Saturday, March 21, 2020

Facebook, the Real Virus

Politicians are doing things just to say they are "doing something".  Ordinary people aren't much better.

Today, we went to a picnic pavilion and grilled a couple of hamburgers for lunch.  The place was deserted and there was zero risk of transmitting or receiving any virus, whatsoever.  There were maybe a dozen people at the beach, in groups of 2-3, spaced at least 40 yards apart from one another. Again, zero risk.

But because some "spring break" kids were on the beach on a neighboring island and "someone took a picture of them" milling around, they decided to close the beaches here as well.   The same is true down in Florida.

What was weird was not one, but two busybody ladies came by while we were there.  The first said something along the lines of "Did those people" (referring to those on the beach) "have special permission to be there?"   We demurred that we didn't know.  "Well, I live here!' she said.  "We do, too" we replied.  I half expected the usual "You're too young to live here!" bullshit, but she held her tongue.  She was going around the island to check to see if the beach ban was really in effect, and to no doubt update her Facebook wall with a detailed report.

That's the problem with this self-quarantine - people don't have enough to do with their time and they go looking for trouble.  I suspect that spousal abuse - and familial murders - will increase in the coming weeks.

A half-hour later, I wandered over to the beach access to see if indeed the beach was "closed" with police tape or a sign or anything.  No sign of any "closing" going on.  And in fact, a four-wheeler from the turtle center ran down the beach, apparently ignoring the sun bathers violating the ban.  I think so long as people were not congregating in crowds, no one really cares - or should care.

Another busybody came by and tried the door to the restroom, which was locked.  The island authority decided to close the restrooms so no one could wash their hands.  Of course, I have an issue with the authority on that - they don't have hot water in the restrooms to begin with - a hand sanitizing faux pas.   Anyway, I said to the lady, "I hear the restrooms are closed," and she replied, "Yes, I know, we're just going around checking to make sure they did what they said they were going to do!"

I was a little taken aback by this - restroom vigilantes.   It is one thing to "quarantine" at home and practice CDC recommendations, another thing to go out and chastise other people and anoint yourself the virus police.   Oddly enough, the latter is more likely to get you infected - or infect others.  Just stay at home and mind your own fucking business.

A friend of mine who watches television and is on Facebook (we like them in spite of these character flaws) filled me in as to what is going on.  Apparently CNN is making a big deal out of this - showing the same clip over and over again of irresponsible millenials congregating on the beach, probably spreading the virus on purpose, so as to kill off all the baby boomers.  They were probably eating avocado toast at the same time.  Damn millenials - ruining everything, even this virus thing!  You kids - get off my lawn!   And my beach!

Anyway, the "Concerned Old Biddies of America" all got on Facebook and started a torch-and-pitchfork parade.  To the castle!  Kill the monster!   And now it is all out of hand.

Politicians, of course, love a parade.  When you see one, make sure you are out in front of it.  When this "tea party" thing started, for example, many Republican politicians scrambled to posit that they were the ones who started it all, not just the Johnny-come-latelies who were latching onto potential votes (later on, they just as quickly distanced themselves from it).  So politicians across the country are scrambling to show they are "doing something" by banning this or that.  Maybe avocado toast is next.

Close the restaurants!  Close the hotels!  Close Wall Street!  Close colleges!  Close schools!  Close businesses!  Close the beach!  Limit gatherings to an arbitrary number of people!  Hundreds of people have died here, folks!  Time to do something!

And maybe some of these actions make sense.  Others do not.  A wide-open beach, drenched in sun, isn't an unsafe place to be, provided you aren't sneezing in someone's face, which is hard to do when you are 40 yards away from them.    But forget common sense - just close the beach entirely, even if "beaches" aren't inherently unsafe.

Of course, there is a subtext here.  The folks on neighboring "pretend rich people's island" absolutely hate spring breakers.   We don't get a lot of them, but the old folks who live there despise the few they do get.   Here is a chance to get even with them.

My perspective is this:  I am more worried about giving someone this virus than getting it.  For all I know, I already have it, or had it (that nasty cold we had a couple of weeks ago).  Living on an island where the average age is 74, I don't want to be the typhoid Mary who kills off all my neighbors.   We went to pick up a golf cart for a friend of ours and the seller - who used to live on the island - is 80+ years old.  She invited us in, but we respectfully declined.   We've tried to stay at least 4-6 feet from folks, if not more.   But others are less cautious.  An oldster today came right up to me, was "in my face" and wanted to shake my hand.  I used a wipe afterwords (discreetly) but I was more worried about him than myself - after all, he was at least 80 years old, too.

The media is reporting a lot of hype.  A recent article cites a 32-year-old dying from the virus - "This could happen to you too, buddy!" was the message they seemed to be sending.  It is only paragraphs into the article that they explain he had major pulmonary problems that exacerbated the issue.  They made it sound like anyone could keel over dead from this, but the reality is, you have to be either very old or very sick, or very both.   The survival rate is 97%, and even higher among young, healthy kids.

If those kids get the virus, they may get ill, but once they recover, they will not be transmitting the virus and moreover be immune.  I think they realize this, too, which is why they are being "irresponsible" on the beach.   So long as they are not french-kissing Grandma, the risk to oldsters may be overstated.   Old people should be isolating themselves from others - particularly younger people.

I predict that in a week or so, people are going to chafe against these restrictions, particularly if the infection rate and death toll don't rise as predicted.   To date, far, far more people have been killed on the nation's highways than by this virus.   I believe we may be losing perspective.  This isn't MERS which had a whopping fatality rate of 34% or more.

But to suggest such a thing is heresy - in this age of social media.   Fake news and false rumors are valid, of course - you won't be shamed for being an anti-vaxxer on Facebook.  But calling out Chinese government policy makes you a racist.  Go figure.

Time will tell whether the measures taken were too much or too little.   I suspect this isn't the last time a pandemic will hit the world in our time - after all, the population keeps going up and up, and the closer we all live together, the more likely it is that some random piece of DNA will kill us.

That's how nature works - like with "invasive species" trying to stop these things is like shoveling water or herding cats.   The underlying problem is overpopulation - which the virus, it seems, is trying to cure for us.

Of course, someday, we may cure ourselves of this problem, as for the last 70 years or so, we've been poised to wipe ourselves off the face of the earth on a moment's notice.   Perhaps that is the ultimate "cure" for all of mankind's woes.