We fucked around with covid, now wear a mask

Let’s talk. We’re at a crossroads. Not a politician-speak “crossroads” used to pretty up a speech but meaning precious little in real life. We’re at a serious fork in the road.

Do we want to be a country that gets its ass kicked by coronavirus?

Or do we want to be a country that met the moment, that rose to the challenge, that looked the possibility of true American carnage in the face, and won.

Because right now we’re getting our ass kicked.

While some countries in Asia and Europe got hit with the pandemic a little before us and are now emerging well from a 1st Wave, we collectively decided to act like bunch of morons, throwing gasoline on a fire that was not yet extinguished.

You’ve probably seen some media coverage of the recent spike in new COVID-19 cases. That’s true, cases are trending upward:

Visual credit: New York Times

Maybe you’re hearing, “oh, it’s just because we’re testing more…which means we’re catching more asymptomatic cases.” We are testing more, which is a good thing, no matter what the author of the Emptysburg Address, Cheetoh Jesus of House Small Hands, says about it. But more testing doesn’t explain this spike.

Getting to why that’s happening goes deeper than just our experience here in the United States. Let’s discuss some context first.

Among the countries who took on coronavirus most successfully so far, there is a clear trend in their curves, including driving down active cases after an initial burst. Some examples:

  1. Germany was in the heart of some of the worst outbreaks in Europe, next to Italy, France, Belguim, et. al. With aggressive, early, and widespread testing to find cases early and limit community spread (thus lowering their death rate) they bent their curve down:

2) In nearby Austria, bordering northern Italy where the explosion of the pandemic first jarred the world’s consciousnesses, they acted quickly and are one of the best national responses in hard hit Western & Central Europe:

3) Speaking of Italy, let’s see how they did after taking it on the chin thanks to China’s delay in telling the truth to the world:

Impressive given how horrifically the outbreak raged for weeks there.

4) Now let’s talk about one of the best coronavirus responses in the world, Vietnam, on the border with China:

Source: worldometers.info

The graph almost understates the scope of their success. As of June 24, they had a mere 352 cases and a stunning *zero* deaths from COVID-19.

Before we explore how these countries succeeded, let’s check on our own efforts to bend the curve compared to these success stories:

Source: worldometers.info


Worried about a 2nd Wave, as is common in such global pandemics? Don’t worry. We’re still fanning the flames of the first one.

How? People not taking coronavirus seriously, especially younger people in states not previously hard it. Among the mostly southern states spiking sharply now:

Ah, well, but young people don’t really get serious cases so things must be ok still, right?

Nope. Behold, one of the largest hospital clusters in American health care, in our nation’s 4th largest city, on the brink:

Circumstances are similar in other parts of Arizona, Florida, and Texas…and growing worse in a host of localities in the South and West previously less impacted by coronavirus (scroll down for state-by-state charts here).

Why? Communal indifference because the pandemic never seemed that real locally before. The younger crowd buying into the myth they don’t need to worry about COVID-19 (they should, including about the long-term health impacts on many who recover). And masks. Masks because in southern climates increasingly hot weather means more congregating indoors with AC.

One of the lessons of both the 1918 Influenza Pandemic that killed 50-100 million (!) people globally and this pandemic thus far is congregate gatherings indoors, without masks, are the highest risk environments. Conversely, outdoor environments with masks are much less problematic:

Remember those countries that handled things well in 2020 so far? Let’s talk about them, and their use of masks:

  • Vietnam was one of the first nations to mandate masks in public, on March 16, when the US was still largely gazing at its navel…and people in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, etc. (places that avoided major outbreaks) had already proactively masked up without government directives based on the population’s previous experience with infectious diseases in the Far East
  • Austria was one of the first major countries in Europe to mask up, making them mandatory in public spaces on April 6
  • Germany came later, requiring it on public transpiration and while shopping as of April 22, which paired with its superior testing regime (2nd only to South Korea) clearly did the job

Meanwhile, months later — and a century after the 1918 pandemic made masking common — we’re having one of the dumbest tribal debates in our political history about masks while coronavirus burns.

Do you want the economy to open up more? Wear a mask.

Do you want sports to come back? Wear a mask.

Do you want your kids to go back to school? Wear a mask.

Do you want to avoid going back into stay-at-home orders? Wear a mask.

That’s the reality of our world until we have a widely available vaccine and/or find a highly effective therapeutic treatment.

Because right now as the flames of the pandemic grow in the South and West they’re likely at the place the DC-Philly-NYC-Boston corridor was in late March/early April: just beginning a weeks-long burn that will be painful in lives lost, economic activity, and our ability to live life with even partial normalcy.

I’m reminded of a poignant moment in one of the great speeches during these troubled times, from the Queen of England:

I hope in the years to come, everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge. And those who come after us will say the Britons of this generation were as strong as any.

“As strong as any”…says the women whose family stood strong in London during the Blitz, refusing to flee to safer ground as England stood alone against Nazi Germany in 1940.

Generations of Americans have faced infinitely tougher challenges than today: the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, and the still long, simmering battle to end slavery and achieve racial equality are but some highlights.

Change is hard. Forced changed is harder. Many that fought in our counties greatest challenges didn’t choose that battle, but they met the moment.

Going to war for your country isn’t easy.

Clawing your way back from economic ruin isn’t easy.

Transforming society isn’t easy.

Wearing a mask is.

Shut up and wear it already. The alternative is a raging, deadly pandemic *and* another Great Depression.

Or as the Queen said: “the pride in who we are is not a part of our past, it defines our present and our future.”

Show some pride in our country. Fight for it.

Take coronavirus seriously…and wear a damn mask.

Uncomfortable Thought: the Police are Lying

What did the police say happened here? Keep reading.

Yes, I said “the police are lying.” It doesn’t mean all cops are liars. What it does mean is that in *far* too many incidents involving police misbehavior the public gets a spin job at best…and a steaming pile of bullshit at worst.

Maybe you clicked on the headline because you agree, maybe because you’re curious, maybe because you rage clicked. Whatever the reason, let’s discuss some recent, very public events that illustrate the problem. Try to keep an open mind.

First we have the case of George Floyd. We know what happened there, the cops killed a man. After one cop knelt on Floyd’s neck until he died while three other cops did nothing but aid in the murder and yell threats of violence at bystanders begging them to stop:

  • Those cops filed false reports that inaccurately described what happened
  • The Department public information officer was spinning the media to excuse away what happened based on those false reports
  • It was only when video became public the story fell apart, and shit hit the fan

Second, you’ve probably seen the equally horrific incident in Buffalo where an elderly man was pushed to the ground, left motionless and bleeding:

Well, funny thing, the Buffalo Police Department quickly started doing police department things, claiming the man “tripped and fell.”

Just like George Floyd though, the story fell apart because of video evidence, in this case immediately made public via an accredited media outlet. So the shit hit the fan quicker, including a rapid statement from the Mayor that included prompt accountability for the officers involved:

Of course, a good case of police violence or misbehavior isn’t complete without a police union earnestly insisting everything is a-ok. Watch the video then read the statement below, and then you get a pretty good idea why police unions might be a problem here:

Lest we think this is just a one-off problem with one police union, let’s go back to the Minneapolis Police Department and read a couple excerpts from that above-linked New York Times coverage:

Not exactly a strong culture of accountability there. Let’s check to see if the head of police union is however a bulwark of upstanding police work in the community:


While we think about that, let’s move on to Philadelphia, where we shall stipulate a headline that sorts with “‘Police just went nuts…'” might not be off to exactly the best start for the cops.

Here’s video of cops beating the shit out of peaceful protesters:

The Philadelphia Police Department’s motto is “Honor, Integrity, Service”…and…um…not great, Bob.

Now here’s the even bigger problem; once again, it took publicly available video to free one of the victim’s of that beating from jail:

A Temple University student arrested during protests Monday was released from custody Wednesday after video surfaced of one police officer striking him in the head with a baton and another using his knee to pin the student’s face to the street.

Prosecutors dismissed the charges against Evan Gorski, 21, an engineering student, after viewing the YouTube and Twitter videos, according to his attorney, R. Emmett Madden.

Now imagine if there wasn’t video. Imagine if it was simply a he said, he said scenario. Because that’s exactly what was happening otherwise:

“The police were lying,” Madden said. “We had a protest against police brutality, and then police brutalize my client and try to frame him for a crime he didn’t commit.”

“The police were lying.”

Now, thanks to the video, Philadelphia Police Inspector Joseph Bologna – I know, I know, the writers of 2020 are really outdoing themselves – is being charged with aggravated assault.

Lastly, let’s talk about this clip, which speaks for itself. Watch it:

In case there is any confusion, the media have a legal right to report on protests, including after official curfews. This is far from the first accredited journalist attacked by police while doing their jobs under the First Amendment in recent days. You can find more examples in this running thread I have going of police violence during peaceful protests.

Back to the Australian journalists getting a roughed up. Here’s what the police union had to say:

“May have fallen”? Did they trip over the elderly man in Buffalo who got knocked on his ass? They got cold-cocked!

Let’s even set aside the claims of “violent protesters” in a “very dangerous area” since multiple journalists from multiple news outlets reported otherwise (it being a protest outside the White Hose that attracted a lot of media) and video evidence also supports. Yet again, the publicly available video promptly destroys the spin:

Now, the issue of how to change police culture and improve police accountability is complicated. That conversation is going to be happening at every level of government across the country in coming weeks. For now, just consider this:

What in the hell would have happened in these cases if there was no video?

That’s, uh, unsettling.

Now consider: these cases are just a few I found observing events in the last couple weeks. The last three examples occurred in a time when any police officer with a brain had to presume at minimum they’re subject to cell phone footage, let alone a journalist nearby in a widely-covered protest environment.

Which begs the more troubling question: what in the fuck has been going on in police departments across this country in months and years and decades gone by when the cameras weren’t watching?

Are all cops bad? No. Is the culture of all police departments hopelessly irredeemable? No. And yet we are getting slapped in the face especially hard the last couple weeks with facts showing the institutional rot is real and something needs to change.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers on the police reforms we need, let alone as it varies across federal, state, and local levels of government. But, I know they’re necessary.

And I know many of us who for a long time were led to believe the police were invariably deserving of our trust can either keep believing that, or we can acknowledge the steady stream of evidence telling us otherwise.

I hope more police departments will be deserving of reflexive trust in the future. But that’s not where we’re at today.

Bring on the reform debate. It’s needed. Now.