Yes, Virginia, There Is Still A Goddamn Global Pandemic

I am now fully vaccinated. The pandemic is still ongoing. The one does not change the other, in the same way that the statement, “I want the pandemic to be over” does not end the pandemic.

I bring this up because there is a fresh and sudden wave of bullshit-scented judgment water splashing down on us in the form of, “Wow, you liberals just can’t quit lockdown,” or, “Gosh, you sure all seem to be pandemic addicts.” The assertion comes, presumably, from the idea that here, at the pandemic’s end, some of us are choosing to maintain a portion of our mitigation measures like masking or reduced travel. Which further suggests we are in a co-dependent relationship with said pandemic, or worse, that we are literally addicted to it, the way one becomes addicted to heroin. (I’m not going to link to any of the articles or tweets. I don’t care to give bad, disingenuous actors traffic. If you wanna track down sources, you can find them, I’m sure.)

Here’s one problem, though:

We are not at the pandemic’s end.

It’s still fucking happening! This isn’t the series finale! Holy shit! What the fuck! Yes, it’s very, very good we are getting vaccinated. It’s great! I’m into it! It’s my new kink! Vaccination is the machete that is cutting a path to normalcy through the thicket of this pandemic. But be sure: it remains an active, ongoing pandemic. Globally, it is as bad as it has ever been. In India, it’s a brushfire, using human beings as kindling. Here in the United States, we’re starting to see a much-desired downturn in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Though in my state and in many others, the pandemic is still kicking: we’re still above last summer’s “second wave” levels by a good bit, and here in PA we aren’t even back below our March numbers. And we’ve had a rise in school cases — hell, a small wave just went through my kid’s school, and have seen similar effects through several local school systems.

We are at roughly 100 million fully vaccinated adults in this country.

That still leaves about 100 million adults to go.

It still leaves our entire population of children unvaccinated.

It still leaves out those who cannot get the vaccine, or who are immunocompromised in a way that the vaccine will not afford them essential protection.

It still leaves those who don’t want the vaccine due to being bad actors themselves, or being subject to mis/disinformation campaigns by the likes of Russia, or worse, our own little toady goblin white supremacist, Tucker “I Always Look Like I’m Peeing A Little” Carlson.

We’re still at a point that nearly a thousand people a day are still dying in this country.

The vaccines are 100% effective against death and severe disease, which is to say, statistically, but not literally — there have been hospitalizations and death in those who have been fully vaccinated, and I say this not to invoke panic, but just to ensure we’re all on the same page as reality. The numbers are low enough that, risk assessment-wise, you’re likelier to suffer pain and death from far rarer sources (lightning, cows, I dunno, probably rogue toasters), but the asterisk is still there that people who are fully vaccinated can still get it, can still get sick, can still get dead. And there remains no clear messaging or data on what this does for, or about, Long COVID — if five out of a hundred people can still get sick with COVID after being fully vaccinated, can they still suffer from the multifarious effects of long-term illness? We don’t know. Certainly it means that your chances overall are lower, which is great. But lower doesn’t mean zero, and that’s a calculation we have to make, especially when we remember that a hundred million people still aren’t fully vaccinated, and one hundred percent of our children aren’t fully vaccinated.

Never mind the fact that, psychologically, we’re still experiencing a massive unfolding of global illness and death. We’re mired in a changed world, a world that will remain changed after the pandemic. This is a mire of trauma, especially for those who listened to the science (gasp) and (double-gasp) took this shit seriously and (triple-gasp with a pants-shitting-pirouette) didn’t engage with the fantasy of a disease that the global scientific community just wholesale invented in a false-flag operation where they hired 3.2 million crisis actors to pretend to be dead but who are presumably now just chilling out on a beach on the Planet Venus while the rest of us pump our bodies full of tiny Bill Gateses in order to unknowingly transform ourselves into fleshy panopticons. We watched people get sick. Some lost parts of themselves and their minds. (Pant, pant.) Some had to watch loved ones die over iPad screens because they couldn’t be with them as COVID snatched their last breaths away.

Never mind the fact that the CDC and WHO haven’t always been entirely clear as to what is okay and what is not okay. I’m pretty sure the latest CDC flowchart suggests we can take our masks off outside provided we are vaccinated and standing in a 12′ by 12′ area and that the breeze is from the Northwest and that Mercury isn’t currently in retrograde and that we’ve never personally left a one-star Yelp review that contains the phrase, “I would’ve given it ZERO STARS if I could have!”

So yeah! We’re a little fucking anxious! We don’t like this. We’re not addicted to it. We want this shit to be over, too. So maybe take that judgey little face you’re making, wad it up into a fleshy spongy Madball, and gently screw it into your own asshole like a lightbulb. I don’t know who needs to hear this, but it’s okay if you’re feeling trauma-bombed by all this. It’s okay that you’re a little hesitant to throw your mask in the garbage disposal and go running into a field of moist human bodies with your arms held high and your mouth hanging agape in order to catch the saucy mist of sweat and saliva and partying microbes. It’s fine. It’s normal. We’re not sitting in the dark, aroused by our own isolation. It’s just, we remember Jurassic Park. There were just dinosaurs eating people like, ten minutes ago. We’re not so eager to re-open the park just because you say it’s safe. We’re gonna take our time, whatever time we need, because that’s how a lot of people do things.

For the record, I’ve changed some behaviors since getting vaccinated. I don’t wear a mask outdoors if I can be sure that I won’t be in other people’s hideous mouth range. I hate wearing masks. Yet, I still bring a mask. I’ll still wear a mask inside, even vaccinated. I still won’t eat inside a restaurant, but I would now eat outside. My kid isn’t vaccinated. Our numbers in the area are still high, though they are dropping. I’ll keep an eye on all of that. If the numbers stay low, great. If vaccinations continue apace, great. If I can be comfortable that there isn’t some new Fresh Hot Variant that now evades the vaccines and will melt your face, super-fucking-duper. Then I’ll leave the shallow end of the pool and move to deeper water. I don’t see anything panicked about that, or lacking sense, or indicative of me being some lockdown-loving pandemic fetishist. I just think, wow, a lot of people died and are still dying and we’re not anywhere near where we need to be, so I’m going to play it slow and suspect that there still could be one or two dinosaurs out there on the island.

People aren’t addicted to the pandemic.

They’re surviving it.

They’re healing from it.

Maybe have a little fucking sympathy.

It took an immense personal and psychological toll.

We aren’t just grist for an economic mill. Maybe don’t hang the MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner while we’re still losing 800, 900 people a day in this country alone. A 9/11 every week.

It’s okay if you’re uncertain how to proceed, or you want to gradually return to some semblance of normalcy (because be assured, what will result must be labeled a New Normal, because the Old Normal is a ghost, it’s gone). It’s okay to still wear a mask, whether to protect yourself or to make others feel safe. It’s okay to wear a mask next year, during flu season, because you want to neither catch nor give someone the flu. It’s okay to not simply handwave away COVID cases in children, because that’s pretty scary. It’s okay to be not okay. And fuck anybody who tells you different. Meaning, Brian Stetler. Fuck you, Brian Stetler, of CNN, a network one might argue is addicted to having shitheads like Rick Santorum okay fine I concede I’m a little off-point.

Be safe, be smart, it’s okay to go slow.

Love to you all.

35 responses to “Yes, Virginia, There Is Still A Goddamn Global Pandemic”

  1. Thank you for this. I do not know when the idea started that we who were scared and took it seriously somehow became addicted. Nope. We just did not want to die in a bad way.

    My son and I have been vaccinated and are still taking precautions though not quite at the same level. I remain worried about some sort of super variant that could defeat the vaccines. So many are refusing because they believe the nonsense.

    We have a neighbor who is a die hard supporter of that former guy. Said neighbor no longer watches FOX NEWS because they became liberal. He now only watches NEWSMAX. He now believes with all his heart that a year from now both my son and I will be dead because the vaccines are a plot to take folks off the Social Security system in order to save Social Security. This on top of the The Big Lie and all the rest of it.

    As a country, we are doomed if the nonsense continues to spread and infect folks. I am not sure how combat stupidity when we can not all agree on facts.

  2. Yup. Once again, you’ve nailed what I’ve been feeling–and saying to people who don’t get why I won’t jump into the mosh pit just because I’m vaccinated. I do little things now, sure, but I’m not comfortable with much of the shit I’m seeing vaccinated people do. And, you know what? I also still mask up and keep distance for the people who aren’t jabbed yet (with or without microchips) because we don’t know enough yet about transmission or variants or whether that extra ear I’ve grown might morph into a ray gun. Has it really been so long that people don’t remember the “I wear my mask to protect you” mantra? It’s corny but that’s what it means to live in an interconnected world.

  3. Keep well, Chuck. Glad you’re vaccinated. Here in the UK they’re starting to consider a third jab next year to help against all the variants. Let’s just hope those daft people who think masks will kill them don’t become the zombie apocalypse.

    • Hey Jemima, saying a hello from sunny Jersey! Glad to see a another UK appreciator of Mr. Wendig.

  4. Loved what you had to say. Here in Maine, we are still masking and hoping for the best, but then, we always saw six feet apart as our standard Before Covid, being standoffish NewEnglanders. Of course some people don’t agree, but in my opinion there will always be about a third of any population that are ready to believe in just about anything. Faked moon-landing, gates-cares-where-we-are, etc., etc..
    I think it’s amazing what people are choosing Not To Learn from this past year. Specifically, how extra sanitizing and space and masks completely eliminated flu season, sickness at schools, and some seasonal allergies. A friend of mine who had taught for 40 years says this was the first time she wasn’t sick with a nasty virus at least once during the winter-she attributes it to each child having their own supplies, and not sharing everything.
    Remember during the lockdown how clear the air became? Why wouldn’t we want that again? Sigh.

    It’s simply amazing how easily we are shown information, then we totally ignore it.

    Stay strong, stay healthy, and keep writing.

  5. So glad someone called out CNN for Rick Santorum. I turn the channel whenever I see him. WTF CNN?

  6. I am at the point of managing what I can manage, which means my family and local situation. I’ve arrived here with some thought, though.

    My reading shows these are some of the most effective vaccines ever made. (Polio reaches 100% … with four doses.) COVID vaccines are based on decades of research. While COVID is new, vaccines aren’t. Yes variants, but I trust the vaccines will be adjusted.

    Boulder County is 50% fully vaxxed, and within 2 weeks will be 69%. All my friends are fully vaccinated. My adult kids are vaccinated, and all their friends and coworkers. Both their local colleges are requiring vaccination to attend in person. This doesn’t mean we’re running out to the nearest street fair or concert or dance club. This means I’ll have friends over for drinks and tacos tonight. We’re eating in restaurants (Colorado restaurant workers were in an early group of vaccinated and most around here require workers to have the vaccine). This means we visited my family for the first time in over a year and a half (all were vaccinated.)

    Yesterday at our Walmart in liberal Boulder County they announced walk-in vaccine appointments over the loudspeaker in the store. (Yes people lined up to do it.) Super easy-peasy. Which means my official, registered attitude is “fuck the people who won’t vaccinate, take away their privileges.” That, I recognize, is an emotional response, not one based in science. I’m far from perfect.

  7. Even fully vaccinated, it would be wise to stay masked, distanced and hand-washed, as there are so many people who do not want to be vaccinated. And we don’t know about how well protected we are from the variant strains that keep popping up. Stay cautious, stay calm, stay kind (B. Henry).

  8. Thank you, Chuck. I agree completely. People seem to be too cavalier about this. I’m afraid for my husband, who still goes in to work, who hasn’t been vaccinated yet, who does our shopping. We are in a new, scary, age.

  9. I’ve lost 14 people to Covid-19. This is a public notice to anyone who dares to say to me: “Calm down! Covid-19 is over!”
    I will rip your face off (with high-falutin-words) like the grieving hell-beast I have become.
    Get the effing shot. Wear the friggin mask. Get over yourselves and your nonexistent rights and imaginary “research” doctorates.
    I’ve had it with the human race, and yet I still want to save them.

    • Exactly how I feel. Though I haven’t lost anyone to COVID, I’m sorry you’ve had those loses.

  10. I hear you that it ain’t over, but, as someone who lives in a super liberal area that is doing well covid-wise, I have seen people clinging to their hyper vigilance as a sort of crutch to unhealthy extremes. Fully vaccinated people that aren’t in high risk groups who still have minimal contact with people outside their household and haven’t let their kids see another kid for over a year, even masked, outside, and distanced. Our school districts have not return to any sort of robust in-person schooling despite the fact that neighboring districts have been back all year without throwing their staff to the wolves. I’m not ready to go to a bar or be around large groups of people, but if you are in a place with a high vaccination rate and low COVID rate you can be a little more chill. But it is challenging. COVID is still raging in some places, the CDC guidelines are frankly confusing (one household is ok but two aren’t? Why?) and much of the government guidelines seem to be as much about not totally tanking the economy and helping Governor Newsome win the recall election as it does about actual safety. “Science” has become the new “equity,” a term that can mean anything to anyone.

    I’m on the more cautious side, and my spouse is irritated with me because I don’t want relatives from hot spots to fly in and stay with us because to her covid is over and we are vaccinated and it’s all good. She needs to believe that it’s all over. And I need to believe that it’s not all over. I can’t tell which of us is being more irrational.

  11. Ever since I completed the vaccine series, I’ve returned to restaurants full-force (like several times per week). More than I reasonably should? I don’t know. But I can’t cook, I do know that. One of the “getting back to some form of normal” things this week is Mother’s Day brunch with a COVID denier. I’m going along purely because I’m curious to see what a post-Trump Trump supporter looks like in person. I’m a masochist, I know. Thanks for arming me with things to say, if it comes to that, though. I have a feeling that delightful morning will include the phrase, “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND THE SITUATION, SO DON’T JUDGE HOW I HANDLE IT!!!” Oooh, maybe I’ll get thrown out of the restaurant.

  12. I understand what you’re saying, but there are a few things to consider:

    1. The point has been made that people who continue to be hyper-vigilant even after getting fully vaccinated (double-masking, masking in open spaces, distancing, wiping down surfaces, you name it) are implicitly sending an anti-vaccine message, even if that’s not their intent. What will make people want to go get the vaccine? The promise that it will end the pandemic. The promise that they can have their lives back afterwards. If someone is on the fence about the vaccine, and they see fully vaccinated people shouting from the rooftops about how cautious they’re still being, they might conclude “screw it, why should I take this if it’s not going to change anything for me? Does the vaccine even work?” Granted, that may be a shortsighted view, but I can see how someone could think that way.

    2. For all the people who want to keep taking precautions for a while, there are millions of others who are desperately searching for an off-ramp from this mess. Measures like removing outdoor mask mandates are a good place to start. It’s a sensible first step towards the recognition that vaccination is working, and can be a real morale booster for people who are tired of living in a state of constant vigilance.
    (By the way, I saw the “off-ramp” phrasing on Twitter a week or two ago, but can’t remember precisely where. I just don’t want anyone who remembers its original iteration to think I’m plagiarizing it.)

    3. Relatedly, this — “be assured, what will result must be labeled a New Normal, because the Old Normal is a ghost, it’s gone” — is NOT a good message. Sorry, but it’s kind of horrible, actually. Many people want the comfort and reassurance of what’s familiar to them; that’s another valid response to trauma. Saying things like that rubs salt in their wounds, and is also a terrible PR strategy. Because concretely, what does that mean? We can never go inside and (gasp) show our faces again? Like we did for our whole lives until thirteen or fourteen months ago? We can never sing in choirs, or get close to people, or internationally travel again? What do you mean by “the Old Normal is a ghost, it’s gone”? Why do you want to take that hope away from people? Frankly, the hope that the “Old Normal” will come back has been what’s kept me mentally healthy this whole time.

    4. I’m not of a mind to judge people who continue to wear masks for a while. It’s not my business what other people do with their faces; that’s their right. BUT — and this is a big BUT — a lot of militant maskers whom I know don’t reciprocate the sentiment. I live in a very blue city; I can guarantee that a lot of people will give me the side-eye or make angry comments if they see me walking down the street without a mask on, even months from now. It’s already happened to me, by the way. Perhaps there is “bullshit-scented judgment water” being splashed around on both sides.

    For the record — I had my second shot less than a week ago, so you can rest assured I’m not a “there never was a pandemic!,” Tucker-Carlson-listening, anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist.

  13. Chuck, love you and your dry cynical humor a TON! Have you watched Painting with John on HBO? He is wired like you, I recommend it. Thanks for being a writer. I, an avid reader, super appreciate it!!

  14. Honestly I could read nothing but you telling interwebs persons what they can do with their judgy faces and shitty ‘advice’ for 200 straight pages. Just an entire book of Wendig laying into idiots with inventive invective. 10/10 would buy. It’s stress relief.

  15. Thank you for being another sane person in a feckin’ insane country. My only concern is that if the patents for the vaccines don’t get bitch-slapped from the Big Pharma CEOs now, not only will people in the other half of the world continue to die needlessly, but the virus variants from those countries will not be affected in the slightest, and humanity’s hopes of a New and Better Normal dies, along with just about everyone on the planet. There needs to be a real and present awakening, that endlessly climbing over the bodies of one’s fellow human beings to have the most toys and money is not, and never has been, a way to fully live.

  16. I am a HUGE fan, and I absolutely believe and agree! Guess what else? I’M A REGISTERED NURSE! I tell everyone to get the vaccine, if not for themselves, then for the other hundreds of millions of other human beings!
    Love you man,
    Desiree McCracken RN BSN

  17. I’m eager — anxious, really — to see what studies of breakthrough infections tell us about long COVID. Duration of symptoms is one of the things being looked at, so presumably they’ll tell us something.

  18. I don’t understand why the danger of long COVID isn’t the first thing Fauci, et al. talk about when urging young people to get vaccinated.

  19. I appreciate you, Chuck, and so much of what you’ve written. I ask if I might send a message on here for awareness on a sensitive topic. If anyone has experienced a change in your period since Nov 2019, irregular, heavy, frequent, unexpected as in “I thought I was done with this $h*t,” please tell your doctor. They NEED this info. Also if you had the vaccine and/or think you had covid at some point. We often dismiss these issues because, frankly, periods can be unpredictable and we are strong in a lot of ways but covid is new and the vaccines are new and even the experts are learning a lot about these everyday. They NEED this information. It is important.

  20. Had a nightmare about hugging people last night. The anxiety is still very real.

    I could Google what a Madball is, but I’d rather ask you. Chuck, what’s a Madball?

  21. I wonder if the particular dumbass who wrote the ‘silly liberals, we first worlders are safe now!’ clickbait article (to which this is an excellent rebuttal) has had any second thoughts about her nonsense.

    Perhaps there is “bullshit-scented judgment water” being splashed around on both sides.

    You know, it’s a really weird take to complain that taking certain safety measures (like wearing a mask) might possibly send a harmful implicit message, and on the other hand, insist that *not* taking those safety measures sends no message at all.

  22. I haven’t left my house in over a year without a mask. I also haven’t had a cold, sore throat or flu in over a year. I might just always wear a mask. I heard a report on the radio a few days ago that some countries may not see any vaccine until 2024 so until that happens we are susceptible to variants and who knows what that might mean even for us that have been vaccinated. Stay smart and stay safe everyone.

  23. what a great article, thank you so much. its so funny how people think its their business what risks others choose to take in their own lives! like if i went up to a total stranger and told them they were stupid for their investment choices or wearing a raincoat in the rain. like one its not my business and two its not my business. these people judging others need a long stay in the icu and i hope they get it. on the other hand, now we know where that ‘bullshit scented’ articles were coming from – preparing the public for this no-holdsl-barred crazyness out of the cdc this week. every epidemiologist ive seen interviewed about it cant defend it. every single one admits they themselves will continue wearing masks inside and not eating in restaurants and that this was too soon. its unbelievable to me that this government when doing so well would shoot themselves in the foot so badly, and throw the entire american public but especially the working class and vulnerable, and kids, under the bus so easily. ive completely lost any trust in this administration to do anything. i had a lot of hope that biden would do ok but this has made me completely lose trust. this country is very sick and has deeply lost its way. thanks for being a voice of sanity, because this country is turning into a very bad episode of the twilight zone.

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