Posts Tagged ‘social distancing’

Today, I married my sister.

I’ve been to many weddings, a good few more than you, I’d wager. As a musician, I’ve been to scores, suffering through endless repetitions of Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major. As a groomsman, I’ve been to a handful, often a bit green in the gills, sweating vodka and swaying with my fellows in a shared hangover that hung around us like a fog. As a guest, there have been at least a dozen, some where I just sat and enjoyed the spectacle of hope, and others where I read remarks, made a toast, or simply helped with setup and tear-down. My sister and I were in a wedding before—my first—with me as groom and her as bridesmaid. (more…)

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My intention, this week, was to find something good about our current situation, a silver lining, if you will. I figured we could all use something hopeful, a spot of calm in troubled times, but then a series of quotes from Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) crossed my desk and I got completely derailed.

Regarding the House bill offering federally funded paid sick leave, Senator Johnson felt that:

“[This could lead to] incentivizing people to not show up for work . . . we have to keep things in perspective and we got to keep our economy.” (source)

Regarding the media reportage of COVID-19, his opinion is:

“COVID-19 [is] obviously devastating to somewhere between 1 and 3.4 percent of the population. But that means 97 to 99 percent will get through this and develop immunities and will be able to move beyond this. But we don’t shut down our economy because tens of thousands of people die on the highways. It’s a risk we accept so we can move about. We don’t shut down our economies because tens of thousands of people die from the common flu.” (source)

I don’t say this often, and I don’t say it lightly, but I say it now and I sincerely mean it:

Senator Ron Johnson: Fuck You.

First, your opinion of Americans and our work ethic is appalling, and in complete contradiction to facts on the ground. The American worker has been steadily increasing productivity for decades, while real wage growth has been flat. We have a fair portion (8%, in 2013, according to the Census Bureau) who work more than one job, a figure the “gig economy” has only made worse. And while every population has a segment that would shirk, if given the chance, America has the fifth highest productivity level in the world. I wonder that your hard-working Wisconsin constituency doesn’t take this as a direct insult to their character.

Second, while you are correct in that COVID-19 only kills 1–3.4% of its victims, let’s put that into perspective. It’s a good bit higher than the “tens of thousands” who die of flu or in traffic accidents. In fact, as experts predict, if we see a 70% infection rate in this country, that’s 150 million people with the flu. At a one-percent mortality rate, that’s 1.5 million deaths. That’s almost more than all the people who die of the flu, accidents, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease combined.

Please explain to me how we’re going to “keep our economy” without interruption or effect when half of us are laid up with COVID-19. Please explain to me why this is “a risk we accept so we can move about,” when these deaths are not just numbers on a page, but our spouses, partners, parents, and children. Please explain how your intentional downplaying of the dangers, the risks, and the tragedy that comes with your failure to act helps us “to keep things in perspective.”

Senator Ron Johnson, do us all a favor: Sit down and shut the fuck up.



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This is a time for heroes, a time for us all to be heroes. And we can be. We can be heroes.


Work from home (if you can).
Postpone gatherings.
Keep social distance.
Don’t travel.
Wash your hands.

For some, these recommendations seem ineffective, and government actions like closing borders, shutting schools, and banning events seem like panic or media hype or massive overreaction. Others complain that these restrictions are completely impotent in the face of COVID-19’s spread, and if they’re not going to stop it, why bother?

No one says that these recommendations will stop the spread of COVID-19, and we’re well past the point where containment strategies are effective. What these guidelines are trying to do, though, is mitigate the spread, slow it down, and give us time to prepare.

COVID-19 is spreading, and it’s doing so exponentially. Millions of Americans will get this virus, possibly over 100 million. Of those millions, while most cases will be mild, about 15–20% will require care, and if all of those come in a clump, they will exceed our capacity to assist them.

Check out the graph above or the article from which it was taken. The tall red blob and the flatter blue blob represent the same number of cases, but over different timespans. The red blob caseload rises fast and quickly overwhelms the capacity of our healthcare system. The blue blob is what the same number of cases looks like if we all work together and adopt these mitigation strategies: we slow the advance and keep the caseload to a level that we can handle, which means fewer people die.

And that’s the bottom line: when the disease caseload overtops our capacity to care for the sick, people die who don’t have to.

By adopting these mitigation strategies, we save lives. It could be a friend or a co-worker, the elderly neighbor, your nana, your spouse, or you.

We need time, time to make masks, find supportive strategies, understand the virus better, and develop a vaccine, but most of all, we need time so the tsunami that’s heading towards us can flatten out and not inundate us all.

So put on your cape.

It’s time to be a hero.



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