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Why I won’t be attending upcoming Bowie events

The Music Masters Collective in the Catskills is doing a “Camp Stardust”— immersive Bowie experience in a camp-like setting this summer for four days in July. The David Bowie World Fan Convention will take place in New York City in June. The Southbank Center in England is currently running an exhibit celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Aladdin Sane and its iconic album art. Tribute bands perform somewhere within driving distance — or further— every month, at least. I’m not going to any of them.

The problem is that COVID is still with us. I look around me and the world seems to be acting like it’s totally gone. True, rates are way down from the most unimaginably horrific days of 2020. True also that were I to get the disease, which I have avoided thus far, I likely would survive and might only experience cold-like symptoms because I’ve had all my boosters. But that’s no reason to act like its 2018. And we were probably too willfully ignorant about disease back then anyway.

1773 Americans died of COVID last week. Over 120,000 got the disease during the same time (though I’m unsure how that’s calculated these days). That number represents a big drop from the previous two weeks, which can be expected as the weather gets better and more of us are spending time outside. The problem for all of these Bowie related events is that they are all inside. I contacted the Music Masters Collective and asked if any aspects of the “camp” would take place outside and the answer was no, but that the indoor spaces would be air conditioned!

I saw an article several weeks back about COVID precautions in place at this year’s World Economic Forum at Davos. The article was expansive but summarized some — some— of the precautions by quoting from a Tweet:

– PCR to enter with an access wristband tied to result
– HEPA air cleaners in every room
– Possibly amped up ventilation
– Masks at some events

What do the billionaires know that seemingly everyone else doesn’t?

The world seems to be acting like we can’t hold in our head the idea that mildly inconvenient required precautions (like those at Davos) are not the same as total societal lockdown, and, by the way, are less annoying than getting sick. Certainly our state and federal governments seem to be unable to make the distinction. Local government too— New York City Mayor Adams recently urged businesses not to allow customers to enter while wearing masks (the perception was that crime has supplanted memories of bodies stored in meat lockers in the American city most grievously pounded by COVID).

Actually, there’s one part of the government that still cares about the COVID crisis— it’s the Fed. The Fed’s monetary policy report from last month lamented depleted workforce productivity due to current cases of COVID and long COVID, and basically was suggesting its recessionary policies were what the doctor ordered. So, instead of the inconvenience of mass testing, vaccine requirements and mask mandates, we’re going to endure the “inconvenience” of something like a recession. Makes sense to me.

And before you cite a wave of conservative articles about how masks don’t work, I’m gobsmacked by those, too. Anti-maskers have jumped on partial information, such as a meta study that basically was inconclusive about a variety of questions that popular media and some politicians inaccurately summarized as “mask mandates don’t work.” Also, there’s plenty of information about how wearing the wrong kind of mask, or any kind of mask incorrectly, doesn’t work. Instead of teaching the public about the right kind of masks and how to wear them, one recent New York program instead promoted tolerance of others who choose to wear their masks however wrongly they so chose— or if they chose to sit next to you on a subway not wearing a mask at all. Like intolerance is the problem.

Tell that to the fans of David Crosby who won’t be able to see him in concert because he died of COVID a few weeks ago. I actually had tickets to see a Crosby concert in Albany in 2020. The concert was postponed. I don’t know if it was permanently cancelled or rescheduled— I never went and never got to see him. Maybe it was rescheduled and that’s where he got the disease that killed him. I don’t know.

That’s the other thing about COVID the confounds me— even if I myself am at low risk of becoming extremely ill, I’m at a much higher risk of becoming a carrier and passing on the disease so someone like Crosby with underlying conditions that render him more susceptible to serious consequences. I could end up killing my older or sicker friends and family and never know it.

This is how close this got for me— I recently attended an event that I couldn’t easily get out of. I was one of the few people out of hundreds in attendance wearing a mask, and I refused to shake hands (but there was a lot of that going on). Because I stood out on account of my mask, I was told the next day that at least two people I encountered tested positive (and indeed got pretty sick) the following day. There was no true contact tracing so there’s no way to know how much of a spreader event this was, but as a result of the exposure, even after going into self-imposed quarantine for three days and testing negative each of those days I was (correctly) denied entry when I went to visit a friend in a nursing home. Without getting into too much detail, I might never have another chance to visit that friend (and not because of my schedule).

None of this is to say anything about long COVID. Do you have a good sense of what it is and how to treat it? If you do, point me to the reliable literature— I’ve been looking. Meanwhile, I know enough people who have suffered from what seems like long COVID to never, ever want to join their ranks. And membership to that non-elite club does not require the initial illness to come off as especially severe.

Sadly, there will be, on occasion, other events I can’t get out of, and I’ll go with my armor, hoping it works. But where I can avoid putting myself — and more importantly-put others at risk, I won’t go. And hey, while I’m protecting myself from COVID I’m also protecting myself from the flu and colds and other communicable diseases.

Meanwhile, if the US death rate continues as its been for a while now, understanding seasonal fluctuations, we’re on pace for about as many Americans to die as died in World War II over the same period of time. Oh, but we didn’t alter how we lived during that crisis…oh wait…

So, no Bowie events for me this year.

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