Monday, March 30th, 2020


Space Cadets

"For a brief moment earlier this month, it seemed as if social distancing might be the one new part of American life that wasn't polarized along party lines. Schools were closed in red states and blue; people across the political spectrum retreated into their home. Though President Donald Trump had played down the pandemic at first, he was starting to take the threat more seriously—and his media allies followed suit ... For the most part, it seemed, everyone was on the same page." (Then unreality set in.) McKay Coppins: The Social-Distancing Culture War Has Begun.

+ Hopefully, everyone will figure out that this is not a culture war or a political war. It's a biological war, and the virus doesn't give a damn about your politics, and it certainly won't use stupid recklessness as an excuse to spare someone. Liberty University Brings Back Its Students. "The decision by the school's president, Jerry Falwell Jr., to partly reopen his evangelical university enraged residents of Lynchburg, Va. Then students started getting sick." (We need to expand the legal definition of manslaughter.)

+ Fox News is worried about legal action after misleading viewers about coronavirus. (Why do I have the feeling they're not as worried about the related deaths?)

+ Trump said we'd have 15 cases going down to five and be open by Easter. Now, Trump says we're closed until May and fewer than 100K deaths will mean he did a great job. The main function of the federal government these days is to convince Trump of reality. But, as the stories above indicate, the whiplash inducing policy changes aren't filtering down quickly enough to save everyone. Here's the latest from WaPo.

+ All these stories are the reason why I offered a new strategy over the weekend. Tell The F--cking Truth.


Two Buck Chucked

"Amazon warehouse workers in Staten Island, N.Y., and Instacart's grocery delivery workers nationwide plan to walk off their jobs on Monday. They are demanding stepped-up protection and pay."

+ "Since we first announced the intent to do a sick out, Whole Foods announced a temporary raise of $2 an hour, which isn't enough. A bunch of us have already gotten sick. It's very plausible that some of us will die for this job." Whole Foods Employees Are Staging a Nationwide Sick-Out.


A Win Win

As you know, I've been praising the idea of using local restaurants to feed health workers. Caretakers get a good meal and know we're thinking of them, and restaurants get a financial lifeline when they need it the most. The idea has spread. Now comes your part. The COVID Clinician Meal Support Program is making the program available at cities across the country, and it's all backed by the amazing World Central Kitchen 501c3. Donate to your city, or find a neighboring town in need. Any amount helps. Do it. (And put NextDraft in the comments so we can bring our community together for a great cause.)


Doc Workers

"Medical workers are still showing up day after day to face overflowing emergency rooms, earning them praise as heroes. Thousands of volunteers have signed up to join their colleagues. But doctors and nurses said they can look overseas for a dark glimpse of the risk they are facing, especially when protective gear has been in short supply." Nurses Die, Doctors Fall Sick and Panic Rises on Virus Front Lines.

+ A nurse shared a harrowing photo to show how horrifying the outbreak is.

+ Meanwhile, we need more beds. Here's a look at field hospitals going up around world.

+ And all the stress is minor now, compared to what it will be if/when overwhelmed hospitals are forced decide who to treat.


Devil Inside

"Here's what I didn't prepare for: telling my kids to back away from me, while informing them that this scary thing upending the entire planet is now inside our house. Inside their mom." Wired: First Denial, Then Fear: Covid-19 Patients in Their Own Words (Including those of my friend, Anne Kornblut, excerpted above.)

+ "Nearly three weeks later, 45 have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or ill with the symptoms, at least three have been hospitalized, and two are dead." What a choir practice might mean about how the virus spreads.

+ As she lay dying of the coronavirus, her family said goodbye through a window.

+ There are the patients no one can hug. And there are the patients no one wants. Cruise Ship with 189 sick people headed to Florida after four passengers die.

+ And some good advice from John Dickerson: Spare a Moment for Sorrow.


Vax to Grind

"Johnson & Johnson said on Monday that it and the U.S. government will invest $1 billion to create enough manufacturing capacity to make more than 1 billion doses of a vaccine it is testing to stop the new coronavirus that has killed more than 35,000 people around the world." (They don't know if it works yet, but they're building capacity in case it does...)

+ Bloomberg: Century-Old Vaccine Investigated as a Weapon Against Coronavirus.


Crude Awakening

There's a global oil price war going on just at the moment that demand for oil has plummeted. That combination has sent oil prices to an 18 year low. (Which would mean you'd be greeted by much lower gas prices if you were allowed to go anywhere.)


Spokes People

"It's the first time in days they have opened their mouths to speak their native tongue. When had they last encountered a fellow traveler on two wheels? Each ogles the other's bicycle—two wildly different animals beneath the same desert dust. The strangers introduce themselves." Leon had been riding west for 309 days. Noel had headed east for 176. Their meeting in the desert was a small miracle. (They felt how many of us will feel when we can hang out together again!)


Feel Good Monday

John Krasinski highlights some good news from around the world, including an interview with Steve Carell to mark the 15th anniversary of The Office. (Your move, Dwight.)

+ "The unusual course was completed in a time of 4 hours 21 minutes, which was longer than his normal pace because of the sharp changes in direction." Graham Merfield completed a marathon ... in his garden. (I felt pretty good after walking my dogs around the kitchen island a couple times...)

+ Where to find delight during a coronavirus quarantine.

+ Andy Slavitt goes a little off-brand and shares some of the inspiring things people are doing which may be remembered long after the virus.

+ Astrophysicist gets magnets stuck up nose while inventing coronavirus device.

+ And swim racing makes a comeback.


Something, Something, Something Murder (8)

The most excellent Damon Lindelof has kindly offered to share a serialized story with NextDraft readers to help us, and him, through the quarantine. Past chapters here. To be continued, daily...

Chapter 8: All I Wanna Do Is A Zooma Zoom Zoom… But Not ON Zoom (Just Shake Ya Rump)

George had not been punched in the face since he was eleven.

Well, technically he had been kicked in the face. Larry Bethea had leaped off the bleachers shouting, "Kee-YA, motherfuckahhhhh!" and just as George had realized he was the motherfucker in question, he was getting an up-close look at the treaded sole of Larry Bethea's Gazelle and then he was unconscious. When he came to, George told Ms. Fiorentino that he had tripped and fallen on his face because he did not want to be a snitch and while he did not know why Larry Bethea had chosen to kick him in the face, George wanted to live in a world where every effect was preceded by a cause, so Larry must have had a darn good one. The asshole currently punching George in the face certainly did.

And the cause was NextDoor.

For those unfamiliar, NextDoor is a messaging app localized for neighborhoods. If your dog goes missing, you can post a photo and everyone can be on the lookout! If you smell smoke, you can post "Does anyone smell smoke?" If a suspicious vehicle is parked on your street, it is your civic duty to post, "MEXICAN CARTELS IN BEL AIR!" And while NextDoor is a great place to connect with your neighbors, it is an even better place to yell at them. They yelled about speeding cars and endless construction and dogshit on their lawns, oh did they yell about the dogshit! When the virus hit they found new things to yell about, like how irresponsible it was to have a Farmer's Market but hold on, how is a Farmer's Market any different from Whole Foods, in fact it's safer because its outdoors but our privilege and the optics and who do you think you are to judge YOUR DOG SHITS ON ALL THE LAWNS!

But George looked for the best in people and he believed that now, in the midst of the crisis, it was just a matter of time before they all began to shine. Elizabeth just sighed and said, "This is a mistake." but he signed up for NextDoor anyway and even opted in for text alerts which is why he was now being punched in the face.

It was the end of March, several weeks in, long enough to have given up caring or knowing what day it was. The only sense of time passing was that new episodes of SURVIVOR appeared on Wednesday, but with Boston Rob banished to Extinction Island, George had stopped giving a shit about that, too.

We were all Boston Rob. We were all on Extinction Island.

And so, there was George, unshaven, unemployed, unable to get his children off their devices to play just one game of SETTLERS when his phone buzzed. When he looked down at it, he suddenly had something he had not had since PH&W…

George had utility. George had purpose. George had NextDoor.


It did not matter to George that this poor individual did not know how to spell. Perhaps they were simply too flustered or worse, too sick… but there were multiple exclamation points and George didn't' need to count them to know this was serious, Jesus, he was already clicking on the link because while it may be true that he wasn't needed in his own house right now, he was needed here, here in the neighborhood. PLEASE HELP!!!! You bet your sweet ass he would.

Her name was Beatrice M. and her profile pic was a cat, most certainly her cat, wearing a little bonnet. Her post was uncapitalized and to the point, further evidence to George that she was likely bedridden and gasping for air.

"does anybody know if paper towels are at Ralphs or Gelsons? I am a senior."

George's thumbs were already tk-tking across his phone – "Beatrice, we have copious rolls. Please provide your address and I will deliver immediately." He hesitated… dragged his fingers over "copious rolls" and retyped, "a lot of paper towels." This way she would know he knew how to spell "towels." His heart racing, he pushed SEND.

"Why are you smiling like that?" asked Elizabeth, glancing over the top of Sapiens, which she had been reading for the better part of six years now. "Because I am about to save the day." said George. She sighed and said, "This is a mistake."

But now he was stuffing four rolls of paper towels into a paper bag and hopping into his Tesla because Beatrice M. had responded, "your a saint!" and provided her address and it did not matter that George's pettiest of peeves was the misuse of your/you're, nor did it matter that Beatrice M. was likely not asphyxiating on her own phlegm, but more likely dealing with a spill of some sort, a bad spill that needed something, anything to absorb it ASAP.

Thanks to the Tesla's nav, it only took him two minutes to reach Beatrice M's quaint cottage in the flats of Brentwood Glen. As he had promised her in his subsequent post, George was wearing gloves and a mask for the delivery, even though he would leave the bag of paper towels at her door at which point he would snap a pic for all in the neighborhood to see, for them to share with one another, hands over their hearts as they described his selfless awesomeness to one another in awe of the local hero who had taken it upon hims—

"What the fuck is this?"

George turned, just a few steps from his car, to see a man. Like George, the man was dressed in a t-shirt and sweatspants . Like George, he was unshaven and suburban. And like George, he was carrying a bag of paper towels.

The two stared at each other like gunslingers.

"I'm here to give these to Beatrice M." said George.

"Uh uh," said the man, "I DMed her and she DMed me back so I got this, pal."

George traditionally avoided confrontations, especially with people who called him "pal." But tonight was different.

"She gave me her address." George said. "She told me I was a saint."

If either were truly acting in Beatrice M's best interests, one would have suggested they both leave their paper towels. She would be thrilled to find such a bounty (sorry) upon opening her door. But they were not acting in her best interests. And there could be only one hero in the Glen that night.

George was expecting another round of wordplay, perhaps working their way up from casual insults to outright threats. The man, however, had spent the better part of his day being berated by his eight-year-old son Dylan. Dylan who had dared to tell him Raiders of The Lost Ark was "slow" and "dumb," Dylan who had screamed at him that the pizza rolls should always go in the oven because that made them crunchy and the microwave made them soggy so yeah, the man was well past insults and threats and just got right to the punching.

And social-distancing be damned, punch George the man did, exploding his nose beneath the only N-95 mask he and Elizabeth had not donated to their local hospital, the one he saved for a real emergency like helping old women in need.

Fifteen minutes later, George returned home. A wad of paper towels pushed to his face, extracted from the bag he had failed to deliver. He sat there in the driveway, relieved that the children were sleeping, that he would not have to face Alden's withering gaze nor Leo's oafish confusion nor disappoint his daughters with yet another failure. But he would have to face Elizabeth. She had told him this was a mistake the moment he signed up for NextDoor and she had told him again before he went forth on this mission and now he would have to tell her she was right. But when George tip-toed up the stairs and into the bedroom, Elizabeth was not there. Just Sapiens, face-down on the comforter.

But Alden was there, awake after all.

And so was a very tall man with the most fantastic beard George had ever seen.

To be continued...