One of my mentors and best friends taught me long ago to always lead with the bad news. “Bad news first,” he would say when I walked into his office (since I rarely came with good news, but that’s for another soapbox). I adopted that strategy in all facets of my life and it has served me well.
However, it’s not great for showbiz, so we’re going to start with the good news.
Driving to and from Las Vegas over summer vacation, spending almost a week there, and then spending lots of time in the greater Sacramento area going to dinners, lunches, and stores, there was a lot of good. Unfortunately, the good was basically breaking my self-imposed rule of celebrating normal. It IS good, though, to see seemingly so many people returning to life.
In Vegas, maybe 25% of all people were wearing masks, and there was certainly no social distancing of any kind going on there. The casinos, bars, restaurants and strip itself were packed shoulder to shoulder. There was the odd store, like Louis Vuitton, who was still engaging in capacity limits and lines to get in (thus, they didn’t get our business) and only one store in all of Vegas (we went to literally dozens) asked us to put on a mask to enter. Thus, we didn’t enter…screw you, Valentino. My wife found her shoes elsewhere, thank you.
The roads everywhere are packed, to be sure. What should have been a 7-8 hour drive to Las Vegas took over 10, solely because there were just too many damn cars (and tons of truckers keeping America running) on the road. Not just in Vegas, but also Reno, where we stopped briefly, and throughout Sacramento, people are also generally in good, positive moods. In fact, I noticed that the only grouchy people seem to be the ones who should be at home in the first place; those rare customers wearing masks, who seem incapable of being happy about anything.
It was also noteworthy and refreshing to observe that essentially no one, anywhere, is talking about anything related to Covid. The maskers don’t talk to anyone anyway, so they don’t count. Everyone else was talking about plans, sports, the weather, which concerts and events they’re going to go to, seeing family and friends, getting back to work in offices, even the holidays. So yes, normal is good…it shouldn’t be celebrated, but it should be at least noticed.
It also comes with some unfortunate side effects after the last year. Most notably, people are awkward as hell. It’s glaringly obvious who amongst us has spent the last year living life as normally as possible, and who actually literally stayed home the entire time. Many times my wife and I felt like we were teaching children how to socialize with strangers in public for the first time, but hey, at least they’ve found their way back…and again, were almost universally pleasant and positive. Something else that’s glaringly obvious from Vegas and back is the worker shortage; it’s real and it’s bad. The people who are working are trying, you can tell…but there just aren’t enough of them, anywhere. Wait times are forever, lines are long, service is slow, and it’s not incompetence, it’s lack of bodies. At a couple restaurants in Vegas we noticed long wait times to get tables with entire sections of tables empty; being the curious (nosey) types that we are, we asked if they were still limiting capacities or following protocols at these places and the answer was the same every time; absolutely not… “we just don’t have enough people working.” As a fellow business owner, it was downright depressing to see so much potential revenue and income being squandered solely because there aren’t enough people willing to work.
None of that, however, is the bad news.
People will get better at socializing again, and the workers will return, in time. The question is when, exactly, and that’s where the bad news comes in.
I stayed entirely ignorant for the first 10 days of our vacation; turning on no news, avoiding websites that didn’t contain recipes or porn, and trying my best to cleanse my covid soaked brain which has been on overload for the past 15 months.
I wasn’t surprised when I dove back in to the happenings of the universe to see the endless stories about crime skyrocketing, racial tensions, heatwaves, and billionaires heading into outer space. Same stuff, different day for this decade so far.
Come to think of it, I did turn on some news on the drive home from Vegas; Christina needed a nap, and I needed something that I actually had to concentrate on other than the endless landscape of sage and feral donkeys that make up Nevada, so I decided to listen to some news on satellite radio since it would at least hold my attention, and I knew I couldn’t hide from it forever. I heard the current Surgeon General of the United States, Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy in an interview talking about the Delta variant strain of the Covid virus. If you’ve bene fortunate enough to miss it, the Delta strain is the lasts mutation of Covid and it’s a doozy; stronger, more transferrable, and shutting much of the world down yet again. The Olympics in Japan will now have no spectators thanks to yet another state of emergency in that country thanks to Covid.
But our Surgeon General didn’t take the bait. In fact, he was on to present brand new data that shows that all three of the vaccines available in the United States are resistant to the Delta Variant. He made it a point to say that if you’re vaccinated, you are safe from all forms of covid and can’t spread it, so there’s no need to wear a mask at anytime. He obviously also made his pitch for others to get vaccinated, but did so in a way that acknowledged they should do so only if they choose, and to protect themselves. I thought to myself “well that was refreshing. Some actual science, logic, and common sense from a public health official.”
So here’s the bad news; along with a question. As I dove all the way back in to prepping for the show and reading, I found story after story ginning up as much fear as possible about the Delta variant, the coming fall and cooler weather, and expert after expert saying mask mandates need to be re-instated in the United States. Why? You ask…because despite actual data after 7 months of vaccinating half of America’s entire population showing that the vaccines prevent the spread of Covid, people are just making things up again. One of the biggest lunatics since the start of the pandemic has been a guy named Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, whose models and predictions have been wrong from the beginning, yet still has a job and is labeled as an “expert.” Despite the evidence presented by the Surgeon General, Murray is demanding mask mandates be re-instated because there is no doubt in his mind that vaccinated people are spreading the Delta variant. That’s an actual quote…no data at all whatsoever, just his belief. https://www.businessinsider.com/covid-expert-vaccinated-people-can-spread-the-delta-variant-2021-7
Now, mind you, the debate over masks is over. They are the greatest thing on planet Earth and if you question that you are a flat-earth, Holocaust denier. Period, shut your mouth, that’s SCIENCE.
And of course, for some reason, freedom is not a topic allowed either. Despite the fact that this is still barely the United States, you can’t for a second point out that people have a right to choose not to take a medicine they don’t want. As the almighty Dr. Fauci said last week “get over it.” Yes, that’s a direct quote too. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/anthony-fauci-republicans-covid-vaccine-b1880427.html
For the love of God don’t even think about invoking the fact that about two-thirds of eligible Americans are at least partially vaccinated, and of the other third we know statistically that half of them have had Covid and have anti-bodies, meaning that we have achieved herd immunity. My God…that might mean that life can fully go back to normal. And don’t even think about pointing out that Johns Hopkins University, one of the most respected throughout this pandemic, is leading the way saying that we have herd immunity and it’s time to help the rest of the world get there and let America live. Shutup…SCIENCE. https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2021/june/johns-hopkins-professor-dr-marty-makary-to-news-the-pandemic-is-really-over
So here’s the question that goes with the bad news…actually questions…
Will we see parts of the country re-enact mask mandates by fall (this seems like an obvious yes to me, but discuss and let me know)
How will the nation react? How will the half of the country I spent the last two weeks with respond to being told we’re going back? There’s the part of me that demands we just look to the recent past and remember how so many so willingly submitted to idiocy and that they will again, but there’s also the part of me that says enough of us, and our businesses, are fed up with this and will demand to finally live…normally…with the virus.
It’s no news flash that we’re a more divided nation than at any other time in my life, and this next attempt at slowing down, impeding, or stopping our lives could be calamitous. To end on an attempted more positive note, let’s hope that enough of us have shown with our actions and our pocketbooks our desire to return to normal, and that enough people have taken notice and won’t try, yet again, to restrict us from doing so.