The Newsletter: Issue #14

This has been a weird week, for me personally and for the world. If you don’t think it’s weird, you are likely in the position of being both simultaneously privileged and unknowingly oppressed. Welcome to Capitalism.

Around the World

So how about that Trump raid?

I’m still weeding through all the details on why Mar-a-Lago was raided, and what the potential or definitive consequences of it will be. And I have a lot of mixed feelings about it myself. From an accountability-standpoint, anything that criminal has done should be held up against the law like any other citizen of the United States. But something I learned in my own personal experiences with family law, and our kids, is that oftentimes the law will not always err on what is morally right, but what is (a) prosecutable, and (b) not going to cause an undo burden on the public good. and there is something to be said for understanding the incredibly sensitive and delicate balance in this country right now. National security, and the possibility for an all out Civil War, is very likely a part of the conversation on this at some stage.

We should save this one for another conversation, perhaps a blog I’ll post next week on the topic, alone.

In the meantime, here are just a few of the thoughts circling around in my head, in no particular order:

  1. Andrew Yang is, yes, a piece of shit, but he is right in the sense that if nothing major comes as a result of all this news cycle, the FBI raid, and the investigation, then it will have been political and the consequences could be – not to be hyperbolic, but: catastrophic to the country. Is he trash for saying it when he did and the way he did? Sure. But he may not be wrong. We’ll see.
  2. Many high level Democrats, including Congressman Eric Swalwell (famous for telling Susan Surandon, a woman, to sit down and shut up about women’s rights…), were calling for Trump to release the warrant. When he leaked it to Brietbart, they began to complain because it was not redacted. Again, am I defending that the idiot didn’t think to redact names of agents on there before he leaked it? Maybe. But he did what they asked; that they expected the guy who suggested we inject bleach to cure COVID to know to redact names from a sensitive document before leaking it as they requested is… well…
  3. I honestly do not see this resulting in anything, and if it does I do believe the consequences will call into question if it was worth it. Back to point one, time will tell. To be clear: this is not a reason to withhold accountability. Trump, we all know, is a criminal, on many levels and for several reasons. But defining “accountability” in this case may require people to consider way more than just the people that did the crime, but the people who will suffer for the fall out. I don’t know, again maybe a conversation for another day (and again, to be clear, I am not defending Trump.
  4. Fundamentally, one of the main reasons I – like me personally – voted for Biden in 2020 was to not have to hear about Trump anymore. At this point, I don’t even care if he goes to prison, flees the country, runs for president again and loses, or simply bides his time quietly on his golf course. I just don’t want to hear about it. All the Jon Coopers of Twitter post daily, ad nauseam, about him. I think the Republicans are right: liberals are absolutely obsessed with him. Sometimes it feels like we are collectively checking our ex-boyfriend’s Facebook page to see what he’s up to; it’s exhausting and I voted to be rid of it.
  5. As is, there is already talk about Biden pardoning Trump in the name of unity. I wouldn’t be surprised at all, and in fact as I was talking to a friend about it, this popped up in my Instagram feed. So yeah…

Then, of course, there was the whole CDC COVID update, which made headlines even though it hardly changed much in the way of public health policy that was not already changed or observed, starting back in the beginning of the year in the middle of the Omicron wave. However, what distinctly sticks out to me is some of the language the CDC is using now. They’ve completely redefined not only disease, but everything, to being about personal responsibility; the individual’s obligation to themselves and themselves, alone. This is the antithesis of “public” health, but moreover I believe it sets the precedent to deny claims of public liability for injury caused. In other words: oh, you’re now permanently disabled by long COVID (as is happening to as many as 20% of people that catch it)? Well that was your fault for catching it, disability claim denied.

But it goes beyond that. Some of the language seems to cite numbers inconsistent with actual reality. Many many Americans continue to have avoided COVID infection, and both the vaccinations and previous infection are not useful against circulating variants, and yet the CDC claims that as many as 90% of Americans have “existing levels of immunity.” They also discuss avoiding punitive measures against students that choose to continue to mask, as if kids have been punished prior to now for wearing them. Something doesn’t seem right about anything that they cite, and to release the guidance in a time that 93% of the country is in areas of remarkably high transmission, and daily papers come out citing the profound and extensive damage reoccurring SARS infection is causing… well something just does not add up to me.

Again, maybe a conversation for another day.

Around My World

I’m trying not to get stressed out by the fact that our new property manager seems to be in it to get his money with as little work as possible Our move in walk through yielded several things that needed to be addressed. The excuses for none of them being done continue, a month and a half later.

The other day we woke up to a sprinkler that was broken, spraying everywhere. It took a while for the landscapers to show up and fix it (if you can call what they did “fix”), but in the course of all of this it has become all the more clear that gardening – included in the lease – is also not going to actually happen. Today we raked up probably years worth of begoniaville petals, many decomposed and putrid smelling. Tomorrow we’ll be cutting the grass and weeds out front as well.

How am I dealing with this stress?

Well, it’s past time for me to decorate so I started getting going with my fall decorations. Every year I have a system: August 1 – September 15 is for Fall decorating, with Halloween to follow. So – technically – I’m late. It’s already the middle of August, so finally yesterday and today I kicked it into gear. The great part about moving was that we had to get rid of so much, some needs replacing. So I guess that’s fun.

You Can’t Unsee This

In regards to that Trump raid, the memes have been on point, I will admit that.

STFU Fridays

Alright, this is a bit of an obscure one, but we need to talk about the bakery cookies at the grocery store.

You know those soft sugar cookies that start to pop up in the bakery section around this time of year. They usually vary the frosting and sprinkles for whatever holiday is coming up. Right now, because Labor Day is around the corner, they have blue with red, white, and blue sprinkles. In October it’ll be orange and the brown, yellow, and white sprinkles. Then it’ll be straight to Christmas, with Valentine’s Day colors in the new year, closing their annual stint at the grocery store off with Easter colors.

People are so divided on these cookies, but I have to say to both sides: shut up already. Honestly. The cookies are fucking good, and even if they’re not what is this thing people have where because they don’t like them, that means no one can have the pleasure of eating them? We live in a society that is so heavily controlled as is: we have to work where we’re told, live where we’re told, do what we’re told; stop trying to control what fucking sweets people have access to with your weird online petitions, and obsessive bitching at grocery employees. As if Bob who works in check out can fucking control the inventory, you pedantic, anti-cookie, fucks.

So have a good weekend, and leave people alone to their cookies. And by people, I mean me. I’m with Brian on this one.

Get Your Germs Away From My Ass

<CONTENT WARNING: THIS ONE IS SWEARY>

We’re at the find out portion of the fuck around era, and I am not here for any of it. Get your germs away from my ass, both figuratively and literally.

I thought we were getting to higher ground with the pandemic. Sure, things are kind of still a shit show, but there is literally nothing left for the anti-COVID idiots to complain about, what with politicians abandoning all sense of responsibility and public health being bought off by the likes of the mRNA gods and goddesses. To be clear: I am pro vaccination, but the way in which we have been sold to the CEOs of major corporations, both in what’s available to us for therapeutics, treatments, and preventatives, as well as the various industries that saw mitigation measures correlative to decreased profits for them (I’m looking at you Delta…), well it makes my ass sick. Not COVID sick, just sick.

The problem with letting COVID rip, so they call it, is that it has done a remarkable job at mutating, infecting people multiple times, causing massive disruptions to public life, and hammering down our immune systems. I read the other day that 4 million people in the US, alone, now have long COVID, which is pretty fucking profound if you think about the number of people that represents that may have left the workforce.

In any event, now we are seeing all of these other diseases emerge, go buckwild you might say, and the result is of course that the government and public health professionals just… ignore that shit too.

In the last several weeks, we have had an onslaught of people not just getting covid, though. The UK announced polio cases, and a few weeks later news broke that someone had been paralyzed by polio in New York. Just yesterday, the New York State Department of Public Health announced that they detected polio in the waste water as far back as June. There is this mysterious hepatitis showing up in children (no largely mentioned correlation to COVID, though, even as over 75% of the kids had prior infection with the Omicron variant). Today, BNO news announced that some people had tested positive for dyptheria in Switzerland. A few days ago, it was scurvy.

And we all know about the monkeypox. Or do we?

Monkeypox was something we all should have been paying more attention to back in May, when it was clear that it was beginning to spread. But instead of – oh I don’t know – doing anything about it, we all sort of just sat around and chalked it up to being a gay thing. I’m not shy to the fact that the vast majority of cases are currently in the gay/bi/MSM community; however, this is a far cry from who can actually get monkeypox, which is anybody and everybody. Monkeypox just happens to be in an associated group right now, and of course that’s only perpetuated by the fact that as far back as May and, in many places, still today, the only people that can get tested are from that associated group (of gay men, mainly). To be clear, though, while monkeypox isn’t as transmissible as COVID, it can spread in a lot of ways – in the air if someone sneezes through a lesion in their nose, through – yeah – sex (though it’s not an STI), by touching something the other person touched, hotel sheets… you name it, monkeypox can even survive for long periods of time on your food.

And yet still, the government has sort of just ignored it as people begin to die from its effects around the world. Children have started to test positive for it as well, the more that testing has opened up; in fact, two have tested positive here in California, where I live.

I’ll say it again: get your fucking germs away from my ass.

I just don’t understand what fucking thinking we have going on in our heads right now. I read somewhere that COVID does affect some people cognitively, and so I’m wondering if everyone got COVID and we’re all just fucking nimrods now that cannot put two and two together.

So here, I’ll do it for y’all:

1. None of this shit is going to get under control if you all don’t start demanding more from your elected leaders – from the top, down. That first requires you all to give a shit, which I’m pretty sure may be a far cry from happening, but it’s worth saying. If you gave a fuck about each other again, maybe you’d have the impetus to contact someone – anyone – to demand they do better; I don’t know, just shooting that one from the hip. Congress should be funding more research, treatments, response. The White House should be sending out more tests. The CDC should be requiring masks in healthcare settings, at the very least.

2. As long as COVID is allowed to spread, people will continue to get infected over and over and over again. At some point the 4 million people that are disabled now as a result of long term symptoms (not to mention all the people that continue to fucking die, some quite young in fact), is going to grow to such an exponentially unmanageable number that social security will collapse and/or no one will be around to keep your favorite, local Applebees open.

3. Every time a new disease or new-old disease emerges as a problem, you run the risk of it mutating and wreaking havoc the likes of which we have not even yet seen; especially as a result of the aforementioned weakening of the immune system caused by repeated infections with COVID.

4. It is not normal for diseases like polio to show up in the waste water.

5. Monkeypox is painful and puts a higher percentage of patients in the hospital due to the lesions, the sites they are commonly found on, and the amount of pain they create. The United States’s healthcare system is already on the verge of collapse due to the ongoing COVID pandemic, adding this to their burden is – frankly – unforgivable. People can die from monkeypox because it also crosses the blood-brain barrier and can cause encephalitis. And, as if all of that was not bad enough, as many as 50% of cases end up with neurological or psychological issues.

It’s starting to seem as though we have somehow teleported, or time traveled, back to the days when people just died of random diseases all the time. Women lived to the ripe, old age of 32, and then died of period pain in the middle of the cobblestone street. The callousness with which we approach the lives of each other has perhaps normalized massive amounts of pain, suffering, and death, after two years of people replying to COVID deaths on Facebook with laughing emojis, I suppose because it’s easier to just accept this new life?

I for one do not accept it. I want none of it.

It is the 21st century and science has advanced us to a point where a vaccine could be created against a deadly viral disease in under a year, and y’all motherfuckers brought back polio and diphtheria as a response.

There is, of course, the obvious plot twist in it all as well: that this is just a necessary consequence of a changing climate. Anyone arguing still today that climate change is not real lives further down than under a rock. Everything going on – monsoonal pressure on the West Coast, all time heat in Spain and the UK, the storms, the fires… all of that is just the tip of the iceberg of climate change. Scientists have also been warning for years, decades in fact, that another aspect or potential of climate change would be that zoonotic diseases would cause more spill over resulting in human epidemics; that viruses would be able to mutate and adapt more quickly because of the changes to the ecology of our planet; and, that as permafrost melted, old shit would resurface.

Well here the fuck we are, I hope you all are happy.

Whatever the case may be, I – for one – am tired of this shit. I don’t get people that have absolutely zero problem being sick all the time. I do not get it. I’m not saying crawl in a hole and hide forever. I’m not saying seal yourself in a bubble, like Bubble Boy. I’m just saying to get your germs away from my ass. Stay the fuck home when you are sick.

Since y’all cannot even seem to reliably do even that – the absolute bare minimum – maybe I will get a bubble after all…

Personal Responsibility Is Not Public Health

What kind of a shit show is going on over there at the White House, anyway? The new approach of people taking individualistic, personal responsibility, for whether or not they get COVID, and how they fair with it, is some wild ass horse shit I never saw coming.

Wild ass horse shit.

I feel like the Biden Administration, including his COVID Task Force, covered a piece of lumber with rusty nails and beat me over the face with it. Or they’re imploding. Or they’re just giving up and don’t give a fuck anymore.

Personal responsibility is not public health.

It’s quite literally antithetical to the word “public,” to the concept of public health. The scope of public health is, of course, to protect the community and the public, not cowtow to airline CEOs and Blue MAGAts that stopped caring the minute they were protected and found out it was just the Blacks and Browns, and the poors, mostly being affected.

A few problems with their Spring 2022 approach:

“We Have Solid Leadership”

No. We don’t.

We have people that tell us to live with COVID, while giving us no means to do so, or to spell out the risks of it so everyone understands.

We have people who lead by gaslighting; who say that COVID can be managed safely, while showing the world how they do it without disclosing the vast privileges they have above and beyond what average Americans have access to.

This is not leadership, and more and more we’re now hearing stories about people getting very sick, because they simply didn’t know any better but to listen to the President of the United States, whose primary focus is to keep you spending money and working more.

Perhaps the most disingenuous aspect of COVID in the US right now is in the vaccinations. Beyond the lie that we would have an Omicron vaccine by now, or that we could tweak the vaccines quickly, is the scandal of letting data sit for other vaccines while people die. Novavax has been on the FDA’s desk since January, Covaxin pediatric vaccine was denied with no reason; parents are being forced to wait for Moderna so Pfizer has an equal shot at getting product in arms. Did you all know that in the UK they have 6 vaccines? In Canada they have 8. Why do we deserve only a couple, and why are we not getting some honesty with the American people that for the vast majority, they’re as good as not vaccinated at this point?

Oh I know. Because corporations and the economic outlook.

Less than 50% of Americans are boosted. 30% of Americans boosted over 6 months ago. The vaccines don’t last forever, Karen… in fact, they don’t even last a year, which means that many people have zero protection; and Omicron BA 1 conferred no protection.

Did you get that? None.

We don’t have leaders warning people, telling people that now the question isn’t have you gotten COVID, but how many times have you had it? We have no one out in front being frank about the risks of getting long COVID, or a more serious case, with each successive infection.

If you all read nothing else I have to say, read this: the President of the United States does not give a fuck about you. They tell you you can take off your mask without knowing your personal health status. They tell you it’s safe because they want you spending money, and because some political consultant with his head up his ass thought it would help with the Midterms. They tell you “we have the tools” without funding those tools so that you can have them too.

And now they make jokes about it, as they did Saturday night. 1 million Americans are dead, millions more disabled; but the White House Correspondence Dinner was a good time to crack jokes at the expense of those victims, at an event held amidst unprecedented springtime community transmission nationally.

“We Have the Tools”

No. We don’t.

They do, and I guess for them that’s all that matters. But in many communities, Paxlovid and other treatments, including the preventative monoclonal Evushield, are still just… not widely available.

(And also, the United States is urgently studying whether or not Paxlovid and Mulnipovir have a widely observed infection rebound effect, which is fucking great if you want the drugs to be worthless by the fall/winter surge.)

There is no vaccine for the variants currently circulating, either.

No improved ventilation, pretty much anywhere.

But it isn’t even just that. In many areas, testing and vaccinations are gone for the uninsured. The free at home tests have run out, so have the masks you can pick up in the pharmacy. Congress has failed to pass funding for COVID, which we all saw coming when they gutted it from their omnibus budget (more than 50% of which was for military spending) earlier in the year. They always say “we’ll do it later, as a separate bill.” But as with their social spending bill that was burned to the ground by a single Democratic senator from West Virginia: it’s all smoke and bluster up the bum.

We also don’t have a CDC with integrity, an FDA free of special interest, and a White House COVID Task Force with an actual strategy.

“We Know What To Do”

No. We don’t.

At the same time the White House was hosting a poorly ventilated, mask-less, super-spreader this weekend, Amazon was making the announcement that they would no longer be offering 5 days of sick pay to employees who test positive for COVID 19. As a replacement, they offer 5 excused, unpaid days.

Personal responsibility as a response to a public health crisis.

Companies have already been doing this, but Amazon’s official change in practice will be the opening of the dam for the rest of the water to break. COVID protections in the workplace are over.

If an employee tests positive, they don’t know what to do. Go to work? Or stay home? If they stay home, how will they pay the bills?

They don’t know.

If a coworker tests positive, and you have an immune-compromising condition or comorbidity, are you protected? Don’t know. Should you wear a mask? Not sure. Should you get tested? Where?

No substantive public policy was ever made to address ventilation in the workplace, nor guarantee sick pay to protect others. We have the tools? We know what to do? We have leadership on this? The fuck we do.

But it isn’t just that. An important tool for people to assess their personal risk – given their own health conditions and vaccination status – is to know conditions on the ground in their own communities. But by and large, states and counties have cut further and further back on reporting. In California, we now only get numbers twice a week; in my county, it’s only on Mondays. Moreover, the CDC completely redefined their levels of transmission, and COVID ACT NOW has eliminated the rate of transmission on any portion of their website (while claiming it’s still available).

Information is another kind of tool, and it’s being intentionally restricted. Why? I have my suspicions, and I’ll meet you at Applebees to discuss it. (See what I did there?)

We can talk later until we are blue in the faces about why this is happening, and the real crisis of morals America – nay, the world – finds itself in. For now, we need to focus on the fix. What is the solution at this point? For myself, I’m not sure. I’m doing everything I can to keep my own family safe, but finding it increasingly more difficult to do so when I don’t even know what is lingering on the other side of our front door.

The Biden Administration has made themselves abundantly clear, and beyond just being about economic interests, I believe it’s about election prospects this year as well. But letting the pandemic reach it’s most fucked up point yet, with more people than ever saying that at least with Trump we had funding (I would be one of them), it’s hard to see how the Democrats can expect to do anything but lose this year. Bigly.

The consequences of this of course will be disastrous, but what do we do? Sit and lie, gaslight even ourselves and say everything is fine? Or do the opposite: advocate louder and harder for a reverse course, even if it means Blue MAGA cancels us as radical and “anti-vax” (an absurd accusation unto its own that has grown among elite, neoliberal Democratic circles in recent weeks).

But I am still an optimist on this, probably to a fault. It’s never too late to fix this. To admit mistakes, take responsibility, and kick COVID in the balls.

There’s that word again though. Responsibility. The government is making damn sure to demand it from us, while making it impossible for anyone to really and truly do so in a way that is ethical and fair.

And, at the same time, they are running away from any of it themselves.

You can’t point the finger forever though. At some point, you’re left with no one to point at but yourself. I just hope we change course before that’s all that’s left.

This Mask Shit Is Ableist AF

Do I need to say more than that?

Yesterday, some Trumpkin in a judge’s robe gave the death blow to the CDC’s mask mandate for public transit. This includes planes, trains, and publicly shared automobiles like Uber and Lyft. Within minutes, companies jumped on board and removed the requirements, Delta even announcing that in its omnipotent authority, COVID had officially transitioned to a seasonal, run of the mill cold bug.

(Newsflash: the CEO of Delta Airlines has zero fucking qualifications to make that call… we are still very much in a pandemic; you don’t get to just declare that shit over because you feel like it one day. But I digress…)

Naturally, the true ghouls of the United States celebrated en masse. Within an hour, I saw copious amounts of videos go viral on the Internet, of airline pilots announcing over the loudspeaker that people could oft their face coverings mid-flight; and celebratory chants went wild as flight attendants walked through the aisles of packed-in passengers, holding trash bags so that these oppressed people, woefully miserable with thin strips of covering over their gentile and delicate faces, could trash the vestiges of pure authoritarianism once and for all.

You ghoulish cowards. You make me sick.

Here’s the thing about the masks, which I guess more than two years into this y’all still don’t get: the mask is not to keep you safe, necessarily. It’s to protect the vulnerable around you. I thought everyone got this around the time Biden was elected but then what hit me like a brick were all the Democrats that also ripped their masks off and raw dogged the air like the GQPers that thought it was some sort of grand scheme to restrict their freedoms. And today, when asked if people should continue to wear masks on public transportation, Biden said “that’s up to them.”

That’s up to them.

You can still get and transmit COVID even if you are vaccinated or boosted. With the variants of sublineages, it is now the most transmissible virus in recorded human history. There are people that cannot be vaccinated too, like little kids and people with severely compromised immune systems may as well not be vaccinated even when they are. The shots plum don’t work on them.

We all get it: you feel protected. I even feel protected, but the bottom line is that there are people that do not. That isn’t their fear; it is not their rationality hedging on thin ice. It’s their own situation, and it is just as valid and worthy of protection or care as everyone else’s.

Imagine a kid that needs to get chemotherapy across town, and his parents are too poor to afford a car to get him there. The medical bills are too much. That kid deserves to have everyone on public transit masked. For him.

Imagine a father of five who had a kidney transplant due to a rare disease as a child. He’s immunocompromised and still has to fly for work. He can’t just phone it in or work at home. That man and his family deserve everyone on that plane masked.

Imagine a child with cancer traveling Amtrak for her Make a Wish, or across the country to get to Saint Jude’s for treatment. That kid deserves everyone on that train masked.

Of course we all should not ignore the proximity of this to people booking their travel for summer vacations, as well as Midterm elections – where the Democrats and Biden in particular are polling so poorly, it’s a little shocking. At the same time, though, is it really? When you make very specific commitments and are elected on those, and then you fail to follow through on them – preferring to bait and switch with a different, arguably neoliberal and rigidly corporation-focused, agenda, this is the result.

But to the masks…

It’s such a simple thing to do for other people, and not being willing to do so speaks volumes about people – either they don’t care what people think, or they’re too stupid to understand what they’re doing to the fabric of their community. Community is not all about you, so this individualistic approach doesn’t fly. I know that when I, and others I have spoken to, see people unmasked indoors in high risk situations, it’s like a neon sign is blinking over the person’s head saying “I DO NOT GIVE A FUCK ABOUT ANYONE BUT MYSELF.”

It’s narcissistic and albeit as fuck, all wrapped up in one.

The worst comments I see on the Internet are the ones that justify the deaths of the vulnerable by saying “well they were almost dead anyway.” No. They weren’t. If it weren’t for COVID, they would still be here, and many more will die unnecessarily for that same reason. It’s fucked up, genocidal in fact, to talk like that about other people. I’ve heard it in person too: early in the pandemic, our neighbors were talking unmasked, and one quipped “shouldn’t we mask up.” The other – a doctor, at the local hospital – said “hey as I see it, the people that are going down with this ship were already headed there anyway.”

A fucking doctor. What a nightmare this country has become.

There has to be some middle ground between COVID Zero and COVID is King. But in this increasingly polarized country, is that even possible anymore?

It Is Never Too Late To Defang This Stupidity

I feel as though we have really reached peak bullshit in this pandemic. It is exhausting to even just get up in the morning, let alone live, breathe, and witness the rampant stupidity that seems to now be at the wheel in controlling this thing.

I’m here today to say: it is never too late to defang this stupidity and change course.

You Can Still Get Vaccinated

I am by no means asserting that all people unvaccinated are morons. Let me be abundantly clear on this: that is not what I am saying. I. Am. Not.

There are a host of reasons people are not vaccinated still in the United States, as well as the rest of the world: poverty, access, eligibility… you name it. Even here in the United States, it’s estimated that a fair percentage of those unvaccinated would like to be, but work seven days a week and simply just are unable to afford any time off to do so. Also, no one under the age of 12 is currently eligible for vaccination; and I think we are grossly underestimating how many people that truly represents in this country.

But there is also that lawless group of mouth breathers who have the access, have the ability, and who have just folded up and said: NO. These are the morons, the mouth breathers, the plague rats that are keeping this going in an endless circle of chaos, destruction, and death – because this is what they live and breathe by.

These are the people that have covered their Facebook profile photos with banners that say “proudly not vaccinated,” who respond to news articles about the death of a child from COVID with the laughing emoji, and who walk into stores coughing all over everyone without a mask on and say really stupid things like “I identify as having an immune system.”

Morons.

You Can Still Implement NPIs

NPIs – for those unclear – are non pharmaceutical interventions. Things like social distancing, stay at home orders, masks… these are the things that are tried, tested, and proven to be effective in mitigating and slowing the spread of epidemic diseases.

I’m not advocating for “lockdowns” (which, let’s be clear, we never by definition had in any corner of the United States, with perhaps the exception of the Navajo Nation for a couple of weeks last year). I’m not even really advocating for stay at home orders, with vaccines and more medical treatments becoming available, of course some mitigation can/should loosen.

But limitations on capacity in indoor public spaces and masks seem very reasonable solutions to the newest surge of COVID being seeing in virtually all of the United States. And the misrepresentation by politicians and public health professionals that they were gone for good was, frankly, irresponsible.

So why won’t governments, private businesses, and public health agencies do them more assertively now?

Well, for one, they screwed up. If I know anything about contemporary American culture, it’s our unique inability to ever admit when we have done something wrong.

The newest rash of idiots taking center stage at this shit show we call life though are politicians, public health officials, and corporate stakeholders making the argument against the assertive and targeted use of NPIs in public spaces because: “we can mandate masks all we want, we will still have people refusing to wear them., so therefore we are choosing to do nothing”

[crickets]

“We can’t make seatbelts a law because some people will still not wear them” is what y’all dumbasses sound like when you say you won’t make public health guidance that is consistent with tried and true, evidence-based science, because a couple of hillbillies that probably have the collective IQ of a salad bar won’t follow said guidance.

You Can Still Open Schools Safely

Let’s be clear on this: the opening schools plan in the United States is not safe. This is the problem with stateside rugged individualism, and the inability of our government and broader community to rally around doing at least this is perhaps the blackest of marks that will go on our permanent record. Why is this what I believe? Because it is going to kill innocent children.

The refusal by some states to put in place any and all safety measures, and others to not offer alternatives, hybrid, and synchronous off campus instruction for students uncomfortable with returning to the classroom is something I continue to have a difficult time wrapping my head around.

Now those of you that have been around a while know that I have homeschooled my own children for more than a decade at this point. But the fear, terror, and abject horror of so many friends and family members – scattered all over the country – as their kids are being given virtually no options, or being sent into the classroom with masks optional, ventilation a joke, and distance an idea that never crossed anyone’s minds – is really starting to get to me. It is unconscionable, and for most of the summer I just could not understand.

Until I realized it was all about the money.

If kids are still given the option to stay home and still have access to an accredited teacher and all of their materials, yes you will still have a lot of parents (1) claiming unemployment every week, and (2) not returning to the physical office, continuing to work from home instead. I can see wanting to avoid this scenario before the current surge that involved a more transmissible variant affecting kids.

But the silence and the refusal to revisit school reopening plans now that cases and hospitalizations in kids are seeing their own exponential growth – both in heavily vaccinated and uvaccinated… masked and unmasked communities – is a level of ignorance on the part of policymakers, teachers unions, and education administrators that borders on criminal negligence. And it pokes holes in their previous arguments that any measures last year were about anything other than protecting only themselves.

I am not even sure who everyone seems to think will stay with the kids at home as they go in and out of quarantine from exposures, outbreaks, and positive tests themselves. 14 days is a long time to take off work unpaid, and the disruption our children have in store for them to their learning is perhaps even more profound than at any other point in this pandemic.

You Can Still Take the Politics Out of the Pandemic

I keep hearing people say the real shame in all of this is that the virus and the pandemic have been politicized. In a voice that sounds like the village idiot, or Sheriff Barney Fife on Andry Griffith, everyone just says “well I dunno what to do now that this whole thing has been politicized.” [shrugs shoulders and picks nose]

The real simple solution is that we stop using that excuse. Just stop. Stop politicizing it. Stop using the politicization of it as an excuse.

Policymakers can stop determining their policy by whether or not it’s favorable.

Local politicians and public health officers can stop tying what measures they take to whether or not their constituency polls favorably on it, or if there is a segment of societal mouth-breathers that won’t comply.

We are at what I believe to be the most dangerous point of this pandemic. It is the most chaotic, the most unhinged. This is the time when we have the most unknowns of what is to come: where projections are proving themselves wrong in all directions, and the science is continuing to change rapidly, while policy is not changing along with it.

Overarching all of it, though, is that our collective idiocy has taken the forefront of the conversation, or rather it’s taken over. Remember what Einstein said about the next World War: “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” Everyone keeps on calling this a war, and at this stage I do believe this could be argued as our third World War. It is unrelenting, it is resulting in mass casualties, and the enemy is literally everywhere. But if this is a war, we are fighting it with stupidity, and that is why it is taking us all down. When all of this is over, if it’s ever over and if any of us are left standing, we will have to have some very serious and broad conversations about education, and our failure in it over the decades to adequately prepare ourselves to defang this stupidity.

That is if it doesn’t eat us alive first.

Why Everyone Should Still Be Wearing Masks

I’ve been hesitating on posting on the blog until I have my straight-to-blog book about running for city council last year ready to hit the publish button. But this topic is just too important, and while the debate is gaining a fever-pitch for another critical moment in this ongoing pandemic… well, I just had to throw in my two cents.

We all have felt the whiplash of the back-and-forth recommendations from public health over the last year and a half; many of us as parents even moreso since the CDC announced that masks could be burned in the fire in almost all situations for anyone fully vaccinated. Our states quickly followed suit, along with individual businesses and enterprises everywhere making big announcements – as if such a thing was even necessary. Now I’m not saying that people always wore masks perfectly everywhere, but there is something to be said for just quietly changing rules instead of making such a hoopla over it.

Even local journalists were hosting Twitter threads announcing what locations immediately took off the masks; a shocking admission of their position on the matter, and moreover not equally covered now – weeks later – as cases have risen, neighboring counties have reinstated mask recommendations, and failing today to report on the actual quiet changes the CDC has made, such as reinstating mask mandates in homeless shelters for vaccinated people experiencing homelessness. To put it simply: the pressure on politicians and public health officials was strong from the press to take the masks off, but to back off on that? Not so much.

Now, a bit after the mask guidance dropped, and as coronavirus infections (for some) and variants (all over) have risen in number and prevalence all over the country, the mask debate goes on. I see doctors taking selfies unmasked, because – as they say – the vaccines do work. But I also hear wet coughs and comments about “freedom from face diapers” by people wearing t-shirts that say things like I will not be your medical experiment while I’m at the pharmacy picking up my unvaccinated four year old’s medication. As has been the case for the vast majority of this pandemic, when public policy has not intervened, the honor system has been asked of people. And while before public policy was effective enough to at least deter some of the negative effects, now – so it seems – people of all political persuasions have donned the Trumpian MO of staunch, and at time narcissistic, individualism. I got mine (vaccine), so you get yours and you’ll be fine. No more public policy needed.

Except every human being alive today under the age of 12 is not eligible for vaccination just yet.

In my own city in Southern California, the city decided they would encourage masks for everyone, but also make them entirely optional even for the unvaccinated. They (masks), thus, largely no longer exist. Anywhere, and for anyone – this being a total and direct defiance of county, state, and federal public health guidance. If immune compromised kids or adults want to go visit our local public library without at least some level of worry, they can – essentially – go blow.

(I wrote my city council on this, by the way, and not a single one of them could be bothered to respond… including, and most notably, the nurse.)

Masks, at this point more than at any other in the pandemic, have become so deeply political and incredibly controversial – both keeping them on and taking them off, and what each means in so many different situations – that I find myself spiraling down a hole that can best be described as Reverend Lovejoy’s wife on The Simpsons, just screaming over and over again in abject horror: “think of the children!” in hopes that some part of this will at some point settle down, and make sense. Pretty much 24/7.

Yes. Think of the children.

Please. Think of the children.

Severe COVID in children is exceptionally rare, though as more transmissible variants crop up, this may not remain to be the case. As with all new diseases and science – they just don’t know. As it stands, the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that in the week ending July 1st, 1.3% – 3.6% of COVID cases in children required hospitalization, with an all time figure since COVID appeared ranging between 0.1% AND 1.9% of all children infected in the entirety of the pandemic (to this point). A concerning increase? Maybe. I’m not a doctor. But the real issue is that the more people in need of acute care in a hospitalized setting, the less people and supplies there are available to care for them (resulting in more severe outcomes).

Death from COVID in children is even more rare, with somewhere just above 300 children in the entire United States having succumbed to the disease, most with underlying health conditions. A child in my own county died earlier this year of it, and the most disgusting, and common, reaction was to normalize it by saying “but he had other health conditions.”

Nothing about having other health conditions changes the fact that without COVID, they would still be alive today. If there is more we could have done to save that child’s life – any of those children’s lives – we have failed them by not doing so. Which is exactly what we are running the risk of doing now as virtually all mitigation measures are being stripped systematically by hacks in local government who care more about being re-elected than doing the right thing.

Children Need To Be In School In Person Next Month

The same thing that happened last summer is playing out again this year: the debate about how schools should open in the fall are ramping up. At the same time, we’re seeing viral Twitter posts, alarmist doctors, and legitimate news sources with clickbait-headlines about debated studies (from Israel) on vaccine efficacy, and disastrous accounts of more and more breakthrough cases cropping up. Mask guidance has again become nuanced – because we apparently don’t learn our lesson about how the general public deals with complexity and nuance.

The CDC has not even put out its guidance for schools in the fall yet, while some school boards have already made their decisions about what – if any – protections they will be putting into place. And at the same time, cases are rising in some areas of the country, even in my own heavily vaccinated state of California.

And yet the facts remain about school and children in the time of COVID: distance learning has profoundly affected children on an educational, as well as social and mental health, level. It’s also become a socio-economic hardship for families to have one parent staying home, with extended unemployment benefits expiring in the fall as COVID still ravages parts of the country, and other teacher’s unions signal they will not come to reasonable agreements over fears about breakthrough cases and variant transmission.

And yet still, I personally know of a handful of mom friends all over the country who are looking at rising cases in their communities, feeling uncomfortable with what safety measures their individual schools have planned, and are planning to keep their kids home, and in many cases strapping themselves even more financially, simply because so many people in their communities are now clinging for dear life to this rugged individualism that is killing people in real time.

There have been several studies proving without a doubt that children in school faired better with COVID. That is to say that in school with proper protocols being followed (ventilation, masking in some scenarios, etc), kids got sick less and had far better outcomes. With teachers and staff being protected now through vaccination, it seems to make sense that if we properly protect kids with other mitigation measures until kids can be protected through vaccination as well, getting them back into school is the right choice.

But…

As all things pandemic have been politicized to this point, what has become increasingly clear is that more than simply the educators and scientists will be making the decisions on this. Politicians, interested parties, and the parents with the loudest voices (though both sides are pretty loud and backed into their corners at this point), are already making school reopening policy with their rhetoric, and the virus and the media with their headlines.

To me, the logical thing to do to make sure we get kids into schools in person this fall in a safe environment is to universally mask back up until there is much more certainty about the variants, as well as the vaccines; until the headlines about the breakthrough infections subside, and the schools are at the point of no return to get kids back in their desks and in school.

It will put an end to headlines like we saw here in California yesterday, about the news that staffers at the Capitol had an outbreak with an unusually high number of post-vaccination breakthroughs, and only after the Capitol had slightly relaxed its masking guidance for vaccinated employees. It will slow workplace outbreaks, in particular in low wage service industry jobs that are public facing, where we rely on the public to be honest about who is in the store without a mask or a vax.

Because people can make their personal choices all they want. When you operate on the honor system, unvaccinated people by choice are violating this honor system, and in turn getting sick. Mask mandates in indoor public spaces showed they worked. Even with people continuing to gather in homes, at gatherings, and with capacity limits being lifted. By toning down the news cycle (which the media clearly cannot see any sort of moral imperative to do), we can make sure the ammunition in the school reopening debate is eliminated.

Won’t Somebody Think Of The Children?!

There are some other key points here that make sense to even someone like me – just a mom who pays attention:

People under 12 years old are not eligible for vaccination yet. Full stop. To say that it’s on the unvaccinated to protect themselves is a pretty dicey proposition to so many people literally cannot. They rely on the goodness of everyone else, and right now everyone else is not showing themselves to be very good. And while we already established that severe outcomes from COVID for children, including death, are exceptionally rare, long COVID (coronavirus symptoms more than 120 after testing positive) remains a persistant issue for children, just as: well, they’re kids.

Not a single child on this planet brought this pandemic on themselves, and to look at them and suggest that their risks are low, so we’ll now do nothing is… well, I can’t even think of a word to describe how awful that is.

Kids are also not as dumb as adults seem to consider them now. For the last year and half, we’ve asked them to make enormous sacrifices to protect the adults, in particular the elderly ones. We’ve taken away school, sports, aid for kids with special needs, consistency, they’ve watched families die, sacrificed much of their future, decimated their mental health; we’ve isolated them from friends, subjected them to greater food insecurities, pushed some into abject poverty and homelessness. Not everyone agreed with that proposition, and the science in the end has shown that some measures went too far.

But I continue to find not a single child that had a problem wearing a mask. And more so, including when I ran for city council, over the last year and a half, I have found that the kids were the most adaptable; the most willing to do what they had to do, no matter how hard it was, for the sake of caring for the adults. Will it hurt them in some way in the end? Probably. But they were willing to do it, because kids are like that – they have empathy and compassion that the rest of us seem to have, sadly, lost.

I have three kids, you guys know this. One is 17, one 13, and one 4. My 4 year old was the hardest to convince to deal with the discomfort of wearing a mask, but when it came down to him understanding that we were doing this to protect others, he immediately complied. This was the theme of the mask debate in the earliest of days, including after the Biden Administration took over the pandemic response, and he issued that 100 days to wear a mask and protect our communities in doing so. Masks work if they are worn universally. They provide some protection for the wearer alone, but if everyone does it they work remarkably well. This, like all of the other things we’ve discussed, is proven.

So what does it say to kids that know they still aren’t protected that suddenly no one is wearing a mask? Kids under 12 know they haven’t gotten the COVID shot, some (like mine) were there when siblings got it. They know COVID is still out there, they know some places still require masks or some of their parents are still working from home. Many still have family dying of the disease, wondering if they or another loved one is next.

After a year and a half of asking them to wear masks to protect everyone, what does it tell them now that the adults won’t wear masks to protect them?

The pandemic did require sacrifice, and it still does. From everyone. And while we can debate on whether or not some was just or went too far: at least some lives were saved in the process. We may never know if it could have been more, we may not know what will be required of us in the future. Today, we find ourselves in a new stage of the pandemic: one that is about controlling the virus, and preventing the variants from causing more large scale catastrophe until everyone has had an opportunity to be protected. It is a fact that everyone hasn’t, and another one that a lot of people do not care. It is a stage that the CDC and Dr. Fauci argue should be based on each person’s individual risk assessment. But is that a realistic and grounded expectation of the average American? To assess their own risk and act accordingly? Arguably, based on the behavior of a lot of people over the last year, in addition to just the reality of the different paths and struggles we all walk every day in this modern American life, I would argue not. People barely have time to sleep more than a few hours a night, let alone take the time to read studies, follow community transmission, and consider personal risk assessments. Many also just trust the government to do what is right, and as a mom it seems right now like they are doing anything but.

When all is said and done, I would argue that everyone should still be wearing masks as we continue to think of the children. On the precipice of kids getting back to some sort of a normalcy this fall – with school, sports, friends, and good health – is it really so hard to just put the cloth back over your face sometimes? Personally, to me, it says more about you as a person if you won’t.