The Pandemic Diary: May 25

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 25: The kids were long overdue for new pillows and new sheets. Pillows are kind of a subjective and personal thing, so we sucked it up and went to the store today to pick out some new ones. I’m used to shopping in all of this but apart from Carlo walking to the gas station to get some snacks recently, it was the first time the kids have been in a store of any kind since March.

As we walked toward the front door of Target, the three of us put on our masks at the same time. It felt like the opening scene to a heist movie.

Me: “Alright, let’s rob this place.”

Anna [pointing farther down the strip mall]: “Dad, we should rob Hobby Lobby, not Target. They deserve it more.”

If the movies have taught me anything, they’ve taught me that if you’re gonna pull a heist, it’s good to have someone on the crew with a good head on their shoulders, so thanks Anna.

 

It was blazing hot again yesterday so it was Day 2 of Allison and I lounging around our fancy pool:

 

We’re so damn decadent.

I even used a kitchen strainer to get the dead bugs and bits of crap that had gotten into the water overnight. And, after I drained the pool this evening, I didn’t even leave it hanging over the fence to deflate because I’m a friggin’ courteous neighbor.

Not that engaging in leisure in a responsible manner is easy during a pandemic. Indeed, in all of this I’m just like anyone else. Overcoming challenges and whatnot:

 

Two weeks after things truly began to reopen in Ohio cases are spiking. Deaths, hospitalizations, and infections are all higher in the past few days than they were in previous 21 day reported case average. Neither Governor Mike DeWine nor Health Department Director Dr. Amy Acton held an update briefing over the holiday weekend, but don’t worry, they still got the spin they want on all of this with help from the media: My local paper, the Columbus Dispatch, is beginning to run headlines referring to the pandemic in the past tense, such as “Alcohol consumption was one constant during coronavirus pandemic.”

People asked me how elected officials are going to get away with reopening everything despite the virus still raging and how they’ll avoid shutting things back down again when cases spike in a second wave. Well, that’s how. They’re going to just assert that things are better and that the crisis is in the rear view mirror and then they’re going to trust the media and the people fall in line.

DeWine and Acton will likely speak today. I suspect we won’t hear a lot of the direct, matter-of-fact stuff we got from them before May. As the numbers get worse, I suspect these briefings will be full of empty platitudes, vagueness and anecdotes. DeWine talking about how his grandchildren enjoyed the warm weekend weather on the family farm will be like General Westmoreland talking about “positive indicators” in Vietnam in late 1967.

 

It’s not news that Trump watches Fox News obsessively and it’s not news that his preoccupations often echo whatever the people on Fox News are ranting about. We saw this on display last night when Trump tweeted that he wants schools open “ASAP,” tagging Fox News host Steve Hilton in the tweet. This happened right after Hilton went on the air and demanded an end to “stupid regulations” like “totally pointless” temperature checks, “completely arbitrary social distancing rules,” and an immediate reopening of schools.

It’s not enough for Trump and his cult to bully and badger states into prematurely ending shutdowns. Now they want to bully and badger businesses and state and local governments into eliminating safety requirements in the newly-reopened public sphere. No doubt many will fall in line just as they fell in line with the reopening agenda. If they don’t, expect to see the same far right wing mobs showing up in front of schools demanding they be reopened and in places of business claiming that temperature checks and those stickers on the floor which give people social distancing guidance are an assault on freedom.

Between the successful push to reopen things, the aggressive anti-mask campaign, and now growing hostility against other basic safety recommendations, we’re moving quickly from having a government which demonstrates a reckless disregard for public safety to one that is actively trying to get people killed.

 

Not that they really think of us as people. We’re, apparently, “human capital stock”

This, by the way, is how economists actually refer to labor when they don’t think labor is listening.

Economists who work for the president should be a bit more mindful about that kind of thing. Some polls came out over the weekend that show Trump has lost a full 18 points among a critical voting block for him: voters over 65 years-old. It’s almost as if Trump and his surrogates repeatedly downplaying the pandemic by saying that, actually, it’s only old and sick people dying and that they were gonna die anyway so, hey, open up the Bonefish Grill again” is not a smart thing to say to old people. If his men keep going on about “human capital stock” it may actually start to perturb working people too.

 

Of course those sort of numbers only matter if the laws of politics apply to Trump. Many say those rules don’t apply to him at all anymore, but I’m not quite as pessimistic. I really cannot get my brain around the idea that this country will re-elect him and, if it does, I will be genuinely shocked. He and his party did, truly, take it on the chin in the 2018 midterms and I remain convinced that they will take it on the chin again this fall. For the time being I still, perhaps naively, think that to the extent Trump has learned to defy political gravity it’s non-electorally.

Not that that’s a positive, because elections are, actually, the lowest bar. The last line of defense against hated or tyrannical leaders. Before you get to an election all manner of other checks on abuses of power exist, right?

Public opinion and media criticism combined with a leader’s sense of shame or fear of political consequences are supposed to do much of the work, but Trump only cares about his hardcore base to whom he has demonized most of the media — while having, basically, a propaganda outfit like Fox pushing back — thereby blunting all of that. He’s able to rebuff formal attempts to reign him in via oversight and checks and balances because of the blind loyalty of Republicans in the Senate. He can do a hell of a lot of damage — he has already done a hell of a lot of damage — between elections primarily because neither he nor anyone in a position of power or influence seems to have a sense of shame anymore.

Still, I would hope that massively bungling the response to a national emergency leading the the deaths of over a hundred thousand people is the sort of thing Americans will take a look at and decide that, you know, maybe that doesn’t deserve another four years. If they don’t, well, we’re basically fucked.

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.