gRegorLove little g big R

Four Years of Blank

This month marks four years since the start of the pandemic. I’ve been reflecting a lot and going through various emotions. That’s been a pretty regular process over the years, but this month it definitely seems heightened. I think that’s because the anniversary is a reminder of where we’ve been, how much has been lost, and leads me to wonder what’s possible in the future. It’s been four years of many things.


I started to isolate and mentally prepare on March 11, 2020, when the WHO declared it a pandemic. Then California issued its stay-at-home order on the 19th. I wish I had written more during that time, either in my journal or here, but my best recollection is that I thought it might be a couple months like that. That seemed like a really big deal (oh, sweet summer’s child), but I felt somewhat equipped for it since I had already been working remotely for years.

Mike McHargue put out some good podcasts about COVID during that time. I always appreciated his acknowledgment of how scary the times were and the importance of recognizing our feelings so we can make healthy responses. He’s a great science communicator and has a soothing voice. I’m glad I had that at the time and it helped set the tone for taking care of each other.

Community and Reimagining

For as scary as those times were, it felt encouraging to connect with people online. It felt like we were in the early days of realizing “things don’t have to be this way.” We can slow down, stop trying to climb the ladder, and take better care of each other. Suddenly, talking about protecting the immunocompromised and the disabled became a much more common topic of conversation. That has stuck with me through the years and only grown stronger as one of my values.

The Liturgists opened some Zoom rooms 24/7 for hangouts and events. I connected with a group there in April 2020. We hit it off so well the first night that we were on for about five hours. Most of us were complete strangers, but it became an almost daily hangout. And it just kept going, for all of 2020 and into 2021. Close friendships and romantic relationships would eventually come from that group. Things have slowed down in the last couple years, but we still have a group chat and a couple Zoom meetups per year.

Thankfully, most of my communities were on the same page about taking things seriously and trying to take care of each other. There were people who weren’t, though, including family. That weighed heavily on me (and often still does). Still, in that first couple years, I felt a level of solidarity and camaraderie with people. I felt hopeful that it could be a turning point. We were talking about communal care a lot, so maybe we could move away from our hyper-individualism. I didn’t expect it to be a utopia and change overnight, but it felt like we were bending that arc more towards justice.

Losing Hope

As 2022 went on, I was having a hard time holding on to that hope. I wrote about that in August. My mood was up and down often. I kept watching more and more people who had been taking precautions just stop. The low feelings got lower each time as I felt I was losing more of my community.

As much as I love missiongathering church and believe in their mission, I eventually stopped going in person. It was really hard for me to be in a community space like that and one of only a few that was still wearing a mask. I think it hurt more because they are people who are in a similar place spiritually, with similar values of caring for each other and the community. It seemed like a big disconnect between those values and the actions. I got worn out trying to psych myself up to continue going. I did later connect with the new interim pastor, which I also wrote about. I really appreciate Braeden and that we’ve kept in touch, regardless of whether I’m an active member in the church community.

Tensions rose with family members who didn’t take it as seriously as I did. I mostly tried to avoid bringing it up and if conversation did come around to it, engage minimally. I’ve realized that this means I’m not bringing my full self into those relationships, though. I understand “agree to disagree,” to an extent, but this disagreement also has a big impact on my decisions for when and how to be around people. The full phrase isn’t “agree to disagree, then we can pretend like everything is the same as it was in 2019.” I’m still processing and working through expressing these ideas so I can show up more in these relationships. I don’t have to convince everyone to be on the same page as me, but I will communicate my boundaries.

In early 2023 I came across a COVID-conscious group that hosts a weekly Zoom hangout. It was a pretty big group, around 100 people in a variety of topical breakout rooms, everything from lighthearted chat to serious science discussions. It was so refreshing and felt validating to be among people who are on the same page. There’s a couple of these groups, and I currently have been attending the Third Place Hangout on Saturday evenings semi-regularly. It helps me feel less alone.


I’ve been frustrated and angry with the public health response for years. First the CDC lowered the recommended infection quarantine from 10 days to 5. They did that at the request of the Delta CEO, no scientific backing. That was also during the largest wave we’ve had in the US (Omicron). In my recollection that was also when the idea “everyone’s going to get it anyway” started gaining traction in opinion pieces and regular discussion. People were “vaxxed and relaxed” and our institutions did very little to inform people of the risk of repeated infections or how to reduce transmission. The CDC messaging hardly ever mentioned wearing a high quality mask. They literally mentioned “wash your hands” more often than masking. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC at the time, said, “The scarlet letter of this pandemic is the mask.” Her replacement has hardly been any better.

Fast forward to 2024 and they have now effectively reduced the infection quarantine to one day. 24 hours after you no longer have a fever and “symptoms are improving,” they say you’re good to go about like normal. Never mind that COVID infections regularly last at least 10 days and most transmission happens from people not showing any symptoms. This guidance is criminally negligent, but is also not surprising because ultimately the CDC serves capital more than it does public health.

I try to aim a lot of my frustration at the institutions that have abandoned us more than at individuals, but it is also really difficult seeing so many people going around acting like things are normal. Especially people who used to mask. People on airplanes, in crowded venues, even in healthcare and hospitals, all without a mask. How quickly we’ve forgotten “protect the immunocompromised and disabled.” I have to remind myself that a lot of this must be due to the strong “back to normal” messaging we’ve heard. Plus, social pressure cannot be underestimated. I know firsthand how weird and isolating it feels to be the one person masked in a crowd. I recall seeing a poll showing that a decent percent of people would be willing to mask again if more people around them did, though I can’t find it currently.


It has been a very traumatic period of time for everyone, whether they want to admit it or not. We need to collectively and individually grieve the world that we lost. That world is gone. We need to re-evaluate how we move forward, taking steps to keep each other safer. I feel like so many people have slipped back into the denial stage of the Five Stages of Grief. No matter how much we pretend things are normal and go about our days taking no precautions, unfortunately, reality is going to catch up. Repeat infections will continue to decimate immune systems and cause long-term health issues in multiple organs (see Long COVID data).

I watched a TikTok video in response to the refrain, “but I have to live my life and you should too.” Lizzie explained how the precautions we (COVID-conscious people) are taking ultimately comes from a deep love for life. We understand that our precautions are an investment in our own futures and in our community’s future. We love life, we are living it, and we want to continue to live it with as robust a baseline as possible. It was an encouraging message, but honestly I’m not sure how much I’ve “loved life” in the last couple years. Still, I think there must be some level of that deep down because I can’t imagine stopping the precautions I’m taking.

That’s where I’m at lately. I go back and forth among depression, hopefulness, despair, and whatever else. I don’t know if I’m “getting better” overall. These paths are rarely ever linear, so that is probably not the best way to think about it. I am glad that I still have moments of hope. I try to use my energy in those moments to make a better future. Often that’s by promoting better health information, resources, and organizations that are having an impact. I’d like to wrap up this post with some of those.

  • If you or loved ones think COVID is no big deal anymore (first of all, thank you for reading this far 😀), the site has good information in response to common ideas like “it’s like the flu” or “I got it and I’m fine.”
  • Get connected with a mask bloc / clean air club in your area. These are volunteer groups that advocate for masking, provide free masks, and free air filtration for indoor events. manages a map of them, or search for “mask bloc” (note no “k”) + your city/region. A lot of them are organizing via Instagram. If you’re in San Diego: Fan Favorite SD
  • Encourage events you are attending to be safer and more inclusive by cleaning the air, requiring masks, and taking the Public Health Pledge
  • Get involved with a local mutual aid group. These lists may not be current, but are a good starting point: Covid-19 Mutual Aid List and Or search “mutual aid” + your city/region. If you’re in San Diego: We All We Got SD
  • Meet other COVID-conscious people in your area with
  • Get involved with the World Health Network
  • Follow People’s CDC for COVID information and advocacy
  • Follow Imani Barbarin for disability justice and advocacy
  • Join the Third Place Hangout Zoom on Saturdays. Here is the info for this week’s event. Follow Derrick on Instagram for reminders about future events.
  • Follow The Gauntlet newsletter for COVID information, updates, and commentary

View responses or leave your own response


benji, Schneckbert, Dallas, and 1 others

Gilly Gunson Gilly Gunson reposted this –

Schneckbert Schneckbert reposted this –

Mark Schwartzkopf Mark Schwartzkopf
I suspect, since you are awesome, that if this comment gets replies that your website will email me a notification? At any rate, I'm quite curious about any statistical information about our current world being significantly worse than the pre-Covid world in terms of overall health. Even with basically no one masking anymore, the data seems to say that overall deaths are back to normal. With the focus of these websites on long Covid, I suspect chronic condition stuff is moreso the concern than deaths? So I'm wondering what specifically you think is dangerously abnormal since 2020 that is not deaths, and where I can see statistics by year on those metrics. (Also curious if I might be misinterpreting the data on death rates)

Joe Crawford Joe Crawford reposted this –

Joe Crawford Joe Crawford I am gratified to be part of your sphere and to have attended some outdoor events and mixed/masked events with you. And doubly glad that I met you before the pandemic--a very special "nick of time" scenario given that the initial contact was via Twitter, which is far worse now than it was pre-COVID.

gRegor Morrill gRegor Morrill
Mark: That’s a good question that I realize I didn’t touch on in the post. COVID mortality is definitely down since 2020, which is good (though could be improved). I am more concerned about long-term health issues like disability, chronic illness, and opportunistic infections due to repeatedly damaged immune systems. Research is increasingly showing that each infection increases the risk for long-term issues, regardless of whether the initial symptoms were mild. A recent one, “Experiences of Canadians with long-term symptoms following COVID-19,” showed that of people infected 3 times, 38% were reporting long-term symptoms. CDC has said that of US adults infected, 19% report long-term symptoms.

I don’t usually follow the number of COVID deaths closely, though I hear about them from COVID-conscious people especially during the surges. I think during this winter surge we just came out of, there were 1-2k people dying per week for many weeks in the US. That’s an improvement from past years, but not an acceptable new normal, in my opinion. Thousands more were hospitalized and some percentage of those infections will develop long-term issues.

I usually follow the levels of virus in wastewater more closely, via Dr. Hoerger’s and Since we don’t have good testing these days, wastewater levels are about the best stand-in we have for current levels of transmission. There’s a video on his site describing the methodology in more detail, but I like how he calculates the chances that anyone in X number of people is infectious, as well as comparing current levels to the historical levels. This last winter was the second highest levels we’ve had in the US, next to Omicron. There are many times in the year when wastewater levels are higher than in 2020.

I feel we are in a worse place than 2020 since most people don’t know these things and thus, somewhat understandably, don’t take any precautions. The virus spreads and mutates like wild.

Happy to discuss more, whether here or via email.

Mark Schwartzkopf Mark Schwartzkopf
I have also followed the wastewater info, since it seems to be the primary useful metric for the prevalence of Covid now that testing has become rare (and frequently done at home.) But, at the end of the day, if you want to steel-man the "let's get everything back to normal" viewpoint, I'm not aware of anyone thinking that Covid cases are going to drop to a low level. So the fact that it's spreading and mutating is not a significant worry for them, as long as its effects are tamed. That is the pertinent question. Are the effects actually tamed? I am unclear how to answer that question without metrics on the effects. Death metrics were an easy one. But yearly overall deaths have returned to normal levels, even with no masking or distancing by the vast majority of the population anymore. There must be some other measurable effect to justify continued vigilance? If we have no increase in deaths, heart disease, neurological issues or any other measurable metric now that Covid is allowed to run rampant with no masking or distancing, what would be the benefit of continuing masking and/or distancing and/or testing? What I'm hoping for (but I'm worried that there's too much nuance here for me to be granted this hope) is a metric that we could look at to see that it is or is not ok to return to pre-2020 normal.

This discussion also has me wondering if we should have been masking more pre-Covid. And what unexpected damage might variants of the common cold do, perhaps, where we have no clue as to the cause? If I catch the flu, do I really know that there are no long term effects?

I will attempt to follow here, but feel free to continue to manually email me, which is even more awesome than I anticipated you being

                        Crawford Joe Crawford mentioned this –

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