I went to MacLeod for a beer run and encountered this woman shuffling across Victory…hunched…clutching her mask to her ears as though warding off demons…fearfully navigating the sunshine. This is what we’ve allowed the media to do to us. We veil ourselves as though we were living in Tehran, 1982. What are we really afraid of? I don’t think it’s the Wuhan virus. Being Karen-ed by a neighbor, on the other hand, seeking to collect her snitch reward…being ratioed by the Virtue Police on social media…these are our modern terrors.
Trader Joes is one of the few permissible places we are allowed out of doors. How quickly we have acclimated to lining up like this. Let’s roll back to February for a moment. If you could be put in a time machine how confused would you be by our present submission?
It’s nearly May. The dreaded curve is in the rearview mirror. Our zealotry has exceeded any data-driven health concerns. All is now a public demonstration of obedience to rules handed down by the Clerisy.
I feel I’m being a bit of a bore writing this for the third time. But neither the Mayor nor the Governor have the statutory power to suspend civil liberties. To hear them speak of the conditions which need be met before the economy can resume one is given the impression of a royal personage considering the granting of a favor.
Sweetheart, if you want to wear a mask and confine yourself to your rooms, no one is stopping you. Which of course you are not doing. Nor are you going without a paycheck while you outline your terms of Our New Normal. The rest of us, on the other hand, could do with some herd immunity. You know what else? We have centuries of good public health policy on our side.
We will regret letting the government bribe us with our own money to not work. Trixie likes a good belly rub, but she’d rather be climbing Runyon. So would I. So would you. Even if hiking isn’t your thing, liberty is.
How dispiriting it is to see people in the Valley wearing masks inside their own cars because Mayor Yoga Pants told them to. You would not know this from listening to local media, but he has ZERO statutory authority to do so. These are requests of the public presented to us as binding commands from the state. There is no municipal code called Thou Shalt Not Defy Garcetti.
The Wuhan regulations have little to do with public health and everything to do with our Liberty. We submit to them at our peril.
We snuck into Fryman Canyon over the weekend to discover a small fellowship of hikers edict defiers skulking on the trail with masks around their necks, which they hastily pulled over their noses when they saw us, lest we report them.
Every model of viral prediction has proved wrong, not by a percentage, but exponentially. As we descend the right side of the bell curve, the will to power has not been leavened by the fragility of prognosis or the absence of a tsunami of demand on the hospitals, nor the revelation the morbidity rate is far lower and seroprevalence far greater than assumed. Those details shall be memory-holed. Crisis is the order of the day. May the wealth-leveling panic continue, command the Clerisy. No herd immunity for you! A poorer electorate is a submissive one.
Sometimes an act so small as swinging from a tree can be restorative of citizenship. Where the feet go, the mind follows.
Our very recent future was a blank canvas on which opportunistic politicians projected gleeful doom scenarios. Speculation was served up as certainty. Grim was not dire enough a term. We needed a whole new vocabulary to do justice to the unfolding horror to come.
A last will and testament from my father in Mendocino County landed in my inbox, outlining protocols for his when they put me on a ventilator end of life choices. Ten days ago the county health commissioner predicted 1800 deaths, from a rural population of 100,000, when there were two cases in the entire county. Want to know how many there are today? One. Zero hospitalizations.
Our present is a War Against Facts in which the Clerisy, very much enjoying wearing the shoes of power, have doubled down on their edicts, extending them into June and enlarging their scope to include travel between residences, the closure of all parks and trails, stepping into the sunshine without a mask, or arresting paddleboarders alone on empty waves…and doing so as though the original predictive model remained valid.
In New York harbor, epicenter of Wuhan virus, the hospital ship USNS Comfort sits nearly empty, as does the 2500 bed makeshift hospital at the Javits Center. Total patients seen as of yesterday: 118. Last week was the peak of the bell curve. Discharges outnumbered admissions. Thankfully we did not come close to running out of ventilators. There was no ICU care in the hallways, no triage under a tent in the parking lot. The high-water mark was reached and the levees held with room to spare.
Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, London, the Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow of viral prognostication, posited 2,2oo,ooo death in the United States. Ferguson had a history of erroneous publicity-seeking disease modeling but this didn’t deter the media from airing his claims or lead to questioning governors in the U.S. who used his charts, the exact same chart for every state, to serve as a visual backdrop for shelter-in-place orders.
So we are now at 19,000 deaths in America, and will probably top out around 40,000, well within the range of a bad flu season. Wuhan never really took off in Los Angeles with, blessedly, only 242 fatalities in the county. Sprawl and auto dependency worked in our favor for once. It’s also possible the virus is not as lethal and more widespread than assumed.
Prudence: postponing Coachella Caution: closing bars and restaurants Folly: shutting down the economy
The running tally on the cable news chyron doesn’t differentiate between recovered cases, asymptomatic ones, those who have the flu, and the very small percentage who will need hands-on medical care. The hospitalization rate is the key metric, but one has squint to find it the furious gloom. A run on the hospitals is the only medical and politically justifiable reason for shelter in place. Once that threat passes we need to re-open the economy with all deliberate speed. In most areas of the country, it should not have been shut down to begin with.
Instead, we are treated to governors and mayors and functionaries declaring themselves regent, in an escalating competition of Simon Says, both in what they demand and how long they intend to demand it. This is not being conducted in a spirit of shared sacrifice, for those insisting on months-long lockdowns are not doing without a paycheck.
We have arrived at an inflection point in Democracy, amputating our arm to cure an infected fingernail.
The willingness of my fellow Angelenos to succumb to hysteria thus far is disheartening to me. There is a difference between Law and tyranny and good citizenship is knowing the difference. Stop wearing a mask when you go on a walk, people. We are not sheep. The more healthy folk are out and about, the sooner we develop herd immunity. Staying inside is only prolonging matters.
This Good Friday, instead of turning in our neighbor, let us celebrate resilience. When you get back out there, cough on someone. Do it for America.