Day Fifty-nineSaturday 21st March 2020 18.03
Lately, I’ve been seeing people recommend keeping some sort of historical account of…something. Presumably the events to date, though they usually imply that it’s only about the quarantine itself.
I’m not sure it’s really that simple. So, for my own part, I’m gonna call today Day Fifty-nine of the Pandemic.
The pandemic, if we’re imagining that this is for posterity, is this illdefined clump of loosely related, marginally linear events leading, so far, to today. So let’s cover the backstory first….
The backstory happens to begin about where the last entry to this site ended: the webcomic for the day happened to be called 2019-nCoV.
At the time, it was still a relatively unknown thing. Which is to say that, among normal people, there wasn’t all that much talk about it. It wasn’t precisely a secret, but…neither are most things few people bother knowing about.
It may be worth mentioning, just because all the people who never fell for Y2K also never did this, that it was generally being called the Wuhan Coronavirus at the time. It’s not precisely an inaccurate name for it; it’s just not something I’d call it. Because it’s ultimately just SARS-CoV-2: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus the Second. It’s SARS again, but in a different strain of coronavirid—one which causes CoViD-19: Corona Virus Disease, 2019.
It’s a little like HIV being what causes AIDS: one’s a virus; one’s a syndrome. The syndrome here is CoViD, caused by SARS-CoV-2.
That said, it’s a bit irrelevant. Which means it’s all that a lot of people seem to care about. But we’ll get to that….
For now, it’s the end of January; SARS19 is a thing. This coronavirus. By which I mean this coronavirus; because coronavirids aren’t really all that new:
Have a glance at the Lysol you bought a decade ago and then never used.
Of course, that image was graffitied over by an imbecile: this specific coronavirus is new. Lysol will kill it; but your immune system has never heard of it. So that’s worth noting.
As people heard more and more about what everyone was calling the Wuhan Coronavirus, we started to joke about it. Because it was a thing existing or occurring, and we joke about those.
Pictured: A Joke
And that was okay. Someone, somewhere, was probably offended; but you wouldn’t expect that Best Victim Evar to spell what it was offended about correctly. Ironically enough.
You think I’m kidding. But I’ve seen people bang hammers into their keyboards to whimper that it’s not the Chinese virus, it’s the corono virus.
I’m still getting ahead of myself. We’ll come back to the subplague in a bit….
At the end of January, the virus was on the map. Literally. It can be tracked in close to realtime at arcgis.com, where it’s currently about five minutes from hitting three hundred thousand confirmed cases worldwide:
Click to Embiggen
Back in January, it was still limited to the general area of China:
I posted this to facebook.com as The Good Old Days.
So, we had that. And jokes. And, largely, little concern.
Like, we weren’t done joking about reactionary morons promising a nuclear war a few weeks earlier
And then January came to an end.
It’s not easy to decide precisely when the thing went pandemic. Officially, it wasn’t until about a week and a half ago—11th March 2020—that the WHO upgraded its status from…whatever series of epidemics. But, insofar as America is the damned world, the first case was confirmed here back on 20th January in Snohomish County, Washington, the day after a thirty-five-year-old who’d returned to the US from Wuhan started exhibiting symptoms and wound up in the hospital for them. But, broadly, we were considering the thing something of a pandemic during February: across the month, the thing raged from China and its suburbs into the rest of Eurasia, down into Australia, over to Africa, and into the Americas.
It was significant enough by the middle of the month, on the thirteenth, that the people at the real VA stopped Hunter at the desk to ask her if she’d been outside the country for any reason this year. She hadn’t.
By that point, the president—which for posterity was something of a minimally exceptional playground bully somehow elected as the nation’s spokesmuppet figurehead—was locking down borders [not really a new thing for him] to prevent people leaving China from landing in the States; his opposition—which for posterity were those geeks on the playground reciting the rules against bullying instead of doing anything to stop it—whimpered dramatically about the racism [for posterity: the misspelling of bigotry among selfimpressed playground geeks who imagined that only white people were members of the human race] inherent in preventing people from entering the nation at a time when people entering the nation were more likely to be carrying the virus. Fortunately, that stopped being a concern for the playground geeks once the pandemic got pandemic enough; then they whimpered that the playground bully hadn’t done anything to prevent people from China from landing here.
Portrait of a Feckless Playground Geek
About that: throughout February, President Bully was scrambling to do pretty much whatever made the least amount of sense. Like appointing the Vice President [for posterity: a guy who pretended the universe had been created by a weirdly incompetent BondVillain six thousand years before the pandemic which was presumably also created by the BondVillain in its latest attempt at failing to rid the world of all the bad people who weren’t the Vice President] as the head of the Coronavirus Taskforce. Because the Vice President was the most qualified guy in the world for that. Or something. President Bully didn’t make much sense, really.
This neurosurgeon was just about almost as good.
Harder to lock down a date for than the beginning of the pandemic is the beginning of the quarantine—partly because, in a real way, it hasn’t actually begun yet. It’s possible that it never will. For reasons. We’ll get into those in a bit….
I might argue that the quarantine began to begin around the time the restaurants shut down. Here in Denver, that was—hilariously enough—on 16th March; it was therefore the day before half the town was planning to go to whatever Irishish Pub of variable authenticity to drink Guinness all night before threatening to give the virus what for. Meaning that, probably, it was pretty good timing.
Elsewhere in the world, and even within the US, the quarantines had begun earlier; some began later; a few probably haven’t begun at all, as of Day Fifty-nine. I do know that, elsewhere in the world, things are far more locked down than we currently are. Italy is basically offline; someone there posted a lengthy…well…Day X of the Quarantine thing, I suppose. It was a warning to nations still standing that, in the couple of weeks prior to publication, someone in Italy had seen all the same meaningless information about China and disregarded it as nothing that would ever affect him personally; now, on the day he was writing this whole thing down, he was effectively prohibited from going outside.
Here in the US, a few places are following that trend: New York is effectively shut down; California is ordered to shelter in place and stay off the streets; Texas, I’m told, is on lockdown—meaning that I’m expecting to hear a lot about most of their people stomping around with guns drawn while defying the police to do anything about it.
And, here in Denver, most places are closed. The restaurants are mostly locked up, though the drivethrough lanes are still open—last I heard. The mail is still being delivered; I actually had to get up a few minutes ago to retrieve a box from my porch after the mailman set it down and rang the bell before hurrying off to wherever mailmen go. UPS is still out there, delivering things. I don’t know what FedEx are up to; I haven’t tried to guess since they somehow took something I’d ordered from Louisville to Sacramento for a week before finally throwing it at my house and stomping away without ringing the bell to get my attention.
They never actually acknowledged delivery on the thing; I just managed to record Mister McStompy flinging it toward my doorbell camera as he was already turning to stomp elsewhere.
I wouldn’t go so far as to report that, last I saw them, the stores are all empty. Because empty is a pretty serious adjective. But, yeah: there are some kinks in the supplylines:
We hit Safeway on Sunday at five in the morning, when they opened; the Charmin Aisle was fully stocked at the time; I got a shot of Hunter walking through it five minutes later, when it looked like this.
And that brings me roughly to the present.
At present, things are…silly. But in not entertaining enough a way. Like, people are morons; but it’s less hilarious and more exhausting. It’s really just kinda boring. Which, arguably, is saying something. Partly because everything’s boring; also because little has really changed.
And I guess partly because I knew all this already. As people started posting their misspelled surprise at the lack of things to do in the apocalypse—the coronageddon—I was reminded of this zombiebook I wrote in 2004….
This is how we live now, but without the zombies.
On the bright side, I’d already had that file in memory, after I’d tracked it down a few days earlier. Because I’d predicted the map, way up above, in the same novel:
And, yeah: that’s Men without Hats, from 1987.
So that’s where we are. Somewhat. At least, it’s kinda how we got here. SARS, which got overblown by the media a few years ago, mutated; now, it’s still being overblown by the media, but actually kinda counts for something.
The media, wearing a BL4 BlueSuit, outside the BL4 Lab, in apparent terror that the unprotected cameraman is contagious.
The map, above, tracking the spread of the disease [reloading it, I’m now getting 303,180, globally], isn’t really tracking the spread of the disease; it’s tracking confirmed cases, as well as it can, occasionally backtracking and lowering the numbers for a while. And that’s partly because a presumed majority of infected are showing no symptoms yet and haven’t been tested for it; in fact, a large number of people who are showing symptoms haven’t been tested yet; and that’s partly because a large number of people who aren’t showing symptoms are being tested: a guy I know is in the hospital right now—probably dying—because he’s got unrelated pulmonary issues; but the doctors panicked and isolated him for tests, assuming he had this exciting new buzzword of a virus for them to squee their ways down the corridor and heroically submit to the existing pile. He lost out on three days, isolated and untreated, instead of getting anything done for his actual symptoms. His actual lung condition.
Most people in the US—and probably in the world—are effectively unemployed: anyone not employed in a hospital or delivering pizzas and…whatever the hell I just got in the mail today. Everyone’s laid off. To varying degrees. Marriott Hotels were just discovered to have kept everyone perfectly employed, but cut to zero hours a week; therefore, people working for Marriott are sitting at home, ineligible for unemployment insurance, and without the healthcare benefits they had when they were still fulltime. A Chili’s in Orlando had their servers come in to sterilise the building at a fraction of minimum wage and then sacked them once they were done.
After countless playground geeks argued for a Universal Basic Income, the playground bully announced his intention to kick a thousand bucks to everyone who wasn’t a millionaire; in fact, it’s looking like the plan is to give twelve hundred bucks to that special group of people who made enough to pay taxes in 2018, but less than a hundred thousand that year.
Various corporations [for posterity: typically Evil Incarnate, if it had a logo] are bragging about all they’re doing for the little people: ISPs are claiming that they’re waiving latefees for a couple months, which I’m pretty sure means that, in June, when people still have no money, the ISPs expect the six hundred bucks for March, April, and May, but without interest; there’s been talk of outlawing evictions and postponing mortgage payments, but no one’s sure if that actually means anything; people are even clamouring for student loan forgiveness [for posterity: the playground geeks borrowed six figures to major in an elective and never got a job] because…like…thinkaboutit.
Events are all cancelled; musicians and comedians are livestreaming jamsessions from their basements for the Likes. Films slated for release this spring are going directly to streaming services, which was pretty much always about to happen. People are being asked, if not technically ordered, to sit at home and watch television while the last of their bread goes bad. No one’s sure what happens next, or how long next actually is.
For my own part…nothing much has changed. I’m sitting in my office, typing stuff into a website. I’m doing a daily webcomic. I’m playing videogames. I’m getting milk delivered. I’m sleeping ten percent of the time. I’m doing what I was doing a month ago, and a year ago, and a decade ago.
I’ve got food. I’d had food before things got weird, and there was little chance I’d get through it all before it spoiled. And, knowing that, I’d already stocked up on stuff that wouldn’t spoil, just so I’d have something to eat before going out for more food destined to spoil. I’ve got televisions and videogames and things to do all night. Almost nothing is really different, for me.
Then there’s Hunter; she’s insane. Like, she’s got papers. But, amusingly enough, that’s working for her. She’s gone long enough expecting the worst that, now that the worst is starting to take shape, she’s almost acting a little relieved. Like, she’s what’s suddenly becoming the new normal. She’s ahead of the curve.
Plus, she knows me. Which is about how far I wanna describe that right now. Just…look: an unrelated image….
I’m fun at Donner Parties.
For my own part, I’m not getting twelve hundred bucks for sitting here doing what I was doing last month—not if the cutoff is a hundred thousand bucks. Neither, I should mention, is a fair percentage of Denver, and a huge percentage of California and New York. We’re talking about places where the local poverty line is something like $130,000: beneath that, you’re on foodstamps. Which of course means that twelve hundred bucks doesn’t go all that far whether you get it or not.
The playground bully is pulling press conferences roughly daily, mostly to brag that no president has ever been a president on today before. His actual coronavirus expert looks like this:
‘How is this imbecile remembering how to stand upright while talking….’
The playground geeks are imagining that morality is intelligence, and that whimpering is morality:
On the bright side, once you learn that you’ve got egg on your face, you’ll get it into your mouth in no time….
And the playgrounds they’re playing on are closed. School’s out for summer; school’s potentially out for ever.
Schools are closed. What began as an early and/or extended Spring Break quickly became optional homeschooling through the end of the semester. And I’m not really seeing a reason to assume that there’ll be summer school to make up for that; I’m not aware of an indication that school will start up again in the fall.
People are talking about a quarantine as though it’s actually already begun, and as though, having begun without any real notice, it’ll last for two weeks. Keep in mind that that’s been the mood for a week already.
The police have officially announced that any crime lesser than active murder is off their radar. Don’t call them over stupid things. Which, personally, I agree with: I never do; I never have. But then I’m not sure we have the same list of stupid things. Though I do know that, in San Francisco, someone just uploaded a video of a guy walking into a shop and scooping less than $950 in ?pills into his canvas bag before walking back out to the street without concern:
Anarchy with sustainable grocerybag technology
If you’re wondering about the $950: that’s California’s threshold for grand larceny; steal less than that, and it’s a misdemeanour—and, therefore, don’t bother the cops with stupid things.
And it’s pretty much all stupid things.
The playground geeks are screeching that you can’t call a virus from China a Chinese Virus. Which raises some questions about West Nile. But which mostly raises the larger question: who do they imagine cares what they think. What they want. What they complain about with such fervent alacrity. Best Victim Evar. Words happen; stop listening if you don’t like them, you puritanical twats.
The playground bullies are back from their boating accidents and begging people on the other side of the planet to stop by and meet their Armalites. They so desperately want anyone to be afraid of them, or at least for Sam’s Club to get yeast back in stock so they can make their own bread at home like the survivors they hope one day to be. People with tattoos of Mel Gibson are sad because basketball got cancelled.
The junkjournalists don’t know which story to run anymore—the one about the Wuhan Coronavirus, or the one about them calling the Wuhan Coronavirus the Wuhan Coronavirus last month precisely the fake news they joke about being in reaction to being offended about being called fake news. FaceBook.com have tismic factchecking bots arguing that an article from The Onion is specious and snopes.com are bawling at the feet of the Babylon Bee. People are uploading videos of junkjournalists debating themselves dressed as what they were wearing in January against what they were wearing last night. And, sometimes, that seems to be a bluesuit out in orangesuit territory somewhere between Marcel Marceau being the only guy getting hurricaned in a light breeze and Gloria Vanderbilt’s kid standing intentionally in a puddle to report on flooding conditions a metre beneath the cameraman’s tripod on dry land.
It’s like everyone wants this to be anything but what it is, whether that’s better or worse. It’s like a level of boring terrifying enough to keep people awake at night.
And that’s just from what we know, which is a massive amount of information amounting to pretty much nothing.
So, I’m not sure what the hell is going on out there. Or if it’s basically the same everywhere. I gather from people online that it’s worse in some places, and even more boring in others. But then there’s a cultural bias: the playground bullies in one place will ignore a hell of a lot more than the playground geeks in another will leap online to be Best Victim Evar about.
It seems normal enough to me. I’m getting rumours that, if I skated over to Starbucks, they might not be open. The tables out in front of Safeway had laminated printouts a couple days ago, warning that I was breaking some quaranteeny law too stupid to call the police about by sitting there; I sat there anyway, and no one cared.
And I think that’s kinda where everyone’s landing on this. Everyone remotely sane, anyway. The playground geeks are whimpering that the end of the world affects the females who survive far more than the males who are likely to die; but everyone else is pretty much back to complaining about the same old things: that Creepy Joe stole the primary from Bernie, after Shillary stole the primary from Bernie, before Trumpy stole the election from the popular vote, after the Russian Bots gave the popular vote to NotShillary. Or something. At the moment, people are complaining that Creepy Joe is pretty much officially the nominated Playground Geek, and no one’s seen proof of life in upwards of a week; he may already have sniffed the wrong corona kid, and he’s being CoViDed to death somewhere in Antarctica—we dunno.
Even so, I get that people, however acclimated they’re becoming to all the weirdness, are all on different levels. I know a guy dying in a hospital because some idiot wanted his name on a test result so he could be one of the cool doctors; I know someone who disappeared six weeks ago after tweeting that she’d got a notice of eviction; I know people driving trucks sixteen hours a day to get Charmin from farm to table and tweeting that they’re entirely weary of the playground geeks blaming them for electing a playground bully; I know waitresses who are sitting at home with nothing to eat while trying to figure out how to get money from some unreachable DotGov when it had never occurred to anyone that their officially unskilled labour as essential personnel could ever be downsized.
If this were about me—and I guess it’s supposed to be, for posterity—I’d say that I’m fine. I’m doing better than most, in most ways: I’ve got food; I’ve got money for more food if more food exists; I’ve got a thousandscore games ranging from the AtariVCS to whatever came out for Steam yesterday. I’ve got thousands of films on disc, thousands more online to stream, and an infinity of YouTube.com to click around at. I’ve got what I’ve always had, really.
I’ve even got today’s webcomic: