April 20 – I can’t prove it, but vehicular traffic in Evansville seems to be ticking up. On the other hand, when I glance at the sky, I cannot spot a contrail. Anywhere.
April 21 – I watch the film Outbreak on Netflix, in which a star-studded cast does battle with a virus with a 100% mortality rate. This inept, hyperbolic film in no way resembles the current international experience of COVID-19. In the film, the military is heavily involved (beginning but by no means ending with helicopters and explosives) and the CDC appears to be extremely well-funded.
April 22 – All the employees at Schnucks grocery store wear masks, but not (as I have discovered) while working in the back room of the deli. Meanwhile, almost no one at Lowe’s wears a mask, not employees, and certainly not the (very at-risk) men who shop there. Meanwhile, Aldi has set out a small box of hand sanitizer in the household aisle. I watch as a woman plucks two and adds them to her cart. Then, at the registers, two other customers ahead of me try to purchase that same sanitizer product, but it won’t ring up. A manager appears, explaining that the box had been set out by mistake; this was a supply intended for the store itself, for employees, and the computerized register is unable to sell it because it had never been entered into inventory. The bar code is, in effect, unrecognizable. The frustration on the woman’s face ahead of me in line is impossible to miss––even six feet away, buried by a mask.
April 22 – Reuters news agency reports that HHS Secretary Alex Azar’s choice to lead the daily HHS pandemic response, starting on January 21st, was and is Texas businessman Brian Harrison. Harrison has zero background in public health or medicine. He does have extensive White House experience, dating back to the Bush Administration. More amusingly, and as Reuters is quick to point out, Harrison’s “personal financial disclosure forms show that from 2012 until 2018 he ran a company called Dallas Labradoodles.” The internet is delighted, and harsh.
April 23 – Still no contrails.
April 24 – Trump does his best to distance himself from remarks made the previous day, in which he suggested that doctors would be looking into defeating the coronavirus with internal applications of ultraviolet light. His further suggestion that medical labs should study the efficacy of injecting disinfectants has kept the internet in stitches for forty-eight hours straight.
April 25 – I give my first COVID haircut, and my youngest seems pleased with the results. Nationally, both new cases and deaths from the virus tick slightly upward after a week of slowly leveling off. Also, my azaleas have begun leaving cryptic messages.
April 26 – No member of this household has received a CARES Act stimulus check.
April 26 – As of this evening, the Johns Hopkins virus tracker confirms 963,168 cases of coronavirus in the U.S., along with upwards of 54,530 deaths. This tops the number of U.S. troops killed in World War I. Indiana now has 15,000+ cases. Vanderburgh County has 115 cases of coronavirus confirmed, with only one local fatality plus fourteen across the border in neighboring Warrick County. Also in Vanderburgh County: slightly more than 4,000 coronavirus tests have been administered, out of a county population of about 181,000. The translation: with COVID-19 a clear threat since early March, we have managed to test a mere 2.2% of this county’s population.
April 27 – Sunny blue skies. Precisely one contrail all day.
April 28 – The University of Evansville announces they will furlough one hundred administrators and staff. Everyone on faculty is asked to take at least a five percent pay cut, effective immediately. The expectation is that this pay cut will be built into the contracts for next year, which come due in May. For those who don’t know, UE employs my wife, Diane, and provides our primary paycheck. Meanwhile, our next-door neighbors are hosting a back-yard party. Nobody is wearing a mask, or maintaining distance. New Hampshire jumps to mind, “Live Free or Die.” Or both.
April 30 – On this week’s multi-family shop, one of the clear plastic “sneeze guards” at the grocery check-out falls off as I approach the register. Turns out, it was held in place with nothing but caulking.
April 30 – My family’s CARES Act stimulus checks arrive via direct deposit. Due to workplace pay cuts and the real possibility of worse to come, Diane and I are walking back our declared decision to spend this money on local restaurants, non-profits, and arts organizations. That may yet happen, but for now, this is money we will save for a rainy day––and this is ironic, since it’s the exact opposite of what the government hopes we will do with these funds.
April 30 – Federal “distancing guidelines” expire, with no plans to renew.
May 1 – Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb announces the state’s plan to re-open, with specific target dates for specific industries and gathering types. Both new cases and additional deaths continue to rise rapidly statewide.
May 2 – For family movie night, we watch Donnie Darko. “I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take; when people run in circles it’s a very, very…mad world.”
May 3 – As of this evening, the Johns Hopkins virus tracker confirms 1.15 million cases of coronavirus in the U.S., along with upwards of 67,451 deaths. This tops the number of U.S. troops killed in the Vietnam War by a wide margin. Indiana now has 20,200+ cases. Vanderburgh County has 151 cases of coronavirus confirmed, still with only one local fatality. Neighboring Warrick County has seen sixteen COVID-19 fatalities, mostly confined to one nursing home. Not long ago, federal guidelines for re-opening recommended that a given state’s caseload must first drop over a fourteen-day period. With 645 new confirmed cases just today, Indiana’s numbers are unequivocally rising.
May 4 – An email in my inbox reads, “Due to the uncertainty surrounding CANvention because of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing mandates, online CANvention registration is being postponed.”
May 5 – Diane and I submit requests for absentee ballots for Indiana’s upcoming primary, moved (already) from, ironically, today to June 2nd.
May 5 – The White House floats the possibility of disbanding the federal coronavirus response team (an idea I suspect they will walk back in short order).
May 6 – The White House walks back the notion of disbanding the federal coronavirus response team. I embark on a career as a tarot card reader.
May 7 – Shopping in the grocery store, where 80% wear masks of some type, I come across a woman in her late forties and her college-age son. She’s wearing her mask properly. He is wearing his mask so that it only covers his mouth. Useless.
May 8 – My first visit to the post office since early March. How will my large packages get past the sneeze shields? Easy: the sneeze shields are mobile, so they simply get placed on the floor for the duration of my transaction. Are the clerks wearing masks? Not one.
May 8 – The coronavirus takes Roy, but leaves Siegfried.
May 9 – Michelle Goldberg, in the New York Times, writes, “The president of the United States and much of the Republican Party are signaling that all this [economic] suffering is unnecessary, a prim sort of virtue signaling.” The term “virtue signaling” is, of course, a pejorative. But I wonder, when does virtue signaling conflate perfectly with doing what is ethically and medically correct?
May 9 – Krista W., one of Diane’s former students and also (back in the day) one of our go-to baby sitters, sends along two home-made masks. Now I can stop using my jury-rigged bandana and join the fashionistas.
May 10 – “Look, Ma! No contrails! Again!”
May 10 – As of this evening, the Johns Hopkins virus tracker confirms 1.33 million cases of coronavirus in the U.S., along with upwards of 79,500 deaths.
May 11 – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sets up a timeline to re-open various regions of his state. Plans to return our older boy to Rochester rapidly evolve from Cuomo’s announcement. There’s no question that he wants to go. The question is, when? And under what conditions? And how to achieve this safely?
May 12 – I bring one of our bicycles to the bike shop for repair. The bike shop has been declared an “essential business,” and so must remain open. In the time I spend there, I note two other customers. Both, like me, wear masks. Not one of the six bike shop employees wears a mask. Is it their essential business to put their customers at risk?
May 14 – Multi-family shopping continues. Limited TP, no rubbing alcohol, no hand sanitizer, limited meat. The store is deserted. I ask the lone cashier, “Where is everyone?” She says, looking overjoyed to be having an actual conversation, “Ever since the restaurants opened on Monday, nobody’s here. I mean, I knew we were getting slammed before, but now it’s so clear. Everyone got tired of cooking.”
May 14 – The Washington Post reports, “Michael Bowen, an executive at a surgical mask manufacturer in Texas, took the stand Thursday afternoon and told Congress that the government had known for years that it had not stockpiled enough masks to confront a pandemic. Bowen’s opening remarks detailed warnings that he said he had delivered since the administration of George W. Bush, when most mask manufacturing moved overseas.” If I may offer my interpretation: in the name of personal freedoms, the citizens of this nation keep “voting their pocketbook” to keep taxes low. Want a recipe for how to keep the rich rich and the poor poor? This is it.
May 15 – Holiday World, this region’s premiere theme park, announces it will open “at 50% capacity” in June. I cannot even imagine. I’ve been there on “off” days, with crowds below 50%, but as with every amusement park, there are choke points, beginning but by no means ending with the restrooms.
May 16 – Bike ride to Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve. Most picnic shelters are occupied, some with groups far too large to be a family unit, and nobody––not one, anywhere––wears a mask. The recycling center is open. The sand volleyball courts are open. The tennis courts remain padlocked.
May 17 – It’s migratory bird season. My backyard count for the past 36 hours includes yellow, Nashville, and magnolia warblers, also two black-throated green warblers. Cedar waxwings and a great crested flycatcher both made cameo appearances. Fact: migratory birds are dying off because of habitat loss plus feral house cats. No wonder the flycatcher gave me a critical look when I spotted it, as though to say, “See ya’ next year––maybe.” The birds are cheering for the virus.
May 17 – As of this evening, the Johns Hopkins virus tracker confirms 1.48 million cases of coronavirus in the U.S., along with upwards of 89,500 deaths (an increase of 10,000 since last week). Vanderburgh County has identified 209 cases, with another 151 from neighboring Warrick County. 27 have died between the two counties, 25 of those in Warrick, most of those related to one nursing home cluster. My older son’s girlfriend’s sister has now tested positive.
May 18 – We had a dove nesting in the juniper outside the kitchen window. Now all that’s left is feathers. I suspect an owl, but it could have been any bird of prey. I count my blessings anew; even in a pandemic world, I don’t have to fret about owls.
May 19 – Yesterday’s announcement from Moderna that initial tests on a vaccine have proceeded successfully and without serious side effects prompted optimism, and caution. The road will still be long.
May 20 – My weekly shopping expedition provides proof positive that road traffic in Evansville has returned to normal.
May 21 – I am increasingly aware that as we make family choices about how we will participate in our state’s “re-opening,” I find myself using one term more and more frequently to describe otherwise mundane spaces like corridors, staircases, elevators, and restrooms, and that term is “choke points.”
May 22 – Diane and I engage in a face-to-face happy hour with our friends from across the street. We plunk lawn chairs in the vacant lot, grassy and verdant, and socialize over cheap Pinot Grigio for a solid two hours. The sun sets; the chimney swifts give way to bats; the stars wink through gaps of ragged cloud. A mosquito-free night, with approximately ten feet of social distance between our two respective households. Mission accomplished.
May 24 – Photos circulate throughout social media showing crowded weekend pool parties and packed Indiana Dunes beaches. Meanwhile, a meme circulates on the right showing a man covered in plaster dust after sanding down drywall. The dust on his face mimics the pattern of the mask he was wearing during the work. The question the meme asks: if this is the best a mask can do against dust, what hope does it have against a virus? My answer: 100% efficacy is not now and never was the point.
May 26 – I finally hear from my Brazilian friend, an emergency room doctor. He’s alive and well, but concerned. In the nearest large city to where he lives, hospitals have begun turning people away. His E.R. could be next.
May 27 – Selling beer cans to distant strangers requires trips to the post office, one a week maximum thanks to COVID-19. Mask-wearing among employees: 1 out of 3. Mask-wearing among customers: 4 out of 12. Who would have guessed, one-third each? On the way out to the car, a sizable black spider appears on the bridge of my mask. It crawls across my field of vision as I hastily untie the mask and drop it on my lap. Possibly a black widow? They do live around here, and I’ve found them before. In this case, I flick the eight-legged trespasser out the door before taking the time to check its belly for a scarlet hourglass. Unexpected Mask-Wearing Hazard #47: spiders.
May 27 – The public outcry over the murder of Minnesota resident George Floyd carries with it the rage and disappointment over other recent murders of African-Americans in Georgia, Louisville, and Indianapolis. President Trump ignores all of this in favor of picking a fight with Twitter, threatening to “strongly regulate, or close them down” after Twitter slaps a fact-check label/link on Trump’s tweets in which he claims that mail-in ballots (the same kind that he himself makes use of) are inherently fraudulent.
May 28 – We reach 100,000+ U.S. casualties due to the novel coronavirus. We hit this landmark as a great many experts testify that our present numbers probably represent an undercount. Given that all vaccine trials are still in their infancy, this number will surely grow. By how much? I predict a minimum of 200,000 by year’s end.
May 29 – Outdoor tennis courts in the city of Evansville have re-opened. My youngest plays an informal match for the time since late March.
May 29 – I visit Parlor Doughnuts for the first time. All Parlor employees are masked. None of the customers, except for me, wear a mask. None seem invested in maintaining social distance, and there are easily twelve of them. My takeaway: people who love doughnuts have no regard for their overall health. This does not strike me as news.
May 30 – Former police officer Derek Chauvin is charged with third degree murder in the death of George Floyd. The arrest comes days too late to stem a tide of rising protests and unrest. Social media morphs into a fraught admixture of social litmus tests and (as always) cat memes.
May 31 – As of this evening, the Johns Hopkins virus tracker confirms 1.48 million cases of coronavirus in the U.S., along with upwards of 89,500 deaths (an increase of 10,000 since last week). Vanderburgh County has identified 209 cases, with another 151 from neighboring Warrick County.
June 1 – Trump and Attorney General William Barr clear protestors by force in order to create a photo op in front of a church. The protests have gone global.
June 2 – #blacklivesmatter has subsumed the pandemic narrative.
June 3 – The contrails are back.
June 4 – Much of the day is spent preparing to return our eldest to R.I.T. Is this a wise decision? When will we see him again, without either a quarantine period or a vaccine?
June 5 – I arrive in Rochester, by way of my parents in Columbus. Backyard social distancing on a hot summer’s day. Climate change with refreshments and libations. More driving follows. Rochester’s curfew looms.
June 6 – Grocery shopping in Rochester (West Henrietta) is very relaxing. Everybody, bar none, wears a mask. A sign on the door on the way in reminds shoppers that to not wear a mask violates New York state law.
June 7 – A free COVID test for my eldest, courtesy of New York State. Results to follow shortly.
June 9 – The U.S. surpasses 2 million known cases. Thanks to ongoing nationwide protests, the state of New York appears ready to repeal the law known as 50-A, which allows NY police forces to keep complaints against officers from being made public. #blacklivesmatter.
June 10 – Brazil surges above 700,000 known cases. I begin reading Elizabeth Kolbert’s hilarious New Yorker piece on how Iceland has been dealing with the coronavirus.
June 11 – Mask usage at Aldi and CVS is 50% at best. Multiple people wear their masks so they don’t cover their noses. Arizona, Texas, and Florida are now considered to be hot spots.
June 13 – It is not easy for parents to work with their children to decide what is best, and what is safe, and what is right in order to protect others. It is our personal experience in this household that this conversation does not get easier over time.
June 14 – 115,000+ have died in the U.S. from coronavirus so far. Many experts are predicting a severe second wave, but the nation has largely returned to its usual way of doing business. Our local “climbing gym” opens tomorrow. Another unarmed black man was shot and killed Friday night, this time in Atlanta. Ill-equipped, with an election in the offing, we face two pandemics at least, and as if that isn’t enough, climate change rears its head; worldwide, this was the second-hottest month of May in recorded history.
June 14 – Diane and I allow our youngest to play an outdoor soccer scrimmage, after providing a long list of “thou shalt nots” and consulting Evansville’s current caseload, which is exceptionally low.
June 15 – My youngest continues his socially distant gig as a tennis instructor for another boy four years his junior. They remain on opposite sides of the net at all times.
June 15 – I get round three of Shingrix, the shingles vaccine. That night is sleepless and miserable, as expected. Fever dreams insist I have COVID-19, but the truth is simpler, more causal: the shingles vaccine kicks like a mule.
June 16 – A trip to the local Barnes & Noble, where mask use seems predicated on the idea that the human nose is not connected to the human mouth and throat. Two senior citizens wear their masks around their necks, in an apparent attempt to protect themselves from ring-around-the-collar.
June 17 – Premiere League soccer returns, playing to empty stadiums. The jerseys are being put to good use, with players’ names replaced by the words “Black Lives Matter.” Will U.S. sports leagues take note?
June 18 – At about 3:20 pm, I receive a text: “I am assuming that you heard X tested positive for COVID-19?” I had heard no such thing. A flurry of texts and calls reveals that one of our younger son’s soccer player friends ignored symptoms leading up to the past Sunday’s scrimmage, and that everyone who played in that game is now at risk and in need of testing. At no point do the parents of the infected boy reach out directly, or deputize anyone to do so on their behalf. All information is third-hand. I call the pediatrician to see what they advise. They take my information, and do not call back. My son has to cancel his tennis coaching.
June 19, Part One – Bright and early, and having not heard from the pediatrician, I call my own doctor, who has a COVID testing site right outside his office door, a semi-permanent tent-and-trailer erected in their parking lot––but apparently, it’s not available for anyone in my family, although no one will explain why. My phone nurse takes my information, and promises to call back. I proceed on my own to contact LHI, a company that the state of Indiana has hired to conduct testing. I get all three of us signed up for testing, but the site is all the way in Princeton, Indiana, nearly an hour away, and won’t happen until 6:30 in the evening. Results will appear…when? Meanwhile, a second call to my pediatrician leads to a request that we quarantine for seven days, not for fourteen (which I thought was a national standard), followed by a recommendation that we not bother with an actual test unless someone shows symptoms. Then, at 2:30 in the afternoon, my doctor’s office calls back and kindly offers to get both me and Diane tested at the trailer clinic on their doorstep, despite the fact that we are not symptomatic, and completely contradicting what they said in the morning. But, they will not schedule our son, since he is not their particular patient––even though our doctor and our son’s doctor work under the same umbrella health network, Deaconess. I decline the offer, and say we’ll stick with LHI. The phone nurse sounds oddly disappointed.
June 19, Part Two – At the moment we would normally be eating dinner, we instead pile into the car and drive to Princeton. The test site is in the multi-purpose building of the Gibson County Fairgrounds. Folding chairs, folding tables, a scattering of each. Three nurses in scrubs the color old wine occupy the otherwise deserted building. The nurse who does our check-in is completely surrounded by Plexiglas shields. Taped-up signs read, “For the sake privacy, please do not take pictures.” Each of us gets processed according to a specific patient number. Our youngest goes first. He follows blue arrows on the floor to a second table, carrying his test kit with him, and lowers his mask as and when directed. The nurse jams a long wooden cue tip up his nostrils, first one, then the other. He staggers away, eyes welling, looking as if he’s just banked into a wall head-first. When my turn comes, the nurse says, with the swab already up my nose, “We know it’s been in there long enough when you start to cry.” The crying part is not optional; it’s as automatic a response as yawning when tired. As we leave, we discover another person has arrived for their appointment. They aren’t even let in the building until we’ve been ushered out the back.
June 20 – We get on with life. “From a Distance.”
June 21 – Father’s Day, Part One. We wait. No matter what, our quarantine will continue. People tested on the fifth day after exposure return test results that provide 38% false negatives, so what are we supposed to do? Head off to the next group event, or perhaps grocery shop, with only 62% confidence that we’re hale, hearty, and non-communicable? How does this play out in a large office environment, or through the course of an upcoming school year? With such unreliable testing, a single positive in any large group will send everyone in range scrambling for cover for two weeks. Talk about shuttering the economy. Let’s also talk about privilege (again): my family can afford to quarantine, because we can work from home. But how does the probability of a false negative impact someone who must work a cash register or hold down a factory job? It strikes me that this is moral calculus that cannot be solved. As the virus spreads through the population––as it touches more of us each week, each day––does each household make, as our family does now, a full-scale retreat into hibernation every time a potential vector point arises?
June 22 – Just as I switch off the computer and head to bed, the results appear on my email. I download the relevant pdf files. Negative, negative, negative. The odds are, given our minimal point of contact, that these results are true, and we really aren’t infected. Unfortunately, the stats, grim like stones, remain; one of the three of us likely returned a false negative.
June 23 – My family and I debate the meaning of meaningless test results.
June 24 – The Tulsa fire department reports that the total attendance in that city for Trump’s weekend rally topped out at 6,200. The arena’s capacity is approximately l9,000. K-Pop fans, in combination with Tik-Tok users, take credit. Among the recent performers to sell every seat in that same venue: the Wiggles.
June 25 – Record high numbers of new coronavirus cases nationwide top the 40K mark for the first time. Texas Governor Greg Abbott orders the bars to close early. I break our quarantine to acquire bagels and mail income-producing boxes at the post office. I would arrange for my packages to be picked up at home, but the post office no longer provides home pick-up for first class shipments. I am learning to hate the word “priority.”
June 26 – Texas Governor Greg Abbott orders the bars to close, period. My weekly grocery shop reveals that Schnucks is deserted, with 80% mask compliance. Menard’s wins the prize, with universal masking; if you don’t have a mask, you are met at the door by a smiling associate who will point you back to your vehicle. Meanwhile, my own much beloved federal credit union displays a complete disregard for safety and science. The Plexi shields are nice, but not a single employee deigns to don a mask, and the customers follow suit. Did I have to go in? Yes. The notary doesn’t work the drive-thru.
June 27 – We flee the city for Ferdinand State Forest. Our youngest, in need of student driving hours, drives the entire one-hour-plus trip to get us there. We then take a three-mile hike and encounter only one other hiker, plus a cricket frog. We swim in the lake, and encounter only one other family, easily sixty yards distant, and they leave shortly after our arrival, granting us sole dominion over a pastoral, sandy-bottomed swimmer’s paradise. Social distancing has never been so simple….and yet, opposite our trailhead, a large tent had been erected for an in-park wedding that evening. I ask the caterer, who was just setting up, how many people were invited. “Two hundred and twenty-five,” she says, sounding cheerful, “but we’ll probably only draw about one seventy-five.” I look at the tent; I look at the incoming thunderstorms. I contemplate confined spaces. Driving home, we note that all of the east side restaurants sport full parking lots, and it’s clear that curbside pickup isn’t the reason.
June 28 – My good friend M. loses his aunt to COVID-19. My sister tells me of an infant she knows who was recently hospitalized with the coronavirus. Globally, we hit the 10 million mark, with 500,000 dead. In the U.S., there are approximately 2.5 million cases, with over 125,000 fatalities. Florida has seen a five-fold increase in the past two weeks. Overseas, Brazil topped the 1.3 million mark. We still don’t know if recovered patients can get the virus again, as with the common cold; we still don’t know if recovered patients can generate new transmissions. Schools and colleges plan to re-open in August. Mike Pence urges Texans to wear a mask, but still won’t wear one himself––including while attending services at a Dallas megachurch, which he did this morning. Also in attendance: Housing Secretary Ben Carson, Senator John Cronyn, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
June 29 – Senator Mitch McConnell changes course, announcing that “We must have no stigma––none––about wearing masks.” Confronted by reporters, he dons a baby blue surgical mask to make his point.
July 1 – Another nationwide record for coronavirus cases. The death rate remains flat, giving cover to those urging a limited response.
July 2 – The fireworks shot from Harper Elementary’s various parking lots are bracingly loud. Do fireworks enthusiasts own pets?
July 3, Part I – The weekly grocery shop reveals 80%+ mask usage at Schnucks. Aldi is similarly enlightened, close to 75%. My credit union, however, has chosen the opposite path. No employees wear masks, and of course customers take their cue from there. Because my bank card was “compromised” at a gas station, I have to go into the lobby to pick up my new card. (I foolishly opted for “pick-up” rather than having them mail me the card, and having done that, their system is insufficiently nimble to retract my preference.) Mobile Plexi shields “protect” me from the unmasked teller. Meanwhile, at the next window down, a woman my age shows off her puppy by lifting it into her arms, then handing it bodily to the teller, who moves her shield out of the way in order to receive her dose of up-close puppy love.
July 3, Part II – On the radio, every expert NPR can dredge up warns against large holiday gatherings over the July 4 weekend. At about the same moment, I get wind of a large party being thrown by parents we know through school. Supposedly, two hundred people are on the guest list, with full catering, etc. I am genuinely grateful not to have received an invite, and I cannot help but note that if all these rumors are true, one of the two parents throwing the party is a practicing medical doctor.
July 4 – I wake to news of Trump’s Mt. Rushmore speech. He took the stage to the sounds of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World,” a deeply ambivalent semi-protest song. Neil Young denounced this on Twitter, stating “This is not okay with me,” but noted he was legally powerless to prevent the Trump campaign from making use of his music. Trump’s speech includes these words: “In our schools, our newsrooms, even our corporate boardrooms, there is a new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance. If you do not speak its language, perform its rituals, recite its mantras, and follow its commandments, then you will be censored, banished, blacklisted, persecuted, and punished. It’s not going to happen to us. Make no mistake: this left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution.” Mt. Rushmore stands in South Dakota’s Black Hills, land considered sacred to the native Lakota Sioux, land they claim was never ceded to the U.S. except by military fiat.
July 5 – I learn that my cousin’s boy is very sick, presumably with COVID-19, but they won’t get test results back until Friday, July 10th. He just graduated from college (by remote), and is now locked in his bedroom and suffering on his own. The rest of the family presumes they are next.
July 6 – Reading through the opening of Ta-nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me dredges up disturbing memories from elementary school, especially the interstitial areas outside the actual classroom––the poorly named “playground” most of all.
July 7 – Brazil’s Bolsonaro, a climate denier and corona skeptic, tests positive for COVID-19. Arizona sets a new record for both hospitalizations and deaths.
July 8 – My mother, who a few years back was named Ohio’s Teacher of the Year, turns eighty.
I won’t be with her for her big day, except via Zoom. Such are the terms of social distancing. In the midst of the family-packed Zoom call, a technician from Wow!, our internet provider shows up. He (and his sizable belly) spend a good amount of time on camera. His mask doesn’t fit properly; the elastic is too loose, so his nose keeps popping into view. I want him out of my basement office (where the router lives) so badly I can hardly keep still.
July 9 – As Trump threatens to pull federal funding from schools if they do not re-open in August to what is now referred to as “in-person learning,” new U.S. cases rise to within a hair’s breadth of 60,000, a one-day record––so far. Meanwhile, the Japanese, in a further effort to ban the spread of the virus, decide to ban screaming on roller coasters.
July 10 – Governor Andy Beshear of Kentucky signs an order making mask-wearing mandatory state-wide. Trump commutes the sentence of confederate Roger Stone, who was found guilty on no fewer than seven separate felony counts.
July 11 – Governor Henry McMaster of South Carolina has banned the sale of alcohol in restaurants and bars, but only after 11:00 pm.
July 12 – Florida records 15,300 new cases, outpacing New York at the height of its outbreak for a single-day tally. In a few weeks, Jacksonville will host the Republican National Convention. Worldwide, 556,000 people have died of COVID-19. While some nations appear to have halted the spread, the overall trend lines point inexorably upward. Here in Vanderburgh County, 41 new cases were reported even as our youngest celebrates his sixteenth birthday. The guest list consisted of all the synonyms anyone can think of for “zero.”
July 13 – I submit a story to a magazine. As I log my submission, I discover I that I haven’t sent out a single piece of work, anywhere, for a full six weeks, since 5/27. At no point in my post-California adult life have I gone for such a long period without sending new work into the world.
July 14 – For the second time, new cases nationally top 65,000. Locally, thirteen University of Evansville athletes test positive after attending an off-campus party. All of UE’s pre-season sports training is suspended.
July 15 – ICE, having reversed their policy on banning non-citizens from remaining in the country on student visas if they are taking only on-line classes, discovers what it’s like to have sixteen tons of egg on its collective face.
July 16 – The nation begins questioning whether hospital data on new infections can be trusted, since said information is now sent to a contractor working for the White House instead of the non-partisan CDC. Rumors abound that some hospitals are refusing to comply. On the plus side, my cousin’s eldest is fully recovered.
July 17 – Mask compliance at Schnucks grocery store has at last reached 100%. The store itself now requires masks, and Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke’s (toothless) mask ordinance probably added a much-needed spur. Meanwhile, CANvention has finally, thankfully, been postponed until 2021. I have no reason to believe that date will be viable.
The New York Times reports that yesterday, 75,671 new cases were reported––a daily record, of course. 138,200 have died in the U.S. so far, and we are on course to completely eclipse a prediction I made earlier in this timeline about hitting the 200,000 mark by the end of the calendar year. Locally, Vanderburgh County now has 348 active cases, and our positivity rate has climbed to 5.4%, jumping two percentage points in two weeks. Globally, nearly 600,000 have died.
If I may quote House Stark, “Winter is coming.”
This is where we are.