News: 8 Million US COVID-19 Cases

From, of course

What is concerning is not just the numbers, but the cases that go on and on, where people don’t fully recover for months. We need to look after those people, too – long term. And, as a country without a coherent health system, we would need to do things differently to handle that.

A conventional news story on the topic from the UK:

Long Covid: what we know so far

At the start of the pandemic we were told that Covid-19 was a respiratory illness from which most people would recover within two or three weeks, but it’s increasingly clear that there may be tens of thousands of people, if not hundreds of thousands, who have been left experiencing symptoms months after becoming infected.

Sometimes, it is very difficult to live in a country that is opposed to joint solutions to problems… literally difficult to preserve one’s own life, or the lives of others!

News: COVID-19 Pandemic, continued

The COVID-19 pandemic continues apace, and remains out of control in the United States.

If there is any good news (beyond the low rates of infection and death in my own region and social circle, for which I am grateful!), it is that while infections continue to rise, a smaller percentage of confirmed infections are serious. There was some earlier, sparse data suggesting that people who wear masks may be receiving low enough exposure to the virus to fight it off successfully; now, data about viral load specifically is being examined, and is trending in a more convincing way.

I don’t want to post ALL the news on this topic (every news organization in is already doing that, it would be duplicative), but this viral load issue is interesting.

Covid-19 death rates are lower worldwide, but no one is sure whether that’s a blip or a trend

After working for three months straight at Detroit Medical Center, Said El Zein noticed that the coronavirus patients who began arriving in May appeared less sick than those who came before. More than 4,000 miles away in northern Italy, researcher Chiara Piubelli was struck by the same thing.

I’m describing this as good news, but even if this trend holds, it would still mean that more than 2 million people just in my country could potentially die. Which isn’t great, especially if you are one of them! It also remains ominous that children can have such high viral loads, as that may bode ill in those families/situations where they are looked after by grandparents and other senior caregivers. But fewer people getting the life-threatening version of the infection is good.

I’ll take any potentially positive trend, at this point.

~me, right now

I’ve completed 31 weeks of local/regional sheltering-in-place and minimizing in-person interactions with others to help prevent the spread of this illness. I am lucky and privileged to be able to do so.

While the wildfire smoke has compounded my lack of physical fitness (and added variety to my pre-wildfire allergic (?) cough), and the quarantine has kept me from seeing my parents (2-4 hours away), none of what I’m experiencing from the pandemic is important: essential workers are having a very different, more demanding experience, as are the many people whose livelihoods are risky, unsafe, or just otherwise disrupted due to safety concerns during this time.

I’m glad my locality continues to ban evictions (and won a challenge from landlords in court!), and that the schools are offering meal support along with other food charities. But it pains me that we aren’t one of the countries that is just paying everyone 80% of their salary to be sure they (and the businesses that employ them) make it through this.

While someone at my local pharmacy said they feel bad that kids won’t get to enjoy trick-or-treating for Halloween, I feel sad for EVERYONE. *

*Except the anti-maskers and the authoritarians, for whom I have no sympathy.

I miss my relationship with my hometown, and all that comes with that. I miss my relationship with the bayshore, with the people who run restaurants and shops I frequent, with my friends, with the library, with the museums, with the cafes, and just walking through the neighborhoods of this city, which are each so distinct in character… I’m eager to resume these interactions when it is safe. I’m hoping very strongly that safety will be possible.

News: COVID-19 global deaths topped one million on Monday

A milestone no one wanted us to cross, yet here we are. Today’s numbers from Johns Hopkins.

I’m rather discouraged. Not just because the pandemic continues to rage out of control, but because the conversation has shifted from, ‘how do we emulate countries that got this under control’ to ‘how do we try to fall somewhere in the middle of the range of countries where people hate their governments too much to save the lives of those around them?’ Which is a pretty dramatic drop in ambition.

I am still concerned that this isn’t going to be our only pandemic, now that I see how BAD some humans are at taking precautions. All the jokes about how zombie movies show humans putting in waaaay more effort not to become zombies than is realistic are hitting me kind of hard right now. (Also, Train to Busan is an entertaining addition to the Zombie genre.)

Life: Pandemic Friendship Management

I live in a city & county that’s doing very well in keeping COVID-19 infections low. However, there’s still no effective treatment or cure for this particular coronavirus, and with many vulnerable loved ones around, I’d like to keep it that way.

Caution is an easy decision for some of us with elderly relatives and/or parents or friends who are cancer survivors. We stick to essentials. Even if we aren’t seeing our at-risk loved ones, we stay ready to in case they need us. Easy peasy.

Most of my friends are cautious in a way that’s similar to me. We chat by phone, text, or video, but I haven’t seen most of them in person, and they understand why. The few I HAVE seen for outdoor activities have been restricting their exposure to a small number of immediate family, who are similarly cautious. We met outdoors and wore masks. One of them even has a plan for family emergencies cross-country which involves a quarantine-like solo, cross-country drive with plenty of supplies, one cautious, overnight stop, and every other type of disinfecting precaution on an ongoing basis to remain ready.

And then there are my other friends and coworkers. The ones who fly on planes for recreational trips twice a month, and go out to places with few health restrictions so they can have fun. The ones who say they HAD to go to a packed, popular place in another state, because someone in their immediate family was BORED.

The friends I thought of when I read this parody at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency:

Another Dull Quarantine Weekend at Home, Target, Chipotle, Home Depot, and Our Niece’s Graduation Party

I can’t believe how careless people are being about this virus. At our house, we have been taking the strictest precautions since March. We stay inside all the time and never go anywhere. When we do go somewhere, we always bring masks, except when we won’t need them.

I love them dearly, but I will not see them in person, because they are taking risks that I don’t want to share.

Yes, I do have my friends ranked by risk now. I’ve seen who wears a mask correctly, and who has to be told to put it on (which is never a good sign in an adult). I know who goes into the office because they must, and who goes in because they want to. My friends who work in laboratories and clean rooms earn high esteem for taking cleaning procedures seriously at a professional level! 🙂

When more businesses and public spaces are open, I intend to follow a host of new social rules. If I am hosting a picnic, for example, I should disclose all attendees, the safety precautions we will agree on in advance, and any known risks. If someone has just come back from a wedding overseas, they can’t attend until after their quarantine period is up, for example (obvious, but still). No surprise guests, ever. Full disclosures of all relevant information about public exposures BEFORE anyone turns up.

Safe pandemic socializing is possible, it just requires people to be more considerate of the risk tolerance of their friends, and I think most of my friends are very thoughtful. And I’ve got a list of the ones that just don’t match my risk tolerance! (None of this was on my 2020 bingo card….)

News: Pandemic Precautions in San Francisco

From the excellent SF Department of Public Health page at

First off, I’d like to give a general shout out to my local department of public health for doing such a great job of data sharing. The website (sample above) is clear, and there is lots of data about how this has played out neighborhood by neighborhood, zip code by zip code. This information has really helped me think about my relative risks and make informed decisions.

Next, I have to give praise to the people of my beloved hometown, San Francisco. A city of 800,000+ people still managed to keep the infection rate very low. I LOVE YOU PEOPLE!

The City is still adjusting what services are safe based on infection rates around the state. (SoCal keeps messing things up for us.) The current version of the game plan is here:

Reopening San Francisco

We are gradually reopening to keep our City safe and healthy.

My museums are writing to me with some excitement about their October re-openings, which will provide a new experience: uncrowded, carefully timed exhibit viewings! That’s… actually rather appealing. (I can’t sit to draw, but I can live with that.) I’m contemplating that now, and the complex logistics of getting around.

(Transit service was reduced dramatically to ensure compliance with the safety precautions, while providing minimum support for essential workers. This was hard on the essential workers! This resulted in stable access to everything for people who drive everywhere, and less access for socially responsible, environmentally concerned transit riders. 🙁 Yes, that is [sad face].)

I’ll review the SFMTA COVID-19 Core Service Plan ( before I try to go anywhere in October. IF I try to go anywhere…

News: Practice Safe SIX

I love this town. So much.


More than ever, love is demonstrated with actions, to protect your family. When you wear a mask, you show that you love your loved ones. 40% of people with COVID-19show no symptoms. It is better to love from afar and protect them. Visit

News: 200,000 Americans lost to COVID-19

The usual from

The United States’ death toll is now being casually measured in other disasters, like how many September 11, 2001 death tolls occur EACH WEEK.

This truly is world-changing. The lost people alone are world-changing – history will run a different course than it would have if they were here… Also, the esteem in which New Zealand, South Korea, and Taiwan are held has truly risen quite dramatically. (Good for them! I’m jealous of their leadership!)

It is difficult to resume anything near normal life, in part because of the feeling that your safety depends on the least considerate people around you. Yes 90%+ of the people I encounter on my once to twice a week essential supply runs are wearing masks and keeping respectful distances from each other, but the ones that are blathering away on their phones without a mask, chain smoking on the sidewalk without a mask (pretend it is for fire safety), or merely averting their eyes while walking past without a mask – as if I can’t see them if they don’t look at me? – are there. We’re outside, and the odds are in my favor, but they are negative advertising for any optional indoor activities.

The UK press articles I’ve read are wavering a bit on how we SHOULD be living right now. (One is based in the UK, where a dramatic case spike is causing the anti-restriction government to impose restrictions.) For officials and news writers, is difficult to write about what death tolls are “acceptable” without sounding terrible. (There is a very tidy venn diagram of people who are willing to sacrifice entire categories of people for the economy and people who are terrible. ) It is baffling (and upsetting) to look at photos of partying crowds in known infection hot spots.

There is too little progress on improving our treatment of essential workers.

I’m hoping to be lucky enough to live through this, but also fear that this will be “the new normal” for far too long.

Life: work-stress dreams with movie sequences

I’ve learned that, now that I get more REM sleep (due to pandemic-related changes to my schedule), whatever I watch before bed can influence my dreams.

Yes, I recently watched a kung fu movie, and then had a work themed dream that somehow combined a debate about a project with a martial arts sequence.

Yes, that was more interesting than the underlying work issue. By far.

Yes, I’ve been watching Lovecraft Country, and yes, that led to a dream sequence this morning in which I was talking about contract management as a white man who needed to avoid [something], and a pale woman with black hair had her eyes go pale [possibly from Train to Busan], turned into a mist, and then transformed into a flexible, red lid for a coffin-like box for me (as a man) to conceal myself, and… I have no idea what that means. But it was an impressive special effect!

News: Reluctant Pandemic Update

The usual from

Johns Hopkins has come up with a daily data video, which is really well-produced. I’ll embed it here:

We’re at a point where about 35,000 Americans are being diagnosed daily, and about 1,000 Americans are dying daily.


This is a rough time.

I was chatting with a colleague, and now all chats with colleagues begin with checking in to be sure the other person is okay at a basic level.

We gradually got around to the point of discussing when the world would be closer to functional again, and while she wondered if this year would look like an extreme outlier in the history books, I worried that the history books might mark this year as the beginning of… a new phase, not necessarily an easier one. And we both wondered aloud how to get some of the new part to be POSITIVE: to fix something of the many things that were broken when things were “normal.”

I hope we can. The old normal wasn’t great, and while many of us would trade anything to go back to it… we could do better. I mean, we might even be able to take care of each other and our planet. We could CHOOSE that, if we get through this. Better choices may be HOW we get through this…

Culture: Current Events Impacting Art

I’ve read of people watching movies that were made Before (this pandemic), who were uncomfortable with people standing close together. They’d said that crowd scenes and train stations and parties all seem so… weird, now that we are in our current situation. Dangerous. Cringe-inducing.

I’ve looked at advertisements for resorts that are updating their photos: instead of showing bars and pools with young models distributed around them, the spaces are empty. The sunshine-bathed lounge chairs are well spaced. The tables in the bars are at least ten feet apart. Spaciousness is suddenly the essence of luxury. The sanitation protocols of hotels are near the top of the list of amenities.

Designers are proposing conceptual projects to accommodate dining without sharing air, beach resorts with translucent walled spaces (and without mingling), and similar barrier-enforced-social-distancing scenarios…

The new reality is sinking in, and it is changing how we see things. It is changing advertising. It will soon change art.

I keep thinking of this interview with William Gibson:

William Gibson: ‘I was losing a sense of how weird the real world was’

In 2016, William Gibson was a third of the way through his new novel when Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. “I woke up the day after that and I looked at the manuscript and the world in which the novel was set – a contemporary novel set in San Francisco – and I realised that that world no longer existed.

He had to start his novel over, because his near-future novel was no longer plausible – reality had shifted too strangely to sustain it. (The re-write turned out brilliantly – my review is one of the first posts on this blog.)

Meanwhile, I’m contemplating my own fiction, and am alarmed that some of my dystopian novellas are becoming plausible. My dystopias are pretty damned dystopian (I was hoping dystopic was a word). This is not a good thing.

I told someone that science fiction, even the grim sort, is innately optimistic. When they asked why, I told them that science fiction assumes humans have a future.

A human future is not guaranteed.