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A Tale of Two Coronaviruses 4 min read

A Tale of Two Coronaviruses

The coronavirus has fallen into the division between Americans formed by wedges of yesteryears. What does the pandemic look like on each side of the divide?

By Cary Littlejohn
A Tale of Two Coronaviruses Post image

We’ve been forced to look at reports and stunning photos of the country’s newest brand of idiocy in the form of protests against lockdowns. Make no mistake about the truth of those two observations: They are stunning, and they are idiotic.

I hold onto the sliver of hope that suggests the majority of those out in the streets are bad-faith actors, whether they’d understand that characterization of themselves or not. Those bad-faith actors are the ones peddling conspiracy theories or racist hate speech. Even the less nefarious of the protesters seem to be susceptible to the allure of magical thinking. While they may not subscribe to ravings of ur-idiot Alex Jones, there’s an inherent silliness in adults donning a mask to go to a protest about how the shutdown should end and marching alongside people holding signs that say “Give me liberty or give me COVID-19.”

But of course every single protester isn’t a bat-shit crazy nincompoop. There are plenty of folks out there worried about not working, worried about paying bills, worried about their sanity as isolation measures continue. No one faults them for being angry or anxious or scared, or, more likely, some combination of the three. I can assure them of a simple truth: Those of us not out marching against measures put in place to keep us safe also feel all of those same emotions. There’s nothing special about the protesters; they don’t have a monopoly on feeling overwhelmed during a pandemic.

It’s nonsense to think the people in positions of power, the targets of these animosity-laden protests, actually want their businesses locked down. The governors run on the same kind of political messaging as President Trump, hoping to take credit for booming economic results and things working as they’re supposed to. A mandatory stay-at-home order is not on any leader’s bucket list; this is not fun for them. That much seems like it would be obvious, but to pretend it doesn’t need to be stated is to pretend we didn’t see bands of protesters ignoring social distancing requirements, waving confederate flags, and toting automatic weapons. Those people, it would seem, aren’t engaging in nuanced considerations of policies like stay-at-home orders and what it actually means to “flatten the curve.”

Charlie Warzel of The New York Times broke the messaging of the protesters down to its simplest elements when he wrote about “a march for the freedom to be infected.”  Of the protests’ ideological roots, Warzel said:

As a political movement, the Make America Great Again crowd relishes turning criticism from ideological opponents into a badge of honor. Confrontation of any kind is currency and people taking offense to their actions is a surefire sign that they’re correct. The MAGA mind-set prioritizes freedom above all — especially the freedom from introspection, apologizing or ever admitting defeat. But the movement, which has been building since the Tea Party protests, has created a reflexive response among both [Alex] Jones’s audience and far-right Trump supporters.

Read more here:

Opinion: Protesting for the Freedom to Catch the Coronavirus | The New York Times

Instead of relying on the power of magical thinking, what should we actually expect in the upcoming days, weeks, months? What if the reality is much bleaker, harder to hear, pessimistic even? Magical thinking is anything that avoids facts and experts’ predictions at this point; if you avoid the news because it’s just too depressing or hard to hear, you’ve earned yourself a spot on the same spectrum as those who would stage “a march for the freedom to be infected.”

There is no shortage of phenomenal reporting since the coronavirus emerged, but a consistently excellent source of information has come from The New York Times’ Donald G. McNeil, Jr. As a science and health reporter, he’s covered AIDS, Ebola, malaria, swine and bird flu, mad cow disease, and SARS, to name a few.

His first byline on the coronavirus dates back to January 8th, and since then, he’s published over 20 articles on the growing pandemic. Each is exceedingly strong, but his most recent has been making noise on Twitter as the most must-read coronavirus piece since Ed Yong’s a few weeks ago.

Here’s the lede to the story, and it gives you an idea of not only the questions he seeks to answer but the lengths to which he went to interview those most-qualified to give us trustworthy answers:

The coronavirus is spreading from America’s biggest cities to its suburbs, and has begun encroaching on the nation’s rural regions. The virus is believed to have infected millions of citizens and has killed more than 34,000.

Yet President Trump this week proposed guidelines for reopening the economy and suggested that a swath of the United States would soon resume something resembling normalcy. For weeks now, the administration’s view of the crisis and our future has been rosier than that of its own medical advisers, and of scientists generally.

In truth, it is not clear to anyone where this crisis is leading us. More than 20 experts in public health, medicine, epidemiology and history shared their thoughts on the future during in-depth interviews. When can we emerge from our homes? How long, realistically, before we have a treatment or vaccine? How will we keep the virus at bay?

Dig in and read the rest:

The Coronavirus in America: The Year Ahead | The New York Times

And if you’re too busy  to read the entire thing, check out today’s episode of The Daily, where McNeil walks listeners through his piece.

The Next Year (or Two) of the Pandemic | The New York Times

Or here:

Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Pocket Casts

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