A Bunch of COVID-Related Thoughts

The front page of the Dayton Daily News, 3/17/20.

I’m awake at an absurdly early hour and can’t get back to sleep! A perfect time to post a bunch of musings on the current apocalypse! These aren’t in any particular order because see above, re: absurdly early hour.

* First off, this is an apocalypse that I have to admit seems uniquely suited, on a day-to-day basis, not to inconvenience me all that much. Let’s recap: I’m an introvert writer who works from home, rarely goes out, does almost no local socializing and who has over the years developed long and fruitful relationships with people he mostly hangs out with online. What we’re all doing now? This is my actual life. Staying at home for weeks at a time without outside human contact is what I do anyway. I know this current situation is difficult for a lot of you, and you’re struggling with this enforced isolation. I do sympathize, and I mean that entirely without irony or sarcasm. But for my own self, well. I got this.

* Also, on a slightly more serious note, this current apocalypse is one I and my family are fortunate to be equipped to handle. We live in a small town on some land so “social distancing” is not exactly difficult. My wife’s job already let her work from home two days a week, so she already had her infrastructure and habits set and we already have a “both of us working from home” routine set. Her working from home five days a week (as she’ll be doing for the next several weeks) will not be a problem. As already noted, I work from home anyway. Our kid is back at home right now, but we like having her home, and she likes us too, so that’s great. We have health insurance and we can cover our deductible without a problem, and we are all generally healthy. We have money in the bank and no debts or immediate financial concerns. We have satellite TV and streaming services and internet and musical instruments and, of course, thousands of books. We have cats. We’re fine. Mind you, if civilization collapses entirely we’ll be just as fucked as everyone else. But until then: We’re fine.

* However, I’m well aware that not everyone else is fine. Even leaving aside those who are ill or taking care of the sick, there are millions of Americans who are not in a great position to weather weeks at home, and whose jobs and lives and incomes and health are threatened by the Great Stop of Everything we’re seeing now. I am worried about friends and family and I’m worried about local businesses. We are giving thought to how best we can help, locally and with the people we care about. There’s a rush to do everything up front, but this is something that’s going to be with us for a while, both in the immediate crush of crisis, and the long follow-up of reconfiguring our lives to what comes next. We’re thinking about both, and what we can do.

* And it’s not as if the current situation isn’t affecting me, either. I just had a book tour cancelled, because it’s unlikely things are going to take a sudden magical turn for the better in less than a month. That’s going to have an effect on how the book does in the short run — as will the fact that people are at home rather than out at bookstores, and that they’re worried about their finances, so book purchases may (understandably) be a lower priority for some. Long-term, I think it will be fine; one weirdness of my career is that I frontlist well but I backlist like a friggin’ rock star, so in time any hiccup with the launch will probably be smoothed over (EVEN SO pre-order The Last Emperox right now, if you can, please and thank you). But yeah, I’m going to take an early hit on this, possibly a real big one. It is what it is.

Also, that portion of my retirement account that’s invested in the stock market has, uhhhhhh, taken a bit of a haircut — the stock market is down a third from its highs, and much of that has been in the last couple of weeks, while our incompetent national government has been saying and doing exactly the wrong things, frequently and in sequence, and the repercussions of our economy shutting down have hit the markets. The “good news” here, for me, anyway, is that I’m not retiring for 20 years anyway (if writers ever retire at all), and this isn’t the first massive market correction I’ve weathered as an investor. You may recall the 2008 unpleasantness, for example. But it’s still rather emphatically not great.

Again, I’m fine, my family is fine and short of a complete collapse of civilization we should get through this okay. We are affected less than others, and you really should not feel sorry for us. But we’re still being affected.

* Let me talk a moment here about the president and the federal government and their response to this crisis, and let me begin by noting that no matter who was in power, this global pandemic would have happened and it would have been horrible for people and the economy. This is a tsunami that feels almost specifically designed to swamp the way we’ve designed our global systems and the way we move around in the world, locally and internationally. This was always going to be bad; the role of national governments in this case was always going to be how to mitigate the awfulness as much as possible.

With that said, let’s not pretend that we did not have the absolute worst president and administration possible for the circumstances presiding at the moment (and yes, this is a recurring theme). We did and do, and we and our economy are currently suffering for it. The president and the administration lied and minimized and denied responsibility while all of this was happening, and wasted billions trying to prop up markets that collapsed regardless. I mean, I know why they did that: one of the great “justifications” for the incompetence and malign nature of the Trump administration has been a smug “how’s your 401(k) doing?”, as if one’s retirement account excused the vast corruption and incompetence.

Well, the answer now to that smug question is: Terrible, actually, it’s lost every single gain it’s made in the last three years, and it lost it in just under two weeks, in no small part to how the administration bungled the response to this. Now everyone is at home and lots of people won’t have jobs or money after all this is over. What’s the excuse now for this awful, terrible, incompetent regime, now that the nation’s 401(k)s are well and truly screwed? There is none, except, basically, racism, bigotry and “owning the libs.” Enjoy your MAGA hat, folks. That’s all you’re getting out of this presidency.

At least our response (now) isn’t “Get them all sick, let God sort them out,” which I understand is the current UK government response — or was until I think yesterday evening, when the Tories figured out they were going to end up slaughtering mostly their own voters. Congratulations, US, for not having the absolutely most heartless national response to a global pandemic!

Also, for fuck’s sake, people, stop voting for rich, ignorant, venal white men (and their quisling lackeys) who don’t care about you unless you’re a goddamn billionaire. Just fucking stop, already.

* This would also be my cue to slam US conservatives in general for their “let’s pretend this isn’t happening because if we say it’s not happening then it won’t happen” mode of thinking and responding, and generally speaking I would not be wrong to do so — except for the actually conservative government of the State of Ohio, in which I live, which has been doing an overall very decent job of recognizing there’s a crisis. It’s been shutting down the state in an orderly fashion so that people will just stay the hell home, already, and coordinating with local governments to stay on top of things. They were doing these things at the same time or even before more liberal state governments in places like California and New York were doing their things. Apparently, conservatives in Ohio may be conservative, but they still have some relationship to a reality that’s not been entirely crafted by Sean fucking Hannity and Fox News. So thank you, Ohio conservatives, for generally being in the same world as I am, at least for this bit. It’s heartening.

(EXCEPT for this complete bullshit, closing down the polls as a health hazard at ten fucking thirty the night before the Ohio primary, with no prior notice and with no actual plan to reschedule the primary aside from “oh, we’ll move it to June, except that I, the governor, have no legal right to do that, so, uh, yeah [Jedi hand wave].” I usually vote early in Ohio, but didn’t this time, and now I’m kicking myself. Never again. Also, hi, folks, do your voting early/by mail this year if you can, because you just know this bullshit is going to pulled again come November. There is literally no excuse for this last minute rug pulling, and everyone of every political persuasion should be waving red flags about it.)

* To come back to me for a moment, and I think for the duration of this (at least), one of my plans will be to write more here, and to do what I can to support other writers and to give people things to read and do to occupy their time. What that means at this point I’m a little fuzzy on, other than probably writing more posts. I’m figuring this out as I go along like everyone else. But again, I know this isolation thing is tough for folks, for all sorts of differing reasons. I’d like to do what I can to make it a little more bearable. All which is to say: I’m working on it, folks. We’ll see what comes of it.

(Note, because I see some of you hovering over your keyboard, I’m not looking for suggestions on what to do. I’ll figure out what works best for me. If I do want suggestions, I will specifically ask. But thanks!)

* We’ll get through this, most of us. Wash your hands, stay home, take care of yourself and your family and look out for your neighbors and friends. Don’t hoard toilet paper or milk or whatever other saleable good everyone seems to be panicking about today. Stick to actual reputable news sources and don’t forward bullshit you see on social media. Support your local businesses now so they will be around when all of this is over. If you can, buy a book (waves) or subscribe to a Patreon or otherwise give support to the creative people you know who are low-key panicking about how they’re gonna eat for the next month or two.

Finally and for the foreseeable future: Let’s be kind when we can. I bet we can be kind most of the time. Let’s all try it and see.

68 Comments on “A Bunch of COVID-Related Thoughts”

  1. I think you wound up where many of us need to arrive: after acknowledging all the calamities upon us and our individual relative helplessness in the face of world-changing shifts. We still have our kindnesses and our local communities (albeit many may be somewhat alienated from theirs by the hectic pace of urban life and now by a social-distancing mandate). In the last analysis, cultivating love of one’s neighbors can become a survival skill. Even if we are not quite down to survival mode, loving our neighbors is also a time-tested and happiness-economics-approved route to personal happiness.

  2. I’m seeing reports that one of the training exercises they did with National Security Council types as part of the 2016-17 transition was “Pandemic influenza originates in China.”

  3. I know you may find it individually frustrating but closing the polling stations, extending the deadlines for voting, and going to universal mail-in is the correct answer to this situation. Any other option just spreads COVID-19, in a lot of cases to the most vulnerable population.

  4. I’ve heard a suggestion to support local businesses by buying gift certificates. Only do that if you can afford to lose the money if the business goes under, though.

  5. Twelve and a half years ago, I hit upon a brilliant strategy for enjoying life on the income of a modern midlist author: I’d become a traveling housesitter and see the world while writing in other people’s houses and using their wifi.

    It was indeed good. Then this happened.

    I’ve just finished a novel and was going to turn my attention to a new series of stories for F&SF. But I’m housesitting in a tiny French hamlet and the host is coming home tomorrow, weeks early. I’m hoping my hastily arranged flight back to Canada next Tuesday is not canceled.

    Interesting times, indeed. Last night, Emmanuel Macron decreed that all non-essential travel must end by noon today. I was out early to get in groceries and gas up the car, and by the time I was on my way back to the sit, the roadblocks were already up.

    I hope I can get back to BC without having to go to the Canadian embassy for assistance. But at least, once I get home, I won’t have to worry about getting treatment if I pick up the bug along the way.

    Interesting times, indeed.

  6. I’m looking forward to seeing the posts. This one was very interesting.

    One thing that I hope this event changes is the notion that “the market will fix everything so we don’t need no stinkin’ guvment.” There have been warning signs for this event for decades (I know, hindsight is 20/20) and we should have been better prepared, on a national level, with regard to emergency medical stockpiles and response plans (with per-defined trigger points). It should also be crystal clear by now that some programs of benefit to the entire society, vaccine research AND production, anti-viral treatments, for instance, are best accomplished outside of the sphere of profit-making, market-focused enterprise. I am decidedly not anti-capitalism but I am opposed to a dogmatic mindset that puts us all at risk.

    Your point about the elections is well taken. I’m also concerned about Mnuchin’s call for increased powers and a relaxation of Dodd-Frank Act provisions and have expressed those concerns to my representatives in Congress. The current administration is just too corrupt/incompetent to be trusted with the powers afforded to previous administrations during crisis.

    Good luck to you and your family and thanks for having the “Leaping Cats” photo show up every once-in-a-while…it always makes me smile.

  7. I’m watching GOP Senators and Representatives dither and delay and wondering, “Are they trying to lose the election?” I think MoscowMitch is thinking that, too, given his recent request to judges appointed by Reagan and Bush the Elder.

    Come a year from now we may be wondering how to handle the US as a one party democracy, where that party is the Democrats. (As a Democrat let me just say that if you think we’re immune to the sorts of pathologies that the GOP is suffering from, well, I’ve got a bridge for sale. Great view of Brooklyn.)

  8. You’re fortunate indeed that you have another couple of decades to let your 401(k) build back up.

    I’m 63. After the past couple of weeks, my retirement plan has shifted from “maybe pull the plug when I’m 70” to “die.”

    Of course, given that my workplace is responding to the pandemic with emails saying “if you REALLY think you need to telecommute, we’ll evaluate it on a case-by-case basis, but only if you complete this five-page form explaining in detail exactly why you think you deserve to be afforded this privilege, and only if you develop and implement a plan to provide daily evidence that you’re actually working, get it signed off by four layers of management plus the CIO, and even if we decide to grant you this privilege, we can revoke it and require you to work in person at any time we please for any reason or no reason,” it seems fairly probable that I could wind up “retiring” this year thanks to covid-19.

    Eh, screw it. There’s no getting out of this world alive anyway.

  9. Coincidentally, I awoke about the same time Scalzi did and got going for much the same reason, boredom at watching my eyelids in the dark. Found, much to my delight, that management had actually fixed the driers in the laundry room. Now I needn’t trek to the nearest laundermat. Maybe the new management company is worth something after all. After the cloths, a trip out to vote then to the local grocery for a few supplies for the coming week. This will be about the most time outside my apartment that I’ve had all week.

    Being a geezer, I had already cocooned.

  10. Same thing as the 9/11 attacks — no one could imagine a horror on that scale until it happened. So “lessons will be learned.” Until the next “unforeseeable” disaster happens. Perhaps it’s just human nature, but reaction has happened instead of planning for the next disaster to strike this country and the world.

  11. I don’t usually comment – things have been said ad nauseum by the time I get here – but today, after two hours’ sleep, I’m up at this absurd hour here in the great state of California that we moved to, and into a CCRC (retirement community) 1.5 years ago.

    Our portfolio – supposed to last the rest of our lives – is taking a bad hit. You’re not supposed to have bad hits at the BEGINNING of your retirement years, for stuff to last.

    Although WE may not last. The retirement community is in total lockdown as of yesterday, with food being delivered to our doors so we don’t congregate!

    The mess here and in the UK could not have been worse, of worse managed, if they had tried with both feet.

    Stay safe, wash your hands, and for goodness’ sake, how in the heck do we learn not to touch our T-zones?

  12. I, for one, will be glad to have more of your musings. I’ve been pulled into a Covid-19 news whirlwind, while trying to figure out how to work from home (much more possible for me now than 3 years ago) with 2 elementary schoolers home, ALSO trying to learn how to work from home. I’m also kicking myself for not seeing the writing on the stock-market wall a month ago. I could tell even then that this would be a sh!tshow, from the supply side.

  13. Has it occurred to you that we are actually *living* in The Interdependency? I’m not convinced our civilization can survive if the close connections of our economic system(s) are weakened further.

  14. I’ve discovered a strange side effect of the social distancing. I’m one of the lucky ones, and I know that; my job quickly adapted to the situation, and we’re all working from home for the foreseeable future, which is great in terms of what is going on. As a hardcore introvert, it was a silver lining to this very grey cloud.

    However, because I am an introvert, I’m actually worried how it will affect me. Going to my job everyday forced me to get out of the house and interact with people – stretch and keep my social muscles limber as it were. Now that I’m actually being encouraged to stay home, I’m worried those muscles will atrophy. I’m very, very lucky, I know and am so grateful for that, but it’s funny what you learn about yourself when your environment changes.

    Be safe everyone. Introvert or not, you are all in my thoughts.

  15. Now is the time to be a stay-at-home introvert, which I am. The problem is my gets-cabin-fever-quick extrovert spouse, how to get her to take all precautions?

    What to do with this government and the 30% of the population that doublethinks their way to believing everything will be OK if we just rename it from Covid-19 to The Chinese Virus?

  16. Sensible advice, as always. John, you’re a national treasure. Still no way we could persuade you to move up to Canada?

    For those who might find it useful, I prepared a short document for family and friends to help them adopt Douglas Adams’ timeless advice, “Don’t panic!”:
    http://geoff-hart.com/resources/covid19.html
    Feel free to share that link if you find it useful. If you have corrections or additions, please send them to me at so I can update the document. Don’t clutter this discussion forum with quibbling over details, though obviously if something needs discussion and seems appropriate for Our Good Host, go for it! CC me if you want my input in that Discussion; mid-work crunch, so I may not get back here before John closes this thread for comments.

    I echo John’s “don’t panic” advice about the stock market. It’s going to continue falling for some time, and if you sell now, you’re locking in a large loss. If you’re at the age where you’re thinking of retirement soon, you should already have most of your investments in fixed-income investments like bonds that won’t have been affected. if you’ve got time, the market will recover. Stay patient.

    Last but not least, look out for each other. Help your neighbors how you can. That’s how we build community and get through the hard times.

  17. As long as I stay healthy, I am in pretty good shape for this particular crisis. I’m retired and was always an introvert so spending time alone in my house with my dog is not really a change to my life. The weekly trip to the grocery store is a little more fraught but other than that my day-to-day life isn’t really changing. Financially, a couple of years ago I looked at my 401K and my age and decided that I didn’t need to make any more money to have enough for the rest of my life. I, therefore, moved almost everything out of the market and into money market/bond funds. I didn’t know anything special just that the real danger to my security was a sudden disaster and not low returns. So far, I’m down about 3% which doesn’t really change anything. Unless the whole system collapses I’ll be fine and if it does the amount of money left in my 401K isn’t going to make much difference. My big problem at this point is seasonal allergies interacting with hypochondria – I’m taking my temperature regularly just to re-assure myself that I’m not coming down with anything. Stay safe everybody, this too shall pass.

  18. I work in a nursing home so no staying home for me. When we get to work we have to answer questions about whether we have had any exposure and we have to have our temp taken before we even punch in. I am also 64 so I am in the higher risk category myself. I said to one of my coworkers last week “I wonder if this is how I go out”.
    On my days off I’ve been staying in because I know if just one of my residents gets this virus it will decimate the place. Stay safe everyone and remember to wash your hands constantly and use good cough etiquette etc. We will get through this a day at a time.

  19. The late night “delay” of the Ohio polls has me worried. Feels like a test-the-waters move by the GOP to measure blow-back. The underlying motivation may be that the best way to ensure more 45 is to delay / skip the election due to COVID-19. Let there be a LOT of outrage over this from everyone regardless of political preference. This is the heart & soul of us as a nation!

  20. Unless you are getting groceries, presciptions, or other vital supplies.

    #staythefuckhome

    If your job requires you to go out, then wash your hands often, dont touch your face, cough into a tissue or sleeve, and try to stay at least 8 feet from others, if you cant then

    #staythefuckhome

    It can take up to 12 days after getting infected with coronavirus before symptoms show up, so even if you feel fine,

    #staythefuckhome

    Cases are doubling about every 6 days via normal social interaction. The US currently has 2500 confirmed cases. That means we could have over half a million cases in less than two months, so

    #staythefuckhome

  21. I’ve been really pleased with Ohio’s response (half of my parents are in Darke County and the other half in Montgomery County, and neither one thinks this is as serious as it’s being made out to be.) Voting nonsense excepted, of course.

    But generally I’m like you – this was already our world at my house, and I’m just trying to help my more, shall we say, outwardly directed friends adjust. Looking forward to reading more here, selfishly.

  22. I’m just beginning 2 weeks (so far) of mandatory country-wide lockdown. My kindle bill is going to be frightening by the end of this!! Though I think I’ll be starting by rereading Lock In.

    But I’m so so privileged right now. I have food and options (short of the aforementioned collapse of civilisation) that many around me don’t have. A significant part of the country I live in won’t have income for however long we’re closed, and people have been waiting in line for hours today to buy bread before the lockdown measures step up tomorrow.

  23. I’m a freelancer who works from home and my husband is unemployed. Our financial resources were already strained before this crisis and my work has slowed. Still, we have enough for food, shelter, and electricity, water, internet, and phone for at least a few months. We both have the useful introvert trait, and we each have a couple increased risk factors, so we are staying home as much as possible. New things to read will be great! I wish I could spend money on them, but for now, I’d best stick to free.

    I went around to knock on the neighbors’ doors in our apartment complex. I found very few of them answering their doors, and I’m not sure why. The two I connected with I offered my phone number to, in case we could run errands or tend pets. It’s funny how we live so close together and yet see so little of each other.

    We shopped last Wednesday, before the strong recommendations came out and before the runs on TP and other things. I’m hoping to redeploy the skills my family used to shop only monthly, but we will see. I’m nervous about insulin, which we usually buy in Canada every 45 days to save $400 per prescription. Will the border close?

    Altogether, we are anxious yet getting along. Thanks for the updates. I agree about the kindness.

  24. It is ironic that in one breath we say we all want to stick together, then in another we throw shade at the GOP. We want a functioning government, but we spent months obsessing about an impeachment that likely precipitated a delayed response from both the administration and Congress. We don’t want a millionaire old white man so we will vote for another millionaire old white man. And finally we have people like Acosta warning us not to call this a Chinese virus when he did the exact same thing (as did the New York Times). If anyone by this point thinks we are not being played by Chinese Communists, Russian Trolls, and violent left and right wing extremists, please raise your virtual hand.

  25. I appreciate your putting this together. I disagree about the primary cancellation. Better late than never – the states that are still running their primaries, putting poll workers and voters at risk, have a lot to answer for.
    If you get a bomb threat at a polling place, you have to close it. We’ve had the bomb threat.
    People now have to make difficult decisions on short notice and some have no good options.

  26. Thanks, John. I woke up 4am today as well, which is atypical for me. Been looking at tweets all morning after a couple head-in-the-sand days. Still, it’s nice to have some long-form, journalistic & ethical analysis of it all, even if is probably as much for your own mental health as much as for our education and encouragement.

  27. I have a bemused look at the Ohio election, but only because I went to the board of elections last week and voted then. Who has standing to sue, can the court adjudicate when it is an entity in the case, and why do you jump from the GOP governor is being smart in how he is managing the shut down of the state to GOP nefarious shenanigans keep my mind occupied.

    What do you think the federal government should have done that it did not do? What do you think it should do now?

  28. Since my job is literally doing non-essential close contact with vulnerable populations (geriatric and oncology massage therapist), I’m not working for the next several weeks at least. We’re pretty much a family of hermits other than me, and I’m a hermit by preference whenever I can get away with it anyway, so this hasn’t hit us too badly.

    We (me and my husband), do have to go visit his oncologist today though, so I really hope other people are keeping to social distance as much as possible.

  29. Being retired and over 70, I’m in a space that’s both enviable and worrisome at the same time. I’m pretty much a hermit, so no problems having to stay inside. I got out of the stock market some time ago, so the crash hasn’t impacted me at all. (Yet. I suspect down the line the poor economy will be a factor in my life, and I’m worried about severe inflation down the line, which might be devastating to me and others on a fixed income.) If something happens that I do get the virus it could be bad, so I’ve got to be real careful.

    All of the volunteer things I do have been cancelled, museums and adult education, that’s a bummer. But I’ve got plenty of books and Netflix – I’ll be fine. I do hope that at some point they’ll start playing some sports without fans, that will give us a pick-me-up when it happens.

    My kids live in Ohio, I visit them every once in awhile. Since my son-in-law has cystic fibrosis, that’s not gonna happen, no one but his wife and child are going to be in the house.

    I live in Pennsylvania, and the governor closed all the liquor stores last night. I initially wondered why – standing in line to buy a bottle of vodka doesn’t seem any more worrisome than buying fruit or milk. Then I got to thinking – we’re going to have millions of people getting cabin fever, and they’ll have to put up with their relatives 24/7.This is bound to lead to some domestic violence. Perhaps, if the supply of alcohol is limited, will it lead to less problems? Maybe, I hope so.

    Now I like to have two glasses of wine with my dinner, and at the moment I’ve only got a few bottles in my larder. This might become a lifestyle problem for me, if I run out. So, I’ve decided that for eleven days, until the weekend after next, I’m going to cut out that habit. It’ll be good for me, even though I’m far from being an alcoholic.

    Like you, John, and others, I’ll be fine . . .

  30. Heartwarming. John, your words of sanity and calmness convince me, that there is still hope for US, until people like you live there. Keep up! (And see you guys back in Budapest sometime).

  31. glc:

    To be clear, I think the general idea of rescheduling the election is not a bad one. I think the manner in which it was done is very bad.

  32. annaparadox wondered: “I’m nervous about insulin, which we usually buy in Canada every 45 days to save $400 per prescription. Will the border close?”

    As of this morning, the border was still open to Americans. However, both federally and provincially, leaders are talking about “not ruling out” complete border closure, and if the outbreak becomes severe in the U.S., you can expect the U.S. border to be closed too. Given that the U.S. government has waited way too long to address the outbreak, you can expect the outbreak to accelerate. So if you’re depending on Canada for your insulin, start developing plan B. Do you have any Canadian friends who can transport insulin across the border or courier it to you?

  33. Your musings, as per usual, are spot on. Being a creative already working from home, that part isn’t a hardship to me, but I can understand how it can grate on others. We’re extremely lucky that the company m’husband works for is being proactive and asking people to work at home, if possible. His experience has been the opposite of Colonel Snuggledorf’s – they’re evaluating people wanting to come to the office on a case-by-case basis. They REALLY want people to stay home at this time. The company is multi-national (home base is in the EU, so that might have something to do with it), and I think it’s that way for all the offices.

    This hasn’t, however, prevented us from getting sick. :( We’re pretty sure it’s the ‘rona, because of the symptoms, and the way it came on. The fact that we both got sick within a day of each other and we have NEVER both been sick at the same time (I mean, one of us will get a cold, and the other might pick it up – but like, a week later, sort of thing). We can’t get tested, of course.

    I am so with you on people needing to stop voting for “rich, ignorant, venal white men (and their quisling lackeys) who don’t care about you unless you’re a goddamn billionaire.” I swear I want to get a shirt made saying “My Neighbors Voted for Trump, and All I Got Was This Lousy Coronavirus”.

  34. And finally we have people like Acosta warning us not to call this a Chinese virus when he did the exact same thing (as did the New York Times).

    I’m going to need citations for those.

    If anyone by this point thinks we are not being played by Chinese Communists, Russian Trolls, and violent left and right wing extremists, please raise your virtual hand.

    Raises hand.

  35. The only thing I expect from you Scalzi during these trying times (and any apocalypse, for that matter), besides being healthy, is keeping the cat pictures coming. Keep your job simple. Thank you. :)

  36. The November election is safe from disingenuous manipulation, or at least that sort justified by a pandemic. The elections clause of the Constitution vests Congress with the overall authority to regulate elections, and Congress long ago used that power to set a uniform date for all national elections. Neither Trump nor Trump + Senate can change that without running it past Nancy Pelosi.

  37. “Has it occurred to you that we are actually *living* in The Interdependency? I’m not convinced our civilization can survive if the close connections of our economic system(s) are weakened further.”

    The threads that bind are a bit worn. But consider this: The United States is better positioned than any other large country to survive the pandemic, and with a fair shot at a quick rebound. We have ample mineral, energy, and agricultural resources, a talented workforce, and a more-than-strong-enough military to protect us.

    The Powers That Be are pumping oodles of liquidity into the financial system. And the White House is talking about putting money in people’s pockets ASAP. (We’ll see if Congress can get off the proverbial dime on that.)

    For all of the carping about the administration’s uneven response to the pandemic, this ain’t 1918. With patience and, yes, luck, we stand a good chance of bouncing back in style. If initial measures “flatten the curve” and the number deceased is ultimately lower than what medicals pros expect, we might even trick ourselves into thinking that the coronvirus threat was overblown in the first place.

    Hang in there people. Don’t let the uncertainty wear you down.

  38. Re primary: I guess you’re aware that a judge turned down the request for an injunction at a slightly more timely moment (and things have been moving quickly). I don’t know anything about that judge, and his reasoning, but I find it admirable that the governor found a way to carry this through, even at the very last minute.

    I also appreciated Governor Murphy’s (NJ) remark to skeptics: “If it turns out we were wrong, this is on me.” (not verbatim – just as I recall it).

  39. With regard to the stock market and 401Ks, this ought to demonstrate pretty conclusively (at least to over 60s) why the idea of privatizing social security was such a horrible idea.

  40. To follow up on the importance of thinking about those less fortunate, everyone please consider supporting their local food banks beyond what they may already give.

    Six weeks ago I started to slowly expand from a 4 day emergency supply of food to a few weeks worth of shelf-stable staples. (My health situation makes leaving the house to shop, etc. particularly risky while the virus is rapidly spreading.)

    Feeling reasonably secure myself, I wanted to do more to help those in far more precarious circumstances. This is doubly critical right now as sold-out grocery stores lack the surpluses they usually donate.

  41. “…one of my plans will be to write more here… What that means at this point I’m a little fuzzy on…”

    So, more Little Fuzzy stories? Yay!

    More seriously, though: thank you for your attitude, your perseverance, your accomplishments, and your recommendations!

  42. Steve: “It is ironic that in one breath we say we all want to stick together, then in another we throw shade at the GOP”

    No one is saying “stick together” meaning blind obediance to those in power. We’re saying we as a nation need some moral decision making. Moral decision making: whats best for everyone. The idea that everyone make some sacrifices to do whats best for everyone as a whole.

    And Trump and the GOP arent doing that. Trumps calculus is do whatever gets him reelected even if people die. His concern has been wall street stimulus, not keeping people alive. And the gop is currently stalling the pandemic bill because they dont want dems rebuilding too much of the govt they tore down.

    Trump dismantled the pandemic office to help pay for his corporate tax break that is costing us a trillion dollars a year.

    When the GOP starts doing moral decision making, they will up corporate taxes to pay for pandemic response. Everyone makes a sacrifice for the greater good. But they’re not doing that.

    “Stick together” should be used to mean “make decisions based on whats best for everyone, even if people have to make sacrifices, like corporations have taxes raised back to normal levels to pay for pandemic response.”

    “Stick together” should absolutely not be used to mean “we must blindly follow trump and the gop and not criticize their repeated failures and repeated selfish behavior that created this mess”.

    Cause you’re trying to go for that second one.

  43. John, excellent post. You covered pretty much everything.

    We are retired and have been living a quiet life for quit a while. I do most of my socializing on-line. So that so far, this is no real hardship for us. If it stretches on for months (which it probably will do), who knows. We have family who can help each other, which is nice. So far, we are keeping our distance as some are in the highest risk group.

    I worry about people in hospitals, nursing homes and transitional care units. The virus could decimate that population. But most (?) of these places are on shutdown, which is the right thing to do.

    It really angered me when our government and the UK government seemed to want to get everybody sick in a hurry, so that the vulnerable would die off, so the stock market could recover more quickly. I guess they realized (as you said) that the conservatives would be killing off their own base.

  44. I want to apologize to everyone here since my wife and I probably at least partly caused this. You see, every time we leave New York for a while, bad things happen. Not one but two summertime blackouts, and we were in England both times. Sandy hit, we were in Arizona. We flew down to Florida to visit the in-laws and New York got over a foot of snow (this was 20 years ago, let me add). And disasters that didn’t hit New York also happened while we were out of town – we were in Arizona for both Katrina and the Boston Marathon bombing. So, three months in Florida and this is no surprise.

    Now we’re heading home a week early, hoping Mayor de Blasio doesn’t follow through on his threat to go all ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and shut down the bridges on us before we get home. I have to say, Florida has been very different from the stories we’re seeing and reading. Restaurants are still open, ditto the libraries and movies, though that may be changing now. Once Starbucks closed, my wife had had enough.

    Seriously, hope all of you are able to get through this. Assuming we can get home (and get to the store), we’ll be fine. We’re retired, we have enough books to last more years than either of us is going to have, we are reasonably healthy and don’t have the financial worries so many do have,

    Good luck to all.

  45. If you haven’t read Nora Roberts’ Chronicle of the One trilogy, it’s a good read and fits well with the current situation. It deals with a breaking of the barrier between worlds, the release of magick back into Earth, and the work of a group to overcome evil with good.

  46. “I find it admirable that the governor found a way to carry this through, even at the very last minute.”

    You may find it admirable, glc. I find it terrifying. The “way” he found to do it was to defy the legal route and just push it through. He ignored the judge’s decision and made a unilateral decision, then bullied the state’s supreme court into a last minute ad-hoc split decision to side with him.

    To use a description that is sadly becoming more and more common: This is what you expect from a banana republic.

    I have no doubt holding the primary today undermines efforts to stop the spread of the virus. I have no doubt DeWine’s intentions were good. But does anyone have any doubt that DeWine’s actions yesterday & today aren’t going to serve as a precedent for “postponing” future elections for far less defensible reasons? Or has everyone already forgotten the way Trump completely abrogated to himself Congress’s #1 constitutional right (the exclusive authority decide where money gets spent) when he declared a bogus “emergency” to steal tax dollars apportioned for purposes he didn’t care about and direct the money towards his useless Wall?

  47. In response to the assertion above (by Steve) “about an impeachment that likely precipitated a delayed response,” I would point to yesterday’s Politico story that’s gotten some coverage by other sources (www.politico.com/news/2020/03/16/trump-inauguration-warning-scenario-pandemic-132797) concerning a meeting during the transition between administrations:

    “POLITICO obtained documents from the meeting and spoke with more than a dozen attendees to help provide the most detailed reconstruction of the closed-door session yet. It was perhaps the most concrete and visible transition exercise that dealt with the possibility of pandemics, and top officials from both sides — whether they wanted to be there or not — were forced to confront a whole-of-government response to a crisis. The Trump team was told it could face specific challenges, such as shortages of ventilators, anti-viral drugs and other medical essentials, and that having a coordinated, unified national response was ‘paramount’ — warnings that seem eerily prescient given the ongoing coronavirus crisis. But roughly two-thirds of the Trump representatives in that room are no longer serving in the administration. That extraordinary turnover in the months and years that followed is likely one reason his administration has struggled to handle the very real pandemic it faces now, former Obama administration officials said.”

  48. All I have is a voice
    To undo the folded lie,
    The romantic lie in the brain
    Of the sensual man-in-the-street
    And the lie of Authority
    Whose buildings grope the sky:
    There is no such thing as the State
    And no one exists alone;
    Hunger allows no choice
    To the citizen or the police;
    We must love one another or die.

    –W.H. Auden, “September 1, 1939”

  49. Alright John, you win, I pre-ordered the book from Powells, as is right and good.

    “Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead.”
    – Charles Bukowski

  50. Two things that have been useful to us (75-yo retirees):

    1. Grocery store curbside pickup, with online ordering. We have Publix, Harris Teeter, Whole Foods, Fresh Market, and Walmart within a 15-minute drive. Almost no human contact involved; they load the groceries into the back of the van. The online ordering was flakey; crashes, items sold out or limited quantities of them.

    2. Bidets. Little or no toilet paper needed. We converted two toilets to bidet seats, found them great for old folks with limited flexibility. A minor lesson: a toilet to be used by a guy must be wall-mounted. It can actually be kept clean by the user.

    You’ll probably want to wait until this is over to install bidets; they require significant plumbing work, with plumbers in your house.

  51. Jeff M – I had sort of the same problem with hurricanes in my part of Florida. Every time there was a hurricane named after one of my female relatives it would hit us and cause massive problems – two nieces, my grandmother, an aunt by both her first and middle names. I know there’s no real effect going on there but I actually worry about it now!

  52. AnneTG:

    All valid points. Not the ones I would prioritize just now. If it doesn’t look like you’re overreacting then you’re behind the curve.

    France held the first round of its local elections Sunday. A major misstep, but it had become a political football.

    We’re watching a slow motion train wreck …

  53. Actually, if installed correctly, an aftermarket bidet DOESN’T require a plumber. I know this because i installed one INcorrectly earlier this year. (Don’t need to use the plumbers tape, as it turns out.) Only a $49 house call though!

  54. pjcamp: The November election is safe from disingenuous manipulation, or at least that sort justified by a pandemic. The elections clause of the Constitution vests Congress with the overall authority to regulate elections, and Congress long ago used that power to set a uniform date for all national elections. Neither Trump nor Trump + Senate can change that without running it past Nancy Pelosi.

    Aren’t you just adorable. It is absolutely correct that the Constitution vests Congress with the overall authority to regulate elections. It also clearly indicates when the term of a president ends.

    It also has a very clear emoluments clause. It also makes it clear that congress has an oversight authority over the president. It also makes it clear the congress can remove a president through the impeachment process. How well have those been working? If Trump decides to cancel the November election due to a national emergency, it will clearly be an illegal act. So someone will have to go to court and sue and in a few years it will work it’s way up to the supreme court, which, by then, should be almost 100% conservatives. Since the courts won’t work, I guess we’ll have to impeach him to get him out of office. We already know how well that works.

    Get ready for an very long Trump presidency.

  55. Two important updates to my “don’t panic” Web page, linked to early in this blog entry. In summary:

    1. British and French medical authorities agree (unusually) that it’s best to avoid ibuprofen and possibly other NSAIDs such as aspirin, and favor acetaminophen (paracetamol) if you have fever or pain from the covid-19 virus. But be very careful to not exceed the dosage on the bottle (amount and frequency); acetaminophen can cause serious liver damage at too-high doses.

    2. A recent British study suggests that we should begin shifting our thinking from short-term to “up to 18 months”, or until a vaccine or successful treatment regimen is developed. Again, don’t panic. But do start thinking hard about social distancing, working from home, and minimizing the number of times you have to go to the marketplace to shop. If you can work from home; do so. If you don’t know where to begin, the kind folks at Tidbits have provided their “Take Control of Working at Home Temporarily” book for free: https://tidbits.com/2020/03/16/get-take-control-of-working-from-home-temporarily-for-free/

  56. Something new to this pandemic is the infoweb in general, Amazon in particular.

    I see puffy, gentle clouds of tp drone-delivered all over the US, no panic necessary. I’ll sit in the backyard with my binocs and watch the tp roll across the illimitable blue of our swaddling sky and let the pandemic go by a day per day until the tide of it rolls out and we can go back to the beach and comb for the remains of our lives, mixing our metaphors in our tea glasses, sipping the bitter tincture of the triumph of wealth over evolution, technology over entropy.

  57. I thought of one thing I could do to help! I put my one novel in Kindle up for free today through Friday. The Cracked Bell is a relatively light tale of a different kind of crisis. I’m glad to share for anyone who could use a little more to read.

  58. Local supermarkets have changed operating hours. The opening hour is being made exclusive to 60+ yo’s. I’ve looked at online ordering with pick-up or delivery options. Honestly, that works for us with regard to dry goods, frozen foods, dairy, etc. However, I prefer to pick my own produce. So, I guess I’ll set the alarm a little earlier to take advantage of the retiree opens when the time comes.
    I give the panic 3 weeks to exhaust itself to the point where supply and demand return to normal.

  59. Two unrelated thoughts:

    If you are an author whose book event was cancelled or delayed, tweet Fantasy Literature (@fanlit) with the deets, a cover pic or even a video of you reading/speaking if you have it, and we’ll retweet. We’re doing what we can to get the word out to folks. I do think, at least in the short run, that many people staying home will be ordering books. They might as well know about yours!

    Spouse and I are probably going to weather this just fine, too. “Self-isolate” pretty much is our lifestyle; we’re healthy, we have health insurance, etc. My close friend is the sole proprietor of a second-hand bookstore. February had been a surprisingly good month, and March was shaping up to be, until now. I’m very worried about what will happen to the store, and her livelihood, in three weeks, or longer if “shelter in place” continues. I worry about all my home town’s Main Street shops.

  60. Some matters of concern:

    Also (I can’t speak for the accuracy of the events outlined in the “what if” scenario linked below), based on the current circumstances (prevalence of community spread, inept government response, profound and far reaching economic consequences) would you say that we are headed for this kind of future?

  61. Sorry for the sequential post, John, but I wanted to comment on something else you noted in your post.

    The hoarding/panic buying in my community is out of control.

    If only they’d heard the metaphorical bells even 10 days ago, getting ground beef and a couple tomatoes wouldn’t be an hours long quest for those who gradually stocked up *before*the declaration and just want pasta for dinner.

    To be clear, I’m not talking about the people buying reasonable amounts of food and other supplies for a reasonable amount of time. I’m not talking about people who would extend kindnesses to their neighbors.

    Frankly, if they’re panic-buying food and supplies like survivalist cavepeople and fighting over food at the store because they held out for verification of the pandemic from authority figures who share their worldview, they’re terrible people and clown shoe as hell.

    Likewise, if they, in their grocery packed vehicles, are going neighborhood to neighborhood, store to store and wiping out *those* supplies, they’re worse than terrible people, because now they’re behaving as if their families and children are more important than those who live and work in *those* communities, especially if they’ve been blowing this off and have contracted and spread the virus as a result.

    I’m glad that the stores in my area are finally, finally cracking down on these ruthless hunting parties and limiting the number of certain items that people can buy. I especially appreciate those stores who are opening early for seniors, pregnant women and the disabled so that they don’t have to brave the shoulders, elbows and strategically positioned/aimed carts of the “its either me or you” movement.

  62. I would strongly reiterate the “support your local business” part. Many are going to be struggling. For example tonight, while we can’t go to our neighbourhood pub, we can order dinner from them since they flipped to doing take-out until they can open up properly again. I also plan on reading a bunch while I can’t leave the house and will be buying novels.