There Are No Magic Numbers

With respect to COVID-19, there are no solid numbers we can stand behind to be safe.

Six feet? Arbitrary. This is the distance we’re told to stand or sit apart from people so we don’t catch the airborne virus.

Why six feet? I don’t know. We know the plume of coughed-up phlegm and spittle you propel from your nose and mouth during a sneeze or cough can travel 10x that distance (or more). Air current and humidity can change that number from six feet to sixty in, well, a sneeze.

Are you indoors? How’s the ventilation? In most places, air is recirculated from one part of the ceiling to another. Airborne particles containing the coronavirus tend to move down with gravity but can stay suspended for MINUTES.

Some states or localities have limits on group sizes. For example, a few months ago, California had a rule that no more than 25 people could gather. As their rates rose (again), that number went down to 10.

Other states have different numbers that can assemble in a group.

There is nothing magical about the numbers 10 or 25. Why not 3? Or 72?

I know, it’s a risk mitigation factor. In a group of 100, there is a higher likelihood of somebody being infected with COVID than in a group of 3.

In either case, if you’re within a few feet of others, there is a very high likelihood of a whole lot of people contracting the virus.

If we were to put numbers on these sorts of things that resembled reality, those numbers would be infinity and/or null.

Groups of none are best. Keep infinity feet apart. Wear a fucking mask if you can’t meet BOTH of those specs.

Of course, none of that is possible, primarily because people in the United States insist on “personal freedom” and won’t wear a goddamned mask or stay the fuck home.

YOU may wear a mask and TRY to practice “social distancing” (better term is physical distancing), but that doesn’t mean Bubba will.

And he’s standing right fucking behind you now at the Quickie Mart, mouth-breathing (because that’s what Bubbas do), coughing, wheezing, and sweating up a viral storm.

What do you do? Give him the stink eye? Punch him in the face? Call the POLICE?

Nobody will come. Nobody will shame that gross motherfucker into wearing a small piece of cloth over his nose and mouth. Nobody will defend you when you gouge his eyes out with Quickie Mart sporks you reflexively picked up when you spotted him coming in behind you.

We’re fucked, America.

There’s one last chance though (two sides of the same coin): We could get to herd immunity once a certain percentage of the population gets COVID (nobody can agree on the number–there I go again with the impossibility of magic numbers–and nobody even knows if herd immunity will work!)…

Sure, we could have multiple vaccines soon. How soon? Nobody knows. Johnson & Johnson had a promising vaccines that they just shut down because people were…getting sick. D’oh!

(Vaccines are just a quicker way to herd immunity, by the way.)

There is evidence herd immunity doesn’t work. It’s not a lot of evidence, but it’s been noted that some people have been re-infected.

So if herd immunity doesn’t work, then what? We all get it and suffer the consequences.

But make no mistake: There are NO MAGIC NUMBERS when it comes to COVID guidelines.


Will We Ever Return to Normal?

While it feels good to tell ourselves, “yes,” the answer is an emphatic “NO!”

This is going to be a very short story.

Everybody is asking:

“When will we return to work?”

“When will things go back to the way they were?”

“When will we return to normal?”

I have to be blunt because there is no other way: We will never return to normal.

Put another way: THIS is our new normal.

Get used to it.

Some of us won’t ever return to our old jobs. The businesses died. There are no jobs to return to.

Some of us will continue to work from home.

Some of us will return to work, but it won’t be like it was before COVID-19. We may wear masks, practice social distancing, and not gather around the water cooler or eat together in the lunchroom.

When shopping, we may decide to not go out as often as we used to. We may stay home and order online.

Buy Amazon stock.

Eating out? Fat chance I’m exposing myself or my family to this virus at a restaurant. I doubt I’m the only one.

What will the Christmas shopping season look like? Retail sales will be way down. Online sales may be down, too, but they’ll take market share from brick-and-mortar shops (as they have for the past 20 years).

With 20 percent unemployment and a federal government who can’t keep from stepping on their dicks with every stumble (and they stumble a lot), there really isn’t much hope that the economy will come roaring back soon.

I believe it will come back, but it could take some time. It may take a worse calamity to bring us out of it. Remember the Great Depression and World War II…

Nope, we aren’t returning to the way things once were. We will continue to wipe down our delivered groceries with short-supply sanitary wipes, drenched in 70 percent alcohol.

We will continue to throw away our plastic bags instead of re-using them for cat litter collection and disposal.

Masks may become a mainstay. Over time, I think people will relax, but keeping clean and reducing exposure will always be in the back of my mind.

Self-service will take on new meaning. Maybe retail stores won’t even have employees. Just a check out scan through their terminal, posted to your chipped credit card or your smart phone.

That was, after all, the logical conclusion to Sam Walton’s vision a half-century ago. He saw “help” as waste when the customer could do all the work herself. So he built an empire based on very little human capital, lots of systems and logistical work, and partnering with China (ahem — food for another story about not putting all your damned eggs in one basket) to lower prices on everything they sold.

We aren’t returning to normal. This is our normal. Get used to it.

Sure, some people will return to their old ways. However, I think many will not. Time will tell.

But my “normal” is now. The past is gone. It isn’t coming back.

Thoughts? Leave a comment.