• Failing to Make Sense of COVIDiocy

    February 8, 2021

    Posted in: Democracy

    The essence of science is asking questions, and then accepting the empirical answers no matter what conclusion they support. Superstition is where belief drives people to do silly things without evidence. Which method works better for authoritarians and bullies? The one driving America’s COVID response.

    Some 11 months into COVID so little makes sense. Masks have become a political talisman, health policy a way to enhance certain candidates and settle political scores. False dichotomies such as “lives or money” cloud people’s ability to make thoughtful decisions. Instead of working together we fear one another as carriers. The urgency to panic has not been replaced by an equivalent urgency to vaccinate. Meanwhile, belief and not science keeps us locked down and staying at home with long term economic consequences we don’t understand.

    Precautions in general seem to vary widely. In New York, the more expensive the store, the deeper into COVIDiocy they are. High end retailers have someone at the door scolding the unmasked, demanding hand sanitizing, and gleefully enforcing social distancing. Bottom feeders among the economy, such as NYC’s sinkholes of hope the bodegas, have few if any restrictions, the Yemeni cashier screaming something in bad Spanish at the project kids shoplifting Ding Dongs, his mask tucked under his chin.

    The highest expression of COVIDiocy here in NYC are the museums, all of which converted to a branch of The Museum of White Guilt during the Trump years, with special exhibits of a less-known artist of color, or a trans-something featurette. The overdone it award for COVIDiocy goes to the Jewish Museum. Enforced by guards whose behavior would make an exhibit on fascism on its own, they cling to the 25 percent of capacity rule even though their rooms are large with 20 foot ceilings. A guard ordered me to wear my coat, tie it around my waist, or leave. Asked how my coat style was COVID-related, he said “those are are only options.” A fellow patron, parka firmly wrapped waistward, suggested it was so I would not knock things over, but anything that small was encased and most of the items on display were fixed to the walls. As I walked toward one patron he extended his arms in front of him, zombie-like, to indicate his personal Cone of COVID safety.

    The “capacity” of a public space is based on fire regulations, a computation of how many people can safely get out of a space in a fire. It seems to have little to do with air volume, high or low ceilings, or how air is handled inside the space, things that might be directly relevant to COVID. Wouldn’t how far people stand apart depend on, literally, which way the wind is blowing? I have been unable to find anything explaining why 25 percent capacity was chosen; why not 18 or 27 or 41.5 percent for COVID? It seems to be an arbitrary number.

    But while the museums with their open spaces and high ceilings are obsessive about only allowing in guests to 25 percent capacity, there are no such rules on the subway some may take to get there. The trains run with whatever number of people decide to board. There are staff to mop the floors in defense of a largely airborne disease but none to disperse passengers among cars. It is unclear science is in charge instead of the institutional COVID fascists, enjoying their authority.

     

    You’d think the people, left to their own, would do be better at being human. In my apartment house of some 300 units there are people who simply have not left their boxes for the last ten months out of fear. They have everything delivered, and tip the maintenance people to carry it to the hallway outside their door. The COVID trolls then emerge, grab their groceries, and retreat inside, presumably to bleach their boxes of raisin bran. Then there are a few, meerkat-like, who venture out with caution. One uses paper towels to open the dryer door in the common laundry room.

    Many have given up speaking to anyone, seeing each of us passing in the halls as a potential Angel of Death, my massive, Caucasian nose ready to inject the virus into their souls. We are all adversaries now, gladiators in a viral fight to the death. As Biden’s senior adviser on COVID said, even our children are “like mosquitos carrying a tropical disease.” COVID is a good disease for such paranoia, very Twilight Zoney in how you can have it and not know it, spreading death while symptomless yourself.

    Most people around here do wear their masks, but even there it all makes no sense. You’ll see “masks” made by stretching a T-shirt over one’s nose. Next to him will be a guy with a respirator suitable for a Chernobyl picnic. In between are fresh surgical masks and stained paper ones likely in week four of a longer run. Some masks fit well, most have gaps on the sides where impure air is exhaled with impunity. Dudes with beards and unsealed masks. Old ladies with cobbled-together spacesuits, usually plastic gloves stolen from the produce aisle, a mask, a face shield, sometimes sunglasses, maybe a raincoat. One neighborhood family has matching full-face respirators for mom, dad, and two small kids and they walk around looking like characters out of some 1950s “Our Friend the Atom!” educational film. The vast army of homeless are unmasked, they and their heaps of trash and old clothes breeding grounds for hepatitis strains to make COVID seem like candy corn. Nothing is done with them, they just molt on the sidewalks, because homelessness is decriminalized and the cops ignore them.

    At the gym a mask is required when on the elliptical but not in the pool, though the same people are exhaling equally in both places. The pool is open but the shower is not, though it’s the same over-chlorinated water. An enclosed jumble shack filled with people built on the sidewalk counts as safe (outdoor) dining while four feet away indoor dining is prohibited under literal threat of death. A table on the sidewalk is safe without a mask but walking past that table without a mask calls forth a Mask Karen to chide you (a Karen complaining about someone taking her parking space is the subject of national mockery while a Karen telling people to put masks on at the beach is a national hero.)

    Placing all efforts in making people wear something symbolic, like an old soiled mask, and little to no effort into enforcing the efficiency of those masks (such as handing out fresh, clean ones everywhere) means the whole of effort is politics. The appearance of action without action. Much like 9/11 security theatre was.

    I have never experienced a crisis where the media has worked so hard to convince people there is a crisis. The MSM almost gleefully keeps a running on-screen tab of deaths, calculating each one with the care of another mailed in Blue vote on election night. The cliched stories are blankets over our lives. The (usually Republican) guy who, unmasked, did something anti-COVID and now has it. The latest celebrity to earn her liberal merit badge by testing positive. The Facebook sagas of people whose brother’s neighbor’s cousin’s kid tested positive and how that has devastated the family for the three days he felt like he had the flu. Lots of stories of couples married for decades denied a last visit for safety’s sake. Everyone is some sort of victim.

     

    It equally makes no sense why vaccinating Americans is not a 24/7 urgent national task. Of the vaccine doses delivered, only an estimated (why doesn’t anyone know?) one third have been used. Here in NYC, one of the supposed epicenters of COVID, 2020 finished with less than half of the available vaccine being used. We endured all of the last ten months to let vaccine doses spoil in the freezer? New York issues dire warnings to the elderly (58 percent of all COVID deaths are to people age 75 and older) but no vaccines. Why, unlike March, isn’t the National Guard out, this time with needles? Where are the Navy hospital ships, once docked in NY and LA harbors, providing 24/7 vaccinations?

    No one seems to know. No one seems to be asking for details. The same voices which screamed about not having enough ventilators and PPE and ICU space are now quiet. Who is worthy of living is a public decision of massive scale being made in absolute secrecy. Who gets the vaccine in NYC is in the hands of the Taskforce on Racial Equity and Inclusion, chaired by the mayor’s wife, not a medical doctor. The goal is to ensure “hard hit” areas get the civilian shots first. But somehow her list of hard hit areas skipped the hardest hit, Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jews, who refused to follow the mayor’s dictates in early COVID days. Nothing says compassion in a crisis like a little political score settling.

     

    Why is it so hard to know what is going on in other places? It seems important to know more about Sweden, which took a lite approach to lockdown. Most MSM has concluded Sweden failed and needs to lockdown just like us as contrition. But when looking at worldwide COVID deaths per 100,000 Sweden does not make the Top 10 worst. Within Europe, the Swedish deaths per 100,000 are below other nations who had resorted to more draconian societal measures.

    So did Sweden fail? There are still many Swedes alive and their society suffered minimal impact. Would a lockdown lower the deaths in Sweden? We could benefit from asking the same sorts of questions about Florida and New York. Despite its tougher than the rest lockdowns the death per 100k rate in New York is double laissez faire Florida with its mass of elderly. North Dakota’s rate is almost identical to Connecticut’s, though we universally blame one on rednecks too dumb for science and don’t talk about the other. Is anyone even trying to weigh deaths per 100k against the secondary damage of lockdowns, the suicides, increased drug use, economic problems, etc., or is it that we simply “believe” in something based on Red or Blue and defend it to the last mask?

    Depend on the science, people say, then they ignore it. A recent study via Stanford actually did look at non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) for controlling the spread of COVID-19, such as mandatory stay-at-home and business closures, across ten countries. The included Sweden and South Korea, which did not institute draconian measures such as destroying the American economy. They concluded (by science!) lockdowns and the like had “no clear, significant beneficial effect on case growth in any country.” In fact, their study suggested in some places lockdowns of business made COVID spread worse, as people concentrated in greater numbers in businesses which were allowed to open.

    Of course someone will Google up a conflicting study, but the lack of discussion around these issues is appalling. The success of the MSM in politicizing such debate, as they did with the Iraq War when basic questions were seen as disloyal and treasonous, has meant we proceed into darkness without the light of science. It was seen as a necessary step to defeat Trump, but he is now gone and we need to start making sense.

     

    Nearly the whole of the COVID response seems to make little sense. Distancing people with a communicable airborne disease is not a bad starting point, but what happened was a hyper-politicization of the idea, with everyone allowed to make up their own variations, with the wrong people often in charge, until the propagandists boiled it all down to an unquestionable dichotomy of “money versus lives.” This replaces earlier, similar mantras like “Lockdown or die,” or “Obey Fauci or die.”

    Why do we care so much about bullying people in stores and not about doing the things which without question save lives? COVID is indeed real. But for the most part over- and somehow now under- reaction seems as dangerous as the virus. Making people afraid is always how governments grow their power; frightened people usually demand someone exert more control over them. Rules that make little sense grossly enforced by bullies is great training for fascism. That may well be COVID’s legacy.

    Or maybe this. In New York, citing COVID, Governor Andrew Cuomo by decree canceled six special elections to favor his political allies, canceled the presidential primary to avoid embarrassing Joe Biden with too many Bernie protest votes, and expanded his budgetary powers. He determined who and when people would work, go to school, how they would spend their free time. He held life-and-death vaccine decisions in his own hands. His power to detain without trial sick people is a state congress vote away.

    The solution currently under consideration is to count antibodies differently, under a new standard likely to produce a dramatically lower “positive” total. The new standard was unveiled by the WHO the same day Biden had the U.S. rejoin the organization, along with the healthy U.S. monetary contribution.

    I am so glad we beat back fascism. Imagine what that would have been like!

     

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Recent Comments

    • Eric Hodgdon said...

      1

      Yes, bunch of nonsense, conflicting standards and so on. The Presumed Guilty stance is contrary to our legal system, which is why masks are a problem for so many besides the ill health effects of mask wearing versus the extremely low risk of the virus itself. Yes, the risk is extremely low that it will harm you.

      While trying to get info on the virus 11 months ago, since the whole thing didn’t make any sense as to the extreme panic around, I found Bannon’s WarRoom. Great stuff and no foaming at the mouth Trump Haters which is what MSM is.

      While I’m the same guy as before, what’s going on is massive destruction of the country. We’ve got an ‘installed’ person in the white house controlled by others bent on further destruction and degeneracy.

      The election was a farce. The reaction to the indecent at the Capitol is a continuing farce. But, I state the obvious. So, later.

      02/8/21 11:30 PM | Comment Link

    • Joe said...

      2

      Best part for me is how Congress and the MSM are trying to keep Trump in the news, sort of like how magicians use distraction to fool their audiences. “Look over here at what this hand is doing, not at the one picking your pocket!” It’s painfully obvious, but the folks who felt good about themselves for “resisting” Trump continue to gobble it up, vice paying attention to what the new Administration is doing or not doing, as the case may be.

      02/9/21 12:47 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      3

      So where is Ashli Babbitt’s body? Jettisoned in the Potomac for her “terrorist” acts? Biden should show mercy and compassion and pardon the deeply misguided and addled Trump zealot if she is charged with treason. She should not have been shot regardless of her mindless and reckless aggression. You want a valid insurrection? Register as an Independent. As Yeats suggests- the center couldn’t possibly hold. The USA might be forced to evolve beyond its tragically flawed adversarial system.

      02/10/21 2:30 PM | Comment Link

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