Covid Testing: Do I Have To?

As I write this, there have been 672,393 coronavirus cases recorded in New York State, and 34,473 deaths.  The number of new cases has risen in recent weeks, but the number of deaths per day, after spiking at about 1,000 per day in early April, has stayed at a tiny fraction of that since June.

Across the state, which has a population of 19.5 million, there have been 19.1 million tests performed.  Manhattan and Staten Island have the distinction of having more tests than people.

The virus is indeed spreading, perhaps because we’re indoors more as the weather gets colder, perhaps because we’re tired of listening to Uncle Andy, perhaps simply because we’re testing more and looking for it.

And then I came across this on the subway the other day:

NYC Covid Testing Announcement

So I should get tested, even if I’m feeling OK.  Why would I want to do that?

First, I have to make time in my schedule, either make an appointment or wait in line, and get a swab stuck up my nose.  These are all things I’d rather avoid. 

And then, if the test is positive, I’ll have to drop whatever I’m doing and quarantine for two weeks.  I’ll have to isolate myself from everyone else, including my wife, unless she takes a test at the same time and her test comes back positive as well.  (I don’t know for a fact that I’ll be able to quarantine with my wife: they may indeed require us to isolate from each other.)  And I’ll have to explain my whereabouts for the previous week to the Covid police, aka the Test and Trace Corps.

As long as I’m feeling OK, and I’m not specifically required to get a test by a client (as happened in July) or a civil authority, I’m not getting tested.  In fairness, the two might overlap: if the Test and Trace Corps tells me I may have been exposed, they might not have the authority to direct me to take the test, but one of my clients has standing rules to that effect.

The bottom line is that I won’t get tested until I get sick myself, or someone makes me.

*          *          *

About the same time, I read the following in Crain’s, a local business news magazine:

Dr. Christina Johns, senior medical adviser in New Hyde Park at PM Pediatrics, a nationwide provider of pediatric urgent care, said relaying information to patients is an important part of Covid testing….  People who think they might have been exposed to the coronavirus on a Tuesday morning, for instance, might decide to seek out testing that afternoon, she said. If someone is asymptomatic and has been exposed, however, the right thing to do is to quarantine and then obtain testing four to eight days after the exposure.

Crain’s New York Business, 16 Nov 2020

So if I think I might have been exposed, I should drop what I’m doing, isolate myself for a week, and then get a test.  I can imagine the conversation now:

“I’m sorry, I have to take the rest of the week off in quarantine.  I think I might have been exposed to Covid.”

“How do you figure that?”

“I was sneezed on in the street this morning.”

“Bullshit.”

New York State has released a coronavirus tracking app that one can run on one’s phone.  It would issue me an alert when someone that I’ve crossed paths with, who is also running the app, has tested positive.  OK, that’s a bit more than getting sneezed on in the street, but I still think I’ll pass, at least until Uncle Andy makes its use mandatory.

Making My Peace

For the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to make my peace with the notion of a President Biden.  I don’t begrudge President Trump’s efforts in the courts to possibly change the results—the Democrats took similar measures after the 2016 election—but I doubt he’ll succeed.

I still haven’t made my peace yet.

It would help if I could believe that Biden won fair and square.  If Biden was this wonderful candidate, so much better than Trump, the election should have played out as a shining example of how elections are non-partisan in their execution.  But that isn’t what happened.

An election is supposed to be a social experiment: you poll the voters and the results are what they are.  But Biden’s win feels like an engineered result: from Biden’s non-campaign, to the suppression of news items unfavorable to him, to making President Trump look like a blithering idiot at every turn, to the post-Election-Day shenanigans, it’s happening by design.  The fix is in.

But if I suspend disbelief for a bit and presume that what happened was in fact a free and fair election, that’s even more troubling.  It means that the electorate has decided that we’d rather not be a free country anymore.  It’s better for the government to take care of us: we can’t manage it ourselves.  Then again, if you vote for Republicans, you must be an evil racist.

It took me a while (a couple weeks after Election Day!) to realize that this year’s Presidential election isn’t really about Donald Trump or Joe Biden: if the candidates had kept their personalities and Twitter habits and families and foibles, and traded policy positions, the news media would be going on about how wonderful Donald Trump is, and I’d have voted for Biden.  The difference is more stark than it has been in any election in my life, even going back to when I was three and didn’t know what a President was.

A vote for Trump is a vote to stay true to the ideas the United States started with over 200 years ago, ideas which made us the most prosperous and successful country on Earth.  We haven’t always been true to those ideas, but have so far followed them more often than not.  In general, the difficulties we’ve faced have been in proportion to our divergence from them.

A vote for Biden is a vote to reinvent the United States as a corporatist, authoritarian nanny state bent on telling us all what to do—for our own good!—and making our lives miserable if we don’t do it.  Big business will still be free to do as it wishes, but small businesses and independent thinking are too disruptive and will be sat on.

Nevertheless, the reinventors won: now what?

When I imagine the worst, I anticipate that within two years I will be dead, destitute, imprisoned, or will have my life changed in some other way for the worst.  But that isn’t realistic: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are not the Khmer Rouge.  I expect that taxes will go up, particularly corporate taxes, so I will go back to running my business not to be profitable.

More practically, things will slowly get worse.  If you weren’t fearful and suffering before, you will be made so now.  The ongoing Covid emergency won’t end, even with a vaccine, because it serves the purposes of the leadership to control the population.

But we can only be fearful and suffer with our own consent.  Abraham Lincoln remarked that ‘most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.’  For my part, I’ll carry on, trying to eat well, sleep well, and not stress out over events.  And I’ll enjoy, as much as I can, the cool parts of my work and the companionship of those around me.

That’s all I can recommend for anyone, for now.

Serene or Petrified?

The finagle was in for 2000.

You can read about it in Greg Palast’s book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.  The Florida state government, in the name of purging convicted felons from the voting rolls, disenfranchised thousands of others, effectively throwing the state to George Bush, who was elected President.

George Bush was an establishment Republican.  He campaigned on the usual Republican agenda of lower taxes and a smaller government.  I had voted for Al Gore, the Democrat.  I was disappointed by what happened, but could accept that the other guy won.  Under President Bush, we got into the War on Terror and war in Iraq.  We were told that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, which turned out not to be true.

Nevertheless, in 2004, Bush was re-elected, fair and square.   He ran on the theme, ‘I will keep America safe.’  His opponent, John Kerry, ran on the theme ‘I am not George Bush.’  It didn’t end well for John.

As I write this on the Saturday morning after Election Day, the results of the Presidential election are still unresolved.  I voted for Trump: I noted why in my last post, and won’t rehash that now.

And the finagle appears to be in process.  There are stories of piles of ballots appearing in the middle of the night, all voted for Biden, and of communities reporting more votes than registered voters.  So far, these stories are all unconfirmed.

The Democrats have changed since 2000.  While Biden presents himself as an establishment Democrat, the kind my parents voted for and I generally supported until about 10-15 years ago, the Democratic agenda has veered sharply to the left.  What used to be the middle of the road is now the ditch alongside it.

There will be recounts and court battles, and one way or another, Trump or Biden will win.  The loser will make a non-concession speech acknowledging the results, and that will be that, at least until Inauguration Day.  (You didn’t seriously imagine the D.C. sheriff coming to evict Trump from the White House, did you?)

I’d like to be able to be serene about a Biden victory and accept that ‘the other guy won.’  I could be serene if the Republicans hold onto the Senate.

But that’s dicey.  Counting the senators not up for re-election this year and the elections already resolved, there are 48 Republicans, 46 Democrats, and two Independents, who functionally count as Democrats (one of whom is Bernie Sanders).  Two of the remaining seats are in Georgia and will be the subject of a runoff election in January; the other two are unresolved as vote counting continues.

If the Democrats win two of these races, they and the Independents will have 50 senators, which is enough, since the Vice President (Kamala Harris, for now) breaks ties.  The Democrats will have their dream of a blue House, a blue Senate, and a blue President.  Unlike Trump in 2017, the leadership will not have to fight the rest of the government as they pursue their agenda.

And then… we’re in trouble.

Under the prevailing Democratic philosophy as I understand it, since I’m white, male, and heterosexual, I’m an oppressor, the origin of evil, and will need to be put down hard.  Hillary Clinton called me (and many others) ‘deplorable.’  Keith Olbermann remarked last month,

And then [Trump] and his enablers and his supporters and his collaborators and the Mike Lees and the William Barrs and the Sean Hannitys and the Mike Pences and the Rudy Giulianis and the Kyle Rittenhouses and the Amy Coney Barretts must be prosecuted and convicted and removed from our society while we try to rebuild it, and to rebuild the world Trump has nearly destroyed by turning it over to a virus.

MSNBC, 8 October 2020

Well, thank you!

As I write this, word has come in that Biden has won Pennsylvania and therefore the Presidency.  It was probably a foregone conclusion: Biden needed only to win any one of the remaining states in play.  The lawyers may continue their battles, but yup, the other guy won.

OK, which is it:

  • We’ve taken a turn for the left, one among many in American history, just like in 1976 and 1992 and 2008.  (I was, in fact, OK with all three of those.)  Things will change, a little bit, but the fundamentals of our country will continue: nothing to get overwhelmed about.
  • The writing is on the wall; the storm clouds are on the horizon.  We’re about to go through a very painful transformation.  And I can’t protect myself against it, as one might board up one’s house in anticipation of bad weather, because the difficulties will be perpetrated by our own government.  (OK, I could stock up on guns and hide out in the woods.  But I still must earn a living, and my wife is a bigger New York City chauvinist than I am.)

Let’s just hope the Republicans can keep control of the Senate.

Election Reveal 2020

It’s 5:09 in the morning, the Wednesday after Election Day.  I’m here with my breakfast; I turned on my computer, but broke from my routine of checking emails and news feeds before doing pretty much anything else.

Like probably everyone else, I’ve had a bellyful of election news, to the point where it’s no longer news anymore.  I voted a week and a half ago, on the second day of early voting.  That much, at least, was done.

My wife asked me to get home early last night, fearing that there might be rioting in the streets: not as outlandish as it sounds, as many of the businesses in midtown Manhattan were pre-emptively boarded up.  Macy’s in Herald Square was boarded up; the Victoria’s Secret across the street, which had remained boarded up since the spring, got its boards renewed.  Chase and Citibank were not boarded up; Santander and some of the smaller banks were.  Sweetgreen, an overly pretentions salad place, was boarded up; most of the other eating places were not.

I had wanted to get home at 5:30 pm, but got stuck at the office.  I cheated and took an electric Citibike (electric bikes are fun, but they don’t count as exercise) most of the way, then walked the last mile or so.  Downtown Brooklyn looked mostly normal, or at least the new normal with restaurant seating in the curb lane and the queue outside Trader Joe’s.  I got home at 5:45 pm.

Back home, I resisted the habit of the evening news.  I watched part of a Hunger Games movie, itself a political statement of a sort.  Then dinner, a M*A*S*H rerun (it’s a timeless classic), a shower, and bed.  No election reports whatsoever.

A week and a half ago, I voted for Trump.  Even if I didn’t like him, I couldn’t vote for Biden.  He may be the last of the old-time moderate Democrats, the kind my mother would have voted for without a second thought, but he’s gotten old and slow.  He made very few campaign appearances, and those were sparsely attended.  And while Biden remarked, ‘I am the Democratic party,’ in the first debate, the party very clearly has other plans.

I had low expectations for Trump.  His campaign slogan, ‘Make America great again,’ suggests that the President and the government can make the country great.  They can’t.  The best the President and the government can do is to create an environment in which the people can make the country great.

But for three years, that’s what happened.  In spite of relentless attacks from the media, and the spectacle, which I’ve never seen before, of the President having to fight the rest of the government to get things done, Trump accomplished much of what he promised.  The border was made more secure; taxes and regulations were moderated; unemployment dropped to historic lows.

And then Covid came.  The essential problem with Covid was that nobody knew quite what it was or how severe it would be.  The best we could do is muddle through.  And we’re still muddling, although I hope that now that the election is over, one way or another, we can ease off on trying to treat Covid as a political issue.

In brief, from my perspective, the worst part of Covid was not the sickness, it was the response of Democratic politicians.  I believe the Republicans could win the New York City mayoralty if they can run a candidate more compelling than a live turnip.

I hope Trump wins cleanly, but I doubt that will happen.  My second choice is for Biden to win cleanly.  I’m really worried about what a Biden/Harris (or is it Harris/Biden?) administration would do, but at least the election would be over.

As I’m about to look at the news, my sense is that the election results will be inconclusive at 6:00 on Wednesday morning.  Trump may be ahead on electoral votes, but not all the way there.  And there is Pennsylvania.  I lived in western Pennsylvania for a time, years ago.  My gut feeling is that the state will go for Trump, but the state’s leadership seems to be trying really hard to put it in the Democratic column.

OK, here goes….

We’re not there yet.  At this point, Biden has 224 electoral votes, Trump has 213, and Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Arizona are still in play.

The soap opera will go on.