QZ qz thoughts
a blog from Eli the Bearded

Covid-19, Day 244

Latest numbers: dispensing with the state numbers now. US overall now over six million cases and more than 183,000 deaths. As "back to school" kicks in, new outbreaks, particularly at colleges are appearing. World wide cases are over 25 million and deaths stand over 844,000. In recent weeks some states have started to scale back testing, following Federal guidance that seems based on Trump's fewer tests will mean fewer cases fantasy. Rapid testing is still a burden to find in the US.

Increasingly I'm seeing bars and restaurants put in outdoor seating, using the "parklet" model San Francisco has. Basically this is the conversion of on-street parking to protected space for people.

Three parklets for outdoor seating

Here three separate businesses have three parklets at one intersection. One is simply metal barriers for now. If it follows the practice seen elsehwere, the walled wood platform will be there soon.

Prior to covid-19 very few parklets were all wood construction, and some had very artistic designs. Consider the "Deepistan National Parklet" created in 2011, with a topiary dinosaur.

The triceratops topiary at Deepistan Parklet

When it was created, Deepistan National Park(let) was the only parklet sponsored / in front of a residence.

But now rapid and cheap is the name of the game, and basic wood boxes are springing up around the city. This is all fine and well on good days, but rainy weather will be coming, and right now San Francisco is in the midsts of it's longest ever streak of "Spare the Air" days, where certain activities are discouraged and some are illegal due to bad air quality. (Discouraged: driving, at risk people spending time outdoors; illegal: wood fires including beach bonfiles.) The air is so bad because of blown in smoke from wildfires around the state.

It's a bad year for wildfires. The current batch was started by a rare series of August lightning strikes, months after the last rain. Many small fires started and grew until they combined into a few huge fires. Two out of the three largest wildfires in California history were burning simultaneously, and Covid-19 hindered both response and shelter options for people evacuated.

There have been a few days that the smoke layer sitting on the city has been very unpleasant for me. As I've gotten older, wood smoke causes my nasal passages and lungs more and more distress. When mask wearing started for Covid-19, I first began using my "Vog" brand N-95 mask which I had purchased for dealing with wildfire smoke in the city in previous years.

But more distressing than than the disruption of the disease or the suffocating smoke has been the politics. Trump's rejection of reality and outright stoking of racism, his obvious attempts to thwart voting, his destruction of norms and the US Postal Service, all of that is becoming a dispiriting drain on my mental health. Trump didn't accept the election results when he won, I have no illusions he'll accept a loss this time. And I have no stomach for imagining how it will shake out.