An Oral History of COVID Restrictions
History will not be written in the New York Times, but by ordinary people, I swear it.
There will only be one issue of the newsletter this week because events have utterly overcome me.
My most pressing project has been to shift from the COVID Tracking Project data (which I have been using since I started this newsletter) to the Johns Hopkins COVID data, which will continue to be maintained after CTP shuts down in three days.
This has been an enormous project because I have had to reconcile my CTP data with the Johns Hopkins data and the CTP data starts over a month before the JH data starts and, oh yes, also the JH data changes header names in the middle of their data collection efforts and it is all just a gigantic exhausting nightmare that sucks up my time.
Which is a really selfish thing to say because the amount of energy and time that a lot of people have put into the COVID Tracking Project has been epic and I am a direct beneficiary of the selfless efforts over there. Even so, shifting from their data platform into another data platform has been excruciating and has taken all the time that I would have spent writing.
So, naturally, before I even completed that project, I added another project to my list of things to do.
An Oral History of COVID Restrictions
This is something I’m trying to shift into as we move through 2021. The story of what COVID restrictions are *actually* like is largely untold. There are a few half-hearted attempts to quantify what states are doing, who has mask mandates, who has 75% capacity dining vs 50% capacity vs 25% capacity, etc.
I don’t believe those efforts go nearly far enough to help us understand what exactly has happened in this time. Furthermore, I don’t believe there will be any large-scale coherent effort to capture this information, which will be vital information for us to look back on to understand why people didn’t follow certain guidance or what the lived experience was in places where children went to school 5 days a week vs where children were in school remotely for nearly a full year.
There are a few massively impactful experiences in my life and one of them was accidentally stumbling into working with a wonderful woman who worked within an alumni association at my school and made it her life’s work to interview alumni about their life experiences.
She called this process an “oral history” and I adore it. So that is what I’m trying to do for COVID response. My ideal situation is
1) get a better camera. I hate this one
2) find someone from every state and interview them about their state’s response along with their personal impressions. I believe these personal stories are a vital part of understanding the history of this era and I want to capture them.
I recorded myself doing the first of these oral histories.
I plan to move forward with this as quickly as I can. I’m talking with a friend about spinning up a dedicated site for this (since this isn’t something that works particularly well in a Substack format) and I thank everyone who subscribes with money b/c you’re financing this effort, which will not be cheap.
I currently have volunteers for 34 states and I’m determined to pay people for their participation in this endeavor. If you’d like to sign up, you can do so here. If you want to know what participation will entail, I’ve got a summary document here.
This is the biggest thing I’ve tried to do since I started this newsletter. I want this to be a major project and I want it to be a published work that people can reference years from now. We will see how strong my resolve is on this, but I’m working on it.
I’m not asking for any financial backing b/c I firmly believe that it’s unethical to ask for donations until I’ve sunk a certain amount of my own capital into this. But I’ll let you know when and if we get there.
I’m excited for this. I think there is a real opportunity to re-align the concept of what news and information gathering should be and I’m eager to throw my incredibly optimistic hat into the ring and explore new patterns of information gathering and dissemination that are very pro-human-experience and rely on honesty and generosity.
Looney Tunes: Hyde and Hare
I found this short based on this astoundingly beautiful thread from a cartoonist about how our appreciation of classical music tracks closely to how we experienced the music in the cartoons we love.
This cartoon is so much fun simply because Bugs refuses to learn any lessons from anything that happens to him. As his doctor friend shifts between Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Bugs seem oblivious to any change in his situation from the start of the short all the way to the end.