaying, as though that's not an economic inevitability. They complain about power being concentrated in major coastal cities, as though that's not a fair outcome of population density.* They complain about politicians not taking their concerns seriously, as if a few voters in podunk nowhere should control the fates of states or regions. And when it's suggested that they move to somewhere else, they refuse, as if they should be entitled to those things no matter where they live. I just don't get the mindset -- if small-town living is so great, shouldn't you be willing to trade political influence and economic opportunity as the price to live there? Anyway, my point is, if indeed the coronavirus ravages small towns across America because there's insufficient health-care infrastructure to treat them, and if indeed they're still coping with the virus long after the rest of the culture has dealt with it and moved on, I expect a truly epic amount of complaining about the rest of the country forgetting them and not caring if they die and not taking their needs seriously. I sympathize with their suffering, and I don't want that kind of complaining (if indeed it happens) to interfere with my sympathy.

*Related tangent: I still remember a Facebook post right after the 2016 election, showing a U.S. map with the many red counties that voted for Trump and the few blue counties that voted for Clinton, that said, "Democrats: Imagine that you live in one of these red counties. And over and over again, the people in the blue counties get to decide everything. Wouldn't you be pissed off too? THAT'S why we have the Electoral College." Setting aside the fact that that's not why we have the Electoral College, I could not fathom the author's misunderstanding of population density. Does he not get why New York and Los Angeles and Chicago have such massive influence? Does he not realize that a bajillion more people live in those huge metro areas than out in the boondocks? "One person, one vote" is a simple concept and yet it's so elusive.

And just to be really clear: I get that there are more complex reasons why many people don't leave small towns, such as not being able to afford the relocation and resettlement in a more expensive city, or needing nearby family support for childcare or illness. And I really don't want to paint everybody with the same brush. If there are people out there who (falsely imo) argue that racial minorities should just "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" as if racism and discrimination were not severe headwinds blowing against them, then I don't want to understate the economic factors working against rural Americans the same way. That said, small towns really are doomed to disappear in the long run. Paul Krugman wrote one of the best explanations I've ever read of why small towns are doomed to decline, and imo it's worth reading even if Krugman is not your cup of tea.

Scott Hardie | March 31, 2020
I really regret writing that last comment. How tone-deaf and insensitive and arrogant. I'm embarrassed. It was wrong for a bunch of reasons.

Samir Mehta | March 31, 2020
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Scott Hardie | April 1, 2020
Among the reasons I regret writing that:
• I shouldn't hold it against millions of people that I've encountered a few jerks online and in person.
• I may not live in New York or California (yet), but I am so close to the "coastal liberal elite" stereotype that I should not pass judgment on anyone in the rural heartland, because that's what coastal liberal elites do.
• As I said at the time, I shouldn't hold people responsible for economic forces working against them. Telling them "just move" is not helpful, any more than telling poor people "just work harder."
• I didn't just judge people unfairly, I pre-judged them for something that they haven't even had a chance to do yet.
• I've lived in tiny towns. I have friends and family living in tiny towns. I should know better.
• I spent yesterday fighting a head cold and I'd been awake for 33 hours when I wrote that. I know better than to say or do anything online when I'm sleep-deprived. I tend to regret it.

Lori Lancaster | April 5, 2020
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Samir Mehta | April 5, 2020
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Scott Hardie | April 8, 2020
Agreed regarding the electoral college. As poorly as I think of Trump, I wouldn't want to see him blocked by a handful of electors if the majority of the country voted for him. Even people who work in politics want to get rid of the electoral college, which polarizes our presidential politics as much as gerrymandering polarizes our congressional politics, but it's not going anywhere.

"The lack of empathy seems to be the norm lately." "Tough times to be kind." How much I've been thinking about that lately. I got so depressed from the state of the world that I mostly stayed offline for the last few days. I have to limit myself to checking the news no more than once a day. There's just too much suffering and tragedy.

For example, this is one of the best and most brutal opinions I've read about our economy right now. It points out that when we call workers "essential," we really mean "disposable," as in, we're willing to risk them dying so that they continue to perform their service for us. It used to be merely soldiers in this category, who we couldn't properly repay for their sacrifice, so we venerate them in society as thanks. After 9/11, that category expanded to include first responders. Today, it includes truckers, deliverers, grocers, pharmacists, public transport drivers, and so on. I count several grocery workers among my friends and I don't want them to risk their lives so that we can continue to eat well. We as a nation should have long ago set up a system to deliver emergency food and supplies nation-wide via the military and FEMA, to limit danger to civilians. But furthermore, why are these "essential" workers subject to low pay and no sick time in general? Why is there an underclass of people living paycheck-to-paycheck at all, whether they're essential or not? How can we be so callous as a society as to allow this?

I realized that I really want two things from our leaders that they haven't delivered and that (imho) wouldn't be hard to deliver. One is a message of support and hope, a comforting message that we're in this together and we'll get through it, something like the queen's address from a few days ago. The other is a statement about what we're going to try to change in the future now that we've had some opportunities to learn from this epidemic. Off the top of my head: We're going to increase our stockpiles, we're going to establish early monitoring systems for outbreaks, we're going to establish emergency funds for future displaced workers, we're going to guarantee paid sick time for everyone, et cetera. Even if the president couldn't alone take these actions, at least he could promise to work on it with the congress or begin investigating what these programs would look like and cost. Right now, I have zero sense that we're going to do anything differently in the future when another epidemic inevitably occurs, and that's as despairing as anything.

Between the state of the world, some unrelated frustrations at my job, and the grind of living cooped up for weeks, I'm just not in a good place emotionally these days. I find myself quick to anger and quick to feel despair. I might be quieter here than usual for a little while.

How are you all coping with everything?

Chris Lemler | April 8, 2020
Scott I think the people who don't follow any of the rules. They do what they please no matter what happens to others. That is really frustrating. We have at our Wal-Mart arrows to show which way to go down but, customers don't care to follow them. That posses me off to no end. Its not that hard to follow what the health experts tell the whole good USA.

Lori Lancaster | April 10, 2020
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Erik Bates | April 10, 2020
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Lori Lancaster | April 10, 2020
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Scott Hardie | April 12, 2020
Chris, I hear you. I have friends who work in local supermarkets who say they watch customers ignore the arrows all day long. Maybe with time people will get used to it?

Lori, I'm glad that you're able to keep busy. I've been trying to distract myself with projects here too. And it's good that you're isolating from your parents; I know people who can but don't. My mother's retirement community is on lockdown, with only one (guarded) entrance left accessible, and no one allowed in except employees and first responders. I'm really glad that such precautions are being taken, because this is so serious.

There's been some railing against the "if you don't come out of this quarantine with" meme, and I agree that it's unhelpful to a lot of people. But to me, what I'm most getting sick of seeing are articles about how to look your best on video calls. I keep seeing them and it feels like there's so much pressure to dress right, light the room right, position your laptop right, even rearrange the wall behind you. And if I was appearing on television, or speaking to investors, or going on camera in some other important capacity, then sure, I'd worry about that stuff. But I'm just another poor schmoe forced to work at home because of the coronavirus, occasionally calling my co-workers. So how about easing up on this pressure to be perfect on camera all the time?

Meanwhile, our madness escalates. :-(

Scott Hardie | April 29, 2020
America's grand re-opening has begun. I certainly hope that it goes smoothly and that the media hype is overblown, but I fear the worst. We Americans just seem determined to do the dumbest, riskiest, most selfish things. don't we? Even in the face of a global emergency, with historical precedent about the risks and experts warning us of great danger, we just assume we're going to be fine and we toss all reason out the window. I'm trying to avoid nasty thoughts, like that anyone who willingly goes out in large groups in the next few weeks and gets sick deserves it, but my compatriots are not making it easy. My heart goes out to the many people who want to self-isolate but can't, because reckless governors lift stay-at-home orders and reckless employers order their staff back to work, thus removing the safety net of unemployment pay. And to the essential workers already doing risky jobs who are about to be in a great deal more danger, I cannot offer enough sympathy. If you thought America in self-isolation was bad, get ready to see how much worse it gets without self-isolation.

I'm sorry to go mostly silent for a few weeks -- I've been seeking out other projects to preserve my sanity -- and now to return with such negativity. The above paragraph is me trying to be polite and measured about this. It's about as diplomatic as I can manage. I just want to scream right now.

Scott Hardie | May 10, 2020
I doubt that it's COVID-19, but something has been kicking my ass for the last few days. Please forgive me for getting into my symptoms, but I don't have anybody else to talk to about this besides Kelly and the isolation is torturing me.

Thursday afternoon, chest tightness and some trouble breathing. I get spells like this once or twice a year from heartburn, so I don't think too much of it. It keeps me up all night Thursday.

Friday, same symptoms, plus coughing. By noon, I'm shaking from a fever that peaks at 102. The pain is so intense that I throw up. Kelly says I'm mumbling incoherently; I'm not aware of it. I call the doctor, who orders a COVID-19 test to be couriered to my house, but I won't get the results until late next week. Sleep is brief and fitful. I have trouble sitting up; standing is almost impossible.

Saturday, I feel much better. Some residual pain and dizziness and coughing, but the fever is gone. I can sit in a chair for a few hours, and eat a meal slowly. But I cannot sleep on Saturday night; I can only get little spurts of sleep for 10-15 minutes at a time, even though I feel bone tired.

Today, intense dizziness, coughing, incontinence, headache, and nausea so bad I feel every sip of water is going to come back up. I just so badly want to feel normal again.

This doesn't line up too well with the known COVID-19 symptoms, so it's probably something else. But I hope I was exposed to a tiny viral dose of COVID-19 and this was the result, because that would mean it's over for me and I don't have to worry about it any more. Kelly went through a similar cycle a week ago, but otherwise she has no symptoms and we're staying apart in the house.

I don't mean to hijack this discussion, or to get into graphic lists of symptoms that nobody wants to read. I just need to talk to someone, even if it's an unanswering void on a nearly-abandoned discussion forum. The social isolation at this point is becoming intensely depressing. And that's not even getting into the world that I see in the news every day, which is as bleak and depressing as I've seen in my lifetime. And it's also not getting into the depressing turns for the worse that my mother is taking in her care facility and the difficult decisions that I'll have to make in the next few weeks; this is not a happy Mother's Day.

So, I'm in terrible shape, but I hope you're out there coping better than I am. I hope you're safe and secure, and that your loved ones are too, and that you're weathering this crisis well. Good days will be here again when this is done.

Scott Hardie | May 10, 2020
And may I add: If you get sick like me, I hope you have someone as loving and patient and helpful as Kelly has been to me. She's been cooking and cleaning and taking care of me for the last few days, and bringing some measure of comfort under difficult circumstances. I'm so very grateful to have her.

Steve West | May 10, 2020
I bet right about now, you're getting tired of hearing how strong and brave you are. You probably want to punch someone in the face every time they say, "You got this." I bet some days you want to scream and cry because life isn't fair. Nobody asks for this. Nobody wants to be brave or courageous or strong EVERY SINGLE DAY! Nobody expects life to knock them on their ass and drag them through the mud. I'm here to tell you it's okay to be pissed. It's okay to cry. It's okay to ask, "Why me?" I know this sucks and I'm not going to talk you out of feeling angry, sad, scared or just plain tired. Keep us apprised of test results and we'll move forward from there. Love you, brother.

Samir Mehta | May 11, 2020
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Chris Lemler | May 11, 2020
Get well my friend.

LaVonne Lemler | May 11, 2020
Scott, I'm so sorry you've been ill and having such a difficult time. We will keep you and Kelly in our thoughts, with wishes for a speedy recovery.

Lori Lancaster | May 12, 2020
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Scott Hardie | May 12, 2020
Thank you so much, everyone! I'm feeling better, especially emotionally. I'm still dealing with coughing and nausea and insomnia, and I suspect that they will continue for a week or two, but I can deal with that. The emotional and psychological toll of our ongoing global crisis is harder, because it won't relent so soon and its effects are subtler. I read somewhere about how dangerous it is that humans' instincts in situations like this are to keep their darker feelings to themselves so as not to burden others, and I certainly don't like dumping out my feelings on you all here; you have your own emotional burdens that you're carrying. But it does feel better knowing that I have a circle of friends who care. I care about all of you too, much more than I usually say -- any of you can always talk to me, or us collectively, about anything. Thank you all.

Denise Sawicki | May 14, 2020
Hi Scott, just read this. I hope you are feeling better. Glad you felt able to vent about it. It's important to have an outlet. I'm actually doing OK lately, finding I'm a bigger introvert than I even realized I guess. But anyone can feel free to chat with me sometime if they need a change of pace!

Scott Hardie | May 20, 2020
Thanks, Denise. The feedback from everyone here has really helped. :-)

I remain apprehensive about re-opening. It's a push by politicians who have their own agendas, not by health experts. This sort of chicanery kills any trust that I would have in government claims that it's safe to re-open. My employer is contemplating re-opening based on government guidance, and I cannot more strongly disagree. (We are a primarily digital business where most employees can work from home, so I don't even see a point in re-opening the office except for the comfort level of employees who prefer an office environment. In other words, it's not like our business is going to fail unless we can re-open; there's no compelling business case for it.)

I do feel the tug to re-open society, just to be clear. I want to see friends again and go out to movies and restaurants again and feel like this dark cloud over us all has lifted. But I just can't trust that it's safe yet. Kelly and I go out almost daily for a drive just to get out of the house, and we see all kinds of people swarming local businesses, very few of them wearing masks. I hope that there's not a spike in COVID-19 cases in the next few weeks, but it certainly seems possible with the way that our neighbors are conducting themselves. :-(

Steve West | May 20, 2020
Remember when seat belts became mandatory but some refused to wear them? The goverment's campaign slogan was "Click it or ticket". The new COVID-19 slogan should be "Mask it or casket".

Scott Hardie | June 14, 2020
I don't know where the rest of you stand on re-opening the country, but I feel like the only sane man in the world. Death rates are still rising. There's no compelling evidence that it's safe to reopen, and I doubt anyway that there is such a thing as a truly "safe" reopening; the thresholds defining "safe" are developed by politicians and not by scientists.

I am simultaneously terrified and appalled by my countrymen right now. We Americans have, en masse, been a historically stupid and selfish lot, but the recklessness with which we are pursuing reopening for our own enjoyment, at the cost of a predicted hundred thousand more deaths by early fall, is a new low even for us. Paul Krugman compared it to the marshmallow test, a great analogy, and he makes an alarming point: "It now looks likely that by late summer we’ll be the only major wealthy nation where large numbers of people are still dying from COVID-19."

I believe that a big part of why Americans feel safe to go back out again is the government saying that it's safe, or at least no longer saying that it's dangerous. But as I shared above, I no longer trust my state government to be honest about the data, and the Trump administration has been far too comfortable lying from literally day one to be trusted on something this important. In fact, the administration barely discusses it any more, a tactic to get the economy going again. And it has worked with frightening efficacy. When I read interviews with people on the street about why they feel safe going out again (not to mention not taking other precautions like wearing masks), they think that the virus has been beaten because it's no longer in the news, or they think the threat has been overblown and they trust the media voices telling them to go out again, because there's no authority saying otherwise.

This is an unacceptable dereliction of duty by the people in charge, but what can I personally do about it? In the end, all I can do is continue my own self-isolation and hope that the dire predictions about a second wave prove false. I can't change the world around me; I can only change my reaction to it. That notion is harder than usual to accept but I'm trying.

Samir Mehta | June 14, 2020
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Denise Sawicki | June 14, 2020
I'm still social distancing and not going to the store, but it appears pretty rare. Restaurants are looking pretty busy.

Scott Hardie | June 14, 2020
Also delinquent in their responsibility: Congress, who cut relief packages that would allow more people to stay home, among many other benefits. Healthy democracies do not act this wildly irresponsibly.

Samir Mehta | June 14, 2020
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Steve West | June 14, 2020
1000 new cases in MD reported yesterday. 2000 in Florida, and record numbers in SC. That's pretty compelling evidence. Hospitals are running out of intensive care rooms. I'm staying put.

Denise Sawicki | June 15, 2020
We've only got 40 new cases or so per day in North Dakota and it doesn't really seem to be on an upward trend yet, but I am sure it will hit us harder at some point and don't want to be out and about when it does. (Even population adjusted that does seem to be a bit lower than you're getting in Maryland or Florida, of course most of them are in my county which is not great!)

Lori Lancaster | June 17, 2020
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Steve West | June 18, 2020
MD has the fewest reported new cases for three consecutive days. Florida seems to be on several people's shit list because for one, Cuomo is considering quarantining any air travellers landing in New York from there.

Scott Hardie | June 24, 2020
I don't know where to begin. Here are some thoughts in random order:

- Kelly and I see almost no one wearing masks here. We still go out for a drive nearly every day, but we have decided to stop going to certain areas like Siesta Key because it's just too alarming seeing crowds of hundreds of people all mingling together with no masks. America is so screwed.

- I rarely read social media, but once in a while it's a glimpse into what people are thinking. A friend of ours, who happens to be deeply conservative, encouraged people to wear masks in public to save lives -- and was met with a barrage of criticism. One person said, "They don't accomplish anything, and you hear more and more about how dangerous they are to wear." Hear that from whom? Actual scientists and professional health experts whose job is to keep you safe, or random morons online?

- Florida's governor continues his campaign to risk as many lives as possible, saying that the state will not shut down again no matter what and refusing to mandate masks in public. At least on a local level, doctors are trying to get out good advice, but I fear it's too small of a voice compared to the megaphones of the governor and president.

- On Saturday, Kelly and I went to a rare social gathering for us these days, a backyard gender-reveal party for our next-door neighbor. We warned them in advance that we weren't comfortable mingling and wouldn't be able to stay long, and they were understanding about it. But we were also the only people wearing masks when we arrived, amid a gathering of maybe 30 people. The strangers ignored us as expected, but we did get to talk to the family for a few minutes, which was nice. I really do miss human contact. :-(

- This crap is going to hurt a lot of tech companies like the one where I work. My teams have employees from every continent save Antarctica and I don't know how many are going to be able to stay. One of them, a Canadian, already spent a long time worrying about his legal status during the prolonged (and pointless) re-negotiations of NAFTA, finally got a breather when it was settled, and now faces this. And Trump's order is only good through the end of the year! What company is going to hire a technical crew member, a job that usually involves months of onboarding, when the much larger pool of international talent will be accessible again in January? What an utterly ridiculous waste of talent.

Samir Mehta | June 24, 2020
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Scott Hardie | July 28, 2020
Now my mother has COVID-19.

My 80-year-old mother has barely left her memory care facility since March 1. She is completely dependent on the staff of that facility to take precautions.

And I trust that they do. I've met some of them and they seem like conscientious, decent people. I've been told that they're extremely limited in their activities in their personal lives, sticking to essential trips only.

But those essential trips to the grocery involve inevitable contact with strangers. And in our area, one of the worst-hit zip codes in one of the worst-hit states, those strangers still don't take this virus seriously. I read the local paper and NextDoor daily, and there continues to be widespread anti-mask, anti-precaution sentiment. We're months into this deadly pandemic and people are still saying, "it's just like the flu."

I am beyond angry about this. I want them all to suffer. I want every second of discomfort or pain that my mother suffers to be visited upon them a thousandfold, and on the politicians ten thousandfold. And that goes the same for every other innocent victim of their selfish, ignorant, reckless stupidity.

I just can't with these people any more. Or with this pandemic.

Erik Bates | July 28, 2020
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Steve West | July 28, 2020
The thoughtless idiots who won't wear masks or self quarantine are the same sumbitches who would hide a zombie bite. Assholes. I pray Joan finds comfort and remembers always her loving son.

Denise Sawicki | July 28, 2020
I'm so sorry to hear this, Scott.

Scott Hardie | July 28, 2020
Thanks, all.

Just to be really clear since it might not have been, I don't actually wish suffering upon people for real. That was an expression of my feelings. It doesn't begin to cover the scope of my feelings about this, honestly, but I should clarify that I didn't mean it literally.

I might be offline for a few days.

Samir Mehta | July 28, 2020
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Scott Hardie | August 3, 2020
Thanks, all.

My mother got lucky. She seems to be one of the asymptomatic cases. I'm waiting as patiently as I can.

I'm just so very fed up with the stupid all around me. Big dumb selfish American stupidity has had reckless consequences for a long time, but those consequences have usually been visited upon unfortunate people far overseas, who make our cheap products in dangerous conditions or who are casualties of our impulsive wars, so it's been easier to forget. Now it's all around us, affecting everybody around us, often with fatal consequences, and I just want SCREAM AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS at these selfish idiots. I have zero tolerance for it any more.

You think the entire world would go in on this elaborate hoax just to hurt Trump's re-election chances? If the world was that coordinated, I'm sure it could find much easier, subtler, and more effective ways to prevent Trump's re-election.

You think masks aren't effective? Even if there's a chance that's true, why take the risk when the potential consequences are so severe?

You think masks kill you by making you breathe in your own toxins? Then how come people everywhere around the world wear them safely all the time, and have for years, long before this pandemic?

I hate when people argue about their Constitutional right not to wear a mask, which does not exist. Someone in my neighborhood even said that the Supreme Court has ruled that masks don't have to be worn, which never happened. I don't know where people get this nonsense from, but they really need to be more skeptical.

It's not just the coronavirus stupidity. It's ALL of the stupidity. It's everywhere. I can't stand it, and I can't avoid it. For instance, the dumbest thing I saw today was when I checked up on a friend on Facebook, who said something about Ghislaine Maxwell, which prompted another friend of his to go off about the Hillary Clinton snuff film. If you haven't heard this extreme Pizzagate variation, supposedly there's a video of Clinton and Huma Abedin torturing a young girl who is chained to a post, cutting off her face, taking turns dancing around while wearing the bloody face and laughing at the girl, then disemboweling her. It's a horrific fever-dream level of depravity, and also it's COMPLETE FUCKING NONSENSE. If you find yourself believing anything that is this utterly ridiculous on its face, take a break from the Internet for a few weeks, and don't return until you have thoroughly pondered why you're so easily convinced of something that is obviously made up and could never have happened. Based on their corrupt behavior, Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell are the two most evil American public figures right now that I can think of, but I can't imagine either of them doing anything as depraved as that conspiracy theory claims about Clinton; it's just so far beyond the realm of possibility that I cannot understand why anyone would ever actually take it seriously.

How truly dumb are we? Really, really, really, march-ourselves-to-our-own-graves dumb.

Obviously I'm not in a happy emotional state right now. But I hope that all of you are doing well, and weathering this as best you can.

Scott Hardie | August 3, 2020
Follow up: I'm not perfect. I've been taken in by conspiracy theories before. For a while, I thought O.J. Simpson was innocent, because I read a long article that spelled out a plausible-sounding alternative scenario. I believed the story about the dinner on the night of Obama's inauguration, in which high-ranking Republicans supposedly made a pact to oppose every last thing Obama proposed, which might have had some genesis in fact, but which is just so cartoonishly evil that you can imagine them twirling their mustaches and chomping on cigars; it's a silly idea. I regret believing these things. It took me saying them out loud and feeling foolish to realize that I'd been duped. So I'm not totally unsympathetic to the people who fell for something innocuous that they overheard. It happens. But you bear some responsibility when you spread information as fact without checking it with reliable sources. "Someone on the Internet said" is not reliable. And please, please give up the most ridiculous conspiracy theories, the ones that don't even make sense.

Samir Mehta | August 3, 2020
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Scott Hardie | August 4, 2020
Yeah. Part of the cause is false myths. For so long, America has told itself a myth that it's the best country in the world, the richest and smartest and most powerful and certainly most favored by God, that we're bound to become fractured by our collective cognitive dissonance as our inevitable decline continues (and lately, accelerates). The whole purpose of having narratives in society is to enforce common social norms; when people become disenchanted with a collective narrative that they no longer believe, they're bound to embrace alternative stories that reinforce their own beliefs. And self-interested dark agents have done such a thorough job of discrediting mainstream media and academia and other possible sources of a new shared truth that people have nowhere else to turn but their imaginations. It's sad.

If there's any current conspiracy theory that I think holds water, it's that Russia and China are behind much of this nonsense online. They have disinformation campaigns; that much is widely accepted. How successful those campaigns are, and how much of the dumbass nonsense that we currently accept comes from them, is unknown. I happen to believe that a significant portion of it comes from them, which is yet another reason for people to be skeptical -- is it that hard to take a moment to ask yoursef, "does this information sound like something that enemy states would want Americans to believe?" before you click share on Facebook? -- but I have no basis for that, hence a made-up belief of my own.

Chris Lemler | October 3, 2020
Right now the President seems to be on oxygen. This doesn't look good right now for our President of The United States. Hope him and his wife can have a full recovery.

Samir Mehta | October 3, 2020
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Chris Lemler | October 3, 2020
I strongly agree with you on that Samir

Steve West | October 3, 2020
There's a lot of things, bad things, that I've wished for to happen to Trump. Dying was never one of them. I, too, wish him a speedy recovery followed by an election loss. Then he can begin his next two terms; one in a Federal prison and another in a New York prison.

Scott Hardie | October 4, 2020
My feelings about it are complicated. So are a lot of people's feelings right now.

Ordinarily I would never wish disease or suffering upon anyone, least of all the head of state of my own country, regardless of his or her politics. Then again, Donald Trump is no ordinary head of state, and these are not ordinary times, so I struggle to muster the ordinary obligatory decency. And I think I can get to the heart of why.

I join you all in rooting for Trump to lose the election, because he deserves it after a cruel and corrupt and self-serving presidency, and rooting for him to go to prison afterward, because he deserves it for his crimes. He brought those fates upon himself. And it's tempting to think of disease as something more random than that.

But COVID-19 isn't cancer or an aneurysm or some other spontaneous, unpredictable health event. It's an entirely avoidable virus. Trump has spent 2020 doing everything in his power to minimize both our national response to this crisis and his own personal response. He refused to wear masks or social distance, he ordered staff and reporters to take off their masks, and so on. He had so many opportunities to get this right, after people told him over and over how to get this right, and he insisted on getting it wrong at every turn. In a moral sense, Trump deserves to suffer from this virus just as much as he deserves electoral defeat and criminal prosecution.

I still don't actually wish it upon him. But I have room in my the heart for it after all of the same suffering that he has caused for so many, many other people.

Scott Hardie | October 7, 2020
I'm waiting in my van right now outside Kelly's doctor's office while she has a procedure done. This place is slammed with patients. Kelly said the waiting room was full last time and they had to turn people away. What I don't understand is, why aren't they asking people to wait outside in their vehicles and calling them inside when it's their turn? If it's because they'd be slow to enter (we have a lot of elderly folks here), call them in as soon as the person before them enters the exam room. We've done a lot as a society to adapt to this pandemic, but it seems like some old habits die hard. Have you noticed similar unnecessary risks?

Erik Bates | October 7, 2020
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Scott Hardie | November 28, 2020
I recently read what I consider to be a pretty good (if saddening) prediction: The annual "War on Christmas" is going to make the pandemic worse this year. It's probably right -- a perfect storm of conditions makes us extra likely to fight this season -- and I resolve to stay out of it and stay offline as much as I can. I've read the news a lot less in the last couple of months and I feel much better.

Something from that article that I didn't know but should have guessed: That old anti-Semitic bastard Henry Ford was the originator of this annual "War on Christmas" nonsense. It's rooted in his paranoia about Jews and leftists taking over America, the same reason we have square-dancing in schools and other nonsense. I suppose if someone started complaining about the imaginary "War on Christmas," you could reply asking them how they feel about anti-Semitism and Henry Ford's white supremacy and then ask them to reconcile the two, but that would mean fighting and I'm as tired of fighting as anyone.

Scott Hardie | December 23, 2020
I was as disappointed as anyone this week at the news that Deborah Birx participated in a large, out-of-town Thanksgiving gathering while advising Americans not to do so, the same sort of story we've heard repeatedly over the year of government experts not obeying their own safety instructions. For me, the most frustrating part is not the hypocrisy, or the immediate effect that this may have on people not taking coronavirus warnings seriously. It's that this sort of thing further damages trust in experts in general. The next time there's another crisis, even fewer people will take heed of expert advice thanks to crap like this. No wonder we have a problem with institutional faith in this country.

Scott Hardie | March 1, 2021
In two weeks, I expect to see all kinds of think pieces online about what it has been like to live with the coronavirus pandemic for a full year. Well, I started two weeks earlier than the rest of the country, so let me clear it up: It has been absolutely miserable. There, I saved you the trouble of writing all of those articles, Internet.

Scott Hardie | May 3, 2021
I am not surprised, but still very disappointed, at today's NYT headline that there is now scientific consensus that we will not reach herd immunity. I had been holding out hope that at the end of this godawful year, after all of the suffering and sacrifice, we might finally be able to return to normal life again, but no: As some have predicted, the virus is going to stick around, new worse variants are going to keep popping up, and burdensome safety precautions are going to remain necessary for the foreseeable future, all because too many people refuse to be vaccinated. With all of the intractable problems in our society that will require enormous cost and effort to fix, from climate change to systemic racism to our broken health care system, we happen to have one problem that is really quite simple to end, requiring just a couple of shots in the arm for no fee, and people still won't do that simple bare minimum to be responsible citizens. They talk about their "medical freedom," but what about our freedom to live normal lives. I'm just so utterly appalled.

Erik Bates | May 3, 2021
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Scott Hardie | May 3, 2021
Ugh, DeSantis. The guy won election with 49.6% of the vote to his opponent's 49.2%, but he governs like he won 99%. His hard-driving, lib-owning style is tough to take, but of course I say that, because I'm one of the libs being owned. I could put up with his petty corruption and his typical Republican positions on issues, none of which bother me much. But I'm alarmed by his authoritarian and fascistic tendencies, from swatting a data scientist who offered proof that Florida's COVID stats were false, to legalizing ramming protesters with your car, to fining social media companies who ban politicians for TOS violations. He would go so far as to imprison, permanently bar from government employment, and permanently bar from receiving social services anyone who participated in a "violent or disorderly" protest, as if people can tell before they join one that it will become violent, and as if disorderly is not a meaningless descriptor existing solely in the eye of the beholder. So yeah, IMHO his coronavirus policy has sucked and led to a lot of dead Floridians (even by his own untrustworthy totals), but it's far from my biggest concern about the guy.

Scott Hardie | May 7, 2021
David Brooks is 100% right about how broken we are as a nation when we can't even agree to take a simple vaccination for each other. The question is whether that lost sense of mutual trust and citizenship can be restored.

Mike Eberhart | May 17, 2021
Well, I just got my first Moderna shot the other day. It's not because I wanted to get it, because I didn't. I'd rather not have this vaccine at all. I've travelled from Europe, and all over the US during the COVID months starting in August of last year, and then I moved to Florida. One of the best moves I made in my opinion. I love it here with how open everything was when we arrived in Sept 2020. I have no fear of this virus and never really did, even when I was overseas in Germany.

The only reason I got the shot is because my entire team that I manage, still operates in and throughout Europe. I know I won't be able to travel freely in Europe without having the vaccination as my company has already told me that they won't cover me to be quarantined for 14 days in these locations. Plus I couldn't really do it anyway if I had to quarantine at each location, that would be at least 6 weeks of quarantine as I went from country to country. So I really didn't have a choice. so, in about 24 more days I go and get the 2nd shot, then wait 14 more days, then I'm good to go. After that, we'll see if I will get to make a trip to Europe without quarantine. At that point, it will have been almost a year since I saw my team in person.

Samir Mehta | May 17, 2021
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Mike Eberhart | May 18, 2021
Honestly, if I didn't have to travel overseas, I would most likely never of gotten this shot. I don't feel like I should be forced to get a vaccine that I don't think I need. Whose to say that I didn't already get COVID over the last year, and never knew it? In Germany, it's starting to get back to pre-WWII status of the vaccinated vs. the non-vaccinated. They have implemented new rules that say if you are vaccinated you are allowed to go into stores, restaurants, travel between states, get your hair cut, etc. Of course, you have to provide your "papers" to the right people in order to do this. If you are not vaccinated, then you get to do none of this. No exceptions. They have created an entire class system there and it's a troubling situation. There are a few states here in the US that would like to follow that model with having vaccination passports. The state that I just fled was seriously looking into that.

As for me, I'm not thrilled that I have to get these shots. I was actually more worried of what side effects I may get from them. Currently, I was lucky and only got a sore arm for a few days. The 2nd shot is the one that everyone says will be worse, so I'm really dreading that one. My real fear is that every time something like this happens, the government is going to say you have to get these rapidly produced vaccines in order to have a "normal" life. I think it's just wrong.

Scott Hardie | May 18, 2021
If it helps to know, I got Moderna and the second shot wasn't so bad. I was fine for 24 hours, then felt chills/shivers/aches for 12 hours that I mostly slept off overnight, then I was fine again. My wife experienced swelling in her arm with both Moderna shots but was otherwise unaffected. Given the horrific accounts of what happens to some COVID patients, especially the higher mortality risk for obese people like me, I'd much rather sign up for the annoying brief side effects of the vaccine than risk suffering far worse.

Mike, I'm also not thrilled at the burgeoning class divide that you describe. For one thing, some people can't get vaccinated for medical or religious reasons, so it's not as voluntary as people make it out to be. For another, if government must insist on what private businesses do regarding customers, I'd rather see it protect against discrimination than mandate discrimination itself. But for me it ultimately comes down to a matter of public health, like banning smoking in restaurants; the actions of one group affect on the health of the other and thus necessitate protections. If some people can't or won't get vaccinated, requiring secondary safety measures like masks and social distancing seems like a reasonable compromise. We could do away with all of that by reaching herd immunity, but only if enough people would agree to getting the shots. :-\

Samir Mehta | May 18, 2021
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Scott Horowitz | October 7, 2021
I know this is a bit dated, but I really don't like comparisons between vaccine mandates and the holocaust. I find it very offensive. You can't go to school without several vaccines already, and people are politicizing public health. I do think there is a bit of a media overhype on "breakthrough" cases, but it's in the public interest for everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible. If you look at the science, the vaccines are very safe. I read medical journals and spoke to several medical professional friends as well as my own personal doctor in regards to it.

Scott Hardie | October 9, 2021
Lately, I have turned my anger from people who refuse to trust the science on vaccines to the industry that is making a fortune by deliberately misinforming people. A friend of mine is convinced that a close relative died because he got the vaccine, and her heart is broken over it, and it fills me with rage at these bastards who create and profit off of this nonsense. I'd like to see criminal liability enforced for them, including seizure of every last penny they made by lying to the public.

Evie Totty | December 9, 2021
Gosh - I didn't realize this section of the site was so lively (Tragic Comedy) and I'd honestly forgotten about it.

I came to make a blog and/or write about crap I'm watching on TV.

Then I see this thread.

I admit I haven't read every single word, but 98% or so of it. It was interesting looking into the past. If it's ok - let me chime in.

I had moved to Alabama in 2018 to try to get my finances in order (it's where I'm from). March 2020 rolls around and my daughter (who works at CVS) has been deemed an essential worker. She has a daughter who turned 9 on 8 March.

So I ask if she wanted me to come down and help her with childcare. She says 'sure' (basically). I pack two weeks' worth of clothes and come down.

I'm still here.

My Alabama friends and family for the most part apparently are Reds. Which was already depressing me - since I was up there during the height of QAnon, the election, The Insurrection... And then for the longest time, they were (and most still are) drinking the Kool-Aid. 'Masks don't work' and 'It's just the flu' and 'My rights!'.

The largest city in Alabama (which is now Huntsville) has a population of 215,006 as of 2020. This means that no one they knew had died from COVID-19 for a very, very long time. Where I have a friend in NYC who had lost 50 people by the end of 2020.

As a result, they didn't see (feel?) the devastation up close.

I'm still in Florida (decided to stay, but my crap is now in storage in Alabama) and I drive for DoorDash. Thank the gods for last summer's (2020) unemployment that was available, allowing me to stay home. But as soon as the first of Sept rolled around, I had to go back to work.

I was terrified (still am) to do so - but I had no choice. And then to see SO many people acting like NOTHING is wrong as I deliver all over town. Some places would bring me the food, some I had to go in. When I go in, 90% or more of the patrons not wearing masks. Delivering to Siesta Key and seeing how packed it is - especially on holidays.

Being SO CAREFUL for a year and a half and then DeSantis pretty much banning masks from schools and thus realizing that my granddaughter could bring it home (and she may have - a case in her class and I was sick for two weeks in October, though I can't remember the exact timeline) and KILL me (I have diabetes).

In August, I get a phone call from my father - he is informing me that my grandmother is in the hospital with COVID and that they weren't going to intubate her. I ask if she was vaccinated. He says 'no' (she was in her 80s). I get pissed (I had already blocked him on Messenger and unfollowed him on Facebook due to the propaganda he was posting / sending me despite me begging him to verify and then once I realized he wouldn't, to refrain from sending me any more 'articles' (I would debunk each and every one). He starts to say some drivel about how 'we don't know if it's safe'. He informs me that HE had COVID a couple weeks prior (his excuse for me not knowing was 'I posted it on Facebook').

We talk over each other for a few seconds - me specifically stating 'it's SCIENCE' and then I told him that I didn't want to argue, that I loved him and that I'd be there as soon as I was able to.

He calls me back four hours later to inform me that she'd passed.

I go through my finances and realize - I cannot go. The next day, I am literally opening my phone app to call him to check on his mental health (and tell him I cannot go) when my brother calls and tells me my father has had a heart attack and was on his way to the hospital.

He said he'd get on speakerphone with me when he got there himself so we could talk to the doctor together. I was in my car (I had been working), waiting. It was only supposed to be fifteen minutes.

After an hour, my nephew calls me to tell me that he did not make it to the hospital.

(I did make it up there - I swallowed my pride and shame and asked for help and people stepped up in a big way, including Scott and Kelly). Of course, when I get there I find that NO ONE is vaccinated (and 'several have already had COVID') except for my youngest brother and 'my side' of the family (he was my step-father, but has been so since 1985).

SO AS A RESULT - in my opinion - Trumpism killed my father and grandmother. (I can't say for sure, but I suspect his bout with COVID weakened his heart - men in his family all lived to be in their 90s, and he was only 63). I am BEYOND furious because not only did this ideology take these people that I loved from me - I had lost the previous two years because of Trumpism and the inability to have a conversation without wack-a-doo conspiracy bullshit coming up.

We have now lost more in 2021 than we did in 2020 (though that's 10 mos vs 12).

2020: 385,361
2021: 404,348

and now we are headed into the winter with Omicron out there.

In my opinion - if you go out WITH a positive test (and no mask) and come into contact with other people it's at least assault and could even be murder (manslaughter, whatever).

I honestly don't see why people get their panties in a bunch about masks. You wear a seatbelt. You wear shoes. 'No shirt, no shoes, no service' - yet it's ok to assault (and sometimes kill) people in businesses who didn't even make the policy, they are just trying to feed their families because they are enforcing a mask requirement?

And in August Trump ACTUALLY told folks at a rally in Cullman, AL that they should get vaccinated - and they booed him. (Though The Insurrection already showed us that he no longer had control of the mob.)

I've gotten to where I don't even watch the news anymore (I do subscribe to the New York Times and I get headlines every day that I sometimes click through) because we apparently live in BIZARRO WORLD.

We DON'T live in the greatest country in the world. What? 75% of families don't have savings? 50% live paycheck to paycheck? The profit that Bezos, Musk, et al have made DURING the pandemic could SAVE - not just help but SAVE so many people, but they are too busy riding in their penis-ships and screaming 'let them eat cake!' (yes - I know that's taken out of context, but I'm using it anyway).

I'm terrified of what the numbers are regarding homelessness. Our society has had 'pull yourself up by your bootstraps' shoved down our throats so much that people can't get help. I'm struggling personally - and am one of the lucky ones. The American Dream is no longer attainable. Reaganomics made sure of that. If you weren't already born in a family that can give you a leg up, there's only so far you can go now. Sure, there will be some disruptors - but the ones from the wrong side of the tracks will be few and far between. I think it's hilarious that Millenials are being blamed for the 'death of...' because they aren't buying napkins or houses or whatever, like they on purpose are trying to kill entire industries instead of it being more of a fact of 'well ok - you take out a student loan for $60,000 and we'll give you a job for $15/hour when you graduate'.

WHAT? Ok, Boomer.

I realize I've gone off the main subject here. And that some of my statements are likely inflammatory. But I'm still angry for many reasons. One of which is that I can't see my friends here in town because of my job and the fact that I'm out in public almost every day because people are selfish.

Delete if you need to, Scott. I will add that I haven't slept Monday, so that's likely adding to.

Samir Mehta | December 9, 2021
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Evie Totty | December 10, 2021
Thank you, Samir :)

Scott Hardie | December 22, 2021
Yeah, TC is still active sporadically. And I'm glad that we have this long, winding discussion as a time capsule of our thoughts at the time. I don't want to look back on this long, awful pandemic and think that I had the wisdom in the early days to foresee how things would go, or that I had one single opinion about the entire mess from start to finish.

Evie, I'm sorry that you came back to Florida for unhappy reasons, but I'm glad that you're back. It was good to see you a few months ago and I'd like to get together again soon.

I will never understand the "masks don't work" reasoning. If they don't work at stopping an airborne virus, how can they simultaneously be so dangerous that they cut off our air flow or force us to inhale our own CO₂? And if they're safe to wear but ineffective at stopping the virus, why not take other precautions like social distancing more seriously? And if you truly believe they're ineffective and you're aware of the many (scientifically trained) people who believe otherwise, what's the harm in wearing them just on the minuscule chance that the other people might be right, considering that lives could be saved? If there are four possible outcomes -- wear them and avoid spreading a deadly virus because they work, wear them for nothing because they're ineffective, skip them and spread a deadly virus unnecessarily because they would have worked, and skip them without consequence because they're ineffective -- the "wear them" options involve saving lives at no cost and the "skip them" options involves killing people at no benefit. It's just plain illogical to me. I get it; like so much else right now, the anti-mask sentiment is somewhat political and somewhat emotional and somewhat driven by a feeling of taking back some power from a situation in which you feel powerless. But just say "I don't want to wear a mask" rather than the nonsensical "masks don't work."

Your comment about Alabamans not seeing the devastation until later reinforces something that I've believed since March 2020, that the virus's invisibility is a critical factor in the resistance to taking it seriously. If you could see a person coughing out florescent green clouds when they're infected with COVID-19, you'd realize immediately that this is real and serious and avoidable. It would have been over fairly quickly that way.

I've already offered my condolences elsewhere for your family losses, Evie, and I'd like to say so again. I know how much it pained you to lose two loved ones back to back, and for such lousy reasons. And I know how much it sharpened your ongoing rage at the needless, wasteful idiocy that society has descended into lately. Future generations will look back on this era and marvel at the depths of asininity that we reached.

I agree that knowingly putting yourself in contact with people while infected ought to be treated as manslaughter. But the courts would be overflowing with an impossible number of cases if that were true, and many people don't have the financial luxury of missing an entire paycheck (or risk being fired outright) in order to self-isolate. We as a society have far more than the resources necessary to avoid that kind of needless suffering, but we are too miserly to share them.

As long as we're making up felonies for people causing suffering during the pandemic, can we talk about penalties for people spreading actively harmful misinformation? We talk about the First Amendment right to share what you sincerely believe, and I don't want to see even the slightest erosion of civil rights given the frightening authoritarian trend in politics lately, but I would like to understand why you're not allowed to yell "fire" in a crowded theater and yet you're allowed to yell "vaccines kill people" on Facebook.

The propaganda that "America is the greatest country in the world" is some of the most toxic, dangerous bullshit we'll ever be fed. It creates obstacles to solving so many important problems, all for the benefit of the rich and powerful who refuse to give up even a meager portion of what they have.

Scott Hardie | October 11, 2022
Great. Now Florida's surgeon general is scaring people again about the mRNA vaccines. Joseph Ladapo has been reliably far-right on every politicized health issue in the year since Ron DeSantis appointed him, but being generally skeptical of masks and vaccines is one thing. Saying that young men are 84 percent likelier to suffer a cardiac incident within four weeks of taking the vaccine is another. That sounds terrifying, right? What he's not saying is that it's based on just 15 incidents out of millions of doses given, and that all 15 of the incidents were resolved with brief hospitalizations. But I saw conservative Twitter light up when Ladapo made his announcement, as though this was a huge game-changing moment in the course of the pandemic and that finally the media was going to have to report the "truth" about how "deadly" these vaccines really are. *sigh*

I think what bothers me in particular about Ladapo's cherry-picked and context-free evidence for his bullshit positions is that he's an actual authority figure. From the start, when I've heard people express confusion or doubt about whether to self-isolate or socially distance or wear masks or get vaccinated, I've always said that I place my trust in the experts who spend all of their time researching and understanding this stuff since I cannot, and by that I primarily mean the government health officials whose very jobs are to keep the public alive with good advice. And now there's a government official telling me not to get vaccinated! (I'm actually scheduled to get another booster tomorrow evening, so it's not just an abstract principle.) The fact that I don't trust Ladapo makes me feel like a hypocrite for saying that I trust authority figures, even though his chicanery is fairly obvious. For me, it ultimately comes down to the fact that Ladapo is an outlier; the vast majority of authorities, including at the federal level, give very different advice than he does. But I hate being put in this position by our stupid, stupid politics.

Scott Hardie | March 5, 2023
A comprehensive analysis now shows that masks had zero effect on the spread of COVID-19, and pro-science liberals should acknowledge it. I agree with Bret Stephens's main argument, though I find a little of his reasoning to be circular. (Masks failed because people didn't wear them -- gee Sherlock, you cracked the case.) I acknowledge it and will repeat it in conversation.

That said, I do think it's worth repeating that my argument, like many people's, has always been (per my comments above on 8/3/2020 and 12/22/2021) that it seems wise to err on the side of caution: If science indicated that masks helped but we still felt unsure, would it not be better to risk wearing them for nothing and possibly save lives, than to leave them off and possibly kill people? The fact that the right's big bet on "masks don't work" turned out to be the winning bet does not mean that it wasn't reckless and dangerous to bet human lives that way, when the alternative was such a minor inconvenience. I do not believe that this study gives the anti-mask side the moral high ground retroactively. (To be clear, I'm not talking about people who protested mask mandates, which had a philosophical component about which people quite reasonably disagreed. I'm talking about the people who opposed anyone wearing masks at all, including voluntarily.)

Scott Hardie | March 11, 2023

Samir Mehta | March 11, 2023
[hidden by request]

Scott Hardie | March 16, 2023
Yes, agreed completely. I like the shopping cart theory. Acquaintances of mine who refuse to return their shopping carts to a corral, and who idle in the fire lane while one of them goes inside to shop and who perform other similarly selfish acts, have said that they believe that anyone who doesn't behave this way is an idiot or a liar. I don't get it, but I do get their resistance to being told what to do, which might force them to stop wrecking things for everyone else just so they can have their precious way all of the time. This meme says it all.

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