The Great Surrender: How We Gave Up And Let COVID Win

I feel like I’ve lost my goddamn mind, but we’ll get back to that point soon. Let’s start with this. Two things seem to be true at this moment in the pandemic:

First, that our numbers are higher than they’ve ever been, in most cases not just by a hair’s breadth, but often by two, three, even four times their previous peaks.

Second, that we are doing less now to mitigate cases than ever before.

This happened alarmingly fast. Delta took a couple months to simmer here. Omicron, the dominant variant, boiled as soon as it hit the stove. It rolled over us in a matter of weeks, not months. Hey, we flattened the curve — just in the wrong fucking direction, as our leap in cases is now a billionaire’s rocketship, launching straight up and into orbit.

With this new variant came the assumption that it is a milder form of the disease, and from that single assumption arrived a number of decisions. The CDC changed all its policies in a sudden, confusing barf of protection reductions. (Though in fairness, Carl Bergstrom notes on a Twitter thread that, despite the piss-poor communication, there might be some value in these changes.) The CDC’s head, Rochelle Walensky, offered a (correctly) maligned soundbite, explaining that “the overwhelming number of deaths, over 75%, occurred in people who had at least 4 comorbidities. So really these are people who were unwell to begin with and yes, really encouraging news in the context of Omicron.” Never mind the fact that comorbidities such obesity, diabetes, depression are not uncommon, particularly as one enters middle-age (and never mind that were they uncommon, it is not actually encouraging to be told that you are unwell and will be the ones to bear the brunt of the disease that nobody is protecting you from). The Biden administration has relied on vaccines and mandates, but not fully — they refuse, even still, to make vaccines a requirement of domestic flights. And the current business mandate is being challenged in the Supreme Court, with a not-unreasonable chance for it to fail. There are supposed to be tests coming to us by mail, though I’m not sure when, and we’re not even sure how well the home tests detect Omicron, particularly in its early stages. There exists little clarity on what anybody is doing, which mostly means, nobody is doing anything.

From this, you can feel the lack of leadership and the loss of focus and good communication cascading out through the populace like a wave of surrender. Masks? Fuck ’em. Gone! Gone. I mean, to be clear, they were gone mostly when the CDC botched that communication early on, but here, now, I go out and I don’t see a mask on a face. Not from anybody. Not even as our cases are triple where they were in this county. Vaccine mandates? Temporarily gone, and probably full gone soon enough, with no seeming plans to introduce them. Testing? Quarantine? Isolation? Contact tracing? Can’t find tests, and the CDC has changed who should get them. Quarantine and isolation is already limited now, and for the most part here, parents and workers are subtly encouraged in schools and in jobs to just… casually not test at all because if you test, you might find it, and then your kids might not be in school (THE HORROR) and you might not get to come in to do your job (OH SHIT) and so maybe, y’know, I dunno, don’t go looking for COVID and you won’t find it. (This, a particularly Trumpy echo.) Contact tracing? Hahaha. Haha. Hahahhahgaaaaaaah yeah nobody is tracing shit anymore. It’s on you if you wanna do that. Good luck.

And from all this has cascaded a particular attitude, even among people who were once maybe careful, who are vaccinated and are not necessarily thoughtless people —

The attitude is, I give up.

It’s, “I don’t like this anymore, so I’m not going to do it.”

It’s, “Well, we’re all going to catch it anyway, gotta live my life.”

It’s, “I don’t want to hear anymore about how the bridge is out, I’m just going to accelerate the car and assume they’ll put the bridge back up before I get there, or at the very least, I’ll just jump the ravine in my Toyota Camry.”

They are bored with the pandemic.

They are tired of it.

They don’t want restrictions.

They don’t want to stop or even slow down.

And it has led to this peculiar, troubling moment —

Cases are worse than they’ve ever been.

And people are done caring.

If you ask them, they will say — to go back to the beginning of this — oh, I hear Omicron is mild. Is it? Is it mild? Maybe. It may be milder. I know a lot of people who have COVID — more now than cumulatively throughout the entire pandemic — and they’re all vaxxed and boosted and experiencing a relatively mild sickness. Of course, when you realize that before now, there was Delta, and vaxxed/boosted people did not catch Delta easily, it starts to feel like it’s weird to call Omicron — which is kicking down the doors of your body’s protections — milder. Is it mild? It’s mild in that it doesn’t seem to lead to as much hospitalization and death, though that’s not the only metric by which we live. A lot of the people I know who have or had Omicron experienced a rough ride, even if it didn’t include an ambulance ride. Hospitalizations have not yet made the epic leap with the case rates, though hospitalizations are usually a couple-few weeks behind, and deaths behind that. And even still, hospitalizations are boiling over (yes, even with kids) and our healthcare system is wobbling toward collapse, and none of this even seems to consider the unknown potential of Omicron to lead to Long COVID, which would be a mass disabling event that would create some of those pesky comorbidities the CDC is so eager to dismiss. Does COVID significantly increase the chance of developing Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes in children? Seems like it does.

If you’re starting to feel like, “Hey, maybe this doesn’t sound good,” check this out:

Let’s go to Buzzfeed, where they asked experts to clarify some of the questions about kids and COVID. (Please, no jokes here about Buzzfeed — they have a pretty robust journalistic wing, and have at times done some fantastic reporting.) In this article, you will find first this:

‘“You don’t want colds passed around schools either, right?” Rutherford said. “But on the other hand, one of the reasons we have preschools is so parents can go work. That’s a benefit of it. And if you send them home every time they sneeze, you’re going to have a lot of unhappy parents.”’ Rutherford said it makes sense for schools to continue to follow whatever pre-COVID sickness policies they had in place, with an added layer of COVID testing for children with more severe upper respiratory symptoms. But he said this testing should be rapid, not PCR, which usually takes multiple days to deliver results.

Because, ha ha, yeah, exactly, you can’t be too STRICT with this shit, right? But then:

‘About 20% to 40% of teens who get infected may develop long COVID, said Blumberg. “In younger children, it’s less, but we don’t have good numbers on that.”’

Wait, wait, what? Fucking what now? Twenty to forty percent? Uh, first, that’s a huge unknown gap between those two numbers, but even on the low end, that’s one out of five teenagers.

But we’re just like, nah, fuck it? Ha ha, eat shit, teenagers!

Now, I want you to go check out the CHOP guidance for the new year — Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a generally reputable source on all things children-health-related, yeah? They begin their piece by noting how COVID has pushed the healthcare system to its limits and how dangerous it is, yadda yadda yadda, but then they land on their actual guidance, which begins with:

With evidence that COVID-19 is becoming a milder infection in most children, and at a time when all adults and youth in K-12 settings have been offered vaccination, our PolicyLab experts and CHOP clinical leadership have reached a consensus that preserving as much in-person schooling as possible outweighs the risks of infection to children and school staff at this stage of the pandemic.

To translate: keeping kids out of school for any period is a sickness greater than COVID.

And here, again, is where I reiterate:

I feel like I’m losing my mind.

Am I losing my mind? Are you?

I sure feel that way.

I feel like someone just told me 2 + 2 now equals 22, and a lot of people seem to agree with that, even though we all know math doesn’t work that fucking way.

I feel like I’m seeing and hearing how bad the pandemic is presently, how the systems are straining, how teachers and healthcare workers are quitting in droves and are pushed to their limits, how friends and family are seeing workplaces and schools hamstrung by all this shit, and then, at the same time… I’m seeing nobody do anything about it. Like, not a fucking thing. In fact, less is being done.

We’ve given up.

We’ve surrendered.

This is the Great Surrender.

(Credit to Twitter user @caedsmama for giving it that unofficial name.)

We acknowledge, oh yeah it’s not good, and then we just keep doing what we were doing. No slow down. Only acceleration. We will violently shoulder our way through this pandemic, because we are so done with it, even as it is clearly, clearly not done with us. Schools are open because jobs are open because the economy must be fed. And people defend it. Like they’re people who know they’re in the Matrix and they defend it. Everybody’s Cipher from the first movie, YEAH I LIKE THE TASTE OF THE STEAK, FUCK YOU. Long Covid? Ennh, fuck it. Masks? Fuck it. Restrictions, lockdowns, any mitigation efforts? Fuckity fuck it all. We give up. Game over. Get COVID. Who cares. ISN’T IT TIME WE ALL GET IT, says Agent Smith as he coughs into your mouth.

It feels like gaslighting not from a single-source, but in a miasma that surrounds you. It’s area-of-effect gaslighting. You feel like you wanna say, “Hey things seem really bad right now, maybe we should give things a pause,” and then you get a look like, WOW LOOK AT MISTER LOVES-THE-PANDEMIC OVER HERE, CHECK OUT THE PLAGUE FETISHIST, THE MASK-HUMPER, THE GUY WHO REALLY LOVES HURTING CHILDREN BY SUGGESTING THEY NOT GO TO A SCHOOL WHERE HALF THEIR PEERS ARE OUT, HALF THE TEACHERS ARE OUT, BUT THAT’S FINE IT’LL MAKE THEM TOUGH. It’s like we’re trying to John Wayne our way through a global pandemic, like we can bootstrap it. I mean, sure, kids are barely vaccinated. But jobs! Jobs. Jobs jobs jobs. Gotta churn that crank. Gotta turn out the widgets, and you can’t churn widgets unless your kids are in school. Feed the beast!

(Here I recognize that yes, some kids do need to be in school, not just for education and social development, but also for food. But it’s also worth recognizing that these are systemic failures, in part, and punishing them by forcing them through a boiling pandemic comes with its own obvious deleterious consequences.)

It’s like we’re done with the finding out part and want to get back to the fucking around part, even though it’s not usually supposed to go in that order.

We just… deflated.

I don’t have any great conclusion here. I only write this because I want it written somewhere that I feel like I’m losing my mind. And maybe I am. Maybe I’m the wrong one.

It’s just — what the fuck.

I am blown away. Once we celebrated our healthcare workers and teachers, once we at least tried to band together and flatten the curve (if in our limited way), but now we’re like, nah, fuck it. Nah. Just nah. I mean, sure, other countries are addressing the problem. Sure, if we had just cooled our heels for two, maybe three weeks, we could’ve taken this sharp rise and spiked that volleyball back to the ground. But this is America. We do everything bigger and better. We’ll make this the biggest spike the world has ever seen. We’ll never let it go. We learned to stop worrying and love the COVID.

Mission Accomplished. That’s the banner COVID is hanging right now.

It won.

And we are good with that.

And now imagine:

Just wait till climate change really gets going. Every day is already a new story about how FIRE AND SNOW HAD A BABY AND A NEW ATMOSPHERIC RIVER IS DROPPING A BOMB CYCLONE OF HUMID HELL WASPS ON BOTH COASTS, and already we’re like, ennnh but fuck it. But I’m sure it’ll be fine. We’ll develop renewed patience just in time, I’m sure. Any time now. Any. Time.

(As a PS, I apologize if this feels like a bummer. But I honestly feel pretty anxious not just about the pandemic, but also about our sudden acquiescence to it, and I really wanted to talk about it somewhere that wasn’t just Twitter. It required unpacking and so here I am, unpacking. I will get back to fun writing advicey stuff soon. Buy my books or I die. Bye.)

129 responses to “The Great Surrender: How We Gave Up And Let COVID Win”

  1. As an Aussie I had to respond to this because I currently feel the same way. People seem to have bought into the idea that Omicron is mild, and that herd immunity is possible with a mutating virus. Neither are likely to be true. Up until December of last year our country was handling the pandemic well, with few cases, hospitalisations and deaths. But a change in politicians (hard right) in my state meant a change in COVID policies: “we are mostly vaccinated so it’s time to live with the virus”. All restrictions were removed, including quarantine periods for overseas arrivals, density limits inside buildings, and mask mandates. A particularly stupid idea before Christmas and New Year since most people decided to party and share the virus with their friends and families. Our case numbers per capita are now some of the worst in the world. Rapid tests are a rare commodity and expensive thanks to price gouging. PCR testing centres have been shut down and queues for those remaining open in the summer heat are hours long, with most people being sent away without getting a test. Our supply chains are shutting down, healthcare and other essential workers are being forced to work while COVID positive, and businesses are struggling as people self-isolate. We aren’t at our peak yet. Our kids are all on summer holidays at the moment, so I can only imagine how much worse things are going to get when they are sent back to school at the end of January, since those under 12 have not been vaccinated. Our government plans to rely on rapid tests (which we don’t have) to keep schools open, mainly so parents can “get back to work”. Allowing people to get sick and die for capitalism, whether that be a pandemic or because of climate change, is a worldwide problem — one I’m not sure we’re collectively smart enough to solve.

  2. Thank you for sharing. It was a cathartic read since I’ve been feeling the same way. I’ve been home healing from surgery for a month, and it feels like I’m preparing to walk back into a mad house tomorrow. One of my coworkers (of the 4 of us at my office) got covid, and part of me is in disbelief that I’m going into that office tomorrow. That my coworker is due back Wednesday. It doesn’t feel healthy or right or SANE. I don’t understand this apathy. Like, everyone is coaxing the next inevitable mutation. Made inevitable by the current behavior. When that mutation comes, it might spread like Omicron and kill like Delta, and it feels like everyone’s trying to make it happen right now.

  3. Though I love your “fun” writing—never feel obligated to churn out vapid entertainment in the face of some pretty serious shit. You are absolutely correct. Our system is set up to honor the capitalistic ideal above all else (health, humanity, environment) and they will pump any message into our ears that gets us back to work. “It’s not so bad” that so many of us are infected and the consequences long term are unknown or that it mutates a little with every different system it hits… “it’s not so bad that Colorado just had a huge—virulent wildfire that destroyed thousands of homes—IN THE MIDDLE OF WINTER” I dunno man. *sigh* how do we even begin?

  4. We’re doing a great surrender of our own here in Australia. Cases are 1000 times higher than ever before, and hospitalizations are at record levels, but the governments are all F it, don’t get tested and schools must go back no matter what. Even though 5-12 year olds are only beginning their vaccinations from today. Crazytown.

  5. I’ve never been the most optimistic person, but I feel this deeply right now. Even mid-2020, panicked and scared and shut in, I was better. I live in Idaho where few take this seriously despite pleas from our hospital workers. Our city level leaders duke it out with our weak ass governor who can’t be bothered to make a statement in support of masks because it will cost him re-election. So there has never been any consistency. I

    I work two jobs. I’m vaxxed and boosted. But I started getting sick a lot in October due to a lackluster immune system and plenty of contact with my niece who is regularly in daycare. Fast forward to December when I got boosted and had a rare complication…it absolutely took everything out of me. And sometime between being in the hospital for that and Christmas I got covid. It’s been 3 weeks and I am absolutely exhausted. I’m not eligible for the antibodies treatment, so I just need to recover “naturally” as my d’s office says. I’ve been the only one at both my jobs wearing a mask, and the only one in my extended family to continue too. My SIL had a very mild case of covid and because she is pregnant, she got the antibodies treatment. She’s back to normal with no side effects. When I informed her that I was covid positive, she told me it’s fine because if she can heal quick I should too. I can’t because I have more comorbidities than her, have a compromised immune system due to a rare condition, and because I’m not popping out a kid am not eligible for the same treatment she received. There’s some dissonance about equality and equity in these times too. I have insurance, but make just above poverty wages and this has drastically changed the care I received. In the poor area of my city the doc in a boxes are packed and ERs are full and no tests can be found. But the wealthy areas have appointments available and supplies exclusively for their clients.

    Now all of my sick and pto (which I am so grateful for) has been used and I will lose an entire paycheck to unpaid time off. And I have to go back to work tomorrow. My main job can be done from home, but my office no longer gives that as an option. They would have let me come back straight to work had I felt able to do so, and require nothing but signing a waiver so I can’t sue them.

    I was considered “essential” but now I guess it’s “disposable” and am seeing what little good faith I had in society crumble and disappear.

  6. Thank you for sharing! I think we fucked up a long time ago when jobs and busyness were prioritised over life.

    Side note: I am morbidly curious about how humans die out. Maybe we’ll meet the next humanoid species that can survive all this.

  7. My partner and I are still masking, but we’ve got friends who are wobbling on that “ehhhh, whatever…” line.

    I think the great scar we were left with from the Trumpity years is exhaustion. The whole country was already like that Galactica episode where the Cylons find them every half hour, and with the pandemic it just feels like we’ve just been on edge forever. I think a lot of otherwise smart, sensible people are just making (essentially) half-awake decisions because they’ve hit the point where they just can’t think sensibly anymore. Sure, this might extend the pandemic and possible kill us or our loved ones, but… y’know… it wouldn’t be as constantly tense? We could get some rest. Like we used to.

  8. Earlier today, I took my vaxxed + boosted self, my KN95, and went shopping in Rockingham County, NH where I saw a ton of maskless people out and about. In a county now reporting 149 new daily cases per 100k, and a 20.9% positive testing rate. Also my Senator is Collins, so….yeah.

  9. I became a working EMT in February of 2020, so my entire career has been COVID. And … we’re just fried. And we are doing our goddamned best, and collapsing under the strain. At this point, you all are gonna die a lot more from a lot of stuff that you would have survived in 2019. We just don’t have the ability to save y’all.

    And, well, let me just say… we will do our absolute best for you. But … if you are one of the people who ignored all this stuff, came in with unvaxxed COVID rather than breakthrough COVID… I’m not saying that we’re going to prioritize the people who did their best and got sick anyway over the people who were just expletively-adjective insulting-term-for-foolish-people, but we’re definitely going to WANT to. And we’re going to actually cry for the people who die of COVID who don’t deserve it, and cry a lot less for the people who earned their death by COVID.

    We’re tired. We’re fed up. And we’re not at the “you gave up your right to a ventilator when you started quoting QAnon” stage, not in action, but we’re definitely EMOTIONALLY there.

  10. Woweeee! So good to know I’m not alone. FYI, Pinellas County FL (one of the few lavender counties in the blood-red state) has over 50% masking in most venues (Home Despot and, probably, bars excepted). To counter that we have, of course, one of the crazier governors, a Trumpish clone whose adherents long ago gave up critical thinking. Keep talking, Wendig!

  11. And I’m in Boston. 75% fully vaxxed, 91% at least one dose, people not masking outside, but carrying their masks in their hands and putting them on before walking into stores.

    And our COVID rate chart is also vertical. The “flattened the curve against the wrong axis” isn’t an exaggeration. It’s literal. You can barely notice the previous surges on the current chart. And that’s over the past couple weeks.

    On the scale of the graph I am looking at, the previous surges are about 45 degree angles up, The current surge looks like an 85 degree angle or so, and is four or five times the previous peak.

    We are expecting it to burn out fast, because there just aren’t going to be any new people for it to infect. It’s going to burn through Boston and leave a whole lot of corpses, and a hundred times more people who will never be able to play sports well again.

  12. THANK YOU! now, just schooch on over so I can sit right beside you in this nut house. day after day the feeling that I can no longer hold up my head and proudly say I’m an american. but where the fuck is there to go that isn’t fascist, misogynist, and head in the sand. thanks for helping amplify my angst; I’m standing right beside you.

  13. Obviously you’re not alone, Chuck. I am very VERY lucky in that I’m retired, have enough income to be independent, and oh boy has being an introvert been a blessing the past two years. I do miss my friends, I miss going to movies, and restaurants and museums but I do not intend to get this virus in any form. I many not be able to assure that 100% but I remain hunkered down, masked-up (fully vaccinated and boosted) and I don’t give a crap if somebody thinks I’m paranoid wearing a mask when I do have to go out – it’s not paranoia if everybody really *is* out to get you. I watched a YT video about the 1918 flu epidemic and I think it said that the US lost half a million people altogether? We passed that number a long time ago. Take care of yourself and your loved ones. Thanks for this post, too – it helps to know there are others “out there” who share my concerns (and fury).

  14. I, too am wondering how, when, and why people lost their damned minds. Treason ain’t treason, murder ain’t murder. and why bother trying to even slow a global murderous pandemic. Time for all deniers to drop out of the gene pool. Have re-evaluated even considering saving fellow humans from extinction. We need good art more than ever, to keep us moving forward and not giving in to despair.

  15. I’m one of the people who just can’t care anymore. Not in a “fuck everything, let’s go to a party” way, but more of a grand, general apathy towards the state of man.

    My husband had an aunt land in the hospital due to a non-Covid related issue. They couldn’t send her out to another hospital for a more advanced, updated albeit experimental procedure due to the ICUs being chock full of Covid patients. They had to do a lesser procedure and she passed away Friday. Now comes the debate on whether to attend a crowded funeral. I haven’t figured out how to reliably wear a mask due to a panic issue. I work from home and shop for only essentials during non-crowded times when things get really bad like this. Is it bad to say I prefer to live this way?

    The problem is we’re at a point where all this just feels too big. Omicron is so mind-boggingly contagious that it’s hard to even conceive of, so the natural course is cognitive dissonance. Original Flavor Covid was very contagious, Delta was 5X more contagious and Omicron is something like 70X more contagious than Delta, if memory serves and I heard right. It went from really contagious to super fucking contagious, and now I don’t know how to picture 70X above super fucking contagious. I was already doing everything I could, so 70X everything I could is just a fuck all proposition.

    Not caring after a while is not surprising, and it’s natural. It’s not right, but it’s also supremely human nature. I suspect it’s an evolutionary trait that helps us just get on with things in the face of overwhelming odds, and that’s what people are doing, even if to the detriment of themselves and the situation.

  16. and one more thing: I’ve been diligent in reading sensible, professional media about all of this, virus, mutations, testing, et cetera for the last two years. my mind has a list of the error rates (20% to 40%) – false negatives and false positives that showed up clearly in pre release testing. these ideas have, seemingly been swept under the rug. not only has the population given up, the “don’t bother me with the facts, my mind is made up” denial is even greater than chuck reports. thank you for listening to me rant.

  17. I feel exactly the same way. I am SO glad to hear from others who also do because I feel very alone here. It feels like the entire country has gone bat shit crazy.

  18. It’s not just that we’re giving up, it’s that we are giving up when the new antivirals are just beginning to get made, and we are giving up badly so we aren’t trying to minimize second order effects like hospital overcrowding.

    Schools should be open when possible, but not when so many of the teachers and students are out that no one will learn anything anyway — I mean, I guess they will learn that no one cares about them.

    It’s so fucking stupid.

  19. Maybe reading this on the night before I’m forced back into the classroom (middle school teacher here) is the WRONG TIME, since you’re just saying everything I feel, only better. I’ll let you know if/when I survive…

  20. It’s actually comforting to know I’m not alone. Sure we’re all losing our minds. How are the kids going to recover from this, from all this school shootings/climate disasters/pandemic, and the disabling long COVID that we’re all meant to take part in. I’ve got a teen that rarely stirs from his bedroom, I don’t know what recovery is going to look like for him.
    Just going to make myself a new mask.

  21. Yesssss!!!!! Thank you because I feel like this exactly! People around me seem to be “over” it and our hospitals are full, schools and buses don’t have enough staff, because there are so many out sick. I feel hatred towards the anti-Vaxers/maskers for prolonging this hell we are stuck in. I want to scream!!!

  22. Scientists set up this experiment where they put a dog on a shock pad, and set up a barrier the dog could not jump over, and when the dog couldn’t jump over, it got shocked. When the dog figured it it could not escape, it laid down. Then when they replaced the barrier with one the dog COULD get over, the dog still sat there and took the shocks rather than try to jump over. This is learned helplessness.

    People are numb. They are emotionally burnt out. The stress of lost money and isolation and everything and it hasn’t ended? That we have been going back to work while it’s still going on, that normalized it. You feel like you did everything you possibly could, and it’s worse not better. There’s a point when in a seriously stressful situation where you see no end in sight that you just stop giving a shit, go into zombie mode, and shuffle through it just to get through the next hour, the next day.

    Kids have to go to school because parents have to work. Parents have to work because the 1% demands profit no matter the bodycount. So any action by anyone in an authority position is fighting both the demands of the higher ups AND fighting against the inertia of people who DGAF anymore, or who have been aggressively opposed fromt he get-go. (This is not excusing anyone mind you.)

  23. You brought me to tears, because yes, everything seems to be collapsing under the weight of our global apathy, and also because if you’re crazy, then it’s a shared delusion. I’ve been looking around me and wondering if I’ve completely lost my mind, if I’m ‘round the bend and everyone else is sane and sensible, or if they’ve all just decided that the best course of action is to slip into COVID’s bed like a furtive lover and hope the fucking won’t leave us all crawling down the street wounded come morning.

  24. Yes to all of this! I also feel like I live in a constant state of WTF. It is like the sky turned red and no one else seems to notice. Or like 2020 was a dumpster fire year and instead of putting it out, we just keep finding bigger dumpsters. Saddy McSadFaceEmoji to all of it right now.

  25. Thank you Chuck, excellent writing as always and you are spot on. It’s an awful time to live through right enough. I take solace from wise words from good people in UK where I live – such as Independent SAGE (which provides independent information as an alternative to the UK Government official Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies SAGE), Robert West Emeritus Professor of Health Psychology Prof. Christina Pagel at UCL.

    This get on and die for capitalism gaslighting bullshit is nothing new and denial of reality, cognitive disjunction and dissonance again nothing new sadly. For example

    “A little known aspect about the mid-19th century cholera outbreaks in London.

    “It mustn’t be true, therefore it isn’t.”

    Stay safe take care and love all of your books and writing, thank you so much for the joy and wisdom. Best wishes Jim

  26. Thank you for writing what I am thinking every time I read the news! I am very lucky to be living in New Zealand, where our COVID case numbers (and recorded deaths) are extremely low, compared to almost all of the rest of the world. We are a small country (just over 5 million), and our Prime Minister acted quickly and decisively at the very beginning of this pandemic. I live in a small village away from towns, but masks are worn by all who want to shop at our only village store, and COVID tracing is also required before entering. We are double-vaxxed and due for our boosters in a couple of days. Yes, there are some anti-vaxxers making a lot of noise in this country, but the majority of people are trying to do the right thing, and most of us, I’m sure, are watching the rest of the world with trepidation. I am beginning to feel not only sadness but a growing sense of hopelessness about the rest of the world with every news report I read. Yet I keep reading . . .

  27. I live in one of those ‘fuck it’ states. A friend of mine from high school recently died from Covid and his wife is very ill to the point she may not make it. They had all the usual underlying conditions I’m sure. People here beat to the tune of their own drum. They say ‘fuck it’ to health insurance, probably because most can’t afford it (a result of the Republican leadership they will follow to their misinformed dying day!), and wouldn’t follow a doctor’s advice if it killed them. Sadly, it does. They exercise little to none. Our local McDonald’s is making a killing, no to mention all the little mom and pop greasy spoons. Smoking and eating massive amounts of fried foods and sugar is a way of life. This place has been in the red for Covid since day one. The pandemic hit this place long before there was one. I for one have to test on the regular because I’m a healthcare worker. It’s getting so bad, if I have a sniffle, I don’t want to report it. Why go somewhere and test when I’ll be testing the next day anyway? We wear these heavy N95 masks all the time. We occasionally go to a regualr surgical mask, then someone at work tests positive then back to the heavy ones again. My nose has a permanent scar from the damn thing, my ears will never look the same. I jokingly tell people this is the way we roll in the shire. I feel we’re all going to look like Golem soon anyway. I’m very tired of the whole damn thing myself and I see why others are too. The information is confusing and no solution seems to work. I’ve had all my vaccines and booster, but still have had three Covid vacations. I’ve lost money on two of them because I don’t have enough time off, and don’t get me started on our fucked up unemployment system in this state. I agree with you wholeheartedly, Covid has won. If you can survive another day, then you’re doing better than most. One shining spot in all this, it’s given me some good writing material.

  28. Just chiming in to say that you’re not alone in feeling utterly fucking gobsmacked by what’s happening- and it’s been helpful for me to read this and reassure myself that there are still some of us who remain reasonable in this fucking black, bonkers time.

  29. “have destroyed our economy and the lives of hundreds of thousands if not millions of people.”

    Citation? There is no evidence that mask mandates “have destroyed the economy”, as your whining dramatics seem to indicate. You’re blaming sensible prevention measures for devastation caused by a virus that has killed almost a million of our fellow citizens.

    “Except for thousands of people, including health care workers and military, who have been fired over them.”

    Hardly thousands. The health sector has maybe lost a thousand. The vast majority of antivaxx-morons quietly bent over and accepted the vaccine.

    Remember, covidiots are rock-solid in their convictions, until they face some sort of adverse outcome from their choices. Then they’re the first ones in line to the overcrowded emergency rooms.

    “Yep. It’s time for a new nose ring to lead us around with.”

    Ah, a flat-earther. Where do you stand on the “Australia doesn’t exist” debate?

  30. Thank you for saying it. I work in an academic library, in a state university system where the state itself has not only given up on trying to mitigate the pandemic, but actively making it difficult for state universities to keep their students, faculty, and staff safe. We received an email from the Dean of the Libraries on Friday acknowledging that employees were going to get sick during the latest wave, but this is an “all hands on deck moment” because the provost feels offering in-person services are very important. Oh, and the campus positive test rate – employees only, students aren’t back until this week – is 21%. Um, what the FUCK? So more than one in five employees are testing positive for COVID, and we’re bringing students back? We’re bringing students back, and expected to provide in-person services to them? Student who won’t wear masks, won’t get vaxxed, won’t do a fucking thing to keep themselves or the people around them safe because they think they’re goddamn invincible? While a fifth of us are already sick?!

    Just…what the hell are we even doing?!

  31. Thank you for this, as well as the comments from other readers verifying that I’m not crazy to still be masking in public. Sometimes watching folks I feel like someone, somewhere is removing the top of people’s skulls, using a melon baller to scoop out their brains, filling that space with shredded copies of the National Enquirer and then turning them loose with the instruction that they are sooo special no one else matters. I understand the fatigue (hey! I’m tired too!), the frustration (ditto) and the anger (ditto, ditto). But still I can make a judgment to do what is in the best interest of the people around me, regardless of their religion or political affiliation (and whether or not they approve of me & my actions/beliefs). I don’t want to come across as smug here and I’m also hedging my bets on the human race by feeding the raccoons in the woods. Those clever furry hands may belong to the planet’s next overlords… Thanks
    , Chuck.

  32. I have a serious question. Do these people who have breakthrough cases really need to go to the emergency room? It would be great if we could treat COVID cases before people have to overwhelm our healthcare facilities.

  33. I feel like there’s a gaping excluded middle here. What about the places that are trying to keep in-school classes and not doing lockdowns but ARE enforcing masking and requiring vaccinations to eat in restaurants, go to the gym, attend the theater, etc.? I can tell you that Chicago or Cook County aren’t saying “Masks? Fuck ’em. Gone! Gone.”

    When your take on a children’s hospital saying the benefits of in-school education outweigh the risks in light of Omicron is to seemingly lump them in with the deniers, I feel like the worst stereotypes by the deniers of people who take Covid seriously are being embodied: restrictions for the sake of restrictions, and only the strictest of restrictions will do. If it doesn’t hurt, it ain’t working. And considering costs and benefits to any degree – to concede that lockdowns and closures even have costs and aren’t an unalloyed good – is the same as denialism.

    Not just financial costs, as many of the commenters discount it. It’s facile to look at a local, state, or federal official striving to keep things open and chalk it up to caving in to business interests. Is there really NO difference between the places that have given up on masking, or never required it in the first place, and the places that are requiring indoor masking but not doing shutdowns? I don’t see surrender in a city requiring proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, gyms, theaters, etc. but otherwise keeping them open.

    Shutdowns have social costs, emotional costs, even basic physical costs. When Covid was at its worst, when vaccines were still only a gleam in people’s eyes, health experts were telling people not to put off medical care. But it seems like if someone acknowledges that there are worse things than Covid, you’re counting them among the people surrendering.

    I got my shots and booster as soon as I could, and I wear a mask in indoor public spaces. I’m a firm believer in keeping things open with indoor masking and proof of vaccination and boosters required and enforced. Expecting people to take reasonable precautions is eminently sensible, and the “you can’t make me” people can go fuck themselves. Officials who oppose mask and vaccination requirements on dubious arguments of “freedom” can doubly go fuck themselves. And if YOU (generic you) don’t feel comfortable going to a restaurant or the gym or the theater even when vaccinated, boosted, and masked, that’s entirely your business. Conversely, however, I don’t believe in a false dichotomy that we’re either taking every countermeasure from the early pre-vaccine days of the pandemic or we’re surrendering.

    • Once upon a time, here in PA, we had color-coded levels of case rates, and some aspects of our lives were tied to those case rates — what was open, what was not, what could be open at what percent attendance, and so forth.

      Once upon a time, the schools here had mask mandates.

      Once upon a time, we had a sense of how to open up and stay open and a sense of how to pause or slow when needed.

      Once upon a time…

      Well, you get the point. None of that is in place now. None of it. Do we have vaccine requirements? Nope. Mask requirements? Nope. Anything, really? Nope.

      Sure, I get that not every part of the country is like this, but here in PA — a purple state with a blue governor — we’re all the way on our fucking own. You get to do what you like, a libertarian’s paradise. Oh, I mean, you’d think that in the very short time a hyper-contagious variant of the global pandemic disease sweeps over us we could, I dunno, give a pause? Or at least announce A restriction? Maybe one, as a treat? But nah. No. Haha no fucking way, John, not a thing. There’s almost no messaging. From Biden. From Wolf. From anybody. It’s just — hey, like Dory says, JUST KEEP SWIMMIN’.

      But wow, yeah, I love the nation where you get to say, “Hey, if YOU don’t feel comfortable doing something, don’t do it.” Let’s say I follow that guidance — never mind how callous it is. Let’s say I do bunker down, I do what feels comfortable. I have made my individual decision. And then I have a heart attack. And I try to go to the hospital and I can’t, because nobody is there to help me, there aren’t beds, COVID has taken over because there are still SHITLOADS of unvaxxed people who have been sold a bill of sale by mis/disinformaton peddlers. And now my individual choice hasn’t mattered one bit, because healthcare workers are on the brink — they’re quitting, or sick, and the system is strained. Teachers, too, are on the brink. A lot of people are. But instead of pausing to consider *that social cost,* to consider *that emotional cost*, we just cater to the MIGHTY INDIVIDUAL. Instead of caring about, mmm, say, society at large.

      Though I mean, fuck society, right?

      — c.

  34. In addition to all that I’d add a class of resigned semi-surrender like what I’d classify myself in: still going to do my personal mitigations but accepting that much of our population (and apparently most of the powers-that-be) has dug in their heels on the most basic of precautions and actions and aren’t going to come around. Clearly it’s possible to make them come around; look at the success rates of vax mandates, where the numbers of people who opt to fuck off have consistently been below the percentage of standard turnover for those places. But I guess the powers that be just can’t be arsed to do it, for a variety of other reasons.

    That all seems to boil down to the issue that we’re now up against the situation where doing anything requires actually taking a look at how we organize and prioritize society and that’s a firm NOPE! Enough rapid tests to just check everyone before they go to school/work? Nope, that would mean some flavor of evil socialism rather than letting Abbot produce tests that cost more than a single hour of minimum wage (before taxes, even). Provide those tests to students and teachers so they could just test every day and stay home if sick? Nope, that leaves parents who need to work in the lurch. Just provide those parents actual functional paid sick time? Nope, can’t regulate that bare minimum level of standard; we couldn’t even make businesses stay out of their employee’s shit well enough to let em get birth control if they wanted it.

    Shit, how about just plain old letting someone roll up to the Covid PCR test site and get a swab? Naw, gotta ask em for a bunch of info and paperwork and copies of their insurance cards if they have it, discouraging the folks who don’t have that stuff and making it needlessly harder for those who do. Why? Because we can’t just fucking DO IT, we have to involve insurance companies and middlemen and grodd knows who else because the alternative might smell like single payer.

    So to strain a metaphor, I’m at where I have come to accept that nobody seems to be willing to repair the boat or even try to steer it in the right direction. So I’m done trying to suggest changes like that and I’m done bailing out water. I’m now focused on making sure me and mine have our life vests on and are positioned decently well to survive the sinking. I’m not leaving anyone behind if I can help it, but clearly my efforts need to focus on what I can do myself or in small groups; there’s too many chaos agents walking around sabotaging any efforts at large scale action.

  35. Thank you for this. To quote my favorite Zoolander meme of the last few years, “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.” Every. Damn. Day. I don’t think we can even call this gaslighting anymore–there has to be some new term for what we’re experiencing in the extreme.

    Most of the people I know in real life (sadly, college educated Democratic voters) are of the we-all-just-need-to-get-covid-for-the-immunity opinion (wrong, because infection doesn’t necessarily confer immunity) or of the I’m-going-to-live-my-life-like-I-did-in-2019-because-I’m-vaxxed-and-we-can’t-do-this-forever mind (great, be part of the problem with the deliberately unvaccinated). False binaries all around, with no demands that our government actually DO anything to prevent these hellish choices.

    My ADHD shrink is concerned I’m depressed. Ya think? How happy does he believe I can be right now? The planet is collapsing, the US is marching off the cliff of fascism, and covid is circling and circling, with fewer mitigation measures every round. What happens when we get the inevitable variant with a 10,20, or 40 percent fatality rate?

    We have whittled away our chances of forcing real change with government agencies that are the only entities with any real power to stop this death spiral. Left-leaning voters are still too enamored of their politicians, treating them like matinee idols instead of public servants who must be held accountable.

    “Vote harder!”

    “BuT wHaT dO yOu WaNt BiDeN tO dO?!” they cry, ignoring the long list of actions he could take that don’t require congressional approval or a SCOTUS vote. Blue MAGA, the flip side of the far right cult, but a cult nonetheless.

    A collective strike or boycott could put pressure on the capitalist monsters who run the world, but until the populace wakes up, we don’t have the numbers or leaders willing to organize such efforts. We are soon going to reach a point where our only options are collapse or revolt–perhaps both. I’m pretty much in survival mode now, trying to figure out how to leave the country permanently before it completely crumbles.

    If you’ve ever talked to anyone who screamed into the void in 1930s Europe, you recognize this stage. The reality that most people won’t come around in time is terrifying, so you have to do what you can to save yourself and those who see the hard truth.

  36. Right wing media in the US would have us believe you all are kept in your homes by military presence in the streets and that whole villages of Aboriginal people are being put in concentration camps as an argument against any action here.

  37. Yeah. Between COVID, climate change, and the US quickly headed toward fascism and/or civil war, I’m planning my suicide. There clearly isn’t any hope, and I don’t see the point in waiting around to see how much worse things can get. Better to take control now while I still can. Thanks for this post…glad I’m not alone in my despair.

      • She’s not wrong, Chuck. I’ve been thinking about the same thing. I don’t mean for now but in the future. I’m a senior, I have little money, I can barely pay the rent and bills now, and in almost every possible way, life in this country is getting worse by the day. What do we actually have to look forward to when we’re old, our health is failing, we have no children or other close relatives, and the world is going to hell? Let me be clear: I am NOT encouraging anyone to kill themselves. I’m just saying I understand the motivation.

  38. I”m right there with you, it’s like all these numbers are rising, and yet we’re all just…….. nothing………..really not good news for climate change. I get that feeling yep.

  39. Thank you. Thank you for saying this. I’ve been screaming internally, externally, every possible way and feel so alone in seeing all of this. I work in hospital administration & it’s been decided that if employees test positive and have mild symptoms, they’re still to come to work. I feel like my head is going to explode.

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