Strange Times

I started but did not quite finish a post three days ago. Now it is already out of date. What I had to say this morning even is out of date. Last week was five years ago.

The world is on fire but at the same time things still seem like business as usual. It really, really is not business as usual but walking around the neighborhood everything seems the same. I’m walking around the neighborhood a lot right now – as are my neighbors it seems – in part because the idea of restrictions on my ability to move freely makes me panic stricken, and in part because the news is nothing but anxiety inducing and I have to make myself step away.

It’s hard to know what to worry about more, the virus itself or the extraordinary economic fallout that will ensue from its spread. As a young(ish), healthy, well paid attorney who lives well beneath her means, the odds are stacked fairly well in my favor to survive both disasters but many others I care about will not do so well.

Much has and will be written about the appalling response by the White House in reacting to COVID-19. In the interests of brevity, let’s just say; Hillary Clinton never would have let it get this bad.

The situation in Tampa today (this morning) was this. We are not under a quarantine or “shelter in place” order here. Yet. Bars, gyms, pools, any kinds of gathering places shut down yesterday. Restaurants can stay open at 50% capacity but most have either fully closed or switched entirely to a pick up or delivery model. We are all supposed to stay 6 ft away from each other and not congregate in groups larger than 10 people. The local beaches were all open this morning but by this afternoon, the Tampa beaches closed. In truth, that wouldn’t usually matter much since the Tampa beaches are vastly inferior to the Gulf side beaches in Clearwater and St Petersburg. No one I know has ever actually swum at a Tampa side beach. Unfortunately this closure also affects the parking lots where one of the main bike trails goes by. I actually parked and rode there this morning thinking that I would be able to handle this situation for months so long as I could keep getting out on my bike.

A few hours later, the Clearwater City council voted to close Clearwater Beach – but not until Monday. Clearwater (Florida really) earned the wrath and scorn of the nation when footage of hordes of spring breakers enjoying the beach was circulated to the national news media. As a result, today the 10 person rule was being actively policed and there were far fewer people on the beach. The damage however was already done. Fortunately, the beaches south of there remain open for now.

In the moral panic that has swelled with every passing day, being on the beach seems to have now become a reprehensible act of irresponsibility and disregard for society. I remain unconvinced about the level of risk in this situation. I would get swiftly shamed on social media for saying that but here’s my thinking. Virtually all beach goers are in groups of family or friends to whom they are already exposed. People are not within such close proximity of strangers. Even our most crowded beaches are not that crowded. Nothing I have seen from any legitimate infectious disease expert supports this scenario being more risky for transmission of the virus than going to the grocery store. I fully accept that we need to make sacrifices but I’m not going to just go along with things without seeing some evidence to support them. (Also, if it is truly so risky being at a public beach then why is it not shut down until Monday?) Partying college kids who are unconcerned about the virus will just go party somewhere else, likely indoors, and possibly infect more people than if they were on the beach. When I was that age, being told we couldn’t do something just meant we did it somewhere else with even more gusto. (Actually, I may still incline this way.) While Millenials generally are a fairly sissy group, (definitely are not the generation of underground raves in abandoned warehouses that we Gen Xers were – missing out!) I’m pretty sure they can still manage to organize an out of control house party with no social distancing.

If truth is the first casualty of war, logic may be the first casualty of pandemic. (Cue toilet paper panic.)

Which leads me to my last thought of the day. I’m worried about our civil liberties. Most of America’s worst abuses have happened in times of crises. I think we are going to see things happening we never thought possible.

I’m planing to document this strange new reality here. It might be a long, ugly one, friends.

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