The psychological toll of the lockdown

Yesterday I decided I was going to write about the psychological toll of the lockdown, at least on me, and then Andrew Sullivan beat me to the punch in his Friday New York Magazine column (h/t Simon; click on the screenshot to read it). It’s his usual tripartite Friday production, this week discussing his increasing mental degeneration during quarantine, his view that Stacey Abrams isn’t ready to be Joe Biden’s vice-presidential candidate, and how not just Trump but the whole government epidemiology apparatus failed us when the pandemic struck.  I’ll deal only with the first bit, but first I’ll get a bit personal.

Sullivan’s title tells it all. Note that although he says “We”, the piece is largely about “I”: Sullivan’s malaise, his disturbed sleep, his uncertainty about how long we’ll be shut in, and of course the cause of that uncertainty, which makes many (including me) think that we’re going to be isolated for a lot longer than we thought.


As the weeks pass—and we’ve just heard in Illinois that our government has extended the quarantine restrictions until May 31 (but you can now play golf!)—it’s sinking in that we may be isolated for a lot longer than anyone thought—certainly a lot longer than the Chief Moron tells us in his daily LieFest briefings. The virus will be with us for a long time, a vaccine isn’t coming any time soon, and palliatives are just that—palliatives (like Tamiflu). I strongly suspect that schools and universities won’t be opened up “live” this fall, a time that was always a landmark in the years of my life.

Like Sullivan, I am “privileged” in this pandemic compared to those who have lost jobs, have mortgages to meet, or can’t pay their employees. And I admire those who seem to weather the pandemic with equanimity. I admire even more those who risk their lives to help those who have viral disease. But as the days pass, I notice myself losing concentration, being unable to sleep, and, worst of all, having nothing to look forward to, something that’s always kept me going. Life without hope is not a life worth living.

In other words, I worry how I’ll weather this storm in a psychological sense. If the restrictions are largely gone by the end of summer, that’s great, but I doubt that will happen. Sometimes I feel that these repeated lockdowns and their extensions make us like passengers waiting for a delayed plane to take off, with the announcements repeatedly coming that the plane is delayed longer and longer. In such cases I always suspect that the airline people know that the delay will be much longer than they let on,  but they want to give passengers the bad news in smaller doses. In the darkest and most restive hours of night, around 2 a.m., I find myself asking, “Is it really better to live like this than not to live at all?”

Again, I know that others have it far worse, but people saying “Others are a lot worse off than you” has never been much of a comfort to me. After all, we’re living our own lives, not the lives of others. And I’m not writing this to ask for pity—far from it. I’m writing this to chronicle my own degeneration, which I suspect is far more widespread than people let on. Some of my friends have told me that they’re starting to fall apart. We’re social primates, evolved to live amongst others and interact with them constantly; eliminating contact with people dissolves the social bonds that make us human.  (On many days I don’t speak to another human being except on the phone or Skype.) The most disheartening thing I hear is the cheery admonition on television, “We’re all in this together.” Yes, we’re all screwed. That wouldn’t work so well if we envision ourselves all together in a big pot of water with a fire kindled underneath.

I will of course adhere to the restrictions imposed upon us by state and local governments, and will not call for premature re-openings of society. Others wiser than I will make that decision. But we have no idea when that will come. That there is a psychological toll of this is undeniable, and no amount of knitting or movie-watching will efface it.

So I’m writing this to see if others are experiencing this kind of anxiety born of uncertainty, and have noticed an effect on their personality or behavior.

Andrew Sullivan has. And here I’ll stop my own screed and give an excerpt from his piece, which mirrors in many ways—including our status as social primates—what I’d decided to write. The one difference between what Sullivan thinks and what I think is that he seems more ready than I for society to reopen, even if it costs lives.


So we have created a scenario which has mercifully slowed the virus’s spread, but, as we are now discovering, at the cost of a potentially greater depression than in the 1930s, with no assurance of any progress yet visible. If we keep this up for six months, we could well keep the deaths relatively low and stable, but the economy would all but disintegrate. Just because Trump has argued that the cure could be worse than the disease doesn’t mean it isn’t potentially true. The previously unimaginable levels of unemployment and the massive debt-fueled outlays to lessen the blow simply cannot continue indefinitely. We have already, in just two months, wiped out all the job gains since the Great Recession. In six months? The wreckage boggles the mind.

All of this is why, one some days, I can barely get out of bed. It is why protests against our total shutdown, while puny now, will doubtless grow. The psychological damage — not counting the physical toll — caused by this deeply unnatural way of life is going to intensify. We remain human beings, a quintessentially social mammal, and we orient ourselves in time, looking forward to the future. When that future has been suspended, humans come undone. Damon Linker put it beautifully this week: “A life without forward momentum is to a considerable extent a life without purpose — or at least the kind of purpose that lifts our spirits and enlivens our steps as we traverse time. Without the momentum and purpose, we flounder. A present without a future is a life that feels less worth living, because it’s a life haunted by a shadow of futility.” Or, in the words of the brilliant Freddie deBoer: “The human cost of the disease and those it will kill is enormous. The cost of our prevention efforts are high as well. You’re losing something. You’re losing so much. So you should mourn. We’ve lost the world. Mourn for it.”

We have done what we had to do, and I am not criticizing the shutdown strategy so far. I’m simply saying that it cannot last. We keep postponing herd immunity, if such a thing is even possible with this virus. A massive testing, tracing, and quarantining regime seems beyond the capacity of our federal government in the foreseeable future. And we are a country without a functioning president — ours thinks we should inject bleach to kill COVID-19, and is also doing what he can to divide the nation to keep his fast-diminishing candidacy from imploding. And we know this much after three and a half years: The worse this gets, the worse he will get. Already he is lambasting shutdown orders as well as Georgia’s attempt to end the shutdown. He is an incoherent, malevolent mess of a human being. I used to be disgusted by him. I am now incandescent with rage at him and the cult that enables his abuse of all of us.

And so we wait. Absent a pharmaceutical miracle, we are headed, if we keep this up, toward both a collapse in the economy and an inevitable second wave that will further cull the population. Yes, I’m a catastrophist by nature. I hope and pray something intervenes to save us from this uniquely grim future. But I learned something from the AIDS years: Sometimes it is a catastrophe. And sometimes the only way past something is through it.

He’s not a happy camper. And I seem to be in his camp—except that Camp Coyne has ducks.


  1. Ken Pidcock
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    I did not take well this week to Sullivan’s apocalyptic tone, which included the misleading Oh my God it’s mutating line. We’re in the middle of an infectious disease pandemic, to which we need to remain attentive. We do not, in order to do so, need to remain anxious.

    • Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      I’m sure Sullivan would be glad to hear you tell him that he doesn’t need to be anxious.

      You can be attentive and anxious at the same time, you know. Maybe that’s his character.

      • Ken Pidcock
        Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:26 am | Permalink

        Fine, but encouraging anxiety in others is not necessarily making a positive contribution.

        • Posted April 25, 2020 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

          I’m sorry, but conveying one’s feelings in an honest way has no downside that I can think of. To me it made an honest contribution. If speaking the truth, or one’s honest opinion, makes others anxious, then that’s too damn bad. There are tons of movies, literature, and other artworks that make other people anxious. That’s life.

          I guess you want Sullivan to either shut up about his feelings, or lie and be all cheerful and stuff. He expressed his feelings and did not dissimulate.

        • Concobus
          Posted April 26, 2020 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

          Keep in mind that Sullivan is HIV-positive, so he is particularly vulnerable. And because of this, he has been in self-isolation for much longer than any of us have. If I remember correctly from his recent interview with Bill Maher, he has been self-isolating since January.

  2. merilee
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:15 am | Permalink


  3. Claudia Heilke
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    What do you mean you have nothing to look forward to? Does Honey know you feel this way?

    • Posted April 25, 2020 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      Well, Jerry did end with ‘Camp Coyne has ducks’. Such a very happy thought which was exactly what I was thinking. Little sublime balls of fluffs fluttering down from yon ivied windowsills. They are in good ‘hands’ – Honey’s, Dot’s and Jerry’s. These are the things that make up my daily inoculation.

  4. yazikus
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing, PCC(E). I’m feeling it too. I’m lucky in that I get to go to work every day, even on extra days if I want. But that is pretty much all I’m doing. I’m lonely. I miss my volunteer work at the state capitol. I miss going to the grocery store. I miss going fishing. And like you, I think this is going to go on a lot longer than we had thought.

    • rickflick
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      I miss going fishing. I would think going fishing would be one of those things you could still do.

  5. Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    I’m holding up pretty well, except for a sense of foreboding over what will come once the wave of the economic collapse really hits. I should be job secure for a year. Maybe more. But then I don’t know.
    One outlet that will really help as I await a fate that is beyond my control is I can go outdoors to area parks and completely escape in photography. Things seem almost normal then.

    • Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      I feel the same way. The natural world is oblivious to this, and gives me as much pleasure now as it always has. I also look forward to each morning, so I can write or photograph. At last my time is almost completely my own, and that is something I have tried all my life to acheive. So much to write, to photograph, to analyze. My floor is covered by eight thousand vials of alcohol-preserved orchids, many of them new to science. I’m chomping at the bit each morning to get to work on them.

      And the worry that I might die from the virus is just an added incentive to work harder and faster to describe my species or write up some mathematical result.

      If it weren’t ruining the economy and depressing my friends, I might even wish it would stay this way longer.

      • Posted April 25, 2020 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

        Sounds wonderful, really. I have thought, rather darkly, that one good thing from this is that it has done something to roll back global warming and other dire effects of our species.

      • Posted April 25, 2020 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

        How has it been in your part of Ecuador, Lou? Are you able to get sufficient food supplies and necessities? Are you in full isolation?

        • Posted April 26, 2020 at 12:18 am | Permalink

          Thanks for asking. We are one of the worst countries in Latin America per capita. We have a complete lockdown. We are only allowed out of our houses from 5am to 2pm, and we are not allowed to travel between provinces without a pass. We are having mild food shortages.

          Our largest city, Guayaquil,has become a hellhole. Bodies are left on the streets by the hundreds, there is no one to pick them up.

          Our foundation has had to organize food relief for the poorest people in the communities around our reserves. In rural areas, things are dire for people who have suddenly lost all income.

          • GBJames
            Posted April 26, 2020 at 8:27 am | Permalink

            That sounds dire.

          • Posted April 27, 2020 at 12:33 am | Permalink

            Dire times. Sorry to hear that Ecuador is being hit so hard. Does your foundation accept donations online?

          • phoffman56
            Posted April 28, 2020 at 6:58 am | Permalink

            “Bodies are left on the streets by the hundreds”

            So it seems likely that the Worldometer’s yesterday number of 663 total Ecuador deaths due to the virus is hugely undercounted. (Not their fault and not likely anybody else’s either.)

            One does begin to wonder whether in some states dominated by the Republican criminal politicians, the guidelines for official reporting are deliberately narrowed to attempt to make the Mass Murderer Donald’s regime look less bad.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      I too am okay except for the overwhelming sense of angst and fear. 🙂 At least I see the humour in feeling this way.

  6. ploubere
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    The strain will be too much for many people, it’s true. But we’ll see the alternative soon in those states that are reopening, including the one where I reside, Tennessee. So yes, we are caught between two bad choices, but isolation is the better of the two, as events will probably demonstrate. Sometimes life is almost unbearably hard, it has always been so for so many, but there is no option but to endure it.

    The calculation that the republicans are making in reopening states like Georgia is not out of ignorance or denial, it is a cold-hearted decision. Heather Cox Richardson, a history professor at Boston College, provides an clear summary of their plan in her blog (after a few comments about the Senate Russian interference report). They won’t care if you die:

    • Simon Hayward
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      Well that’s a good, clear eyed, and chilling summary. Thanks for the link, I subscribed to the newsletter.

      As a former TN resident with many friends still there I wish y’all good luck

      • ploubere
        Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

        Thanks. I am among the fortunate, with a suburban house to shelter in and still employed in a job I can do from home, which keeps me busy. I worry about the ooming spike that will swamp the hospitals. Health care will be inaccessible for many, including me and my wife.

        • Posted April 25, 2020 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

          I do so hope that you and your wife remain healthy and do not require inaccessible health care. May we all remain safe.

          • ploubere
            Posted April 25, 2020 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

            Thanks Rowena.

    • CR
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      10 years ago Tea Partiers were shouting down politicians for supporting the Affordable Care Act because, among other things, it would allegedly create “death panels” that would allow the elderly/disabled to die. Now they seem to be advocating that.
      And then there’s the further inconsistency of some carrying signs accusing (Dem) governors of acting like Nazis while others are holding swatiskas.
      Go figure.

      • Posted April 25, 2020 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

        I had always considered the death panel thing a calculated and conscious lie.

        • GBJames
          Posted April 25, 2020 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

          I considered (and consider) it to be an excellent example of projection.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted April 25, 2020 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

        And the irony is lost on them. I’ve never seen so many selfish people. I get that they need to work. If they can’t stay home because of impending starvation or loss of everything then that’s a failing of the state to ensure they can for the greater good but I don’t think that is motivating many who make these statements. They simply don’t want to be told what to do and they think it’s fine for some to die. I want to say, “Great, please point out your spouse and children – we will kill them first for the greater good – hard when it’s not a faceless statistic isn’t it?”

      • Filippo
        Posted April 25, 2020 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

        I reasonably gather that Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick fancies himself a one-man death panel.

  7. Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Justice Brandeis once described the different States as being natural laboratories where different policies can be tried out with less risk to the whole nation. It occurs to me that this might be a way of finding the best way to end the lockdown, if a way exists. Let different states try limited ways of opening up and observe the consequences. For example, if a state lets its restaurants open with spacing and we see no increase in cases, then other states can try it. And so on with other types of openings. Unfortunately, it would take some coordination by the states. Broad openings like in Georgia are not likely to help identify which openings are least risky.

    • ploubere
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      As a meme going around Facebook says, opening some states and not others is like having pee and no pee sections in a swimming pool.

      • Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:51 pm | Permalink


      • Posted April 25, 2020 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

        I am going to steal that.

      • JP415
        Posted April 25, 2020 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

        In theory, you could maybe seal off the state borders or restrict travel, but I realize that would cause economic havoc. (I’m not saying this is a good idea, but it is theoretically possible.)

        • Posted April 25, 2020 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

          Would it be legal to stop interstate travel? I’ve been wondering and could easily look it up probably. Seems like a violation of some right to do something . . .

          We’ve been wanting it here in northern Vermont because as soon as states began shutting down the rich summer people came here from New York and Mass in the middle of winter (which is still in March here) to hide away. So far they don’t seem to have damaged things because we only have 9 infections in our county; a rate of 3 per 100,000. There is no way there are 100,000 people living in this county, btw.

          • Posted April 25, 2020 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

            Didn’t Trump propose stopping travel in and out of New York? Everyone told him that it was against the law and wasn’t remotely practical. Still, it stands as his best idea so far. Way better than injecting cleaning products.

  8. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    I must start by simply saying that part of his feeling and yours is very likely due to the complete lack of leadership in the country. It goes with the attitude.

    If you or he had been listening to the daily briefings from gov. Cuomo the past 56 days you might feel different. Maybe not but I think you would. If you have someone telling you the truth everyday and explaining the plan everyday and how it is working, wouldn’t that make a difference. Even if we were not here, we can read about the depression of the 30s and WWII of the 40s. How long did those last and how much did all the people sacrifice? As Cuomo explained today about the complaints he is getting – he gets it. But how long did people put up with the depression – 4 years or more. How long did they put up with WWII, 5 or 6 years.

    I only want people to consider the current condition based on that lack of any national leadership in vision and direction when they think about how bad they are feeling. A lot of the problem is right there in front of us.

    • ploubere
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      Good point. I certainly have a sense of abandonment and betrayal by our government, and that I am on my own.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, for my own mental health, I listen to my PM’s briefing and sometimes my Premier’s briefing and that’s it for plague news. On weekends I usually skip the briefing because I’m busy with grocery pickups & delivery. Of course we have lunatics too but it’s been a bit better to manage it all this way. My Premier was bonkers before this too. I called him Trump Jr all the time & he actually has stepped up. He’s pulled in experts & listened to them. He’s been transparent and reasonable. I’m shocked. It shows you the difference between someone who’s a bit full of it and someone who has a pathology.

      • Posted April 25, 2020 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

        Thanks to living in Germany, I’ve noticed that it sometimes makes a different having a leader who has a PhD in quantum chemistry.

        • JP415
          Posted April 25, 2020 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

          As an American, I’ve definitely gained new respect for Merkel. At this time, it’s imperative to have scientifically literate people in charge instead of yahoos and partisan hacks.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted April 25, 2020 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

          I know a lot don’t agree with me, but I adore your leader. She and Madeline Albright are my heroes!

          • Posted April 25, 2020 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

            When she gives press conferences with medical experts, she usually does a better job of communicating complex information to the public than they do.

            She still lives in the same modest apartment she always lived in (with her invisible husband who nobody cares about), and does her own shopping (which interests no one). She should be granted a sainthood or something.

            • Nicolaas Stempels
              Posted April 26, 2020 at 5:41 am | Permalink

              Yes, she remains ‘one of us’, something luckily still found in several leaders in Western Europe (and, yes Heather, NZ).
              Reminds me of Archie Bunker (our host posted recently about him), who, despite his wealth remained living a very modest middle class life (I didn’t know that, I never liked him, but now he has grown in stature in my books). Like the late Dutch queen Juliana, whose transport included a simple bicycle. I guess there are many more like them. Gives some hope for mankind.

          • Filippo
            Posted April 25, 2020 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

            “She and Madeline Albright are my heroes!”

            I applaud both of their considerable accomplishments.

            I wonder if (ever) and when the U.S. will elect a STEM PhD – trained POTUS.

            What is your perspective on Secretary Albright holding that the U.S. is “the indispensable nation”? To my mind it is a variation on “American Exceptionalism.” All (deserved) praise and honor and glory to the U.S. But, also to my mind, as with individuals, so with nations: it is much better for others to brag on one than for one to repeatedly brag on oneself. This is personified in Trump. I imagine that other countries long ago became fatigued with this sort of talk from the U.S.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted April 25, 2020 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

              I don’t know the context of what she said that in but I do see the US’s importance in the world and I am not happy with them screwing things up right now. America has its flaws but a weak or crazy America is way way worse.

            • phoffman56
              Posted April 28, 2020 at 7:09 am | Permalink

              “I wonder if (ever) and when the U.S. will elect a STEM PhD – trained POTUS.”

              That would likely be great for US and the entire human species.

              But the actively positive disdain for science from Mass Murderer Donald (and also from a lot of USians) is an order of magnitude worse than just indifference.

              Better than indifference, somebody like Obama could be just as good or better than an actual expert in some STEM area.

      • merilee
        Posted April 26, 2020 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

        I have been surprised at how good Premier Doug Ford has been, some people can grow into the job.

    • Posted April 25, 2020 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      “But how long did people put up with the depression – 4 years or more. How long did they put up with WWII, 5 or 6 years.”

      I could be wrong about this, but in some parts of the U.S., the depression went from the late 20s up to the start of WWII, jobs had been hard to obtain for many people. During the depression, my Dad was a sharecropper. My Mom, worked in the fields, did housekeeping, candled eggs, butchered meat, etc. Whatever was available. Her brother was in the CCC. After the war started, people finally found employment in war-related industries. Mom and Dad left Missouri in 1943 to work in the Kaiser shipyard in Portland, Oregon (Dad was a splicer, Mom was a welder) where they remained until 1946. We lived in Vanport, especially built for the shipyard workers. Then, we moved to California after the war ended.

      I have never believed that this pandemic was going to be of short duration. We have history to inform us of previous pandemics od lengthy duration and, how some seemed to go away, but then returned. We don’t yet know enough about Covid-19 to prevent it, safely treat it, or prevent it from recurring. It will learn all that, but how long that may take is unknown. In the meantime, right or wrong, I’m far more concerned about loss of life.

      In re being housebound: It does bother me, but as I’m an introvert, it doesn’t affect me as badly as it does extroverts. I also have children taking wonderful care of me, making certain I’m as safe as I can be, doing all the grocery shopping, etc. And, if I must get out of the house, I get in my little Prius and drive on the beautiful back roads of Oregon. I may briefly visit my daughter (a nurse) and son-in-law who have a mother-in-law apartment I can use. When we get together, we ensure we maintain safe distancing.

      Otherwise, I faithfully watch Cuomo, avoid tRump as much as possible because I can’t stand him, follow five or six news sources, read, correspond with family and friends, etc. Unless Covid-19 gets me, I will try to stay as strong as my family and others have done before me.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted April 25, 2020 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I think Cuomo’s point was to let people know that he was listening and understood. But also that generations before us had gone through some very difficult times as well. My wife’s mother is still alive at 100 and she knew the depression. I use to hear about from my grandparents. It was a life defining time for all of them. I also had relatives that went out to Oregon to work in the shipyards during the war. Where I live now in Wichita, Kansas is not far from the center of the dust bowl of the 30s. There was nothing as bad as that, in the middle of the depression, 1935, 36, 37.

        • Posted April 26, 2020 at 5:32 am | Permalink

          I think you’re right about Cuomo. I also greatly appreciate his emphasis on giving us facts/truth and treating us all as intelligent, responsible adults.

          Those of us old enough to have had family who lived through the Great Depression will probably never forget the stories, or the lessons. I feel a great responsibility to try to live up to the standard set for us by them. They showed that it can be done, however difficult.

          In addition to my parents, I had two sets of aunts and uncles who worked at Kaiser Shipyard and lived in Vanport. I don’t remember the jobs they all had, but one of the aunts was a welder, like my Mom. Due to them, I have a major affinity to Rosie the Riveter memorabilia.

          Prior to my families’ move to southwestern Missouri, some of them had lived in sod houses in Kansas (obviously prior to the Dust Bowl). Unable to make a livelihood there, they moved on. The hills of Missouri proved quite a bit better until the Great Depression hit. However, even before and during the depression, men were having to leave the state to find work.

      • Derek Freyberg
        Posted April 26, 2020 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

        I think in at least some ways WWII was what ended the depression, because of the huge expansion of the military and all that supported it. Work suddenly became available.

        Here (Bay Area) I can watch Newsom’s not-quite daily briefings. He has a bad tendency never to use one word when he can use three or four, but the briefings are always no-nonsense and he often relies on his experts to make the points, and doesn’t contradict them. His early dire predictions about what could go wrong have largely proved to be unduly pessimistic, but that is because key leaders (e.g. the Bay Area counties’ health directors) recognized the need for a lockdown early on, and people have by and large done what they were asked to.
        It scares me silly what might happen in states like Georgia if they open up in the way Kemp seems to want – but it does seem that the average Georgian has more sense than the governor, and won’t rush to return to the old way of life.

        • Filippo
          Posted April 27, 2020 at 6:01 am | Permalink

          “It scares me silly what might happen in states like Georgia . . . .”

          I don’t ask this to be difficult, but, what is a state “like” Georgia? Does it mean a southern state? Does it mean a state, southern or not, significantly populated by self-absorbed people not inclined to cooperate and maintain social distancing? (Texas would seem to qualify, what with the noble sentiments expressed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.) But I have to “read” that into it.

          I’ve noticed increasing usage of this locution in the media. A few weeks ago I heard uttered on NPR “states like Idaho,” and more recently “states like Ohio and Pennsylvania.” As the NY Times not infrequently puts it, it is “unclear” (to me) what is meant by the phrase.

          • GBJames
            Posted April 27, 2020 at 8:33 am | Permalink

            In this context it pretty clearly means “state where politicians are removing pandemic restrictions with little concern for the health consequences”. Texas would qualify. So would Tennessee and Iowa. You could add states where governors declared days of prayer but didn’t bother with closures at all. South Dakota comes to mind. Most are southern. All are led by Republicans.

  9. Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
    And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

    And frogs in the pools singing at night,
    And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

    Robins will wear their feathery fire
    Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

    And not one will know of the plague, not one
    Will care at last when it is done.

    Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
    If mankind perished utterly;

    And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
    Would scarcely know that we were gone.

    Sara Teasdale

    … perhaps an outlook we as Darwinians should necessarily accept
    ps: for today’s relevance one word of the poem was changed

  10. Simon Hayward
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    As you note, we are not “all in this together” we are all in this either alone or in small groups – and that’s the issue. It’s bad enough being locked up exclusively with someone else, even when you get along well. I can’t imagine doing it alone, or with an obnoxious roommate, an abuser or worse.

    Like you, I don’t think this is going to end soon. I can see a route to a return to work in some places (potentially including my own). I can also envision permanent changes to work practices coming out of this – less commuting and more working from home for many (which could be good for both individuals and the environment, if it’s voluntary).

    We may have medical bandaids and possibly usable therapies in the next few months. However, coronavirus vaccines, by all accounts, are tricky things to develop. These viruses tend not to induce long term immunity and so any vaccine would have to be tailored to that end. I’m told this is possible. But it might require some luck (never a comfort).

    • Simon Hayward
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      This twitter thread is quite a good summary of the issues with coronavirus vaccines. Not cheery but informative

    • Hempenstein
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

      I’m intrigued by/banking on the vaccine approach outlined here, @52:00 by Columbia Prof Racaniello.

  11. GBJames
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    I take comfort, such as it is, in the humor these times produces. But I’m also drinking more than I should. I need deal with that. Maybe tomorrow.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      I’ve always made it a rule not to drink if I felt bad, out of fear that it might become a crutch. This has served to help me feel good most of the time.

      • GBJames
        Posted April 25, 2020 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

        The rule that worked for me was to only drink socially and when dining out at restaurants. The rule helps little under current conditions. I’m working on a new rule but haven’t nailed it yet.

        • Posted April 25, 2020 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

          Some people are cooking to pass the time. I mix cocktails.

          • GBJames
            Posted April 25, 2020 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

            I’ve been doing my part to keep my local micro-breweries afloat. With a wee dram as consolation for having our trip to Scotland scuttled by the virus. But the toll is beginning to show on the scale in the morning.

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted April 26, 2020 at 5:48 am | Permalink

        In South Africa the bottle stores are closed. Selling or transporting alcoholic beverages is illegal now: Prohibition. And it will remain illegal in stage 4, which will start on May 1. Strangely making your own alcohol, as long as you do not distill or sell it remains legal, so that is what we’re doing.

        • GBJames
          Posted April 26, 2020 at 8:38 am | Permalink

          What was the logic behind instituting prohibition?

        • merilee
          Posted April 26, 2020 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

          Isn’t distilling part of the process?

          • GBJames
            Posted April 26, 2020 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

            Not to make beer, cider, or wine. You ferment those and distill the result to make spirits.

            • merilee
              Posted April 26, 2020 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

              Thanks, Greg.

    • John Conoboy
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      Don’t think of it as drinking more. Think of it as ingesting ethanol, a known disinfectant.

      • GBJames
        Posted April 25, 2020 at 2:11 pm | Permalink


      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted April 25, 2020 at 3:06 pm | Permalink


      • JezGrove
        Posted April 25, 2020 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

        I’ll try that justification on my wife, but not holding my breath…

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

      Things are not all bad. At least three of our local hostelries are now selling their beer and cider as takeaways: bring your own container or buy one. Only one customer at a time, of course; but it helps to keep us all going.

  12. Liz
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    I usually think of myself as a strong person. This is definitely giving me some sort of anxiety. I had a nightmare three weeks ago. After waking up, I had that calm for a moment when you are relieved that it was just a nightmare. But the dream was the exact situation that we’re in and it is an actual living nightmare. I’m lucky enough to be able to work from home. (Hopefully through this.) There is anxiety there, though and in general for everyone. The numbers of people dying are terrible. I moved out to a small place by myself that isn’t really close to family or friends. It was a cute little place I found in a county I’m not too familiar with. I live alone and when I’m not working, I go to three or four grocery stores hunting for toilet paper and paper towels. It really did take a pandemic for me to come to the conclusion that I do not want to live alone. I would love to do this life with someone. I want to make bread, cook, and talk with someone. It’s noticeable what I was doing before this to fulfil social needs. Co-workers and going out to eat by myself. That was okay because there were waiters and things. That is not what I want or need going forward. This is so lonely. I just would love someone to hold at the end of the day. Regular hugs are things I just miss now. I am also sorry that this has taken a toll on me and that some of my comments have been a little bitter. I will be good as I’m adjusting but I agree. This will be longer than a month. I also worry about my parents getting this. The other day the string on my mask broke and we can’t get into stores without masks. I had to go home and staple it back together just so I could find shelves of emptiness where toilet paper once was.

    • Vaal
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:43 am | Permalink


      I think many of us have had the “wake up from a bad dream in to a bad dream” feeling this past month.

      I’ve been watching lots of movies with my son. We love sci-fi and horror movie so it’s very weird when the plot revolves around a pandemic-type scenario. For instance we watched the remake of Dawn Of The Dead (virus pandemic brings world to stop, causes zombies).

      Usually you finish a movie like that all spooked and think “Whew! Glad THAT kind of thing doesn’t really happen!”

      But this was a case of finishing a movie about a horrible pandemic, and realizing you are just living some other movie about a horrible pandemic! Wasn’t so easy to sleep that night.

      • max blancke
        Posted April 25, 2020 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

        When I watch disaster films or documentaries, the part that interests me the most is always the moments where the participants transition from normality to extreme alarm. I find people’s reactions in those situations endlessly fascinating. At University, I spent a lot of time interviewing people who had gone through some of the worst horrors of the middle of the 20th century. I found that “it could never happen here” is more or less a universal mindset, which people often hold right up until it happens. Often, the exact nature of “it” comes as a surprise.
        In the military, there was a focus during training on putting yourself, awareness wise, as far left on the timeline as possible, which gives you more time to take action.

        I had one incident many years ago, where I had been working very hard for over 30 hours uninterrupted. We had concluded our mission, and about 10 minutes after I lay down for some sleep, a serious disaster occurred. I remember standing up and seeing the carnage, but I could not tell if it was real or a dream. I don’t know how long I just stood there. Maybe just a few minutes, but eventually things came into focus, I grabbed my radio and waded in to do what I could. But that moment of standing there dumbfounded really sticks with me. Vividly.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted April 25, 2020 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

          I’m so used to telling myself not to panic and to seem normal that I’ve had to relax those rules that counter my natural ability to panic. And by panic I mean to see things as dire and do something about it – plan, at least.

  13. Vaal
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Just a comment before I go off and read the article:

    Though I’m not feeling major mental disintegration at this point, I certainly get moments where a thought or realization makes it feels like the bottom drops out beneath me.

    I have never believed the optimistic time-frames for opening up society. Even when in earlier March my kid’s schools were being “closed for a few weeks” I was like “few weeks? This isn’t getting BETTER in a few weeks, it’s getting worse! I doubt we’ll even have school in the fall!”

    My personal hunch is working on accepting we’ll have at least 3 years of being in a similar pandemic state (as even 18 months for a vaccine is best-case-scenario-thinking).

    If I let that sink in it’s pretty brutal.

    On the subject of purely personal psychology, two things for me have jumped out in the past week:

    1. Being 56 and having whipped myself back in to shape and was feeling better than ever, it’s disconcerting to feel like some of the last “years of my youthful vigor” are being taken away by being confined mostly inside and living a more prison-like existence.
    By the time things are back to normal, I’ll likely be edging on 60, damn it! (And, yes, this is obviously a perspective thing, where someone 70 only wishes they could be as young and spry as 60!).

    2. It’s often said that in crises like this your perspective changes, and what you thought you valued before becomes of less value, and then you “really find out” what is most valuable in life.

    Well…thus far I’ve found out that most of what I valued before the pandemic WERE the things that are of value, that make life most worth living for me. I’m a city-guy at heart. Being in a bustling, thriving city and doing lots of socializing charges my batteries. Whenever I’d be walking the streets being excited checking out new restaurants opening, dining with friends, going out socializing, just walking through the mass of humanity, it would often go through my head “THIS is what I love about life.” And it’s now exactly what I miss about life. When I look at my city (Toronto) that was until a month ago growing like mad, cranes swinging everywhere, and now to see it become an empty husk, businesses shutting down everywhere, headed to a deep recession at best, the wind just goes out of my sails.

    I infer from Prof CC’s posts about travel, cities and food, that he feels similarly.

    That said, the moment I feel like I’m holding up fairly well, punctuated by moments of “oh my God!” which pass relatively quickly.

    • rickflick
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      It’s often said that in crises like this your perspective changes –

      That may be more true of the young. By later life, you’ve kind of worked out what’s important.

      • Vaal
        Posted April 25, 2020 at 3:59 pm | Permalink


        That’s an interesting thought and on surface feels intuitively compelling. Turning 50 onward (especially after 55) compelled a fair amount of reflective thoughts about life.

        On the other hand I’ve heard of middle aged and older people on their death bed repeating the “I wish I’d spent fewer days in the office, more with my family” regret.

        I am fortunate to have an advantage in having worked out of my home for many years. As much as it feels insane sometimes trying to accomplish that with family around, at least I haven’t missed out on family time or my kid’s lives. Given that is secure it frees me up to worry more about the more bon vivant
        aspects of my and other people’s lives that are going unfulfilled.

        • Posted April 25, 2020 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

          “I wish I’d spent fewer days in the office, more with my family”

          I’ve never been impressed by such deathbed claims. They sound a bit like, “I wish I had spent less time working and more time on vacation.” True enough, I suppose, but not deep thought.

          • GBJames
            Posted April 25, 2020 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

            Why would you expect deep thought on a deathbed?

            • Mike Anderson
              Posted April 25, 2020 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

              “I wish I’d spent more time with my family, but being a causal determinist I know that wasn’t possible.”

              • Vaal
                Posted April 25, 2020 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

                “I wish I’d spent more time with my family, but being a causal determinist I know that wasn’t possible.”

                ^^^ Ugh, even in jest that hurt my brain.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      I think we are going to be in a state of periods of self isolation until we get a vaccine but my hope is testing is going to help with this. If we get quick tests that can let the infection-free enter areas of commerce and go to work, we will be in a much better position than we are now. I expect a second wave to hit in November. So, if we have restrictions eased, we will be doing this again.

  14. Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Not to belittle Andrew Sullivan’s woes, but it irritates me that it’s people like him who are in some of the best positions in this crisis, rather than people whose jobs and housing are on the line, whose preferences will matter more to decision makers. Of course, it bothers me even more that some sociopathic morons will be some of the most important decision makers.

  15. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    I know it is getting off subject but just heard this news concerning N. Korean leader:

    • GBJames
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      Is anyone more reliable than the Daily Mail reporting on this?

    • Posted April 25, 2020 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      If its related to heart surgery, then scratch one heart surgeon.

    • Posted April 25, 2020 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

      I remind people of my probability given on this site on April 21:

      Probability that Kim Jong-un is in serious medical trouble: 65% (probability of death in next several weeks: 50%)

    • rickflick
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

      I’m wondering if he has a mini-me to take over.

    • Posted April 26, 2020 at 7:04 am | Permalink

      I don’t think he’s dead. If he was, his successor would already have announced it.

      • GBJames
        Posted April 26, 2020 at 8:47 am | Permalink

        So he’s undead.

      • Mike Anderson
        Posted April 26, 2020 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

        I bet L’l Kim is vegetative and there’s a Game of Thrones situation in Pyongyang. The sister wants the throne, but the old politburo is thinking “maybe we need a change of direction from this crazy family” and others are saying “he’s still alive so we can’t do anything yet.”

        Oh boy I’d love to hear what’s going on over there behind the scenes.

  16. frednotfaith2
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    I’m a courthouse employee, supervisor of the Probate & Guardianship Department in Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida, and deemed “essential” personnel & for most of the past three weeks have been going in to my office by myself, although for one day one of my subordinates was permitted to come in to help with the massive load of mail that we still get. Otherwise, my other personnel either work from home, doing what they can, or are on Administrative Leave. My department has been closed to the office for over a month now but still have have plenty of work with electronic filings, etc. So at least no economic worries for me or my staff. And every so often, I’ve still been getting together with three friends, although many of our regular larger social gatherings, including the monthly Freethought Society meetings, have been cancelled.
    I’m relatively fortunate too in that so far the pandemic hasn’t had a major negative impact on me, just some inconveniences. Yet, like Jerry & Sullivan, I can’t help but worry about what larger impact the pandemic and efforts to contain it will have. Yeah, the pandemic will eventually die down, but seems the repercussions will be with us much longer. Hard to feel optimistic about this situation.

  17. Ken Phelps
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, I think one of the key differences in how frustrated people have become during the lockdown is land. We are very lucky, in that we live on a small acreage in a rural area. We’ve been fortunate enough to have nice weather most of the time, and for me the last six weeks have been a chance to work outside a lot. When your “confinement” includes a piece of the outdoors, it *has* to be better emotionally than being bounded by a door into a public hallway.

  18. Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Like Andrew Sullivan, I wish this pandemic was over. However, I don’t lose sleep over it and I experience nowhere near the stress he seems to be feeling. I’m guessing it is his experience with HIV and his character. I’m probably much more of a loner than he is.

    We just had animal control pick up a dying raccoon who had parked itself right outside our back door since last night. It looked to be sick. It didn’t much react to having a noose put around its neck and being placed into a cage for transport, to euthanasia I assume. It’s a reminder of how fragile life is but we’re much luckier than that raccoon.

    Although we are uncertain when this will end exactly, I predict that we’ll have a successful vaccine soon and governments will shortcut the usual testing phases in order to get it out quickly. This will involve some risk, of course, but living like this has risks too as we’re all going to be reminded daily.

    • EdwardM
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      Not just a vaccine, too. There are many therapeutics being tested right now. If any of them drive the mortality down, it will be a game changer while we wait for immunity (vaccine driven, natural or both).

      There’s cause to be hopeful, if not optimistic.

      • rickflick
        Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

        I think the fact that hundreds of teams are working on vaccines and therapeutics is definitely something to keep in mind. It gives hope and is, frankly, an adventure to follow, like a great scientific effort – putting a man and woman on Mars. It’s a bit like war. It’s terrible, really, yet so much heroism, and romance comes along with it. Humanity can be seen as a protagonist in a play, fighting for it’s life. What can be more exciting (unless, of course, humanity loses).

        • Nicolaas Stempels
          Posted April 26, 2020 at 5:58 am | Permalink

          Has there ever been a working vaccine to any Corona virus? I know of none. I do not want to sound like the prophet of doom or crush hopes here, but I think a vaccine, especially within a few years, is kinda unlikely, albeit not impossible.

  19. Posted April 25, 2020 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Andrew Sullivan’s bit on why Stacey Abrams should not be Biden’s VP pick is an interesting take and one I agree with. Like Sullivan, I fear Biden perceives the need to appeal to the Far Left, the Woke, and the Bernie Bros and will overreact. He should appeal to them but not take it too far. After all, one of the main reasons Trump fears him so much is that he’s a centrist. He should not give the Right any justification or opportunity to claim he’s gone too far left.

    • GBJames
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      I’m starting to think it doesn’t matter a bit who his VP selection will be. If he did nothing at all in the campaign he’ll win. The catastrophe of tRumpism is what this election is all about. Fears of Biden scaring off “centrists” with a “far left” (whatever that is) VP pick are unwarranted, IMO.

      • Posted April 25, 2020 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

        Maybe, but I’m thinking we need a Biden landslide in November. First, as Sullivan points out, Trump will contest any close election and that will result in devastation in many ways. Second, the country needs to send the deplorables packing with no chance for equivocation or misinterpretation or hope they’ll rise again. Third, we need to dump as many of the GOP out of office as we can.

        • GBJames
          Posted April 25, 2020 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

          I agree, we do. And I think we’ll get it regardless of who the VP pick is.

          I could be wrong, of course.

          • Posted April 25, 2020 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

            Landslide is a relative term. Even if we get a landslide with Abrams as VP, we could get an even bigger one without. According to Sullivan:

            “She herself has said it is inevitable she will be president within the next 20 years.”

            Assuming she really said that, it shows tremendously poor judgement. It makes me think that I don’t want her anywhere near the presidency.

            • GBJames
              Posted April 25, 2020 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

              Assuming she said it, and meant it the way you’re (Sullivan) taking it, you’ll have to wait 20 years to find out if it was poor judgement or remarkable insight. And if that sort of report is sufficient to decide the matter for you… /shrug.

              • Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

                I don’t so much care about the event she’s predicting as much as what predicting it reveals about her. She sounds like yet another politician where it’s all about her and she’s not smart enough to realize that she shouldn’t say it out loud. I’m sure many politicians harbor similar thoughts but, if they’re smart, they’ll keep it to themselves.

                I suspect she said it as a way of asserting that a black woman ought to be president sooner or later. While that’s true, it shouldn’t be a goal unto itself, implying that we should vote for her over someone who is better qualified but not sharing her gender and race. A black woman (or anyone else) should become president because they’re the best person for the job. Hillary Clinton was the best person for the job in 2016 but, IMHO, she nuked it partly because she believed they hype that it was time for a woman president.

              • GBJames
                Posted April 25, 2020 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

                You base an awful lot of opinion on an awful little actual knowledge here.

              • Posted April 25, 2020 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

                Yes I do. 😉

        • Posted April 26, 2020 at 7:39 am | Permalink

          Dems need to retain the House and take the Senate, especially take the Senate. If Moscow Mitch remains in charge, I can’t see many federal judges being appointed.

          • Posted April 26, 2020 at 11:27 am | Permalink

            Yes. It is heartening to see that the GOP’s own polling has them scared. Of course, now we have to brace ourselves for the inevitable cheating by the desperate and lawless.

    • Mark R.
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      My take is that Biden already said he would appoint an African American woman to SCOTUS. To me, that signaled that he wouldn’t necessarily pick an African American woman for a running mate. I could also see him appointing Kamala Harris as AG. I wouldn’t be surprised if he chooses Warren, and she already said she’d accept if asked. Choosing a governor like Whitmer I think would be a wise choice as she has executive experience and is well liked in a mid-west state.

      At the same time, I’m more and more in agreement with GBJames. As Trump’s ineptitude continues, I think Biden’s pick is less and less important (though he must choose a woman, there’s no doubt there).

      • Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

        Don’t fall for that again. There are big swaths of Republican states, and the Electoral College gives them a vastly disproportionate influence on the election results.

        • Mark R.
          Posted April 25, 2020 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

          Not “falling” for anything. Just bullshitting as anyone is right now. Yes, EC is going to destroy us all. Already there.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted April 25, 2020 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

        I’m reading news reports that the now deceased mother of the Tara Reade, who’s accusing Biden of sexual assault, called the Larry King Show in 1993 and asked if her daughter should report the unnamed senator. CNN had the clip.

        That’s very close to the time of the alleged assault and so if true would give quite a bit of weight to Reade’s claim. I’m sure there will be voice analyses unless there are no examples of her voice to be had.

        I wonder how this will play out?

  20. nay
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    I see “We’re all in this together” not as a “cheery admonition” but as a sober reminder that we are all human and susceptible to an invisible germ – rather like the whisper to the parading conqueror to remember that “thou art mortal”. The speed and racket of modern life allowed us to forget that; the pandemic brought us up short and we are all scared – remember that we are ALL scared. Given the lockdown, the only outlet may appear to be rage/violence/defiance/protest.
    That said, I thought I was doing fine until the other day when I yelled over the phone to a pharmacy clerk because I was being harassed by robocalls to pick up a non-existent prescription. I knew she had no control over the calls but suddenly felt my blood pressure and my voice rising when all I’d meant to do was request a stop to auto-fill. After the call ended, I realized that I’d forgotten to request the stop.

    • Rita Prangle
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

      Let me guess: was it CVS? Their robocall system seems to be out of control. I’ve received multiple calls in one day, and it’s very difficult to stop them.

  21. Posted April 25, 2020 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    By the way, if you want to avoid things that will depress you, don’t read the comments to Andrew Sullivan’s article. It may be just the usual crap one sees in such places (not on WEIT, mind you) but reading just a few made me sad and embarrassed for my fellow human beings.

  22. naveen1941
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    I don’t understand why Trump should be held responsible for this tragedy.If Clinton was in WH, I am sure, Republicans would have ranted this way as well. Why don’t you tell us why the US id leading in the infections an deaths? WH is not the reason, as a foreigner I can see entire Europe, Asia other parts were unprepared as well. Can you spit out the fact that your comrades in China were responsible for virus creation and spread? Or your partially thinking mind does not admit it? China should be held responsible and made to pay damages.In my humble view no other set of politicians world over would have done better. Maybe we should end lock down and let the chips fall. Economy of deaths – make a choice. Trump did say he was against lock down in the beginning. Why are the numbers so high in the US compared to let us say India where the population is four times? Why are they so high in Italy? In Iran? is there a collusion between Saudis , Pakistanis and Chinese in spreading the virus? Rates are low in these three countries. Or was a crackpot American started this? Is there a hidden American Wuhan?

    • yazikus
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      Well, this comment sure was a hell of a ride.

    • frednotfaith2
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      tRump is not “being held responsible” for this tragedy — he is rightly being held responsible for his moronic, self-serving and deceitful response to the pandemic, making the tragedy worse through his entirely inept leadership.

      • Ken Phelps
        Posted April 25, 2020 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

        I fear that the distinction will be missed by anyone who thinks accurate statistics are available for India.

    • EdwardM
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      It is my considered opinion that none of your views are humble in the slightest.

      One thing – numbers by themselves don’t mean much. The US has a lot of cases of COVID-19 mostly because the US is a big place with a lot of people. The word you’re looking for in your humble view is rate.

    • Mark R.
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      Well, for one thing, Clinton wouldn’t have dismantled the pandemic task force. And since she wouldn’t have started a trade war with China, she would have been in a much better position sending health professionals to China last year to study the virus first hand. You know, like what Obama did in Africa and the Ebola outbreak. I also know that she wouldn’t have refused the Covid-19 test that the WHO was distributing and wouldn’t have cut-off aid to the WHO in the middle of a pandemic. And I also know for a fact she wouldn’t be spouting bullshit every day (and especially not dangerous bullshit) in order to gin up support for her base (which wouldn’t be a cult). Lastly, she’d be working her ass off, working with governors, not pitting them against one another, not bashing red states’ governors, not watching tv and worrying about what people think of her. Trump is the worst person to be “leading” this type of catastrophe and is generally the worst person period.

      I’ll leave you to the rest of your conspiracy theories, as those are simply not worth thinking about.

    • Mike Anderson
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      I don’t understand why Trump should be held responsible for this tragedy.

      Because Trump has made the crisis much, much worse than it should have been. Obama put in place many safeguards and warning systems to protect us from this very kind of contagion, and Trump threw it all away. Now we’re up to 50 thousand deaths.

    • JP415
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      is there a collusion between Saudis , Pakistanis, and Chinese in spreading the virus?

      What? Why would governments want to spread a virus that attacks friend and enemy indiscriminately? Even if they don’t care about human life, they certainly care about economic health and military readiness. Spreading a virus would be self-defeating.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted April 25, 2020 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

        Not to mention the impossible task of getting along to collude & keep all this secret.

        • JP415
          Posted April 25, 2020 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

          Welp, you must be part of the conspiracy then! 🙂

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted April 25, 2020 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

            Well, shit.

  23. Posted April 25, 2020 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    “. . .and, worst of all, having nothing to look forward to. . .”

    We (my wife and I) are in the throes of going through all the crap we’ve managed to accumulate in a house we’ve lived in for 35 years and packing up to move to a new house three hours away in Central Oregon. All this is made harder, of course, by the fact that none of the usual donation centers are accepting stuff, so everything goes out on the curb when the weather permits (which, in Portland, OR, isn’t that often).

    The reason for our move is to be closer to our son and his wife who are expecting a new daughter in July—this in addition to a precocious 5-year-old boy and a 3-year-old boy with serious developmental issues; they need our help and support.

    We have to be out of our current house and moved into our new house by May 15, so there’s hardly a moment’s rest and certainly no time to get morose about the virus. So while we’re overwhelmed with all that goes with packing and moving at our advanced ages, we’re grateful that we can’t count ourselves among those who have “nothing to look forward to.”

    Hang in there!

  24. Mike Anderson
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Sullivan’s fear-mongering is among the worst I’ve heard.

    If we keep this up for six months, we could well keep the deaths relatively low and stable, but the economy would all but disintegrate.

    The current projections are 40% GDP contraction in the second quarter, then somewhat of a recovery for 5.6% loss for the year.

    The economy isn’t going to “all but disintegrate.”

    10% unemployment – we’ve been there before.

    I’m no doctor, but I think a lot of the anxiety and depression is amplified by lack of exercise (which is due to isolation measures + loss of routines). Got to find a way to get your exercise. (I know my anxiety ratchets up when I don’t get exercise and I project many others are in the same boat.)

    • Posted April 25, 2020 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      “I project many others are in the same boat.”

      Definitely don’t want to be in the same boat. Have they missed the news of rampant infection on cruise ships and aircraft carriers?

      • Mike Anderson
        Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

        I’m not projecting you onto those boats, Paul. Only the good, uninfected boats.

  25. docbill1351
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    My mother used to say, “Billy, you live in your own little world.”

    True enough. I would be the rock star of hermits. Sure, I enjoy conversation and an audience to amuse, but as a retired guy with nowhere to go fast, I feel none of the stresses that others report. A little anxiety about going out, but I read what this virus can do, how it works, what is known and unknown.

    The one aspect of the pandemic that has been revealing to me is the depth of rot that exists in government. To be sure, and it’s not just Trump, the federal government has become incapacitated. It’s not just the incompetence of Heckuva-job FEMA but the entire government is Heckuva-job. We are a national corpse and the plutocrats have released the vultures of greed to pick its bones. Where’s my $billion? Not fair.

    It’s astounding to me how far we’ve declined as a society. We’ve gone from the Apollo Project to the Moon to drinking Clorox in only 60 years. As the Wicked Witch of the West lamented, “What a world! What a world!”

  26. Alan Jardine
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    I suppose my wife and I are lucky in this. We are both retired, with decent pensions. I spend most of each day indoors, anyway, studying science online with the Open University or just reading (I watch neither TV nor videos).

    Now that the weather in Scotland is improving, she spends a good part of the days gardening. Our garden is shared with our daughter and her family and the grandchildren are usually running around after their daily sessions of home-schooling.

    My son-in-law does our weekly shopping (which is the thing I miss most).

    And we have an open and honest First Minister who treats us as grown-ups, shares her concerns and explains the scientific advice she’s getting (unlike your Chief Moron and the headless chickens who now form the Westminster government).

    I suppose my longer-term worry is for when the riots start. I’m not as worried as my brother in California, however – we don’t have guns here…


  27. Charles A Sawicki
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    The history of vaccine development suggests that a vaccine for the coronavirus may take much longer than we would like.
    If I remember correctly the Mumps vaccine was developed in the shortest time, of all vaccines, in about four years. It took longer to get a very effective version.
    “A year to 18 months would be absolutely unprecedented,” says Peter Hotez, dean at Baylor University’s National School of Tropical Medicine. “Maybe with the new technology, maybe with throwing enough money on it, that’ll happen. But we have to be really careful about those time estimates.”
    Of course, we have failed to come up with a vaccine for AIDS. A Winnipeg lab also had been working for decades, with others, on an Ebola vaccine before producing a useful version. Vaccines for canid corona viruses were developed fairly quickly (in a few years), but are rarely used since death rates are a few in 1000.
    On the positive side it may cycle like other coronaviruses leaving the summers relatively disease free.

    • EdwardM
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      Your last sentence ought to be highlighted – we know little about host responses, which is part of the reason the mortality rate is so high, but we also know little about the natural history of the virus itself. It could very well behave like other corona viruses and have a natural cycle. If true, it buys us time.

      Of course, it may not behave like other corona viruses. There’s the rub.

    • rickflick
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      Vaccine making has come a long way over the years. Every seasonal flu vaccine comes out sooner than the last. I think there is room for optimism, although anything’s possible with something that’s as new as this virus.

      • Posted April 25, 2020 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

        However, each year’s flu vaccine is only as good as the flu variants included by the scientists who make it. They don’t always get the mix right, so some years we have more flus and deaths than others.

    • Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      I don’t understand why the virus would cycle down for the summer. In Ecuador the hardest-hit city is the hottest big city you can imagine, Guayaquil,and quite humid too. Singapore is also quite hot and humid.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      I read an article in the Economist about various vaccine approaches & one that I thought was interesting was one they use to vaccinate animals against corona viruses. Not of course tested on humans but there are several different approaches to take and since the time of mumps, we have come far in bio-engineering which makes a big difference too.

  28. Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    My husband died in September and on that day I ceased having anything to look forward to. But I teach children with trauma in a therapeutic school and that was the only reason I got out of bed. It was exhausting and I thought I wanted to be left alone to rot at home, even though I realized that I did better at school than at home. Schools closed March 17, and I have not left this house since. Just me, my wonderful dog, and two (sorry for this) worthless cats who do nothing at all.

    I can barely walk now. I never got my knees looked at while my husband was ill because he wanted me with him and I wanted to be with him. I finally got the gumption to start the rehab process but then the virus hit, so evaluation stopped and now the knees are even worse. Cooking, showering, are agony.

    One of my children lives close by and drops things off and I cry if I see her because we wave at each other through glass like dogs at the pound trying to be with their families. So I hide when she comes. The kids and I “talk” every single day online. Occasional video calls. I have lots of land so I can go outside: except we had more snow and ice this week. It’s gone now, the mud seems dry, so I may drive the dog and myself up to a higher field nearer the woods. Me and my camera and dog.

    So I’m miserable, full of self-pity, terribly alone. I wonder why I’m typing this at all and if I’ll regret it later. But there *are* people worse off: my kids at school for one group. For many, we were their only normal. They are miserably sad. They are too young and too traumatized to have intrinsic motivation so they are floundering. I could be sick and alone. I could have no Internet and be alone. I could live in a city and be alone.

    Typing this has helped for this day. So I’m going to comb my hair and take Lucy the Lab and go thirty miles to MacDonald’s and then come back and sit in the car at the pond while Lucy investigates the world. And I’ll have my camera.

    • EdwardM
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      I’m so sorry for your loss Andree. There is nothing I can do for you except wish you the very best, with hopes that once this is all over (and it WILL be behind us, I believe sooner than most here) you can get your knees looked at. Those children will need you. Your daughter too.

      Be well. I’d pray for you but there’s no point in that, is there?

    • Keith
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      I’m so very sorry for your loss, Andree. The loss of your husband and your freedom to move about and see family is deeply sad. I’m glad your dog is faithful and there for you. Maybe the cats will come around. Eventually.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      I’m so sorry to hear of this but your writing is lovely and touching and real. You could write a lovely piece about your experiences that others would find beautiful and relatable I’m sure.

    • Posted April 25, 2020 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I remember your loss and it was horrible. I’m glad writing helped you, and it also shows that there’s a community of people here who empathize with you. I do hope the burger, the dog, and the camera make you feel a bit better.

    • Posted April 25, 2020 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

      Dear Andree,

      I am sorry for your loss. I sympathize as I, too, lost my husband (to cancer)in 2016. It has taken me quite awhile to decide I still want to be here. I hope your children, dog, land, and anything else that you love brings you back to life soon as possible (including your very important task of teaching dramatized students who need you.)

    • Posted April 25, 2020 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

      Oh, Andree. Your loss is made palpable by the words you so bravely and nakedly shared with us. I’m saddened by your loss and your awful predicament, being away from comforting touch. Human touch. (Sorry, Lucy.)

      I understand what you mean, about when you had someone to care for, day in and day out. I’m living that now, and it allows me the impetus to just put one foot in front of the other, and get ‘er done. But someday I shall have to face what you’re facing, and wonder what shall I do with my hands now. I shall recall your words, and hopefully know or have the capacity to remember that I am not alone in this. Others have walked and are walking this very rocky and uneasy path.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted April 25, 2020 at 5:15 pm | Permalink


  29. rickflick
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    As for me, I have almost none of the dread expressed by others. Yes, I’m aware of the issues here, and they certainly have affected others more than me. Starvation will likely come to some areas of the world. I am actually pretty happy puttering about my mini-ranch. I’ve got things to do. Fences to mend, gardens to tend. To me, the pandemic is analogous to the great depression and WWII for my parent’s generation. They were certainly scared and they suffered. But in general, they adapted to the circumstances thinking they simply had to live differently – for the foreseeable future. I think people have to stop looking into the rear-view mirror at how thing used to be, and focus on the here and now and figuring out how to live differently under new circumstances. We need to adapt. Years ago, my room mates and I were trapped in a snowstorm that blew for 2 days. Just 2 days! Cabin fever struck hard, and many of us decided to go out in snow drifting across highways with 30 mph winds. Crazy, you say. Sure. The morning of the 3rd day, the snow stopped, the wind stopped, the sun came out, and we went about our business. Cabin fever led us to take risks we should not have taken.

    I was struck by, “if we envision ourselves all together in a big pot of water with a fire kindled underneath”
    We almost literally are. Once the pandemic is over, and the CO2 once again fills the sky.

    “So, you should mourn. We’ve lost the world. Mourn for it” – Well, I suppose Sullivan has a point, I won’t stay stuck in that mode. Lost the world? As soon as I’m done mourning, I’ll start planning my day, accepting the limitations that confront us.

    “sometimes the only way past something is through it”. That’s Sullivan’s best line. This calls upon us to be creative. This is my view. We will manage. We will adapt. Things will get better. Find things to do that reduce stress. Don’t focus on what has been lost.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      Yes I think clinging to something that is forever gone is how we do torture ourselves. November will never come again….at least not your November. The next November is something altogether different. We have to figure out to survive in that world. It could be much worse….maybe it will be but at least it’s not a thermonuclear war & our governments are still intact.

      • rickflick
        Posted April 25, 2020 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

        In November, there will be an entirely new leadership in the US. Just imagine a whole cabinet made up of competent professionals in their respective fields instead of dog trainers and TV jocks. This I think will help us get through this. Biden is no Obama, but I know he has experience and the ability to lead strongly. I think as we approach the election, we will see Biden take command of the narrative. At least I hope he’s up to the challenge. It would not be hard to beat Donny in the leadership game, but I’d expect even more from Biden at this time in our journey.

        • merilee
          Posted April 25, 2020 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

          Dog breeder, not trainer I believe. Just perfect for the job😖

          • rickflick
            Posted April 25, 2020 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

            Listen. He knows more about dog breeding, than…almost anybody.

            • Jenny Haniver
              Posted April 25, 2020 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

              Labradoodles to be precise.

              • merilee
                Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

                Even “worser”, not that I have anything against doodles.

    • Posted April 25, 2020 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

      Amanpour’s recent interview with Attenborough brought up the climate crisis which many say is more dangerous than this pandemic. We’re in the pot that is slowly heating up.

      • rickflick
        Posted April 25, 2020 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

        What’s the worst the pandemic can cause. 10,000,000 deaths and a 5 year recovery for the economy? Something like that. The potential for global warming to wreak havoc would be greater, if only because it will likely be permanent. Imagine crop yields way down, coastal cities underwater, a dead ocean ecosystem.

      • merilee
        Posted April 25, 2020 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

        I watched that wonderful interview with Attenborough last night. He’s simply amazing at 93!!

        • Posted April 25, 2020 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

          His words were strangely comforting to me, when he talked about the sky being so blue and he could finally hear the bird songs, because the world had slowed down and there was far less pollution. Despite his confinement, he felt embarrassingly lucky. It brought home to me how important it is, as much as possible, to live in the moment. Nature helps me to do that. Heck, I’ve got rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, voles, moles (still waiting for the possums to come back), birds and even a pair of Mallards in my garden.

          • rickflick
            Posted April 25, 2020 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

            Good point. Nature has healing properties.

            • merilee
              Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:54 pm | Permalink


  30. Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Usually I’d say when something odd happens, that I can either laugh about it or cry about it, and I know what I’d rather do.

    Not much to laugh about (though the political cartoons were getting funnier for a time). Too numb to cry about anything.

    It’s me and my pets here at home, and some neighbors I talk to. I’m naturally loud so I keep a good 8 feet or so away and if we’re moving around in the yard, I move to keep my distance. It’s still good to talk, but i admit I’m used to being alone in a crowded room, so why not while at home?

    I do miss just reading a book or listening to music at Starbucks, chatting up random people. I miss browsing the shelves at Barnes & Noble. I miss browsing entirely to get ideas for projects. Now when I have to get some stuff from a store, I get in and get out quick as I can. Doesn’t help that over half the folks near me don’t wear masks, gloves, or anything when in a store–that makes my anxiety creep up the more crowded it gets. Never was much for crowds, anyway.

    I’m in Texas and supposedly going back to work May 4th. If I have the option of staying home another week or two, I’ll take it. I have to physically touch up to 40 people a day to get their fingerprints for employment and background info. At least i have enough gloves, but very little sanitizer to put on them between clients. Until I have enough stuff at work, I’m not willing to go in. Or until we have more accurate info as to counts of infected and the rates down here. I don’t want to be the only office open, also, and get totally swamped with appointments. That happened just before we closed down a week ago, and I was getting very anxious with all the complaints about wait times and the like–despite the fact people could clearly see me working fast and sanitizing equipment between each customer.

    That’s what I’m not looking forward to. Maybe if I can buy some sanitizer somewhere to bring with me to work (for myself and the customers) to stretch the supply, I’ll be in better shape. Otherwise, not worth opening.

    In the meantime, I’ve got so many books to read it’s ridiculous and garden beds to build and plants to start from seed. I’ll also have to check my e-mail more often to see if re-opening requirements have changed at all.

    AT least the weather’s mostly been amazing in my neck of the woods. A bit hot at times, but that breeze–whew! We rarely get breezes around here, at least not for days on end.

    • Posted April 25, 2020 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

      In my part of Ontario, I’m seeing small bottles of sanitizers in the bins at my pharmacy. There are the alternative concoctions to Purell. So maybe it might be likewise in Texas, since distilleries all over and other folks are pitching in to make sanitizer.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

        Wow. I haven’t seen sanitizer since this all started!

        • merilee
          Posted April 26, 2020 at 12:03 am | Permalink

          We have some at our local small pharmacy, too.

        • Posted April 27, 2020 at 12:29 am | Permalink

          Shoppers is limiting 2 small bottles per household.

          • Posted April 28, 2020 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, I need to try the pharmacy again for sanitizer. Nothing yet about my work situation, it’s just the uncertainty getting to me. I’m very cautious when it comes to respiratory illnesses, and this virus is a doozy.

            Before he died a couple years ago, I watched my dad go through wide eyed, gasping panic attacks from lack of air because he’d had a restricted airway and his body was giving out. One of the last times, he was so out of it I had to help him with his nebulizer treatment because the panic had set in and he couldn’t think. That was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

            I say this only because I may get the virus, I may not, but I damn sure don’t wanna be responsible for giving it to someone else. I want to know I’m taking every precaution as best I possibly can, because I couldn’t stand the alternative, just shrugging it off at work and touching strangers who will go back to their work or families right after. Not when I’ve got those memories in my head.

            Still, got a few days left to brainstorm or shop. Worst comes to the worst, I’ll bring a few bottles of isopropyl alcohol and cotton balls… or ask the boss if I can bring cotton balls and find some cheap vodka in my cabinet. Don’t think that one would go over well, though, if the cops found out.

            • Posted April 28, 2020 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

              You gotta do what you gotta do! Maybe see if your pharmacies have any boxes of alcohol swabs or bottles of isopropyl alcohol or Lysol. You might get lucky, as you never know when the shelves get restocked with these items. I serendipitously spotted the sanitizers as I wasn’t even looking for any. Been giving stuff to my neighbours.

              If you’re driven to use vodka (which really isn’t strong enough! Overproof rum is) you could pour tons of it into a container of Wet Wipes, take it to work and use discreetly.

              • Posted May 1, 2020 at 11:04 am | Permalink

                Luckily, it looks like our owner was able to get some sanitizer and we’ll have some in the office on Monday morning. Yay!

              • Posted May 1, 2020 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

                That must be a relief for you! I hope you’ll get a face mask too. Wishing you a safe and healthy work environment.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted May 1, 2020 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

                A local online company had some in stock (one made by a distillery) as well as wipes so I ordered both.

  31. Gareth Price
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    I don’t write this seeking sympathy but Andrew Sullivan and the writers he quotes describe how my life has been for the last few years.

    I am not unsympathetic towards people who are suffering now: I know that it is no fun at all. Due to some difficult and somewhat unusual circumstances, including being out of work, my life for a long time has closely resembled what everyone is experiencing now. I’ve felt that I have put up with it for far too long but my difficulties have proved very difficult to solve.

    So the lockdown has been an eye-opener for me because it has revealed how long human beings can reasonably be expected to tolerate what I have been experiencing for several years. Answer – about 4 weeks.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

      A friend of mine says this is exactly like his regular life but with more track pants! I LOL’d at that.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

      It’s like my life, too.

  32. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    From Sullivan’s piece:

    I have no intention of breaking any of these rules, although I am tempted by homicide if any of these fit, entitled motherfuckers actually spit on the ground near me.

    My goodness, such language from a nice Catholic lad. I wonder, did he used to kiss his mother with that potty mouth? Hope for his sake the Church is hearing confession by Skype.

    (Sorry, when the ennui’s upon me, I tend to revert to form as a wisenheimer.)

  33. Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Sullivan seems to be playing up a false dichotomy, by comparing the economic cost of the lockdown, to the pre-virus functioning of the economy, instead of the economic costs of allowing the virus to spread and causing the inevitable collapse of the medical system and god knows what kind of cost to the labour force.

    And I don’t understand what point he is trying to make with this —
    “We keep postponing herd immunity, if such a thing is even possible with this virus.”

    He seems to imply that just letting the virus rip through the population would lead to enough immune people to slow or stop the spread. But then he says he doesn’t know anything about that. I lack the context of the US for that idea, and can’t make head or tail of what he means by that.

    • EdwardM
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      Herd immunity can come by natural means (enough people get infected), by vaccination programs or by a combination of both. However, it is possible that population immunity cannot be achieved because immunity in individuals doesn’t last. This is what happens every year with the flu – last years vaccinated people don’t have enough immunity to protect themselves and others this year. So a yearly vaccine has to be made. Likely the same thing will happen for corona virus, if a vaccine is possible.

      • Posted April 25, 2020 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

        Thanks… Do you have any idea what Sullivan means with his complaint that herd immunity is being “postponed” by this lockdown? I mean, it’s clear, I guess that he means that by slowing the rate of infection, the rate of herd immunity being developed is also slowed, but why is he implying? He even admits he doesn’t know if it’s possible, so what is he trying to say? I am utterly baffled, and find his writing very unclear, but I seem to be the only one who can’t figure what he’s talking about.

  34. Posted April 25, 2020 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Anxiety is not one of my fears. I feel confined and restricted but more so because I have kids who are restricted socially and athletically.

    “we’re living our own lives, not the lives of others”

    That is spot on right. I may be privileged but quarantine is no less of a struggle for those with a roof than those without.

    “look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire—why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent”

    Arguably Hamlet had all he needed but he lived in a prison nonetheless.

  35. EdwardM
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    After reading Sullivan’s piece I come to conclude that some of his pessimism stems from some deeply murky thinking. For example he says;

    “A study yet to be peer reviewed from China suggests that the virus has so far about 30 mutations, some far more severe than others.”

    That is essentially meaningless. First, 30 mutations compared to what? What the study he linked to actually says is that there are now about 30 identifiable strains of the virus. Second, in terms of vaccination strategies, the number of mutations (whatever he means by that) is not important; it is the rate at which they occur that matters. Third, just because those mutations exist does not mean we need 30 different vaccines!

    To put this in perspective, there were more than 1000 strains of the h3n2 seasonal flu identified in the last two years, yet we have an effective vaccine against it.


    I’ll add that it appears that this coronovirus mutates at a rate about 1/3 that of the flu virus. This doesn’t mean a vaccine for corona virus is a slam dunk, but it does mean hand wringing about mutation rates is just that.

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

      That’s an interesting corrective; many thanks, Edward

    • Posted April 25, 2020 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

      Thanks. While it’s certainly welcome for writers to share their personal difficulties, he doesn’t seem to have accounted for the likelihood of his own (understandable) ignorance affecting his mood.

  36. Gabrielle
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    I’m currently working from home, and am less anxious than I was a few weeks ago, when there were so many IT issues to sort out, but most of that has been taken care of. So myself and my coworkers can productively get our work done, and that also keeps me busy.

    But, if I’m realistic, either by summer I’ll have my hours cut back, or by fall I’ll be laid off. At least I can afford to pay for the 18 months of Cobra health insurance, so am not going to be left immediately without that safety net.

    Which is good, because I need to have medical treatment for 4 months for a blood disorder, and I can’t realistically put this off until the end of the pandemic, since the virus is going to be with us for a good two years or more. Which means I’ll need to self-quarentine from July through November, because the treatment will lower my immune system. Not good timing.

    But, to cheer myself up and distract myself, I’ve been looking into my family genealogy. Absolutely fascinating. Both their lives here in the US, and before they left their little towns in the north of Lithuania. If you are Jewish, there are several websites that are full of records from Europe. With their help, I’ve been able to identify most of my great-great-grandparents.

    And their lives were full of both good things and tragedies, and somehow they made do. I think it was more helpful in a sense that they didn’t have great expectations that life would be endlessly fulfulling, with nice vacations, good restuarants, college educations, lots of clothes, nice homes, etc. My one great grandmother was so proud because their family could afford their own milk cow!

    I say to myself – no one guarenteed them an easy life, and no one has guarenteed me the same thing. I’ve had things pretty good for my 60+ years, and so am somewhat circumspect about getting through this difficult, difficult time. What would great grandmother Rochel-Frieda do? She’d keep going. And so must I.

  37. Diana MacPherson
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    This isn’t any much different than my regular life. I’m in horrible plain with migraines fairly regularly, I have some weird shit wrong with my feet (including Achilles tendon issues) and I still need to work and complete with the healthy. I’m actually feeling better working from home all the time because i don’t feel guilty when I do so from migraines or I have to leave early to go to an appointment (well there are no appointments). So, I’m probably a bit better off until my job is no longer available which is a more than faint possibility. Then that will be bad.

  38. David Harper
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    I felt some anxiety at the very start of the lockdown here in Britain, but that largely abated once the panic buying stopped.

    I’ll admit that I’m one of the lucky ones: I can work from home, my employer (the Wellcome Sanger Institute) is actively involved in the scientific response to the pandemic, and it is funded by the Wellcome Trust, so the money isn’t going to run out any time soon.

    Also, my wife and I are happy in one another’s company. I told her at the outset of the lockdown that having me at home all the time would be a dry run for my retirement in a few years. She remarked that divorce lawyers would be seeing an upswing in business by the autumn. I’m pretty sure she was joking. She has a weird sense of humour, which is probably one of the reasons she married me.

    My main concern right now is that she is 5,000 miles away from her Mom and sister in north Idaho, and we may not get to visit them in the foreseeable future. Her Mom is 85, so it’s even possible that our visit last Christmas might have been the last time they would see each other in person. And that makes me sad to contemplate, because I love both of them dearly.

    I also worry about succumbing to coronavirus. I’m in my late 50s and I have high blood pressure, which are both risk factors. But my worry is mainly for my wife, and how she would cope if she lost me. So I take all of the social distancing and hygiene measures seriously.

    The British government’s handling of the crisis appals me, but at least we have the National Health Service, whose staff truly deserve to be called heroes. And the response from local communities has been amazing. In the village where I live, a community help network sprang up via the village Facebook group in just a few days to provide all kinds of support for the vulnerable. And the same thing has happened across Britain. That gives me hope for the future.

    Also, I console myself that we may have an utter fool and charlatan for a Prime Minister, but he can’t be worse that the monster in the White House.

    For the first quarter century of my life, the world was a moment away from nuclear annihilation. Coronavirus is a serious threat, and humanity may have to adapt to it, but it isn’t the same kind of existential threat that we faced during the Cold War, when the world could have been turned into a radioactive charnel house in a matter of minutes. That puts the current crisis into perspective, at least for me.

    I’m reading Seneca’s “Letters from a Stoic”. Yesterday I read Letter 12, in which he considers his old age and mortality. He advises his readers to tell themselves, each night before sleep: “I have lived. I have completed now the course that fortune long ago allotted me.” Then, says Seneca, if you wake in the morning, you should receive the gift of an additional day joyfully.

  39. Posted April 25, 2020 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been a loner all my life, so this “enforced isolation” is what I’ve been living since I was made redundant from my last job in 2004. The only difference now is that my wife now works from home, so I get to see a lot more of her. Prior to that I’d spend my days at home, alone, and that’s how I preferred it.

    I do commiserate with everyone who feels out of sorts in the current predicament – that is how I would feel were my situation suddenly reversed. But, please, be assured that this, too, shall pass. Into what, we have yet to discover, but it need not be approached in a spirit of trepidation, but might engender a spirit of inspiration.

    I don’t believe in a g*d, but I do believe in the ability of the human spirit to not only overcome adversity, but to thrive while doing so.

    Best wishes to you all.

  40. Steve Pollard
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    There are some moving and honest stories above.

    Judy and I are in isolation. The main downside is that we cannot meet any of our kids, grandchildren, friends or fellow Harlequins fans. But there are some blessings to count:

    1. We are both fit and well.
    2. We live near enough to the countryside to be able to get out for long walks, especially since our Government has decreed that a short car journey is allowable to let us enjoy same.
    3. We have WhatsApp to stay in touch with everyone we care about.
    4. All the kids etc are OK, even our son, who is all on his own in Paris, bless him. (At least the others have partners to share their isolation with).
    5. We get together a couple of times a week on Houseparty to play the sort of games we used to play at Christmas when we were all a lot younger. Last time it was Bingo; the time before it was Bird-Beast-Fish (don’t write in). Tomorrow we are having a distributed pub quiz. It means a lot to us all just to be able to see each other’s faces (even mine).

    We will get through this thing. If all else fails, we might just notice that Nature carries on regardless. For instance, here is the site of the webcam on Winchester Cathedral, where the peregrines are raising a clutch of five (!) eggs:

    Best wishes everyone.

  41. Jim Swetnam
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    You should get a cat, professor.

  42. JP415
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    I don’t want to downplay the gravity of the mess we’re in, but I think consuming too much news is harmful to one’s mental health. A lot of new coverage is devoted to speculating about things that might happen. At this point, we’re still poorly informed about the true prevalence of the virus, the real fatality rate, and the feasibility of various treatments. I think it’s best to admit to ourselves that nobody knows what’s going to happen and that we should try to suspend judgment. Of course, that’s easier said than done because human beings really hate uncertainty.

  43. Susan Davies
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know how practical this suggestion is, Jerry, but how possible would it be for you to conduct a live online course in evolutionary biology, maybe specifically about ducks and how/why the different species evolved to fill their particular niches and maybe about their migration habits?
    Of course you would have to conduct it at a time when we in Australia would be able to take part! and I for one would not mind contributing a small fee if that would be necessary to make it viable. I’m sure it would keep you occupied and buoyant!

  44. Paul Matthews
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    I think others have posted a similar comment but here goes anyway. I’m a card-carrying introvert and of a solitary (some nasty people might say misanthropic) nature. I hate crowds. I actually think I prefer my current lifestyle to the one before the shut-down. I was never allowed to work from home before but those restrictions have been lifted. The technology to do this has worked remarkably well, and now I don’t have to waste time going to meetings that are so often frustratingly unproductive. The time I spent commuting has been freed up. When I go out (the shut-down isn’t as draconian here in Canada as some other places), the much-reduced car traffic is wonderful. Rush-hour traffic in normal times is an absolute abomination. I’m lucky enough to commute by riding bike paths most of the year but in winter I walk home (after taking the bus in the morning) and get to witness the aggression, lack of courtesy, and utter awfulness of rush hour.

    I do have worries of course. My elderly father is in a very high risk group. Will there be a Great Depression that will mean my son, who turns 15 this year, won’t be able to find a job when the time comes? Will my retirement be lived in poverty? And of course the severe illness or death of those whom the virus hits hard, the economic hardship of those who can’t work, and the risks that frontline health workers have to take on in fighting the virus are all terrible. But in my own little world, the biggest negative I face right now is that one of my wife’s relatives came to freeload off us (oops I mean stay with us) quite a while ago and, although she really really needs to leave for the sake of my sanity, she can’t of course.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

      I hope that many places start seeing the absolute boom working from home has! At work they are always in a conundrum about parking. Easy if people spend a lot of time as distributed teams!

      • Paul Matthews
        Posted April 26, 2020 at 5:18 am | Permalink

        Yes. My hope is that when my office reopens I’ll be allowed to continue to work from home. I assume (though perhaps I’m wrong) that most people would prefer to work from home if it’s just about as convenient for getting stuff accomplished as being in the office. There are a lot of advantages in cutting down traffic, need for parking. Buses tend to be jam-packed at rush hour here now (not good for preventing the spread of any kind of infectious disease).

        A lot of trees and greenery along one of the main bike paths here have been destroyed to make way for the coming extension to light rail. I wonder whether this very expensive project will even have been necessary if a large part of the workforce starts working from home.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted April 26, 2020 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

          Yes this has been my recommendation since the internet became robust enough to handle it. Back then 9in the late 90s/early 00s) I took my ideas to HR and had completed research on “telework” as it was known at the time. I was soundly chastised. I was told that I was IT, they were HR and how dare I suggest policies. That was the end of that. I stopped working there many years ago but I’ve had to fight, at even progressive companies, against the idea that if they can’t see you, you aren’t working. It’s some sort of weird Schroedinger’s Cat idea of work. Oddly, staff still deliver their deliverables and often go above and beyond when out of sight but this still doesn’t phase those that are just never going to be convinced that this works. They must be going out of their minds now. I actually said that to the person I report to – that they micro managers must be losing it now.

          • rickflick
            Posted April 26, 2020 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

            micro managers must be losing it now

            There some justice in that. 😎

  45. J Cook
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    My partner and I live in a remote part of Napa county. (Yes there is life beyond wine here) Our nearest neighbor is a quarter mile away. We’ve lived here for 8 years or so and before that in another watershed almost as isolated. so we are use to it and aside for necessary shopping every two weeks or so, life is much the same. Except. We do not have dinner with two different groups we are close to ,one we have known for 30 years or more and the other for twenty. We have had a couple of ‘Zoom’ dinner gatherings which are fun in their way.
    So we are definitely ‘privileged’. Not in the 1% sense or even in the 50% sense but also not in an apartment block in Paris or standing in line somewhere.
    The horror presented to us by the cretin in chief I fear will be nothing compared to what is in store in the shanty towns of the world. I’m thinking of Nairobi, Cairo, Accra, Lagos, J’berg, Khartoum Calcutta, Dhaka and on and on.
    Jerry, you wrote of Michael Moore’s film on Human population. Remember the book called the ‘Population Bomb’ by Paul Ehrlich, published in 1968? He thought that if we don’t get control of ourselves something like this was bound to happen. our population in 1968 was something over 3 billion
    Here we are.
    Our numbers are something we have refused to deal with and now this virus will very probably do it for us.
    When I was born in 1941, human population was about 2 billion, Now we are pushing 8 billion! In one lifetime.
    The pity is this virus will probably exterminate much other life as well.

    • rickflick
      Posted April 25, 2020 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

      “this virus will very probably do it for us”

      Probably not. The virus stands to reduce the world population by, perhaps a million or at worst a few 10s of millions. What’s that compared to 8 billion? The only solution to population growth is some calculus in the minds of human beings. As wealth grows and spreads, people have fewer children. Once this pandemic is over, there will be a time to reassess.

  46. Scott Schaly
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn’t have known this quote if it wasn’t for Steven Colbert. I’m not a very big fantasy fan:
    “I wish it need not have happened in my time” said Frodo.
    “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But it’s not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. “

  47. Oliver S.
    Posted April 25, 2020 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

    I’ve not been a happy camper these days either. Here are my “corona blues” songs by Matt Elliott:

    * The Day After That:

    * Farewell to All we Know:

  48. Hempenstein
    Posted April 26, 2020 at 12:32 am | Permalink

    Keep in mind that in 1918, we didn’t even know what a virus was. Now, we can trace its global spread via its polymorphisms, speculate on vaccine strategies etc.

    Here, by virtue of Lowe’s remaining open, brickwork continues. (It’s worth noting, too, that Winston Churchill dealt with his depression by laying bricks I recommend that over watching that Daily Briefing, something I have yet to do in real time.)

    If anyone should be terminally depressed, it’s my mason. He first met his father when he was 16, spent 5yrs in prison on drug charges, but resolved never to go back and learned masonry. He deals with his issues by laying bricks, too – he doesn’t drink, and quit smoking last year. He has three sons, one of whom is adopted. That one was shot in the knee in some dispute within the last six mos. By some unknown reason he is walking again. His second son is bipolar and has been in the county jail x2 on DUI’s. The third son, ca. 17y/o was born with the umbilical cord around his neck, and is functionally impaired. He has two daughters, one of whom seems fairly normal. The other one is prone to bouts of drinking which happens when she recalls how her boyfriend shot and killed her ex-boyfriend in her bedroom.

    Then, his wife left him for ~5yrs, apparently to pursue a career as a barfly. She returned some yrs ago and was doing somewhat OK until her nephew was murdered on return from voting in the recent primary in VA by his nutjob ex-cop, NASA official neighbor. She apparently hasn’t come back home since the funeral, but called in hysterics tonight while we were working to say that her niece was found dead somewhere this morning.

  49. boudiccadylis
    Posted April 26, 2020 at 1:29 am | Permalink

    I have read the comments on this topic an actually had some really good laughs. For the greatest number all are holding well. I live alone with the exception of a d*g and 9 cats. I have lived this way for more than 50 years. Yet I find the additional confinement onerous. But as my grandmother’s used to say “this too shall pass.”
    For a long time I said I’d lived thru Nixon I could outwait the current disappointment. It is however scarier this time.

  50. alexander
    Posted April 26, 2020 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    I once listened to an interview with a well-known scholar and social commentator who battled his cancer successfully with laughing as much as possible. Laughing also helps to overcome the current crisis. We watch as much as possible any comedy on BBC TV (the eccentricity of the characters is unique in British humor). We also watched “4 Marriages and a Funeral,” yesterday (we have it on disk), you can watch it yearly with the same pleasure. The Trexit of Trump and his cohort during the Friday briefing was also hilarious, but he is becoming a bore, not worth spoiling your day.

  51. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted April 26, 2020 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    certainly a lot longer than the Chief Moron tells us

    I can’t imagine how it is to live in lock down.

    But even if it applied I think some thrives. I listened on a Stephen Colbert video with fellow humorist Trevor Noah and I was surprised to hear that Noah felt suited to the circumstances. Something along the line of ‘I don’t have people telling me to get out while it is still sunny!’ I heart that, sometimes you gain some freedoms when you lose others.

    Re the bleached one, he later dismissed his lethal snake oil ideas as ‘sarcastic’. But i learned today that he repeated the idea the day after at a meeting with NASA head Bridenstine. “After Bridenstine explained how AMBUStat’s device fogs rooms, leaving every surface in the room sterilized, Trump asked whether people could breathe it in. Bridenstine clarified the cleansing occurs without people in the room.”
    [ ]

    Worst President Ever!

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted April 26, 2020 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      Oops, failed html, but it is readable I think so I wont clutter with a re post.

  52. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted April 26, 2020 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    The virus will be with us for a long time, a vaccine isn’t coming any time soon, and palliatives are just that—palliatives (like Tamiflu).

    Yes, the Chief Moron snake oil (and risky) malaria medicine does not seem to give benefit. Same with the more rational hope, remdesivir, according to an inadvertently posted summary of study results [ ].

    On other fronts there is progress. The problem to get information on immunity is that the basic antibody tests are hard to do with enough sensitivity and specificity at the same time (low rate of false negatives and low rate of false positives). Some tests may give 40 % true positives, others think they have, but hasn’t verified, “100 %” [ , ].

    But now a Swedish test from one of our best teams seems to have hit the jackpot in preliminary tests, by taking development time with recognizing antibodies against parts from 2 separate virus proteins [ibid]. “As a researcher, you say that one hundred percent does not exist, but so far the result is good, says Sophia Hober.” Their null is pre-pandemic blood samples, and they have tested several hundreds with few (none!) false results.

    So far the results indicates that covid-19 antibody response associated with recovery is wide spread – at least in Sweden (Stockholm) the China estimates of 2-3 % antibody reaction may be wildly wrong. The next phase is precisely to extend testing and also to work with others to use the increased understanding of antibody response to check if there is immunity as well.

  53. Andrea Kenner
    Posted May 1, 2020 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    My husband and I have stayed in quarantine. Luckily for us, we can both work at home while we’re doing this, and I know that things would be infinitely worse if we couldn’t. My husband’s general health is far worse than mine, and I worry about him.

    My dog and my six cats are my main reasons for staying at home. I have no idea who would care for them if both of us caught the virus and died. The county we live in (Prince George’s) has the highest infection rate in all of Maryland, and our ZIP Code has the highest infection rate in PG County. So we stay home.

    Our walking team is signed up for a walk in South Carolina in October. The walk organizers swear that the walk will proceed as scheduled. I worry that this is not a good idea. We would be staying in a rented house with eight of our friends… also probably not a good idea. I am filled with regret at the thought that we won’t be able to participate in a walk that we’ve been planning for more than a year.

    So, yeah, I would have to say that my mental state is not the greatest. Lately, I’ve been hearing this a lot: “We’re all in the same storm, but we’re in different boats.” Some of us have it way worse than others, but we’re all suffering in one way or another.

    Sighing a huge sigh for having a place to say all of this… Thank you, PCCE!

  54. Posted May 4, 2020 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    I may not be able to find this thread again, so I will post now. I appreciate both the writer’s position and that of Andrew Sullivan, as well. But I am far from there, and appreciation does not necessarily include understanding. I am in Florida, approaching 83, and a widower with a companion living in downtown Manhattan. We are talking three times a day on the phone, and the total talk time gets longer and longer. I am planning to go up before month end for an extended stay “in isolation,” because I don’t want to be separate for two years! (This sort of absence, of course, is not a “life” in terms of what I would like.) But I can’t be depressed, living on a pond across from a golf course, with wildlife constantly around and increasing just like my telephone time. I can sit on my lanai and just listen. It doesn’t hurt that it is mating season, either, so some of the wildlife activity is fascinating, though nothing like the panda coupling that has been on the Internet. There is work to do in my yard, and there is writing to be done. In fact, there is really so much to be done in this so-called “free time,” that there are ways in which I am busier than ever. But that is a relative term. In any event, yes, there is “isolation,” but whatever its potential effect, it can be managed, and “defeated.” For someone fighting depression, I would avoid medicine, and see if some fresh, new, mental gymnastics can be developed. Mine includ sudoku, but be careful. It is addictive. But there are also mental gymnastics in defeating that addiction. Like this post!

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