There probably never will be a back to normal.

14 July 2022

"Well, my days of not taking you seriously are certainly coming to a middle."
--Mal Reynolds, Firefly

I've been relying heavily upon timed posts these last few weeks because my mental health has been forcing me to choose between being able to get essential stuff done (read: work) and, well, anything else. Come the end of the (work) day, all I have the compute cycles to do is goof off with a side of doomscrolling (because when I don't I get blindsided by The Next Damned Thing). Mostly, seeing the world operate on Covid Standard Time is disheartening and the more people dick around the longer the covid cycle's going to be.

It's really crushed my executive function, so this article's going to be a little disjointed. My apologies in advance.

To get to the point, it seems as if the entire world has just decided to forget that covid is still a thing, ignore that covid is still killing people, and shut their eyes to the fact that covid is still fucking up people's lives. That a lot of people don't care about other people's lives is hardly a surprise anymore. I monitor Nextdoor and at long last battles in the comments between people who wear masks, people who say covid is a hoax, and people who say that giving people they don't care for covid so that they'll die sooner have begun. Contrary to recent reports (though I'm probably wrong - what is officially published and what actually happens are two entirely different things) the US CDC doesn't seem to have given up because they need to beef up their back-end, probably in response to all of us who're watching the daily stats closely.1 Their forecasts seem to be in line with everyone else's, including mine. With everything going on right now it's easy to be skeptical, which is also not a bad idea these days.

That's not to say that covid-19 response has been anything like optimal. It's been terrible for the last year and change. Data is useless if you don't use it to do anything practical, like help people.

On top of that, people are having conventions again, with predictable results. At RSA at most 20% of the 26,000 attendees are estimated to have worn masks, unsurprisingly resulting in another spike in cases both in the Bay Area and everwhere RSA attendees flew back to. HOPE is happening this year, which is going to result in another spike in cases. So is Defcon. BSidesSF happened, too. I get going stir-crazy because you want to go to a conference and do interesting things, but we're in the middle of a pandemic. Can no one chill the fuck out until we've gotten a handle on the covid variant du jour?

This isn't difficult, folks: Covid is transmissible. When it infects someone ti replicates, as all viruses do. COVID-19 is one of a group of viruses that have a propensity to mutate when they replicate inside a patient. Sometimes those mutations don't amount to much; they don't help the virus spread. Sometimes they result in a variant that's more transmissible, or has a longer eclipse phase, or a different configuration of its protein coat that makes it harder for the immune system to detect, or even have lasting side effects. The more covid spreads, the more it has a chance to mutate, the more it can infect (and re-infect, and re-infect) people. Get in front of it long enough and maybe we won't have to worry about it anymore. Don't get in front of it and we'll get variants on top of variants on top of variants and this will never end.

Back in May when I was wrapping up my mom's estate I caught some flak while out and about for wearing a mask. I was in Pittsburgh for an extended period of time so some shenanagains were appropriate.2 I went back to Pittsburgh in June for the memorial service of an old friend, and I had some of the same kinds of encounters near my hotel but I hadn't thought far enough ahead to pull the same stunt. It's one thing to show flagrant disregard for other people (it's the USian way) but quite another to want to make something of it.

And then there's a monkeypox outbreak to worry about, which was used as a memetic weapon against the /lgbtq*/i3 community almost immediately in the culture war. BNO News was tracking it but as of 11 June 2022 they gave up. Always a pleasant sign. I really wish that they weren't considered reliable but no such luck. It's harder to transmit than covid, so there's that I guess.

More and more I wake up in the morning and ask myself "What the fuck is really going on right now?" Having a basic education in biology and generally being a science nerd, I know full well what the score is. Stay away from large groups of people, wash your hands, wear a mask. This isn't hard, or even particularly difficult. On the other hand, folks are getting together to party like it's 2018.ev. Cons are happening. People are celebrating not wearing masks while traveling in sealed metal cans breathing recycled air for hours on end.

It's enough to make me want to stand on the roof and scream.

  1. I'll get around to posting my covid-19 stats agent network at some point. 

  2. When I cut myself shaving (as I sometimes do), I used a couple of my KN-95 masks to staunch the blood. I then wore one of those masks when I went out and about. When I would go out and about and somebody would yell at me for "having something on my face" I would then stagger toward them, coughing as wetly as I could manage. The looks on their faces were priceless. However, the manager of the hotel I was staying in asked me why so many of the other guests were asking where they could get tuberculosis tested. I guess word got around. 

  3. I used a regular expression because it's more expedient.