The Pandemic Diary: May 24

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 24: The New York Times ran this as front page today:

It was only the names of 1,000 COVID-19 victims, so it was less than 1% of the actual death toll. And to get to 1,000 the listing still had to continue on multiple pages. As the death toll topped 100,000, the president played golf, tweeted out a conspiracy theory that a TV host he doesn’t like murdered someone, and called Hillary Clinton a “skank.” At least Nero’s fiddling was melodic.

Yesterday I talked about how people don’t do well with abstraction. So while I’d like to say that this sort of thing will cause people who have not taken the pandemic seriously to take pause, I doubt that even the names and brief descriptions of each person who died will do it for most people. I think nothing short of having someone they know pass away or actually seeing scenes from hospitals, nursing homes, and funeral homes will truly bring this disaster and tragedy home for many. And those are scenes most of us have seen very little of during this pandemic.

People also have a hard time with scale. I’m definitely one of them. I struggle to appreciate things like interplanetary distances, and thus videos like this one blow my mind every single time I see them. I’m one of those people who have a hard time wrapping my head around that whole “one million seconds is 11 days, one billion seconds is 31.5 years” thing that makes the rounds from time to time.

This evening I came across some scale regarding COVID-19 deaths: about 3,000 people died on 9/11 and, each year at the World Trade Center site, a ceremony is held in which their names are read aloud. It takes about three hours to get through the list.

If we were to read the names of each person who has died of Covid-19 in the United States so far, it would take over 4 days, without stopping. And if the New York Times were to print all of their names like they did this subset today, 1,000 at a time, it would cover each Sunday edition for the next two years.


I’m also very bad at predicting the future. That’s why I like to read things like this: an article in which self-proclaimed “futurists” talk about how COVID-19 might change the course of business, industry, daily life, and culture. I have often found that people who think they are good at predicting the future are pretty bad at it too, so take all of that with a grain of salt. I mean, people have been talking about how virtual reality will explode forever and it never really seems to do it. It’s the updated version of “in the future we’ll all have flying cars” stuff from the 1950s.

I do agree with those who talk about consolidation being the order of the day going forward. Between the economy crashing, social distancing being the rule for the foreseeable future, and our government’s complete lack of interest in enforcing antitrust laws, we’re moving pretty quickly toward a world in which a very small handful of companies control basically everything. This has already become a reality in the technology sector where the Big 5 (Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft) dominate multiple areas of business and increasingly dominate our daily lives. It’ll happen soon in food, hospitality, media, entertainment production and a bunch of other things too.


I stopped by my parents house to say hello late this morning. Since the weather got better we’ve taken to doing that, at a distance, in their driveway. I called ahead and told them I was coming.

My dad, who has chronic myeloid leukemia and thus has a compromised immune system, takes masks, disinfectant, and social distancing very seriously, but who nonetheless likes to joke about everything, met me in the driveway like this, with Clorox wipes in one cargo short-holster and Lysol in the other:

When this first started I did my parents grocery shopping for them. But, as two people who left town when they got married at 23 and 18 years-old and who have never really relied on anyone for much of anything, they really didn’t deal well with someone else doing their shopping and have been doing it for themselves for a while.

This concerned me at first, but my dad explained his process to me — going only to the senior hours at the store, wearing a mask, disinfecting himself, his clothes, and his groceries in the garage before going into the house and all of that — and I feel somewhat better about it all. Not wonderful, but better. Either way, I know that them being dependent on anyone would put them in a pretty awful headspace and there’s enough awful going around right now.

All of which makes the “masks are tyranny” people piss me off even more. My parents are independent people who do not like being told what to do, so you might think that they’d be the sorts who would resist a lot of the changes being made and a lot of the advice of public health experts, but they don’t. It’s not hard. It’s such an easy ask to wear a mask, to not go out to restaurants, and to keep one’s distance from others. That such things are simply unconscionable to so many people will never not be mind-blowing to me.

My mom gave me back a bunch of puzzles my son sent over to her. She did them but I feel like she didn’t much enjoy them. Which actually sorta makes me happy because, for whatever reason, I really can’t stand puzzles. I’m not good at them and even if I get on a little roll putting a few pieces together I get little enjoyment from doing them. At least I come by that honestly.

I’m trying to imagine what I’d be doing with myself if this happened in an age when there was no Internet, no on-demand movies and TV shows, and when you couldn’t simply have books delivered to your door. I’d like to think that I wouldn’t be the sort of person doing puzzles. God, I couldn’t imagine it.


Yesterday’s post about the people in the pool in Lake of the Ozarks was the most-read Pandemic Diary entry since I began this thing. I can only assume it’s because y’all like to see jerks being irresponsible in pools, so here’s more of that sweet, crazy pool content:

It got up to the upper 80s today so Allison decided that we needed a kiddie pool. She ordered it for curbside pickup at Meijer. After a quick car ride, spending $13, a few minutes with the electric air pump, a half hour or so worth of running the hose, the mixing of margaritas, and putting on Allison’s classic ska playlist we were transported to a tropical paradise. Sorta.

Craig Calcaterra

Craig is the author of the daily baseball (and other things) newsletter, Cup of Coffee. He writes about other things at He lives in New Albany, Ohio with his wife, two kids, and many cats.