Imagine stories around a campfire…
a mystical möbius – curating facts, ideas, text, and media to create a digital space around a safe, cozy, yet rather eclectic virtual campfire. My hope is to render an adequate sketch of history (a rough first-draft).
‘Picking-up after an Apocalypse’ is a brief mini-series of themed posts.
So, “after” is a bit of a misnomer
Yes, we can begin cleaning-up this mess, however, the mess is ongoing and expanding.
Sadly, it’s going to be a minute before Covid-19 is finally in our rear-view mirror. So, we are still working our way through the live-virus-transmission, community-spread, pre-vaccination phase of the coronavirus pandemic. That does not diminish the revelations that Covid-19 has exposed—hopefully leading to the “picking-up” part. I don’t feel it is too soon to consider the injustice and brokenness that has been exposed. However, with news of vaccines coming soon, the Thanksgiving holiday, flu season, and alarming trends in new Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, perhaps it’s a good time to take a minute to assess where we are in the pandemic-arc and in our understanding of Covid-19.
VERY DIFFICULT from the beginning
Recall, the SARS II coronavirus is respiratory. It infects new hosts and increases across the population by airborne aerosol transmission. If that were not troubling enough news, sixty percent (60%! per, Dr. Leana Wen) of Covid-19 transmission occurs through asymptomatic spread. So, Covid-19 seems to have a fourteen day incubation window, and, along with asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic airborne aerosol contagion, these factors make it a very difficult public health problem.
The kinds of disease caused by infection with Covid-19 and the duration and degree of disease are highly variable from short to long term, from none to mild, to moderate, to severe, to fatal. Some people are totally asymptomatic, and, other people experience death as a result of this disease. Some experience little to nothing for a short time while others experience serious, or even grave, illness for extended periods. We still don’t know the long-term effects of having been infected with Covid-19
—like chickenpox, and then later shingles, both resulting from the varicella zoster virus, for instance.
Add to all that the difficulty in trying to offer tight messaging nationwide regarding such a fast moving target. Of course, we didn’t know it then, but in March and April the entire nation didn’t need to react the same way New York City needed to react. Only in the last few weeks has the degree of seriousness that New York experienced early-on been coming to the remainder of the country. Now in November, even more overwhelming assaults by the virus are hitting the Great Plains where medical care situations across very broad areas have little to no capability for anything like this and little to no resilience built into what capacity that does exist.
My experience went something like this: As I said, we didn’t know it yet, but, in the springtime when we were asked to respond to the pandemic here in Kansas with the same measures those in New York were responding with, well, it was an overreach. Most Kansans are rather pragmatic and so many recognized that we were over-reacting to the conditions we had then by behaving as though we, too, were a New York-like red-zone. The different pace the virus moves through urban/suburban vs. rural environments was far underappreciated (or flatly missed) in the national messaging last spring and summer. Initially, the whole one-size-fits-all idea did not really apply, it is beginning to now.
“I always preferred to downplay it” –DJT
What with President Trump’s consistent downplaying of the pandemic, and the president’s lack of a national strategy, I feel a good bit of confidence in the government’s ability to lead in this pandemic was lost early on. Obviously, one thing we have been taught in this pandemic is how the life conditions on the ground must help determine an appropriate and adequate response. A red-zone response is an imposing overreach in a green-zone. Then, too, now we realize that knowing these key things hinges on effective testing. We still don’t have an effective testing strategy.
I remember, back in early March, Dr. Fauci describing the task of an epidemiologist in the context of an approaching pandemic: “To move intervention mitigation along at such a pace that everyone thinks we’re doing far too much.” Rain-maker makes a tempting comparison. Add the messaging problem of a diverse nation of people all experiencing the pandemic differently. Well, that really multiplied the difficulty.
Now, with Scott Atlas as the president’s go-to advisor, the administration is in full “Let ‘er rip!” mode regarding Covid-19, e.g. using social Darwinist ideology. It’s the dualist logic of a transactionalist. Advocating death is reprehensible. Tangentially, the president’s approach is unconscionable, forms significant trauma, and reflects an abuse of health care workers. The president’s approach is simply evil on several counts.
New. Previously unseen. A “novel” coronavirus.
The plain truth is there have been many false starts and a good bit of confusing messaging with regard to Covid-19 this year.
This doesn’t mean that science is defective, really just the opposite. The SARS II Coronavirus is a new and never-seen phenomenon. Actually, if the science on Covid-19 were not growing and evolving at a brisk pace we would correctly be suspect. This evolving-knowledge reality does, however, make consistent tight messaging impossible over time. Best to think in terms of evolving episodes leading deeper and deeper into a more full knowledge.
One way this dynamic worked in the Great Plains is the way in which new things often come to the Heartland, e.g., rather slowly. I remember as a kid, long before Amazon, we all felt it was so unfair that both the East and West Coasts got the latest big thing (the, usually, new thing that everyone just had to have) months, if not years, before we did here in fly-over country.
In the case of this pandemic, our initial lack of experience with the present new big thing (Covid-19) made it easier for many people to discount and dismiss the growing tragedy as a hoax. In general that worked against our recognizing and helpfully responding collectively to the pandemic. Our over-reaction early on by those who were watching New York and took the pandemic seriously, worked as a catalyst for pandemic fatigue.
So, to the group who didn’t really take the pandemic seriously anyway we have added the group who did take it seriously but are experiencing fatigue and who are now burnt out on mitigation compliance.
All this in the face of what is now an alarming/explosive wave of infection that we here in the Great Plains are finally experiencing along with the rest of the nation. The preexisting condition that may get us all killed by Covid-19 and it’s societal side-effects is our twenty-first century addictive need to politicize (read polarize) every issue in America.
We have finally met Covid-19 full force from coast to coast. The positive-rate for Covid tests in Kansas has sustained a daily moving average of over fifty percent for better than a week now.
So, record numbers of new Covid cases are being detected daily. The numbers are generally escalating.
Hospitals are already full.
Death rates for Covid are beginning to spike-up now as well.
We recall, sadly, hospitalizations and deaths are lagging indicators.
For many people the pandemic has been little more than an inconvenience. If that is you, then good on ya. For many others Covid-19 has been a complete and total disruption of life. If that is you, then I’m praying for you, please hold on. The pandemic Apocalypse exposed the fact that the way our systems are set up works in the same way, the same socially-constructed blessing—curse dynamic, only as our routine way of life.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” —Charles Dickens
The opening line of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities has never seemed more apropos. The pandemic has been an economic boon to quite a few and an existential bust for many more. Covid-19 affirmed in the early going that, as per usual, it would be the poor and vulnerable who would pay the greatest price for the pandemic. The Apocalypse dimension of the pandemic clearly indicates the scope of systemic distress for the poor and marginalized. A reckoning time is indicated.
This virus does seem to let the vast majority of those infected pass by rather easily and mostly free of illness. The 64,000 dollar question for every person who becomes infected with Covid-19 (and those who love them): Did I (or, my loved one) draw a short straw?
Scott Atlas and the president have made it plain that their leadership consists of proudly claiming social Darwinist ideology on the short straw question. To them, ‘short straw’ is another way of saying ‘loser.’
Make no mistake, the administration’s stated ‘plan‘ is to just let the coronavirus rip and allow the chips to fall where they may.
If you draw a short straw, well, sorry for you and yours, but, then, the herd (“mentality”) will be thinned of another loser.
Peoples’ home/family are, of course, effected by Covid-19 through their intersection with all the other systems being effected: e.g., school, employment, business, and health. A recent report said that eight million people in America have slipped into poverty since May. There’s an example of something that is rather hard on “home/family.”
At this point in time my chief “home/family” concern in the Heartland is the priority that families place on annual rituals like Thanksgiving. With family values and pandemic-fatigue seriously eroding good judgment in this case, the holiday could be the mother of all super-spreader events.
Risk assessment regarding gathering with others
Here’s a tool that allows you to make informed decisions. This map (here) shows the risk level of attending an event, given the event size and location.
In the Great Plains (and many other areas) most rural hospitals do not have the capability to offer medical care for acute Covid-19 patients. Now that the infection and community spread of the coronavirus has moved to nearly all rural areas, regional hospitals are being overrun with patients from rural areas. As I write on Friday [11/20] the trend-lines are all pointed up with almost daily records in new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Today hospitals are already full (see article here) and the number of beds needed will only be growing as hospitalization and death are lagging indicators a couple weeks behind the record number of new cases. In other words, the further overwhelming of medical systems is already baked-in now and will only grow worse if we aggravate the situation further by ignoring public health guidance. On Friday I Tweeted:
I heard one emergency room doc remark: “We are on the cusp of moving from the ugly to the horrific.”
I agree, and I feel the pattern has established that the dreadfully horrific is already baked-in. The medical care delivery system is going to be dreadfully overwhelmed. The only question now is: Just how horrific will it get in the interim before the vaccines have an opportunity to factor in? Will the entire hospital system collapse? This will be determined by how we respond to our situation as it develops, and just how compliant with public health guidance we are able to be.
I feel that this is one of the most heart-breaking aspects of the pandemic. Setting aside the ways in which remote learning greatly exacerbates the inequality already endemic to our education system, this situation is most definitely traumatizing our children in ways that we will only grow to fully appreciate as we go forward.
I feel very strongly that all public school teachers and staff ought to be priority one, right there at the head of the line (along with front-line docs and nurses) to get the vaccines as soon as they roll out. This ought to be a top-priority so that all children may safely return to their classrooms for in-person learning as soon as possible.
Rebekah Jones, former Florida health data expert, has partnered with Google and nonprofit FinMango to create a website called The COVID Monitor. It aims to track cases in schools across the nation, from kindergarten to college.
‘Employment’ ties in here and good news is a bit scarce. Through the experience of Covid-19, business has learned that it can get by without nearly as much real estate, and, worse, it can get by without several kinds of labor that previously engaged many people in the economy. The extraordinary cost-cutting potential that business has recognized through the Covid economy will be leveraged and realized even further going forward and this does not bode well for lower and middle working-class Americans.
Hope on the horizon
Frankly, I am unclear on how President Trump could have screwed-up the leadership on the pandemic any more than he actually did. So, I am hopeful about the new leadership we will have in the White House on January 20.
Vaccines coming soon is hopeful. What will actually make that news great is if vaccines can be translated into vaccinations. The conundrum is that the vaccine strategy is most effective if universal, and, yet, making vaccination against Covid-19 mandatory generates sabotage against the entire initiative (anti-vaxxers, etc.). Again, hopefully teachers and school staff are first in line along with nurses and docs for vaccination.
Next week: We’ll continue in our “Picking-up after an Apocalypse” mini-series. Come and see.
‘Picking-up after an Apocalypse (part 1),’ ~ Election debrief
‘Picking-up after an Apocalypse (part 2),’ ~ “Racial anxiety”
Other Covid-19 related posts:
[this post approx. 2,575 words (11 min. read + media)]
I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say? Note: I know, trying to introduce a big-picture idea like Spiral Dynamics (a complex developmental anthropology) in this format is ambitious. So, I’m using a serial-approach. Blog introduction (June 30, 2018). First in series (July 1, 2018).
From my post, TL;DR on coping with Covid-19… “Interesting interview done recently in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic with John Barry who wrote the book, “The Great Influenza” about the 1918-19 pandemic.” ….