I finished the fully edited manuscript of ‘The Accidental Plague Diaries’ at the end of May. The material covers the time from when I first started to write about Covid-19 and its societal impacts in March 2020 until January 2021 when a new administration came into power and shifted the calculus of our public health response. I had to cut the material somewhere and that seemed as good a choice as any. The last thing I wrote, over Memorial Day weekend, was an epilogue. At the time, thanks to a truly miraculous vaccine, case loads were plummeting and it looked like the pandemic would recede into the background of our lives. Less than two months later, we’re backsliding like crazy due to the spread of the Delta variant and resurgent political forces against public health precepts. Unfortunately, book publishing timelines are not well suited to rapidly developing current events so I’ve done the one thing I could do; I wrote a brief afterword which I will update routinely. I should have the proof copy end of this week, advance copies end of the month and then publication date will follow.
I keep hoping that I’m going to run out of things to write about that are at least tangential to Covid, but that hasn’t happened yet. The way things are going, I’ll have enough material for a full Volume Two by late fall. Whether I will go through the relatively maddening process of turning them into book form will depend entirely on what happens over the next couple of months. If the population of the US will start behaving rationally and doing a few basic common sense things, there will be no need. I am, however, not overly hopeful. The poison of misinformation has permeated the body politic too deeply to be gotten rid of easily. The end result is now 611,000 dead Americans with the numbers steadily climbing again.
In the last day or so, I have seen seen news reports from the UK on an anti-mask/anti-vaccine/anti-everything rally where one of the speakers was calling for the execution of physicians and nurses for advocating public health measures, from Israel on an anti-vaccine crowd laying siege to the new prime minister’s home, and Brazil where the president was threatening a military coup to keep his beliefs about the ‘harmlessness’ of Covid-19 firmly in place. It’s all a wakeup call to remind me that the pandemic is not a domestic, but a global problem and that the reactionary forces I see locally are not limited to Red States. Any place that allows the coronavirus to spread unchecked is going to serve as a reservoir for additional mutations and reinfections into the population as a whole. The vaccines seem to be holding the line. There are studies that suggest that they are not necessarily fully effective at keeping a vaccinated person from contracting a Delta infection, but the data available all suggests that a vaccinated person will not progress to the frightening complications that lead to hospitalization and death. Those, at this point, seem to be limited to the unvaccinated among us. (The few vaccinated who have succumbed to Delta infection all seem to have had serious underlying illnesses of various stripes – there have been almost no cases of healthy vaccinated people catching Delta and then becoming critically ill). I’m waiting for the data to come in as to whether a booster shot will be helpful. If it is suggested, I’ll be among the first in line.
I went to a fundraiser for a local theater company last night. Drinks, edible tidbits, some singing, and an art auction (I bought a lovely metal piece which will go on one of my terrace walls). The theater folk of Birmingham, starved for gatherings of the type, turned out en masse and several hundred folk were there. I wore a mask when not eating and drinking through most of the evening. I trust that most of the people there use good judgement but if we continue to mask indoors in crowded situations, even for a little while, we’ll be able to help break transmission chains while the authorities start figuring out the messaging necessary to get vaccination rates up.
It’s been very interesting to see what’s happening in Republican political circles over the last two weeks. During the spring when vaccinations were quickly reaching arms and case rates began to plummet, it became fashionable for them to decry public health measures as an over reaction or unnecessary burden on people. These ideas, amplified through their media machine, became loud enough and widespread enough to more or less level off the vaccination rates nationally over the last month, coinciding with the rise of Delta. That’s why we’re in the current fix we’re in. As it’s become increasingly clear that this attitude is directly harming the Republican base, a certain amount of internecine warfare has broken out in the party between the Republicans who understand that there’s a time when political rhetoric is destructive and Republicans who have lost the ability to stand for anything and can only stand against the prevailing attitudes of the day. I’m wondering what happens when the Republican base starts to figure out that they were put in harms way and allowed to sicken and die as so much collateral damage to allow their leaders to deny the Democratic administration ‘a win’ on vaccine delivery and ending the pandemic?
This afternoon I have a Spolin improvisation class with some of my favorite theater buddies. Small group of people who know that vaccines are their way back to doing what they love so I won’t mask for that. I’m trying to use good judgement without going overboard. I wash my hands, don’t squeeze up on other people if I don’t need to, where my mask where warranted, and I have my shots. That’s what we can all do as individuals for the good of society at present.