Thursday, May 11, 2023

Victory over COVID! Nation jubilant!

Kamehachi Restaurant, 12:30 p.m., March 16, 2020, the day before J.B. Pritzker ordered all
Illinois restaurants closed.  "I'm going to kill myself for a negi-hamachi roll."

     Well, THAT’S over. Finally. Thank God.
     The national COVID emergency is officially ending. At least according to the government, which should know. Finito. Done. As of midnight Thursday.
     Still. Our old Uncle Sam is a little slow on the uptake, is he not? COVID ended for most people a long time ago, when the vaccines were rolled out and the public got two or three doses and didn’t have to worry that some bug clinging to a box of Cheerios would kill us. Frankly, when I heard that the government decided to stick a fork in it, I thought: “About time.”
     It’s certainly over for the 1.1 million COVID dead in America, who no longer have to worry about the pandemic or anything else. Though it isn’t nearly over for their surviving loved ones. And then there are the up to 23 million Americans who might have “long COVID,” whatever that is — unpleasant symptoms that medical science is still getting its head around. And the thousand-plus Americans who keep dying of COVID every week — it’s real enough for them, I suppose.
     The national reaction to the million-plus COVID dead will always be a mystery to me. Almost 20 times the Americans killed in the Vietnam War. Yet our soldiers get a black granite gash of a monument in Washington DC. While the COVID dead get ... what? A quick cough into the collective national fist? No ceremony. Nobody even plays taps.
     How come? Because they’re old? Meaning ... their lives are worthless? Maybe because I’m well on my way to being old myself, assuming I’m not there already, but that doesn’t quite wash. Thomas Jefferson was old when he died — 83, really old for 1826 — and he got that lovely domed memorial surrounded by cherry trees.
     Maybe the problem was that too many Americans balked at the low-level, sensible steps necessary to avoid killing grandma. Wear a cotton mask when you go into 7-Eleven for a Big Gulp. Take remote classes. Hot to cast themselves as victims, they painted these sensible precautions as oppression. So recognizing the real death toll of COVID would be like grasping that the leading cause of death for children in the United States is gun violence. To recognize the toll is a step toward doing something about it, and to certain folks that’s unimaginable. We don’t need to solve a problem we won’t face.

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  1. I'll never run out of toilet paper. I regularly buy the 30 packs of Charmin Ultra Soft at Costco & started the pandemic with over 100 rolls of it! I got down to maybe 75 before they finally had more in stock, although they were limiting you to one per customer. So I'm back to over 100 rolls of it!

    1. I never went that far. I just made sure we maintained a consistent maybe 65 or 70 rolls. And plenty of paper towels, too. Now that the plague is pretty much over, we just keep a mere two or three dozen rolls of TP around. No need for excessive greed.

  2. First, congrats Neil on your second consecutive National Headliner Award. Well deserved!
    Regarding COVID, as you allude, the nuttiness that took place soon after the government tried to institute safety standards had nothing to do with health and everything to do with right wing resistance to anything public officials suggest.
    It spawned groups such as Moms for Liberty who are nothing about liberty and everything about white supremacy.

    1. I give a wide birth to any group with "Moms" or "Liberty" or "Freedom" in their name...because they have nothing to do with any of those things, and are mostly all about authoritarianism, homophobia, nationalism, right-wing oppression, racial, ethnic, and religious intolerance...and plain old American fascism.

  3. As for Covid: It's depressing to me to think of how many lives might have been saved and how many other people might have been spared the illness if a political party had not discouraged its members from getting vaccines or treating the pandemic like ... a pandemic.

    As for Neil's National Headliner Award: Congratulations! While he told Gene Weingarten on Twitter: " did occur to me that when I finally become the last working newspaper columnist in America, then I'll be getting ALL the awards...", I think it's just that folks are finally wising up to the fact that he's long been one of the best.

    As for mentioning Gene Weingarten: This is probably too Sophomoric to be placed on the back-to-back NHA winner's blog, but Weingarten was written about here recently, partly in relation to his Pulitzer Prize-winning article about the tragedy of folks leaving babies in hot cars. I think GW, who appreciates iffy humor better than most, might think this Onion bit was funny. "Baby Left Inside Hot Mom."

  4. "I still can’t believe it happened.” I’ll say the same thing to my wife, and she will say it to me. I shake my head in amazement when I remember 2020, starting with our eleven weeks of hunkering in our bunker, only going out to hike in deserted parks..

    The silent, empty streets, devoid of pedestrians, except for the dog-walkers, of course. Few cars...maybe a half-dozen passing my windows in a day. Gasoline down to less than a dollar. Empty freeways.. The silence. The absence of air or two planes a day over my house, reminding me of 9/11. Cleaner air. EVERYTHING cancelled...the World of Doctor nothing...all spring, and on into the summer. And then the fall, and the winter. Holiday meals being dropped off on porches. Take-out. Drive-through fish fries.

    2020 and 2021 seem like a bad dream now.. Face masks normalized and becoming ubiquitous...not merely worn by hypochondriacs and young people from other countries, mostly Asian ones. The George Floyd upheaval. The 2020 election. January 6th. Welcoming in Joe. Followed by our seven weeks of Covid. I want my February and March back. Still have a few residual effects, but it is what it is. You learn to deal with it.

    Thinking about all of it is like re-reading one of my WWII books about 1941-45 and life on "the home front"--did Americans really live through all that? The new books, about 2020-23 are already being written.

    This war is over. Merely a hundred dead in a week now, instead of a thousand in a day...or three or four times that many. Our economy has revived...but countless retail businesses...especially restaurants...are history. Offices are shuttered, downtowns are deserted, communities are fragmented, relationships are frayed or gone, people are more isolated than ever before--either working at home or leaving the labor force entirely. Free at do what?

    To sit on a porch, deck, or patio, glass or cup in hand. To mourn those who were lost, to contemplate all the other permanent and jarring changes the Plague has wrought, to fear and dread the sociopolitical abyss that awaits us. Not gonna go there...I've already covered more than enough.

  5. So much to unpack here. First; covid. I remember my good friend whose mother, in a nursing home died early in the pandemic and my friend's despair the she couldn't hold her mom's hand as she passed. This happened so many times to so many families, and certainly not just to families of older people, who DO count in our society if for no other reason than their status as our connection to the past. Also one of my worst nightmares came true; I could not hug my daughters. Next? The ugliness of deniers, insurrectionists (wait,Jan 6 was just legitimate political discourse). So said the politicians who hunkered down in their offices under desks on the 6th and then in a mealy mouth way said it was no big deal as they ignored subpoenas that lead to the truth. Also the lives of the police officers, one who died that day, and the following suicides as well as that poor misguided woman who, shot by the agent protecting the politicians, died to say what? The election was stolen? A lie fomented by Trump. Finally, the fact that people with guns kill more children than anything else. Re-read that statement. The fact that my little granddaughters, who when I pick them up at school run to me yelling papa, papa stand a better chance to be murdered in their classroom than they do to succumb to any one of a number of diseases which have been eradicated by national heath initiatives. Yet their are people who oppose sensible controls on who can and cannot buy guns. And I am a retired police officer who owns guns, so spare me the "you are just another sheep" rhetoric.
    That's all I have today, except to say congratulations to NS on his award and to hope that people go outside today to feel the sun and breathe the air as it was not so long ago that such things were not so easy to do.


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