Friday, April 10, 2020

Some progress, at least

Credit where it's due: this week my workplace finally closed off our offices from the public and moved all public-facing interactions to a larger meeting room where we could set up sensibly-spaced stations that can handle citizen interactions (bill payments, permits, etc.) while still maintaining social distancing. It means that a lot of us still have to come into work, but it's one hell of a lot better than it was.

Conversations have gotten louder, as we're generally half-shouting at each other from six feet away, but what the hell; when I recommend a good book for reading during the pandemic, I don't care who else hears it. They should read it too, if they want to.

We have had at least one confirmed case among our workforce, and naturally that took away several of their co-workers as well. I haven't heard whether any of the co-workers were actually infected, but they're in self-quarantine -- and this is in a department which generally has a pretty high turnover rate anyway, so they're now notably short-staffed. This has led us to cut back on some services, because we don't really have a lot of choice.

(Citizen response to this has been a mix of "We appreciate what you do" and "if you're cutting service back to half, are you going to cut our bills in half to match?" with a strong emphasis on the latter. There's also been a small contingent of "So if I want to help out by taking care of this one thing myself, is there a facility open to deal with it?" Which, in fact, there is. People never fail to fascinate me.)

I'm beginning to think that the people who did the early hoarding were mostly premature (not to mention that they immediately created the same problem that they were trying to avoid for themselves and/or profit from). I think that as the pandemic progresses, we're going to see it placing more and more strain on systems that seem at first glance as though they should be unaffected. (Maybe not always a bad thing...?) If I had to guess, I'd say it's going to be another week and a half to three weeks before we start seeing genuine issues in our supply chains.

I hope I'm wrong about that -- we've got enough issues with the disease itself, the strain on our already-under-equipped healthcare system, lack of federal leadership, massive unemployment, and having the economy on hold in a way that's going to utterly destroy untold numbers of businesses. But I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't worried.

It seems like the only way forward is through, and the only way through is by pulling together (albeit at a safe distance). Take care of your own, and do what you can for others. That’s my plan, and I’m sticking to it.


  1. >>I'm beginning to think that the people who did the early hoarding were mostly premature (not to mention that they immediately created the same problem that they were trying to avoid for themselves and/or profit from).<<

    You're thinking of the people who hoarded *late*. The *correct* time to create a stockpile was in 2019, when absolutely nothing relevant was wrong (yet). The second best time was in February, when (outside of East Asia) there were only inklings that something might end up being wrong at some point. The idea of *pre*-paring is you do it *before* anything bad happens, so that it's ready to go as soon as the bad thing starts.

    I probably sound a bit snippy, but it really bothers me that so many people are citing the March grocery runs as an example of the dangers of *over*-preparing, when actually it was *under*-preparing. You *absolutely should* keep three months of food and basic medical supplies on hand! What you should *not* do is wait until shit is already beginning to hit the fan before you try to acquire it!

    It scares me that so many people appear to be learning the exact wrong lesson from this, thinking that the solution is to be even *more* reckless in the face of the *next* disaster. I think we can do better: not *perfectly*, we aren't a prosperous enough society for that, but certainly *better*. I dream of a world where, when shopping becomes dangerous and not-to-be-done-lightly, grocery patronage *drops* same as it does at every other store, reduced to only the people poor enough that they couldn't afford to wait.

    And those people will face a far less crowded store, with far fewer people breathing on each other and on the packages. Done right stockpiling is *pro*-social, because when times go bad it lets you stay out of the way and make room for the people who *must* go grocery shopping every single week.

    (Also, *even if you don't care about disaster preparedness at all*, keeping stocks of things on hand means you can buy when it's *cheapest* instead of when you're most desperate for it.)

    1. Good point. The hoarding was a direct result of being unprepared in the first place, and then trying to compensate by panic-buying. I mean, I stand by the view that the panic was unnecessary at that point, as the only real shortages at that time were the ones created by the panic-buying and opportunism; but your point about having a sensible stock of necessary items is absolutely correct.


Feel free to leave comments; it lets me know that people are actually reading my blog. Interesting tangents and topic drift just add flavor. Linking to your own stuff is fine, as long as it's at least loosely relevant. Be civil, and have fun!