One. More. Week.

The last day of the Fall semester is Wednesday, 25 November. I can tell I’m going to barely scrape over the finish line. Yesterday was exhausting, with my face locked into Zoom all day and early evening, and I ended up totally zombified by the time I’d suffered through my last online meeting. Today I have the morning sort of free (there’s always prep work & grading to fill in the gaps), and I’m going to use it to dart into the lab and feed the poor neglected spiders. That seems to be the only joy in my life right now, and even that has to take a backseat to wading through Zoom and clearing my backlog of grading.

Of course, this is the last week of instruction — the final surge of assignments and exams comes sailing over the transom to keep me occupied from Thanksgiving through the first week of December.

Oh, and the holidays…we’re supposed to be sensible and avoid large family gatherings, and I was thinking that maybe we could get away with a small family gathering for Thanksgiving, meeting with my daughter & her husband & the adorable granddaughter. With us, that would only be 5 people, and they all work from home and have been careful about minimizing exposure. But then I realized that I am the dirty, filthy plague rat of the family, since I have been compelled by my job to share a physical space with about 40 people per week. My presence alone would expand their bubbles to a much larger size.

It makes me very unhappy, and it isn’t fair — I’m also probably the most at-risk person for severe symptoms in the family — but it would be terrible if, in this case, it was Grandpa who was responsible for infecting the younger family members. I guess I’ll be staying home. Maybe if I quarantine myself for a month I’ll be able to meet in a tiny family gathering without worrying that I’m going to kill someone.

Actually, after this killer semester, I might be content to just lie down and take a nap for a month, anyway.


  1. says

    One? I got 4…
    What does my bubble look like?
    There are four people in this household.
    Each kid has a bubble of about 30 people they spend time in class with. During breaks they come into contact with many more, not to mention public transport.
    Mr is best off : immediate contact with maybe a dozen colleagues.
    And then there’s me : each day I have between 4 and 6 different classes (say 20 kids each. A lot of them are sick at any given moment) and meet about 20 colleagues. But sure it’s my overboarding social life that consists of grocery shopping and WhatsApp video chats that is a real risk.
    People, please stay at home if you can. I wished I could, but I’m trapped in an abusive relationship with the Ministry of education.

  2. PaulBC says

    It reminds me a little of Percolation theory. I would not trust any “bubble” I can’t watch all the time, which pretty much limits it to my household. Besides that, there is occasional shopping, which is getting less distanced all the time, though at least nobody complains about masks. I also bring my daughter to clinics and blood tests pretty frequently. We’re careful, but there’s no way to guarantee we won’t get infected. There is more virus out there than ever. I have no interest in pushing my luck further.

  3. says

    Right there with you—the immediate family is now down to (pregnant) sibling, husband, nephew, and our parents who may holiday together—and I am out of isolation on the twentieth. Rationally, the chance that I (or my similarly-isolated siblings’ family) will infect our parents is small, by then …. how does one choose between sensibility and social needs? Aiya.

  4. whheydt says

    Two weeks after their Thanksgiving Day (12 Oct.), Canada saw a surge in cases. I would expect the same in the US. What I fear will be the really big surge will be mid-January, starting about two weeks after all the idiotic New Years Eve parties. The gatherings will be bad enough, but tossing alcohol on the fire surely isn’t going to help.

  5. jrkrideau says

    @ 4 whheydt
    Yes, my local public health unit in Eastern Ontario is reporting 34 active cases as of 2020-11-17. IIRC this is the most we have ever had by a factor of 10.
    Thankfully we are still a lot better off than Toronto or Ottawa or Peel Region but the cumulative density function which was almost flat from August to about Thanksgiving is showing a nasty acceleration since then.

    Our revered Premier Doug Ford sounded almost in tears as he described the plight of small businesses facing a lockdown. It took a reporter’s question hor him to recall those people who have did or lost loved ones.

  6. PaulBC says

    I can grasp how hard it must be for a restaurant owner right now, but they’re not getting my business, sorry, and my family was doing home haircuts long before the pandemic. Why not freaking pay them to stay shut the way we pay farmers to lower crop production? How is this even complicated?

    And for whatever reason, South Korea has been able to keep this disease under control. They didn’t eradicate it and it looks like it’s coming up again now, but in terms of numbers, it’s an altogether different situation. Tell me, do they not have restaurants in South Korea? No beauty salons? No clubs? Pretty sure they have all of these and yet they haven’t fucked it up like we did.

    I think Gandhi was onto something when he (if only apocryphally) called Western civilization “a good idea.” We (Europe and more so the US) appear to be an ungovernable mass of humanity, and sorry it’s not something to be proud of “because Freedom™”.

  7. cartomancer says

    I will be getting a test once I finish teaching for the year, so I know I am without the disease when I go back to my parents. They haven’t been in contact with literally anyone but me all year, save standing two metres away from the delivery drivers who bring the food from Tesco. The real weak link is my brother, who pays no attention to the news and bimbles blissfully through life without taking precautions. Admittedly he works from home and doesn’t socialise, but still, he walks a dog every day and buys food in person. We are hoping we can get him to isolate and pay for a test for him, but there is some concern as to whether he’ll just fob us off and pretend he’s taking it seriously. He is very much the sort who thinks his own Panglossian disregard for proper caution trumps other people’s careful planning and precautions.

  8. robro says

    This LA Times article describes yet another example of a super-spreader event that began with an innocent gathering…a wedding reception attended by 55 people. One of the guests was infected. In 38 days, the infection spread to 176 people with 7 deaths.

  9. PaulBC says

    Somebody get Lee Greenwood on the phone. I think that once again his great anthem can be adapted to trying times.

    I’m proud to be an American, where I don’t have to wear a mask.
    And I won’t forget all the geezers who died… to free me of that task.”

    God bless herd immunity!

  10. unclefrogy says

    I simply do not understand how anyone can not understand that there is an invisible storm hollowing right outside their door and just because you can not see it does not meant it is not killing their neighbors.
    that is a great graphic very unsettling in a good way
    uncle frogy

  11. wzrd1 says

    I’m soon to be off to pick up meds, cigarettes, ethanol, a small turkey, odds and ends then bunker down again after a good washing.
    After Thanksgiving, all groceries are coming via instacart. That’ll insulate us from the infected hoards. Alas, tobacco and ethanol have to be picked up in person in this state.
    Maybe I should order smokes by case and ethanol as technical via tanker truck… use any excess in rocker experiments, haven’t done those in years…

  12. PaulBC says

    unclefrogy@12 I think people are really bad at working out these risks individually. Even after the link to lung cancer was undeniable, it took decades of public service announcements to get most people to quit smoking. Drunk driving was considered a big joke until MADD pushed for stiffer penalties and raised the drinking age. It is impossible for an individual to distinguish between a one time risk of 1% and 0.001% or 0%.

    If you are willing to study and to put some confidence in what you learn, than you can make yourself take low risks seriously. But even then, there’s social pressure. I was just now thinking… Costco shopping is getting me more nervous than it was before. Should I wear a face shield as well as a mask? I consider myself well-informed and I know I do not want coronavirus, but some part of my brain objected “You’ll look like a dork.” because even though masks are normal around here, face shields are not.

    To get the kind of compliance we need, we would first of all have to have a government that wanted to succeed instead of one that wants to fail on the health front to keep money flowing. But even if we did, it would not solve the problem. They would need to work as actively to shape opinion as commercial interests do.

  13. JustaTech says

    When I visited my in laws last week (not by choice, but they’re not in good health so we thought it would be safer to travel well before the holiday), we finally saw what their idea of “careful” is.

    The housekeeper came for about 6 hours, didn’t wear a mask (“but she’s careful”).
    The car detailers didn’t wear masks (but at least weren’t in the house, just the cars).
    The patio cleaning guys weren’t wearing masks, and opened the door right in my face (he was as surprised as I, but neither of us were masked).
    The neighbor came in and chatted for about half an hour, sitting in the living room.
    Another (unmasked) neighbor would have come in by my husband stopped her.
    My FIL went to work unmasked (he’s the boss, so he could make everyone wear a mask, but no).
    My FIL went to the golf club, promised he would play alone, but played with a friend. Masking unknown but unlikely.

    Both were super defensive about their behavior and number of interactions. Their reasoning? They’re not going out to restaurants with other people (right now, but they have plenty over the summer).

    “But I’m not going anywhere!”
    It doesn’t effing matter if you’re not going anywhere if the whole dang state is waltzing through your house unmasked!

  14. jrkrideau says

    @ 7 PaulBC

    Why not freaking pay them to stay shut the way we pay farmers to lower crop production?

    Canada did. Arguably not as well as we should but …. IIRC, much of the EU did.

    The USA’s strange mixture of religious fundamentalism, particularly the “Prosperity Gospel” crap combined with neo-liberal fanaticism seems to have blocked doing this unless the business was in the top 1%.

  15. PaulBC says

    jrkrideau@16 Yeah, I know. I think it is weird that paying a restaurant owner to stay shut is “welfare” but allowing them to stay open and work hard spreading a deadly disease is showing our national pride in small business ownership. (It should go without saying that I have nothing against restaurants. I love restaurants, just not enough to risk my life eating in one.)

    You could let them stay open but run effective public service campaigns telling people not to patronize indoor dining. That doesn’t work either, because it doesn’t solve the problem for restaurant owners if it really is effective, and it’s also clear that at the highest level, it’s not the message the US government wants to send.

    The message really is: please go out and act like everything’s normal. Many of you will die, but not enough for us to care about.

    They floated a lot of trial balloons for this approach in March. It didn’t work initially, but it seems that once enough fatigue sets in, it will.

  16. PaulBC says

    And the other problem with “let people die” is they don’t die conveniently like when Thanos snapped his finger. They will fill up hospitals while dying, fill up morgues, requiring refrigerated trucks, and put a big strain on the funeral industry whether it’s burial or cremation.

    We were through all this in March, but now it looks like the same people need to realize this again.

  17. unclefrogy says

    allowing them to stay open and work hard spreading a deadly disease is showing our national pride in small business ownership.

    not to me, it says we are not going to help you it would cost too much money (funny how the ones who complain about spending tax money while at the same time make sure that someone else is paying not them personally) so you are on your own and make sure you pay us what you owe us as well. you and your custumers can live or die we do not care.
    uncle frogy