Thoughts on a Plague Year

March 11, 2020, is when I peg the start of my personal plague year. I was on the JoCo Cruise at the time and had intentionally avoided news up to that point, but then two things happened. One, people came up to me wanting to tell me about Tom Hanks contracting the COVID virus (people knew that I know him personally), and two, my editor Patrick sent me a cryptic email telling me that I should call him immediately. After reminding him I was on a cruise and the ocean does not have cell phone towers, he told me via email that my book tour was cancelled and that plague was everywhere. I gave in at that point and caught up with the news from the world, all bad.

Other people peg the start of their plague year slightly earlier or later, but March 11 was when the plague touched me directly, first by infecting someone in my personal sphere, and then by messing with my livelihood. No longer was it something that was happening elsewhere. It was happening to me.

The year since has been, well, a lot. My kid got COVID; she, being 22 and being in reasonably good shape, was tired for a few days and lost her sense of smell. Some friends got it and fared worse; one of them had to undergo surgery for damage to his heart. Other people of my acquaintance died from it. In November I got sick with something that felt like COVID but which two separate tests suggest was not; we may never figure out what it was. I can’t think of anyone I know who didn’t have someone close to them affected by COVID, and sometimes that person was them.

As of the moment there are more than 525,000 COVID-related deaths in the United States, and that number is almost certainly too low. Much of this number — some estimates say about 40% of it — is the responsibility of the previous administration’s appallingly bad response to it, in which the then-president and his fellow travelers repeatedly tried to downplay the severity of it, and then mismanaged the dealing with it by prioritizing politics over science, and settling scores over helping people. Our unlamented, likely-to-be-in-prison-soonish former president will go down in history as the Man Who Botched a Plague, and he will deserve it. Currently he is out there in the periphery, querulously complaining that no one gives him credit for doing the things that are now helping to curb COVID. He is correct, because everything he did wrong far outstrips anything he did right.

But to be scrupulously fair, no matter who was president, this was going to be bad, and hundreds of thousands of Americans would have died. We’re not and can’t be New Zealand, a counrty with less population than Cook County, Illinois, and whose ignorant fringe is not imbued with as much political power as ours is, particularly in the previous administration. But even larger powers who did better than we did managing the virus still had surges and strained medical systems and thousands upon thousands of deaths. We absolutely could have done better — and should have done better, and if the previous president, his administration and his party had done better, he might still be president today, which is a terrifying thought. But it was never going to be good. That should be acknowledged.

Speaking of the previous administration, the fact that the plague hit during an election year in the United States either proves that God exists, and he’s an asshole, or that he’s dead and the universe is a capricious disaster zone. Between COVID and the election, a lot of people — myself included — felt like life was continually punching us in the face. I had hoped the election results in November would have brought at least partial relief but we all know how that went. I’m not going to call this March-to-March span the worst year or twelve months in history (within the last century alone 1939 is right there, picking its teeth), but in my own lifetime, it’s the year where external events really had an impact on my personal life, and my personal mental health.

And yes! Over the last year my mental health was not great. I was hopeful that as an introvert, basically staying in my home for a year seeing no one but family wouldn’t be that horrible. It mostly wasn’t, until suddenly it was. And then it was very bad for several days before it ebbed again. I went through several cycles of that.

I was equally hopeful that I would get a lot of work done since I was home anyway, and that didn’t go very well either. I did a lot of work, but a lot of that work wasn’t up to my standards in no small part because the year kept pulling focus. I’ve discussed the before, and I’m sure will again, so I won’t go over it in detail right now. Suffice to say angry, bored and shut in is no way to go through life, or to get creative things done.

(And of course I have to acknowledge that as these things go, I had it pretty easy. I was able to be with my spouse and kid, and we did have the means to weather this thing economically. We had the 1% version of the quarantine. And it still sucked.)

This March 11, the one in 2021, Ohio dropped the age of the people allowed to get a vaccine to 50, and did it at midnight. I just happened to wake up at about 1am and when I did, I went “oh, right,” got online and hunted down two vaccination appointments, one for me and one for Krissy. We’ll be getting Pfizered up on Tuesday. We’re not out of this thing yet, but I do think it’s a pleasingly resonant coincidence that March 11 serves as the day that both started me into my personal plague year, and serves as the day that is starting me out of it. It’s a nice set of bookends, as it were, and perfectly timed.

I hope that likewise you see your own “plague year” coming to an end soon. It’s been a very long year, and I’m happy to have concrete signs it’s coming to a close. Again: Not there yet. But soon enough. I’ll settle for that today.

— JS

75 Comments on “Thoughts on a Plague Year”

  1. I don’t claim to be a psychic (and I don’t believe in paranormal phenomena in any event), but I have to say when I saw your announcement that you were going on the cruise my first thought was that you would be coming back to a very different world from the one you left (maybe the fact that Last Ship popped up as a suggestion on Hulu is what prompted the premonition). In any event, glad you made it back safe and into 2021. Go get those shots! I’m in group 1c in Virginia and still waiting. Getting the shot, I think will really help me feel like I am putting 2020 behind me.

  2. A friend has been posting passages from Defoe’s 1722 book A Journal of the Plague Year which is basically a historical novel about the 1665 Plague during which Isaac Newton thunk up some important thunks while staying with his mother to avoid the plague on her FB wall.

    The main thing I have learned from those passages has been how, despite all our scientific knowledge, humanity as a species has yet to learn many things that should have been learned in 1665.

    A colleague who worked as a Contact Tracer for a Public Health Department about 30 years ago said early in this pandemic, “the technology may have changed, but I think today’s Contact Tracers will find human nature has not.”

  3. My parents got their first of two shots this week. I’m probably not going to be able to get mine for at least another month, maybe longer, so my “Plague Year” will still have a ways to go yet.

  4. One year so far, but COVID19 is no yet done with us. New Zealand was lucky, being a small isolated nation, we didn’t get our first case confirmed until the 28th of February. By then it was obvious from seeing the experience of countries like Italy how bad it could get. Our health system would shatter if it ever took hold (New Zealand had 153 intensive care beds for a population of 5 million). We simply were not prepared for an epidemic, and so were forced to go into a hard lockdown early or face a high death count.

    Our luck: being isolated bought us time to appreciate the seriousness of the disease, having leadership brave enough to make the hard but correct decisions, and enough New Zealanders willing to work together to make that strategy work.

    I am grateful to be living in New Zealand. I am also conscious that although New Zealand gets held up as an example, the exemplar for COVID19 response is rightly Taiwan. Taiwan has managed COVID19 remarkably well, never needing any lockdown at all, and is a democratic country. Be like Taiwan.

  5. I count my plague year as starting from the morning of March 26th, 2020, when I clocked out from my place of employment for the last time before going into the retirement I’d been planning for several years.

    So my lifestyle plan from that date forward was to spend most of my time at home, read more, write more, catch up on lots of tv & movies, and re-start the backyard garden that had fallen into disuse.

    I just hadn’t expected the rest of the world to have to do the same.

    After a year of this, gotta admit it’s even getting to a high-level introvert like me. Part of the retirement plan was to go out not just to the occasional local convention, but make visits to other events, zoos, museums, etc., we’ve never managed to get to before.

    (If you make it back out to Phoenix some day, reserve some time to visit the Musical Instrument Museum here; you’ll enjoy it, and their theater featured highly enjoyable performances — I’ve been to see Richard Thompson and Tom Paxton there — in pre-plague times.)

    And boy, I miss going to an actual library!

  6. What a year it has been.
    My personal milestone was in the first few days of February when I came down with what felt like THEWORSTFLUEVER(TM) & was laid up for the subsequent 2 weeks which in hindsight was most likely COVID since We’d been in (wait for it) in Northern Italy for the last 1/2 of January immediately preceding the onset of my malaise.

    From a Work standpoint it is a year to the day since I was physically at work (or so Google photo’s says reminding me of March 11 2020.

    I recovered without any long haul issues fortunately.

    No one I know has gotten badly enough Ill to be hospitalized let alone died; which makes us (& them) very fortunate indeed.

    I sincerely appreciate being fortunate in that both my partner and I not only remained employed but have been able to work from home with our employers being highly supportive of WFH.

    We like being at home anyway and I could not think of a single person I’d rather be under lockdown with than my spouse.

    If anything, even not taking COVID Stimuli into account we are probably financially better off today than we were this time last year. It is amazing how much less money one spends when the sum total of one’s expenses are limited to groceries, broadband, Income taxes etc.

    My wife has already received both vaccinations because she’s an educator; I received my first dose Saturday last not because I was yet qualified under the current tier but rather because they had extra doses on hand that had to be administered lest they go bad.

    In short we feel extremely fortunate, and yes privileged.

    I feel like we are finally turning a corner – the pandemic is far from over but our city as of today has vaccinated ~16% of residents 16 years of age and older which is meaningful progress by any metric.

    Not the year I’d have chosen by any means but I’ll take it over what many people with less luck/privilege etc. have had to go through,.

  7. My personal “anchor date” is March 19th – the day my inbox read “[Event Cancellation] Notification for John Scalzi discussing and signing “The Last Emperox””

    Obviously it was in the news and seemed unlikely before then, but that was “the event” for me. Crossed it off on my paper calendar, and if I’d known what the rest of 2020 held I’d have just binned the the calendar right then, instead of turning over a new blank page every month.

  8. I’m not going to say much about the interim including our Texas Snowpocalypse adventures (the icing on the sh*t sandwich was was the plague year). But last year the plague experience began in earnest after my wife and I went our for our anniversary, a day or two before the lockdown. The restaurant was nearly empty, and it was the last meal we ate inside a restaurant (we’ve eaten outdoors at a couple of places, carefully). Until this weekend – for our anniversary, we’re going out to eat in a restaurant again for the first time, as we’ve both gotten our second doses of the vaccine. We’re “lucky” (if you count having existing qualifying health conditions as being lucky) to be in a position to do so. There is the promise of return to “normal” on the horizon.

  9. My personal plague year started in late February, mostly because my kids work in the tech industry and they’d caught wind of the impending disaster.

    And then I had a stroke on March 17 (coming up on my anniversary). My kids were freaked out and brought me home and took care of me instead of leaving me in hospital & rehab. (there were too many unknowns about Covid at that early date)

    So it’s been exciting to say the least. I’m glad to hear that you made it through relatively unscathed.

  10. March 13 for me That’s the day I went to my morning aerobics class, then came home to email the gym was shutting down until further notice.

    Ended up dropping the gym membership a few months back, I’m now in the habit of going on 20=40 minute walks 3 times a week, and riding my bike 30-40 minutes 2-3 days a week.

    Funny now that my day is 90% sitting on my ass I’m losing weight.

  11. I’m quite a pandemic nerd. I know which of my fore-bearers perished from the Spanish Flu. I watch the Aids crisis burn untended for the early years of the epidemic, was mesmerized by ebola… Read the various “locked, unlocked” etc. books by our good host. So I’d be post plague memes long before March 13 when we hunkered down. The university that employs me sent the kids on Spring Break, told us to spend Spring Break week and the week following figuring out how to go virtual, and so we did… Worked mostly from home till late August with rare trips to the library to pick things up, and drop them off. In August some of my co-workers returned to a masked, distanced version of “normal” and some of us kept working from home due to health or family issues. I’ve lost several family members, cousin-in-laws, uncles, etc. and seen others get very sick. Lost a couple of old friends too. Our household has been blessed with good health and paychecks that kept coming. We were able to curbside shop and we all get along fairly well… but even an antisocial, pandemic obsessed person like me gets to the point where enough really is enough. Mom has had two pfizer shots, my partner and I are both scheduled for our second later this month. And I remember just how boring summer vacation could get by the end.

  12. We had just returned from a library conference in Nashville they were hit by a tornado On March 2nd, and we all thought that was the WORST thing. The following day I started following the NYT COVID map, wondering if the conference meant Nashville would be a hot spot. Two weeks later, my library closed and we were all sent home. It just seemed to get so bad so fast – and then it got worse. But – no one on the library staff got sick, though spouses and children did. None of my immediate family got sick; but friends and their families did, some fatally.

    I am very excited to be getting my first shot tomorrow morning, at least a month sooner than I expected. That opportunity is due to local good will toward the library and its staff, and our being open since June 2020 to help our community however we can. Including greeting over 15,000 early voters in the lobby!

    Wait, this turned into a library brag, sorry! My point is that I am glad for everyone getting their vaccine, and Mr. Biden being president, and the general feeling that spring is coming, both literally and metaphorically.

  13. My last normal day was March 10, when I last saw friends and hung out in the karaoke bar.

    My anvil-on-the-head day was March 16, when the entire Bay Area shut down and as someone living in a county adjacent to there, I was all “we are shutting down tomorrow, I just know it.” I didn’t normally drive to work, but I brought my car and started packing stuff up, and I was right. I spent St. Patrick’s Day NOT in my bar, but setting up my work computer at home and crying.

  14. I should probably finish that paragraph by pointing out that from March 11-15 my work was all “Business as usual!” and my coworkers were all “I hung out with people this weekend!” and nobody really got that this was bad here until then.

  15. Was able to get my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine yesterday and it feels like I just got injected with a super power. I live alone, and am pretty introverted, so I wasn’t as affected by not going out as others, but the amount of stress that fell off my shoulders surprised even me. I’ve had excess energy today and couldn’t figure out why until just recently.

    Now I’m planning all the first activities I want to do. First is breakfast from someplace not my home, then some actual draft beer, and lastly a family gathering to celebrate all the missed birthdays and holidays. This is of course after my 2nd shot + 2 weeks and dependent on family getting theirs soon. Also, I fully intend to wear a mask still until my state reaches the herd immunity threshold even though our mask mandate ends the beginning of April. But I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

  16. For me it started on March 12 (Thursday).

    I am admin for a local sports league and was getting multiple questions whether we would play that weekend. Discussed with the other admin, looked up community regulations – large gatherings had been cancelled, but everything with up to 50 people was still allowed – and decided to go ahead.
    I informed everybody at 8:45 pm. Watched some more news and cancelled at 10:35 pm.
    We have not played since.

    March 13 was also the day my company sent everybody home to work remotely. And that was that.

  17. I suspect I had one of the slowest “and then it hit me” moments of the pandemic–I wasn’t teaching spring semester, and by early March had only tentatively made the travel plans that were my goal for the year, so everything seems sort of uncertain and up-in-the-air but surely things would get back to normal or close to “normal” soon. I thought. Then the state shut down and my community closed everything and I realized: there was no traffic on the main street in front of my house. None. Zilch. Zero. That NEVER HAPPENS–but it did. Since then it’s been a grim process of making do, figuring out, and coping. I get my second vaccine shot next week and I’m relieved about that and about the progress that we’ve made, but I honestly don’t believe things will be back to any kind of normal until 2022. I hope. There are just too many things that have been damaged by this [expletive deleted] year, so.

    It does make me wonder if we will get any books about this Plague Year–we didn’t out of the 1918 pandemic, really; just Porter’s Pale Horse, Pale Rider, and that always seemed to me like an exception to some sort of rule . . .

  18. Yeah, we were in Florida a year ago. Things suddenly started closing – first the local Greenmarket, then Macy’s and Starbucks. We had two choices – either stay for an extra couple (or more) weeks, or leave as soon as we could. Clearly, the latter was the smart decision, and all it cost us was the food in the freezer. (Our landlady refunded the extra two weeks we’d paid in advance.) We left on March 18 (about 10 days early) and man, the trip home (we drove) was surreal. Restaurants were open for take out and drive thru, hotels were open but breakfast was “grab and go” bags, things were weird. Definitely the right thing was to hunker down (we got home on March 21).

    In mid-May I had to go into the hospital for minor ambulatory surgery, and in the pre-surgery test, Surprise! You have Covid! WTF? I did not then, and didn’t thereafter, have ANY symptoms at all (knock on wood), my wife tested negative, so I just don’t know (if I really had it, where I got it, how my wife didn’t catch it, etc.). Surgery was off for another five weeks (whew, tested negative) but it’s been OK since then. Today marked two weeks since our second Pfizer vaccine.

    And yes, I totally blame Donald Trump. Not for the pandemic, obviously, but for every step he bungled from that day to the day he left the White House.

  19. A year ago today I heard that March Madness and the Alpha Chi convention were cancelled, and that Tom Hanks and his wife had caught coronavirus. That combination was what really made me realize that yes, it was coming HERE, to our tiny town.

    The next day was band practice and I talked the band into cancelling our weekly Jam Night for the duration. It happened the same day as band practice and I knew we couldn’t get out ahead of everybody to head them off before they came so we announced at the event that this would be the last one for a while (I promised my bandmates they could blame me if anybody got mad but nobody did), and also requested that nobody touch the mics; if anybody needed a mic adjusted they should not touch it, and let me adjust it for them (since I was one of the youngest people present.)

    After we tore down for the last time I went straight to the bathroom and washed my hands.

    It’s hard to imagine now but back then the Republicans were just as worried as the Democrats, even here in ruby-red rural Tennessee.

  20. March 11, 2020 was about three weeks after my mother died from lung cancer and the last time we were able to hold our grandson who was about four months old. It’s been a year of sorrow, but also hope now that things seem to be improving.
    It has also been educational. Living through this will change us like living through WWII or the depression changed our parents and grandparents. I hope it makes us a kinder people.

  21. My year was largely the same, with more working from home than before. We still took trips and of course masked up when in public. It was really the first two months from mid March to mid May that were odd and after that things seemed to settle down in our area. But honestly it didn’t feel much different since we didn’t have the protests and riots of large cities nor the lockdowns after May. Only one person I personally knew died from the virus although several got sick. Our largely democratic party run state is behind the eight ball on vaccine distribution, make of that what you will, but they are trying and we are close to the 50+ distribution. Honestly I never felt most governments were doing a terrible job it’s just new for so many people and there’s little pandemic experience. Even the previous administration while sometimes inept and bloviating still managed to put together a cogent response. Some spent more time on television than necessary and made confusing statements. In any case things are looking up for many more people now. Would it have been better with a different administration – maybe but it’s irrelevant and it’s in the past. Learn from it and keep going.

  22. My plague year has been, well, odd. I live alone and do not drive, so being alone wasn’t much of a change. Deliveries left on the front porch. But one thing has been painful. The love of my life lives in Texas, and up until the plague year, he could come visit several times a year. In 2020, no visits at all. Frequently, his visits were at the same time as my favorite cons. Since last year, only virtual cons.
    I get my second dose of vaccine later this month. He will get his first dose, well, as soon as there is vaccine in Houston.

  23. Kelly Sedinger – Buffalo, NY, USA – I write by night and work with hand and power tools by day...I have unhealthy obsessions with books, movies, music, food, and bib overalls. I live with my wonderful family (brilliant wife, brilliant kid, three lovable but dumb-as-post cats) near Buffalo, NY.
    Kelly C Sedinger

    I hope an external link is OK, but I posted my own thoughts on a year of COVID today. In terms of vaccinations, my father is all done and my mother and I have both had the first dose, while my wife and daughter have appointments in a couple weeks (not sure which vaccine they’ll get). I hope our society uses this as an impetus for significant improvement, but as we all know, there is a sizeable part of our body politic that is bound and determined to act as a tailwind on the very idea of progress.

    Anyway, I’m glad that you and your family have (mostly) weathered the storm.

  24. While I got my first dose Sunday, as a grocery worker, and my sister got one yesterday, as part of the city’s emergency trained personnel, and my parents got their second doses. But it still doesn’t feel like it’s going to end any time soon. Getting an appointment is a matter of luck and determination, there are lots of people who qualify, and want one, who haven’t managed it yet. Then there are people who still somehow think the vaccine is worse than the disease, and either a conspiracy, or experiment, etc. I’m hearing this opinion from people working in the same store where 2 employees have died from the virus, and some large number have been out of work or even hospitalized because of it. There seem to be enough of these people, who think just taking vitamins is protection, that there may be a long tail to getting to real herd immunity.
    Then there is the issue that children can’t get a vaccine yet, it’s not even tested on children yet, probably won’t be until summer, but everyone is opening schools back up.

  25. Count me as another one who got sick with the Worst Flu Ever at the end of February–and I had gone to a convention in Washington, then to Portland. But I also had the Worst Gut Bug ever back in December, so…and barn owner swears that they got Covid at the 2019 National Finals Rodeo in December.

    By the first week of March, I’d warned the hubby that we should be preparing to hunker down. We made a run to the nearest big city to buy a few things and have lunch in a Chinese restaurant. That was the last in-restaurant meal I’ve had for a year.

    Hubby has gotten #1 of the Moderna shot. I’m in the 14-64 age group and am ticked off that apparently I’m considered not to be high risk. Despite having asthma and being 63. The way Oregon’s doing it, I’ll consider myself lucky if I get a shot by June. Damn near in the last group.

  26. Today a year ago- I was crankily going through Zoom training. On 3/16/2020, I signed out a laptop and started working from home, advising students.

  27. I lost my sense of smell, but haven’t yet had a positive test. Have gotten the first Pfizer shot.

    I guess my personal plague year started last March 15, the last time I was in a movie theatre. (Saw King Kong (1933), in a TCM release.) The place was almost empty, and I wasn’t surprised when the theatres shut down the next day.

    Like most Americans, I never had the option of working from home, and couldn’t do without the income, so I continued going to my regular job, where most of us got COVID because my company didn’t care.

  28. Mine probably dates from March 12 when my kids’ school district announced they were going remote and I needed to set up work-from-home to take care of them. By the next day, everyone was getting ready to work from home, so I was slightly ahead of the curve.

    Most of the last few years for me have been “not as bad as they could have been” although 2020+ was trying with the insurrection chronicles. My job has been okay (our business has been okay) and few people I know have gotten sick (family of my ex-wife’s and some people we know at church got sick but were not massively ill and recovered at home). Staying at home and remote school has not been fun but everyone is still here.

    I can’t get a shot yet (I’m not old enough and have no other liabilities) but even when I can my kids won’t be able to. My sister has had one, but no one else in my family has. My ex-father-in-law should be getting his soon at least. It will be over for me when most of the people around me that are older and can get badly ill will be vaccinated, but that doesn’t save other people if my kids get it (after I’ve been vaccinated).

  29. You don’t have to hold up New Zealand as doing better than the U.S. did. Almost every country did better.

    I was in Budapest when it hit the fan. My head employee called because all of the pending orders we had were being cancelled. That half of my business is still dead.

    It took me almost a week to get home, all of it spent in airports, trying to find flights.

    When I got home I volunteered with my local emergency management gang. I hold a first responder cert but am not a first responder.

    Three days later the emergency management gang tossed me to the wolves, promised to get me tested for COVID but kept dropping me down the queue.

    Then the other half of my business took off, which I needed. It left me without enough time to realize all of things I missed. That hasn’t lasted, but I will have to wait for that new normal.

    I have been able to go kayaking and biking around the neighborhood, but social interaction is still a needed thing that isn’t happening. I am going halfway nuts.

  30. March 6th is day zero for my plague year. I was travelling home from Central Kentucky and was planning on driving by Harrison Memorial Hospital. That is the hospital where The Walking Dead comics starts. A YouTube channel I follow (Comic Tropes) used to start with a specific opening and I was going to record a tribute opening. (Something something impending apocalypse.)
    I thought better and decided not to make the recording. That was for the best because the first COVID patients in Kentucky were in that hospital at that moment.

    That weekend is also when my sister and her boyfriend were exposed. He tested positive and my sister was sick but never tested. He is from Manhattan and they were in the city that weekend. That was right at the beginning of the explosion of cases in NYC.

  31. I follow the news closely enough that I was knowledgable about a SARS-like virus devastating a large Chinese city. My belief was that with today’s world-wide transportation system and interconnectivity there was no way the virus would be localized; it was inevitable that it would spread, and spread quickly. (Even in the Dark Ages there was enough contact that various plagues would spread throughout EurAsia within a year, after all.)

    My wife and I began to stock up with the theory that basic functions–water/sewer, electricity–would continue (at a perhaps substantially reduced capacity)–so lots of non-perishable food and other necessities.

    My Dad died in early February and we were fortunate enough to be able to hold a traditional funeral with friend and family present–the USAF even provided an Honor Guard. I am executor of his estate, so I spent the middle of February running around like a chicken with its head cut off getting absolutely everything done to close out his estate that I could, running paperwork around between various banks, lawyers’ offices, and government offices before what I believed would be a HARD–Wuhan style–shutdown where the only allowed reason to leave your home would be because it was on fire or being flooded by a rising river.

    My wife likes to go to the supermarket early in the morning–I mean 6AM early. She was planning on going the morning of March 12 for a few odds and ends. After watching Trump’s speech the evening of the 11th I went into the bedroom and told her that it looked like national leadership was finally grasping how serious the problem was but had no plan or idea of how to deal with the looming disaster, and that the stores were probably going to be very crowded when she went out in the morning.

  32. For Hillary’s comment on Vietnam, I would point out that North Vietnam, during the Cold War, got more support from the Soviets than from Red China.

    Too many people, like in that Beatles song, look up to Chairman Mao and communism. (Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau said he admires their “basic dictatorship”)

    As for worshipping the ideology of communism, the Chinese have an ancient saying, “Those who live near the temple make fun of the Gods.”

    Which to me explains why members of the Chinese culture, in nearby Taiwan, (population 24 million) despite lots of international trade, have only 10 covid deaths. As Hillary said, “not a typo.”

    Too bad Taiwan, thanks to the WHO, almost certainly at the bidding of China, does not have WHO nation status, not even observer status. Because if otherwise, then maybe the rest of us could have learned from Taiwan’s example.

  33. I’m in San Francisco and started stocking up before the end of February after seeing the cases pop up in Washington state.
    I was telling friends here and family/friends back in Iowa that they should do some stocking up. Pooh-pooh.
    I kept a running commentary on Facebook.
    “All the Clorox wipes are gone”.
    “Today at Safeway there wasn’t any pasta or soup”
    “Today no TP, no paper towels
    The reaction was a lot of “Hahaha, you west coast people are crazy. Do you want us to send you some toilet paper?’
    Month later, they’re exchanging hints on Facebook on where they found some toilet paper.’
    I’m scheduled for my first shot on Saturday but my 81 year old uncle in Florida is on a huge waiting list and I’m not sure he’s on-line to push for a better date.

  34. Ya — I got my first dose today too, and felt a great deal of gratitude that we have President Biden and not monster previous. Partner got his first one yesterday. We have different vaccines and got them in different places. We both have second dose appointments scheduled too. Again, thanks to President Biden because our state and city can now plan and schedule because there is now supply they can count on.

    It was purely accident I got mine, because when Partner got his — the appointments were all gone again, and the only one we found for me was at Javits Center toward the end of April. That would have meant he was protected, but I wouldn’t be for months more.

    That I got this appointment for today, the anniversary of a year in which we were cut off from friends and family and work and so much, actually wasn’t an accident. A cadre of friends went to work punch punch punching those keyboards, and by golly, one of them got this one about 9 PM last night, entered my info, and there I was, with an appointment at 11:30 this morning. How we would ever have managed without our friends during all this time — even though we couldn’t be together we kept managing to do stuff for each other. I’m so grateful.

    And yes, one of the first things this particular small circle of friends are doing at the end of April, is have the Thanksgiving together we weren’t able to have in November.

    Now … I’ll have to re-learn how to behave and act in a group of people.

  35. Congrats on getting your shot appointments!

    I’m not sure when to peg the start of our plague year. A writer-of-essays I follow saw a bunch of unnerving parallels with 1918 and started sounding alerts of increasing urgency starting in… January? So we were preparing-just-in-case during mid-to-late February, wondering whether containment was going to work (in hindsight: hahahaha) and, if not, when we’d reach “it arrives in our state” and “suddenly everything shuts down”. (Our guesses were slow by several weeks for both; Covid had stolen a march on everyone.) So it felt a lot more like a progressive ramp-up, albeit with some punctuating points.

    The most dramatic punctuation was around March 13 – 15, when we contacted our regular sitting help and told them to stop coming over. A couple of them offered to sit anyhow – schools were shutting down, and they knew we could use the help – but we felt like it would defeat the point of social distancing, and hoped that strong, quick distancing measures might get things under control by May. (Alas.)

    Some sort of illness went through our house from 3/10 – 3/27. We still don’t know if it was Covid-19, since testing was so ridiculously scarce, and at first none of us were presenting as what we thought Covid was like. But by the end of the span our aggregate symptoms read kind of like a checklist.

  36. Stress. Anxiety. Eating too much. Working longer hours from home than I ever did in the office. Worrying. And a second helping of anxiety.

    That’s been my year.

    My spouse is 65 and had his first Pfizer shot yesterday. My son-in-law is an essential worker in a public-facing job and had his first shot today. Nobody else in the family is anywhere near to qualifying for any tier in the near future and our state is one of the slowest in rolling out vaccine availability, so we’ll get our shots in, oh, I don’t know, July or August, maybe.

  37. Important stuff first: GA changed the qualifications effective 3/15 and trying to get an appointment has been hell on earth. I’ve managed to find 8 (yes EIGHT) appointments, and by the time I get through filling out the requisite online information, the spots have already gone. I finally got one for my ex (we’re friends, he’s immunocompromised, I try to help when I can since I have more time to spend online) next Thurs. My boyfriend and I are just going to wait until the “rush” slows a bit.

    My personal anniversary is a lot earlier than most people’s. The first week of February we decided to cancel a trip to NYC out of an abundance of caution – not sure if the whole thing would blow over or not. Then about the end of Feb, around the time that Pence was put in charge of the “US Coronavirus Response” we had decided that we were going to stay home, for a couple or three weeks (heh). Since we work from home anyway, it wasn’t that big a deal – and mostly it was about wondering if we had enough toilet paper to last and whether or not we needed to seriously think about cancelling our planned April vacation trip to Austin (ultimately – yes).

    John, I remember specifically thinking when you said that you were still going on the JoCo Cruise that you were a braver soul than I. At that point both the “Princess” line ships (can’t remember the exact names) were either in quarantine or about to go into quarantine and all I could think of was being stuck on a ship in the middle of the ocean with a potentially deadly virus running rampant. And then, of course, all hell broke loose state-side, so … yeah.

    We have made it through relatively unscathed, although it’s changed our lives significantly in a whole lot of ways that I probably won’t even understand for a while. I’m hoping that we’re nearing the end, tho. I’d really like to go out in public again someday.

  38. Got my first Pfizer shot today, as did another family member. A third just got the second. Still others aren’t yet eligible, but it sure feels nice to see a light at the end of the tunnel …. and at least have a reasonable hope that it isn’t a train coming toward us at high speed.

  39. I bought plane tickets to see my Mom in Canada in mid April on the morning of March 11. The WHO declared the emergency so I cancelled the tickets later that day, thinking I could be trapped in Canada due to border closures. I never did see my Mom, she died fairly suddenly last August (not covid) so I am one of the far too many people who said their goodbyes via Zoom.

  40. March 8th. I’m an ICU nurse, and took care of my states 1st C-19 patient that night.

    It’s been a rough year.

    Spousal Unit and I both tested positive (despite my best efforts to not bring work home…) in early November. No real symptoms other than when herself was unable to smell the pot of coffee I’d just made.

    Had my first Pfizer shot in late December. She should be getting hers in April.

  41. Paul DeConinck: I am sorry you had a really shitty year. I hope it makes us kinder, too.

    My very cool son (now 14) and my wife got sent home from the public schools (she is a ridiculously awesome elementary school librarian) 3/11, and I got sent home from the college where I work a week later. I thought I would be back in 4-6 weeks. My eating habits are weird (I am barely eating) but I am moving so little compared to before I have put on a bunch of very unneeded weight. It’s been a rough time.
    And, It Must Be Said:
    I live on a fabulous property (because we share it with my in-laws; my wife and I could never afford a house/property this nifty). If you have to be imprisoned (relatively), better to be in a palace. Privileged out the wazoo. And as Scalzi said, even with privilege out the wazoo, it was still an awful year, in many ways.

  42. @scrubby

    Thank you for your service! I hope you’ve gotten some breaks (but know you probably haven’t gotten many breaks, oy) and hope that you have a good bundle of vacation days that you can use somewhere really nice, wherever you consider really nice, sometime not too far in the future.

  43. I live in Washington state, where the US pandemic may have started (who knows, with researchers now saying there may have been Covid cases in the States in late 2019).

    Plague year started for me on March 6 2020 – that’s when UW Medicine told us we were all going to be working from home “for at least a week,” to see how things shaped up. As someone with some extra risk factors, I was glad. The following week was when Governor Inslee announced the state-wide lockdown “for three months,” after which we would see how things were going. So I’ve been WFH for a year, though I have been able to go into the office once a week since summer.

    I remember how eerie it was to see no traffic whatsoever on the road that runs by my house. And how quiet it was for that 3-month period. No traffic, no sirens, no bicyclists, nothing.

    And then the lockdown just kept getting extended, though not as completely as that initial 3 months.

    I am and always will be deeply grateful to live in a state where the Governor took the pandemic seriously, and for an employer who took the pandemic seriously. No one in my circle of friends got sick, nor any of the people I work with directly. I stayed employed (and frankly adore working from home) and had my bubble of friends to see once in a while.

    I’ve had both my shots (Moderna), along with all my co-workers; and so have most of my friends. We’ve been told that we might be back to normal office operations by July.

  44. Glad to hear you are getting the jab but please stay safe. I managed to get covid two weeks after my first jab. Admittedly it was a mild bout but still not pleasant. I guess you need a good few weeks to build full immunity.

  45. “he told me via email that my book tour was cancelled and that plague was everywhere.”
    I have this vision of him sitting at his desk, with a crumpled fedora and bottle of rye, sobbing at the computer. I may have watched too many old noir flicks.

    Timeline here:
    Week of February 23, we got the “have 2 weeks supply on hand” warning from the government intel agency (not that one, a different one) we work for.

    February 27/28 all official travel cancelled. This, for us, was the “oh boy, better get ready” moment. It’s when I, personally, stocked up.

    March 2, only people who work in government facilities allowed inside.

    The weekend of 14/15 March was when the fecal matter hit the rotating turbine with the surge in supermarkets, closures of churches, etc. All this at least a week before the “official” shutdown.

    The Office decided that we were “essential” personnel, so I’ve been going in to the office just like always, 40 hours a week, Monday through Friday. I really noticed by the end of March how the traffic in the DC area had essentially all gone away.

  46. If anything, my mental health has improved over the past year, because every day is a constant reminder that I’m not crazy or alone in recognizing how deeply fucked up our country is.

    Yes, it may be a bit selfish, but I do take some comfort in the fact that we’re all suffering, and more importantly, that there is no “normal” to go back to ever again.

  47. I’d date my plague year to March 12. That was when the Sweet Adelines organization (women’s barbershop singing) cancelled their regional competitions for the year and my chorus cancelled rehearsals for the next two weeks “at least.” Hah. That was before we knew that group singing indoors is a very high risk activity. We had our last rehearsal on March 10, the same day as the choir in Washington state where over half the attendees were infected at the rehearsal and two died. We were lucky; nobody had the virus to spread it there.

    Otherwise, I was ahead of the curve on other pandemic experiences. My office went completely remote at the end of January for a major renovation of our space, so we all had our equipment and most of our necessary files at home anyway. A few people have been in our nice new space but most of us continue remote for the forseeable future. It doesn’t affect my work much at all since I spend my days on the computer anyway. It’s been more of a challenge for my colleagues who run workshops and meetings.

    My young-adult daughter was hospitalized for pneumonia at the end of February 2020. At the time, ER doctors asked if she’d traveled internationally (no, though she did take public transit home from work in a fairly cosmopolitan area), and there wasn’t any COVID-19 testing. My husband and I took turns staying overnight at the hospital with her without masks or limitations. That would have been much harder a week or two later. (Several months later she had her antibodies tested and apparently she did NOT have an early case of COVID. We had wondered.)

    I’m in the “easy plague year but it still sucks” category. I miss seeing my older daughter, who lives out of state; we decided to cancel her planned trip home over Christmas and New Year’s. We’ve been donating extra money and nonperishable goods to food pantries and my husband began volunteering at one in person, in place of his hospital volunteering which is suspended until whenever.

    Husband has had both his shots. Younger daughter and I have had our first, she because intellectual disabilities put her in a higher group in our state and I because I got a lucky leftover at the end of the day from the clinic where I’d taken her. We go back in 2 weeks for the second. After that, church in person is at the top of my list.

  48. Most people discovered they’re not as asocial as they think. Crotchety old hermits are not the ‘new normal.’

  49. My vaccine appointment is Monday, finally. I signed up in January and March 15 was the first I could get. Since then other opportunities have become available, but I thought I could bide my time and let those who couldn’t get in sooner go.
    I agree with other commenters above, it’s been not so bad and yet wearing, even for a solitary sort. I actually ate at a restaurant a couple of weeks ago! At a table! with a waitress! The food was freshly cooked! My sister and I were beside ourselves with excitement.
    I still think it will take quite a while to get back to normal. I hope that business opportunities open up soonest for the young people trying to get their adult lives started. But we all need help of one kind or another.

  50. JohnFromGR – Grand Rapids, Michigan – Chief Operations Officer of Caffeinated Press. Editor-in-Chief of The 3288 Review. Martial arts instructor. Web/mobile developer. I write sometimes, too.
    John Winkelman

    My line of demarcation between the Before Times and now is March 15, which was the last day I went to work in the office, and the last day our tai chi class met in person until the weather warmed enough that we could meet in a park.

    I spent April through July working on a team helping a bank process PPP loan applications. Wouldn’t have been noteworthy except most of that time was second and third shift. Third shift was a whole lot easier thirty years ago.

    In June we found a park where we could practice tai chi together, though with no physical contact and maintaining social distancing, which meant we could only practice about a third of the curriculum. But at least we were together, and we were outside, which was a tremendous boon to everyone who had been stuck inside and isolated for three months.

    My brother contracted COVID but it was a mild case, only loss of taste and smell for a few days. His wife and daughters never contracted it, or if so, were completely asymptomatic. Nobody else in my extended family has contracted COVID, though I have many friends and acquaintances who were struck down with varying severity.

    My partner got her first shot three days ago, and here in Michigan everyone 50 and over (waves hand) will be eligible for the shots starting March 22. I have already put my name on The List. We will see how long it takes.

    Right now, with vaccinations ramping up and seeing the country take the first caution steps toward recovery, I feel a little like Quint in the water, waiting for the rescue plane.

    Good luck to all of us.

  51. Gotta love the covidiots still screaming that Covid is a hoax while screaming that Trump should get the credit for the vaccine.
    Like you, I’ve been fairly fortunate in that I’ve been able to get through this past year with a full belly, coins in my pocket and a roof.
    Lost one person to covid and know several who believe they’ve had it.
    Job interviews and work in my chosen field are much easier now that things can be done remotely. Hard to get a job when your prospective employer sees you walking sided guide with a relative.

    Still, it will be lovely to be back in an actual classroom again, provided all procedures are followed to the letter.
    It’s cute how the former guy thinks he gets credit for presiding over a mostly disastrous vaccine roll-out after having lied about a virus and encouraged covidiotic behavior that cost hundreds of thousands of lives.
    The senate minority leader is equally cute in his insistence that Biden is riding in on the former guy’s coat tails.
    I’m glad to see the American Rescue Plan pass and hope republicans like going down in history as the party who put culture wars ahead of struggling voters.
    Here’s to dinners with friends and family, theme parks and bar nights in the near future.

  52. March 11 is also my “anchor date.” In 2020, I worked in the office and then went out to dinner with some friends – and on the drive home, I suddenly (surprisingly so) felt feverish and flu-ey. While I felt mostly better by the following afternoon, I worked from home (as did my wife) out of an abundance of caution – and I haven’t worked in the office or eaten in a restaurant since.

    This year, like you, we managed to get scheduled for vaccines on that date.

    Two related memories of that time: That Friday the 13th, a friend delivered the final pieces of a long-discussed dream table for gaming. It hasn’t had more than two people sitting at it since. https://www.instagram.com/p/B9ubeiVpm6r/

    Second: My wife’s illness from last March was more severe and necessitated COVID testing, which at the time was a four-hour wait in a line of cars followed by a five-day wait for the results. Earlier this week, she wanted another test – the testing and results were completed in 3.5 hours.

  53. Yesterday an 83 year old of my acquaintance went two town over, to get his shot.

    I want to say that I guess my province uses an algorithm for those who book on-line. The roll-out is by age. Today as of 8 p.m. folks born in 1959 or 1960 can register.

    Last night at 10p.m., after a very few questions for my age, (1958) and whether I agreed to take the weaker vaccine instead of waiting until April, and putting in my zip code…

    I was offered a choice of six locations, showing the distance, to get my jab. I did this yesterday at 10 p.m. and got (the last slot) an appointment for 6:10 p.m. today. I am delighted, and telling everybody.

    In fairness, this speed is because I agreed to the weaker vaccine.

    I live on the sprawling prairie.

    My instruction are: don’t arrive by car more than ten minutes early, and stay in my car until five minutes to my appointment. Bring one piece of I.D. that shows my age, such as my government health care card, driver’s license or passport.

  54. Mine started a year ago, when our run club was cancelled, then my company went full WFH. I’m in Ottawa, Canada, which has a lot of government workers, and so has been less hard-hit than many spots. The toughest for me, aside from isolation, has been knowing the people in the nursing home at the end of our street have been sick and dying – it was one of our city’s worst outbreaks, thanks to our government’s refusal to limit care workers to one site, and refusing to give them sick pay. Our failure here has been very much in our long term care homes, and I am so glad over 90% of those residents have had both doses of vaccine. It’ll likely be June before I can get vaccinated, Canada has 0 capacity to produce vaccines and supplies are growing but still scarce.

    Thanks to our host for providing this space for people to share their pandemic stories.

  55. The week of March 9-13 was my Plague touchstone. I was long term subbing for a middle school science class, and we had a number of meetings about cleaning classrooms. Our janitorial staff were handing out soap dispensers for the classrooms that had sinks (including mine). I went out and bought a bunch of Clorox wipes and a big bottle of hand sanitizer — the last we’d be able to get for months. On the 13th, there was a lot of speculation as to whether or not we’d close down, but I had to get my fired up students through the day and then we had a meeting with the administration which told us nothing new. Waited until 4:30 pm, when my assistant principal told us to go home and prepare for business as usual. Got the “nope, we’re closing” email by the time I was home at 5:30. Then we had two and a half months of online teaching, which exhausted me like nothing else. The rest of 2020, I was pretty much useless due to extreme burnout — whether it was a side effect of the plague or the news cycle or both is unclear.

    My mother in law has had both doses of the vaccine. I think she’s the only person; my mom and stepdad had a mild form of COVID last year, but they are anti-vaxxers and not inclined to take the whole thing seriously so I don’t know if they’ve bothered to get dosed. Even as an educator, I’m not top tier so I’m waiting.

  56. Last year my wife was in her 10th year of retirement and I was in my 7th, so we didn’t have the whole job thing to worry about. However, my wife is an antique dealer with several antique booths (started as a retirement hobby and she loves it so much she never felt like she’d gone back to work) and likes to be on the go all the time, so the lockdown hit her pretty hard. But she compensated by selling on eBay and local online auctions so she kept busy enough.

    Me, now that’s another issue. As a result of severe chemical sensitivities I am nearly agoraphobic, so life didn’t change much for me other than my wife always being in my way. :) I read 108 books in 2019 and 112 in 2020, so I guess that’s the main difference for me.

    Since my wife turned 66 in December and I won’t be 65 until June (yeah, I know; we were fortunate enough to be able to retire VERY early) she got her vaccination shots before me. As a matter of fact, she just got her second dose of Moderna today at 1:00. Having just received my first shot of Pfizer on Monday, I will remain semi-vaccinated until April 1.

    Note on that first shot: after getting all the info on the card and getting my arm wiped down, I thanked the nurses for what they’re doing, and I was noticeably choked up a bit as I said it. The nurse asked if I had a problem with needles and I said no, I’m just grateful to finally be here. She said as many as a third of the people she injects react in a similar manner. It’s like there’s finally some light at the end of a very, very long tunnel.

    And speaking of “grateful,” there wasn’t a whole lot of that going around during the previous administration. At least not with decent, sensible people. I’m grateful to Scalzi and you all for helping make things a little more tolerable than they may otherwise have been while the orange idiot was tearing our nation asunder.

  57. I suppose my official pandemic response started on 3/6/20, when I cancelled all my arrangements for ICFA, though I’d been giving the notion of travel the hairy eyeball since February. (Fly to Orlando on the Mickey Express; hang out for four days at a hotel with hundreds of people from all over the world. You’re 75. Hmmm.) The next week marked the last times I played in public and our Folk Society’s decision to cancel the rest of our concert season. By the end of the month, the governor had issued a stay-home emergency order and closed the bars and restaurants and we were in hunker-down mode.

    We’ve managed well enough since then–small-city life for the secure, child-free, semi-retired (I’m the semi part), and mildly obsessive-compulsive is manageable. But my wife is not retired, and when the university declared that classes would shift to on-line delivery (in the middle of spring break, in the middle of the term), she spent every day adapting her courses and the rest of the term learning the new technologies on the fly. (A year later, she still has barely looked up–sixty-hour weeks and fitting square pedagogical pegs into round technological holes and dealing with students who turn off their cameras in Zoom sessions and are not heard from again.)

    I can’t say I’ve suffered more than inconveniences: my fretting-hand calluses went soft and I started to forget what tunes I know and we haven’t eaten in a restaurant for a year–though there’s been plenty of Indian, Thai, Mexican, and Italian take-out. And as septuagenarians, we have been fully Pfizerized, which removes a major source of anxiety, leaving only everybody else to worry about/be hopeful for. It could have been a lot worse (as for some it was) and it still might be.

  58. I remember the news of China locking down the city of Wuhan on January 23rd of last year, and instinctively thinking about all the international travelers coming back from holidays and all the students coming back to UT-Austin for the Spring semester. I saw some students wearing stylish face masks on campus that week and thinking that’s rather ominous. As predicted a pandemic is spread unknowingly by people of means with valid passports who travel internationally.

    The entire month of February 2020 I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. Nothing, until the government of Italy imposed quarantines in the northern provinces in late February and a national quarantine on March 9. On March 6, SXSW 2020 festival which attracts hundreds of thousands of attendees was canceled by the City of Austin due to COVID-19 concerns (the first major arts festival to do so). On March 13, after Austin confirmed its first cases of COVID-19, UT-Austin canceled classes the Friday before Spring Break and extended the break to two weeks. The City of Austin issued a STAY HOME – WORK SAFE ORDER on March 20. Later the lockdown of the UT campus was extended for the rest of the semester and classes went remote (ZOOM). I felt very conflicted the entire month of April of 2020.

    Fast forward to 2021: Received my first dose of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on January 26. I soon discovered that the vaccine is a very touchy subject with people after texting a friend in Michigan. “How did you manage that?,” he texted back. Working for a top ranked university with a med school (education + healthcare) may have a lot to do with it I explained. My second dose was scheduled for Monday, February 15, the very day Texas was slammed by the Polar Vortex winter storm. My appointment was rescheduled for the next day, but as the deep freeze lingered it was bumped to Friday, then canceled. I finally got the second dose a week later on February 26.

    I’m very outraged and frustrated by Governor Abbott’s Executive Order on opening up Texas businesses to 100% capacity and lifting the mandate for wearing face masks on March 10. Yes, thousands of Texans are getting vaccinated every day, but any rational thinking person knows it’s premature to be declaring MISSION ACCOMPLISHED (Operation Fools Rush In) when you still have millions to vaccinate and that it will take several more weeks to accomplish it.

  59. Sean Crawford: If by “weaker” vaccine, you mean the Johnson & Johnson vaccine–it may not be really weaker than Pfizer or Moderna. It was more widely tested under different circumstances, and in South Africa seemed to show immunization against Covid-variants–which Pfizer and Moderna have not shown yet, due to having not been tested in areas with variants. So . . . long run, you might be better off than some people? Bottom line, though, all three vaccines seem to do about equally well at preventing severe covid (the kind that results in hospitalization) and death, so I’d say you made a good decision there.

  60. John,

    As a matter of interest, if you donate blood before you get the vaccine you can find out if you had Covid. The Red Cross tests everybody for antibodies. I know people who thought they had Covid, tested negagive but tested positive for antibodies when giving blood. FWIW.

  61. Glad you got your vaccine appointments. My wife and I both have gotten our first shot – the good news is that it was sooner than we expected, and sooner than others around the country. The bad news is that the reason we got the shot sooner than expected is because only about 50% of the elderly / comorbidity / essential workers who were prioritized ahead of us were vaccinated and appointments were not being filled. I can’t help but think that the states dropping access requirements at a slower pace are going to be the most vaccinated and the best off in a few months…

  62. Both my wife and I were determined eligible due to our professions, but supplies have run out in our area before we were able to get appointments. Actually, she got an appoint, and they still ran out 3 days before it.

  63. My plague year started in March, when we down here in Georgia finally started to realize that this was serious shit and we needed to start prepping. The toilet paper hoarding was of course both frustrating and hilarious, and the fact that I’m an introvert by nature just sort of made me chuckle at the situation. ‘You’re in my world now!’

    ….And then, a couple of weeks ago, me and my family all got Covid. Our symptoms were mild (if annoying and somewhat random), but I still haven’t gotten my sense of taste or smell back yet completely.

  64. Though I got my first dose on the one year anniversary of the official shut down, I’d been anxiously eyeing this virus since December, and started very slowly trying to supply an overstock of everything I could think of, from dental floss to dish detergent, not to mention food.

    Spouse was out of the country the entire month of January — which was frigid — so I was on my own wit this. February he was gone for most of it, but I’d upped my food acquisition to items like tea and coffee. My birthday was in the middle of Feb, which was the last real bash an entire circle of friends had, as Spouse threw me not just one, but two, birthday parties. He left for San Francisco, returned right as it shut down. I ride the subway a music gig at the start of March for the last time that first week. He went to his last music gig and rode the subway for the last time the night before shut down. We felt as prepared as we could be except for sanitizer and masks — which had been gone from stores for months already due to the heavy-duty flu fall.

  65. I have a few dates. I started a new job on 12/19/2019, and my husband & I were commuting about 1.5 hours each direction. I have a distinct memory in the week between Christmas and New Years of NPR talking about a virulent strain of a coronavirus that had exploded in the Wuhan province, causing a lockdown.

    Second, we closed on our new house on 3/12/2020. We were talking with our real estate agent and the closing agent as we worked our way through all the paperwork, and the situation in Italy came up. I work in healthcare and had close friends who supported facilities on the Gulf Coast post-Katrina. I very matter-of-factly told them that rationing of critical equipment & supplies in Italy would probably lead to rationing and potentially euthanasia, as it had happened along the Gulf Coast and in New Orleans. They were horrified that such a thing could happen in an industrialized world.

    Third was on 3/13. I picked up the moving van and was listening to the radio when the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments were canceled. That made it feel very close and real.

    On 3/15, as I was getting back into the moving van to move into our new house, my manager texted me to tell me not to come to work the next day if I had my laptop. It would be 6 months before I would see the office again, at which time I packed it up because I am permanently working from home.

  66. Mary Frances: regarding the Johnson and Johnson, aka the Janssen vaccine, it only requires one dose but… here in Canada we only approved it March 5, and we still don’t know when the first shipment will be.

    As of March 9, the US had jabbed more than one person in four, Canada only one in twenty. Part if the problem is we—or rather, our prime minister—put all our development eggs in the Chinese basket, and then they denied us a vaccine. (I forget the details; our PM, in various ways, has really shown that he doesn’t know the horror of communist dictatorships)

    The other problem was fear of Trump. Canada made all it’s business contracts for vaccines to come from offshore, none from North America, because it was feared Trump would close the border to exports of vaccines.

    So tonight I got the (Oxford-)AstraZenaca one. (Devoloped at Oxford) It has far easier refrigeration than the famous two.

    It hurt far less than a flu shot: I said to the nurse, “I turned my eyes away all for nothing!”

  67. Got my first (Pfizer) vaccine a week ago. As an introvert, what has bothered me most about the isolation is that my nonstoptalking extrovert partner is home ALL THE TIME. I look forward to him being able to get out more and talk to OTHER people.
    Also, I’d like to go to WalMart because I have a list of stuff that I can’t seem to pin down with Amazon’s “craptastic” search engine.

    Also, also, my partner had no trouble with either shot, but mine hurt lots more than the Bee Venom Immunotherapy shots I get all the time. I won’t blame the vaccine for that because I’m pretty sure the name tag on the shooter said STUDENT PA.

  68. My plagueiversary is today. On March 13 last year the entire US staff of the globe-spanning law firm I work for was remoted. At the time, I’d had a week to start planning for remote-work (1 day/wk), a perk of my department after six months’ employment. Had never even tried to log in from home. So that weekend was a very Tech Squirrel weekend.

    Since then I have barely left our property. The husband, who is a self-employed physical therapist assistant, has continued to see clients (though fewer of them, because his specialty is geriatrics); so he is the designated hunter & gatherer. He went to get my car emissions-tested, took care of renewing the registration, and drives it once a week so it won’t forget how to operate. I haven’t driven anywhere since November.

    Very much an introvert so the isolation hasn’t gotten to me nearly as much as to some of my colleagues and friends. We have lost friends not to the virus but to relocation – they’ve moved out of L.A. None of our close family have been ill. My productivity as a writer has not been really affected. But the world has changed, and continues to change. I hope my employers don’t ever send us back to the office, unless by choice.

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