Notes From America: Messages

I try to go to the supermarket early to beat the crowds, and over their PA, “All I Need is a Miracle” was playing today. “Indeed”, I thought. A fitting message.

While driving on the freeway yesterday, the message on the freeway signs was “Move over or slow 4 workers, it’s the law” and “Feeling drowsy? Exit and rest” — “right!” I thought. That’s the most important thing right now to put on those signs?

Early in the pandemic, those signs said “Wash your hands, avoid gatherings, help slow the spread”, or something like that. I wonder what happened to that.

Especially with the various holidays approaching, the single most important message should be “Don’t spend time indoors with people outside your household”, as The Atlantic puts it in their piece The Pandemic Safety Rule That Really Matters. It should be hammered home and repeated as often as possible*.

I found this semi-interactive article in the English edition of Spanish newspaper El Pais really good: A room, a bar and a classroom: how the coronavirus is spread through the air – it illustrates and explains aerosol transmission of COVID-19. We know now that the virus is airborne**, and that contaminated surfaces don’t play that much of a role in its transmission.

Instead, California’s governor has put a curfew in place, from 10 PM through 5 AM. I’m not quite sure what the rationale behind that is – perhaps to prevent our own lawmakers from traveling, or himself from dining lavishly at dinner parties? (I know, we’re all human and make mistakes).

Indoor operations of bars & restaurants had to cease altogether anyway in most of California’s counties as they moved into the highest, “purple” tier of pandemic response***. Private Thanksgiving parties (and they will happen, no doubt) often start mid afternoon anyway – so by 9 PM everyone is ready to just collapse, overstuffed and full of turkey tryptophan (that it makes you sleepy is just an urban myth, of course).

It won’t be possible to persuade the conspiracy theorists (not just an American phenomenon, of course) and pandemic deniers, but I’m convinced that a better message would make a difference. Until that happens, the number of daily new cases will rise even further. Yesterday it was over 180000. Tomorrow over 200k?


*) as we know now, messages on repeat do stick: about 70% of Republicans now believe that the 2020 US election was “rigged” , somehow. 🙄 Because yes, if the election was rigged, whoever did that would leave Trump’s most unscrupulous enablers in the Senate in place. Makes total sense.

**) “Like an airborne virus” works hilariously well as a replacement for the line “Like a rhinestone cowboy” in Glen Campbell’s old country song 😬

***) “So why on earth would anyone eat inside a restaurant right now?” (The Atlantic)

Thoughts? Let me hear them.

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