COVIDiaries Part 2

Hello my babies. I’ve survived day 2 of “shelter in place” and it’s been interesting. Still more productive than I would be in the office. Definitely losing patience with roommate things like dirty dishes that would generally be more tolerable. But I celebrated St Patrick’s Day with a light-up hat and “Let the Shenanigans Begin” tee shirt from my mom. I’m putting all my pix on my Instagram stories these days if you wanna follow along.

Today I read Why Telling People They Don’t Need Masks Backfired, which gives one example of how deadly it can be when your institutions aren’t trustworthy. In this case it’s our government and the media. “When people feel as though they may not be getting the full truth from the authorities, snake-oil sellers and price gougers have an easier time.”

Today Sarah Haider tweeted, “I wonder, when this is all said and done, how much our perspective on governmental power and individual rights will change.”

I think mine has. In a Facebook post I wrote yesterday I complained about how the CDC, FDA, and Trump administration have bungled the response to COVID-19 to the extent that it will cost lives. I said hundreds of thousands but really, could be far fewer. I hope so.

I do think the scientific consensus is clear that unless the US government immediately implements testing on demand, mandatory temperature taking in public spaces, nationwide mandatory shelter in place, and quarantine for anyone with a positive test or fever then many more people will die than is necessary.

And I do expect it won’t be just old people. I expect that for a period of time COVID-19 will overwhelm our healthcare system and medical professionals will deny access to young and old people. Elective procedures are already on hold. What counts as elective is elastic.

It bothers me that we’re all acting like it’s on us as citizens to prevent the spread when we know from China and Hong Kong and Singapore that saving lives requires broad access to testing and strict quarantine for the sick.

Because I advocated for quarantine some rando said, “I guess we lost Cathy Reisenwitz to the state. :(” People were calling quarantine “reactionary and dangerous” and “Pinochet territory” in the thread.


For a reasonable libertarian take on the crisis, I recommend my dear friend Mike’s post Big Government Has Hurt Our Ability to Deal with This Crisis. I expanded on it slightly with links and charts in this Twitter thread.

I’m no fan of government, to say the least. But if we’re going to have a government than its ONE FUCKING JOB is to do what only governments can do to save lives in a pandemic, which is to force people to stay the fuck home or in quarantine. Call me a statist, but when your freedom to go to the grocery store conflicts with literally hundreds of thousands if not a million plus people living or dying I’m going to go with the lives, buddy. This isn’t a hard one.

I think I would have always said that. Even in my AnCap days I would always have wanted to contract with some authority that had quarantine powers because I’m not really trying to give up my life so that you don’t have to stay inside for a few weeks. I mean shit, if I had COVID I would obey the quarantine because I’m not trying to kill people to avoid being alone with my thoughts for a period of time. I’m already doing therapy via Zoom. I got this. We all got this.

I guess what’s really changed is the classic story of a young person being really in love with some principles and heuristics and then growing up a little and seeing the edge cases and realizing values compete with each other sometimes and there’s no principle or heuristic that covers every case and you still are going to need to make decisions based on doing the least harm based on likely outcomes. It’s not sexy. It’s just life.

And that’s what pisses me off so much about the CDC and FDA’s response to the crisis. We don’t pay you to mindlessly enforce the rules that mostly work when we’re not in a pandemic. We pay you to be on call for when a crisis happens. Being on call means making a judgment about which rules to break and when in order to save the most lives. It means choosing the least bad option and then taking the heat for what happens. How could it take the head of the CDC two days just to tell the lab worker in Washington whether or not she can test for coronavirus? How could he then tell her to stop testing? How could the US turn away perfectly good tests from Germany and then release their own faulty tests? And then put in place testing requirements that exclude most patients? But let basketball players and actors get tested? It’s disgusting. There’s no excuse for it.

My dear friend Mike Tanner asked me how I thought long shelter in place could last. One scenario involves waves, like the Spanish flu. Cases decrease. People leave their homes. Summer happens. People feel safe. Governments don’t prepare. Then winter comes. It starts spreading again, but it’s mutated into something deadlier. Cases skyrocket. Lockdown happens again. Repeat until we get a vaccine, prophylaxis, or herd immunity.

On the other hand, we’re all still likely to get exposed. What’s happening in SF is a far stretch from quarantine. I walked one block to my burrito place this afternoon and saw like 10 people out and about. I did it in part because I’m worried about restaurants surviving this. Luckily for me it was empty. Ideally, we can slow roll the infections enough to overwhelm the ventilators less than we would compared with doing nothing.

I’ll be interested to see the police response. Apparently they’re finding hotel rooms for homeless people in SF. SF Mayor London Breed said the police are focusing on “educating” people about being outside when they don’t need to be. This afternoon my roommate told me police shot a man with rubber bullets right outside our apartment. He said the Citizen app said they then arrested him for assault.

Things are weird, but I’m still feeling great. I’ve joined a Facebook group chat for exchanging nudes. One ironic upside to the pandemic is that this month I’ll be having the safest sex possible. I had a Zoom call with a wonderful lady I haven’t talked to in forever this afternoon. Things are good.

Stay safe, my babies. And stay inside. <3


  1. Nicholas Weininger

    There is the hard question of how long and/or severely shelter-in-place can be continued and still be worth it, though, even if the alternatives are terrible. I’m not confident (to say the least) in the ability of governments to make good judgments about that. Economic decline and deprivation, at some margin, cost lives too, and those lives are subject to a “what is seen and what is not seen” dynamic relative to the lives of those who die of pandemic diseases.

    • cathyreisenwitz

      Yeah. I agree. That’s a good point that I didn’t really address and I appreciate you bringing it up. Nice to see your name again too.

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