The Pandemic Diary: May 12

Like everyone else I am having trouble thinking about anything other than the coronavirus pandemic and the shockwaves it has sent, and will continue to send, through the system. As it began to unfold I found myself thinking, talking, and posting about it fairly constantly. In an effort to try to keep it confined to a given time and place, both physically and psychologically, I am keeping a diary of it all.

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May 12: No shit:

And not just on Twitter. It’s soon to be trending nationwide. That’s what Dr. Anthony Fauci told Congress today. He said that states which push too quickly to reopen businesses and allow public gatherings could “trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control.”

Which is pretty much all states at this point. Ohio — the previously cautious, prudent Ohio — even went so far as to announce that tattoo, piercing, and massage parlors can open three days from now. There is basically nothing held back at this point. Nothing short of quickies in the alley are off-limits in the Buckeye State.

Fauci said, “[i]f you think we have it completely under control, we don’t.” We’ve gone into full denial on a national level. The only question now is, when infection and death rates bounce back up, we bother to shut down again. I am not at all convinced that we do. I think we’ve decided to power through this and live in a state of cognitive dissonance with respect to the body count. I suspect that lot of people secretly or, perhaps, not so secretly think that’s what we should have done before.

 

A friend of mine is Facebook friends with a lot of conservative people and he has shared with me a lot of their frankly unhinged posts about how sunlight kills COVID-19, about how Fauci is part of a “deep state conspiracy” and how Obama secretly transferred millions of dollars to labs in Wuhan to . . . I dunno? Destroy America? Insane stuff like that.

This morning a high school friend shared this, in which the poster apparently believes the destruction of the economy makes Democrats “giddy.”

The through-current of paranoia, cynicism, conspiracy theorizing, misinformation and anger in these kinds of things wasn’t created in a vacuum. The president has spent months sowing it through his own words and actions. He first denied the seriousness of the pandemic and, since the deadly reality hit, has alternatively lied about it or lashed out and blamed others for it. An us-versus-them fantasy world already existed with respect to the everyday business of America, but it has now been allowed and encouraged to flourish in the face of a deadly pandemic which has killed 80,000 people and counting.

People have and will continue to die because of it. As it’s happening, the country is being torn apart. That process would not have metastasized without Trump’s encouragement. We’ve been intentionally led into this hell, make no mistake about it.

 

Things aren’t going well in my bailiwick either. At the moment negotiations rage as to how to play the 2020 baseball season. I’ve written that to death at the baseball site, but the upshot is that (a) team owners want financial concessions in addition to those the players have already made in order to play a theoretical season;  and (b) there remain considerable health and safety hurdles that, even if superficially addressed, will still place players in risky situations due to the nature of professional sports.

And here’s how it’s playing publicly, in the words of a governor, via an irresponsibly uncritical tweet from the president of the Baseball Writers Association of America:

Players are being asked to do things that, no matter how it is spun, are unnecessary and unsafe. They agreed to financial concessions in order to do it already. Now being asked to make even bigger financial concessions and they’re being cast as profiteers. It’s madness.

I think baseball is possible in 2020. I think if they find a way to bring online adequate testing — testing that is not depriving the country of testing that is more pressing and which should take priority over athletes — and if there is a smart plan to deal with players who test positive that will prevent them from infecting others, yes, they could make it work. I am also sure that a lot of players are itching to play. It’s what they do and what they enjoy and they want to be a part of America returning to normal.

But given that the league is primarily concerned with squeezing them financially, and given that the public, the politicians and the media seem hellbent on demonizing them unless they completely roll over and throw themselves into games with no regard for their well being, if I were one of them right now I’d be inclined to say “I’m out. See you in 2021.”

 

It’s been unseasonably cold for a few days but today the sun came out and it pushed 60. To celebrate I pulled out my smoker for the first time since last fall and threw a few slabs of ribs and a chicken on it. I’m not some master barbecue sensei or anything, but I’ve gotten pretty good with the basic stuff:

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First smoke of the year

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It was more than we could eat. The kids, Allison and I usually do fine on one slab and the chicken — and the mac and cheese I made to go with it — so I had some left over. We called a couple we know and they swung by to pick up one of the slabs. I’m going to deliver the other one to my dad tomorrow.

We tend to have people over for dinner once or twice a month. It’s been ages since we’ve been able to do that and I miss it. I don’t know when we’ll feel comfortable doing that again but, in the meantime, it felt nice to share some food with some people.

 

Anna takes AP exams tomorrow and Thursday. European History and then Physics. All of this was supposed to be done in school. All of it was supposed to be done after several weeks of ramp-up in those classes. The tests were supposed to be three hours long and gauge the kids’ mastery of college-level material. Now each test is 45 minutes long, taken online and it’s open book.

I’m not worried about Anna. For one thing, she’s only in the 10th grade, so her even taking these tests now is sort of gravy. For another thing she has a good computer a solid internet connection and won’t have any unusual or extreme stresses at home interfering with her test taking. She’ll get by fine.

There are likely a lot of kids who aren’t so lucky, however. Kids who, because of the shutdowns, are facing a much more difficult challenge to get some valuable college credit out of this. Maybe they have spotty internet or no access to a computer at home at all or, if they do, they don’t have a private place in which they can take a challenging test. Maybe their home life has been a challenge overall because of illness or financial hardship. Everything is just a mess right now and a lot of that mess is going to affect a lot of kids.

Not that such challenges didn’t exist before, albeit in somewhat different form. It all goes back to the observation so many of us made during the first week or two of all of this: the pandemic is not necessarily creating new problems for us from whole cloth. It is showing us the cracks that already existed in society. It is placing them in much higher relief.

I wonder how many of these inequities from which those of us who are lucky enough not to suffer went by completely unobserved by us before. I wonder if February me would’ve been as blasé as I am now about how Anna does on this test. I wonder how much thought I would’ve given the whole setup to begin with.

Craig Calcaterra

Craig is the national baseball writer for NBCSports.com. He writes about things other than sports at Craigcalcaterra.com. He lives in New Albany, Ohio with his wife, two kids, and many cats.