Wednesday, March 10, 2021

How our attention has shifted! Only a year ago, on March 10, 2020, the word “pandemic” occurred only 4 times in the Los Angeles Times. Today I counted no less than 38 occurrences and tomorrow, the anniversary of the pandemic declaration by the World Health Organization, will no doubt have many more. I call it Pandemic Creep.

Pandemic Preoccupation
LA Times, 4 Mar 2020

What were we saying about it back in early March 2020? Before it was even declared, the pandemic was just beginning to get attention. Health departments were concerned about mask shortages. Stores noticed an increase in demand for antiseptic wipes, paper towels, and toilet paper. On March 3, an article stated that planes and ships were being disinfected, out of “an abundance of precaution,” a phrase we would begin to hear way too much. Articles hinted at how our lives might change: “JP Morgan tests a virus plan–telecommuting” (4 Mar 2020), “Virus fears sweep concert industry,” (5 Mar 2020) and “Virus throws wrench in convention plans” (6 Mar 2020).

After March 11, 2020, the tone became more dire, as noted on the front page of the March 13th edition. Every day there were more closures: universities, gyms, wineries, malls, restaurants, schools, theaters, sport events, theme parks. And cancellations of concerts, conventions, the Olympic Games.

A year later, we’re hearing about vaccines, variants, long haulers, and reopenings. Things that wouldn’t have even made sense 12 months ago. But there’s a lighter side they don’t write much about, which I call pandemic novelties. I noticed a few months ago when I was looking at cards on Shutterfly — the New Year’s cards that bid a scathing farewell to 2020 and the multitude of event postponement cards. No doubt pandemic pop culture will soon be a focus of scholarly dissertations, if it isn’t already, but what about plain old pandemic stuff?

For example:

Decolandy cookie cutter
  • Wedding magnets and cards. Not just Save the Date, but Change the Date announcements. Sure, plans changed before, but when the announcement features picture of toilet paper and says “just roll with it” you can be sure it’s pandemic-inspired. (found on Zazzle).
  • Cakes: Pandemic cakes with coronavirus themes were in the news in the first few months of the pandemic, but are less prominent now. Maybe the novelty has worn off. Often they had quarantine-themes sayings, like “Don’t Touch This!” or “Wash your hands!” Some were shaped like toilet paper rolls. I didn’t see any that resembled the coronavirus itself, but maybe people didn’t like the idea of eating a virus.
  • Or maybe they do–Try cookie cutters. If you want to surprise (or disgust) your friends, try Decolandy’s cornona virus cookie cutter or the KENAIO Virus cookie cutter set or Bakerlogy’s set of two–a virus and a bacteria. (Note: It’s not a coronavirus, if that’s what you’re looking for). All available on Amazon.
  • Etsy.com can cover your tree with pandemic Christmas ornaments, featuring seasonal toilet paper, hyperdermic, or virus motifs.
  • Games: The board game Pandemic, which came out in 2008, inspired by the SARS pandemic, became a favorite of doctors during the COVID pandemic, according to the Wall Street Journal (“How Do Doctors Treating the Coronavirus Relax,” June 28, 2020). Pandemic, in which the players work together to end a pandemic, is not to be confused with Pandemic Contagion, developed in 2014 with the by-line, “You are the disease. There is no cure.” No cooperation in this one, you are out to end the world and the more people you infect the higher your score.
  • Books: Several books have come out in the past year with a pandemic theme. The first one I read was Deadliest Enemy by Dr. Michael Osterholm, which was written before the pandemic and re-released with a new preface about COVID-19. I’m currently reading Post Corona: From Crisis to Opportunity by Scott Galloway.
  • And then there’s the loose category of “gift ideas”: coronavirus coffee mugs, ice cube trays, coloring books, squeeze toys (“to relieve stress”), socks, masks, key chains, tee shirts — anything you can stamp, mold, or print on. Etsy has some very original offerings. If you’re a collector, you might want to pick one up while we’re here; otherwise, like me, you can take note and move on.

But before we do, I have to mention one of my favorites: The coronavirus piñata. Because sometimes you just want to take a swing at it. Let everyone have a turn. Unless you want to keep it for a souvenir.

Today’s Notable Headlines

“Museums Launch Covid-19 Exhibits: Virus-Shaped Piñatas, ‘Happy Hour’ Masks,” Wall Street Journal, Mar. 3, 2021. https://www.wsj.com/articles/people-want-to-forget-the-pandemic-museums-want-you-to-remember-it-11614789313

“People Expected a Wedding Boom in 2021. The Local Wedding Industry Isn’t So Sure.” Washingtonian, March 5, 2021. https://www.washingtonian.com/2021/03/05/2021-wedding-boom-that-might-not-come/

“The Board-Game Series for the Age of the Coronavirus,” The New Yorker, July 27, 2020. https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/pandemic-the-board-game-series-for-the-age-of-the-coronavirus

“The funniest quarantine cakes we’ve seen on the internet so far,” Timeout, March 26, 2020. https://www.timeout.com/news/the-funniest-quarantine-cakes-weve-seen-on-the-internet-so-far-032620

Other Sources:

Z-Man Games, https://www.zmangames.com/en/products/pandemic-contagion/

BoardGame Geek, Pandemic, https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/30549/pandemic

Why am I doing this?

The coronavirus pandemic will be indelibly written on our memories just as the Great Depression or the Battle of Britain left their mark on past generations. I intend to journal the pandemic experience from three perspectives: as a retired medical technologist, as a historian (Ph.D., 2014), and an ordinary person living through an extraordinary world crisis.

You are on History’s Edge.

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