Museum of America in the Pandemic Year, 2020

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Monday, March 2

Mar 1:  Writing to the full Red Dawn email chain, Dr. Carter Mecher, senior advisor in the Department of Veterans Affairs, says that the United States is late to “pull all the triggers” to implement community mitigation strategies such as social distancing. Trump announces that he was ordering tighter coronavirus screening for travelers arriving in the U.S. from “high risk” countries. The U.S. reports its second coronavirus death.

Mar 2: Four more people die of Covid. President Trump claims that a vaccine will be readily available. “We’re moving aggressively to accelerate the process of developing a vaccine,” says the President at a coronavirus roundtable meeting. MSNBC host Chris Matthews resigns abruptly after criticism of sexist comments and comparing Bernie Sanders’ campaign to the Nazi invasion of France.*

From the Cutting Room Floor...

The sun sits low, slate-grey in the sky today. It slides, like a glimpse of a ghost through a mirror, in and out through the blanketing clouds. This afternoon, while watching a master dance class on campus, I was reminded of how much we are shaped by living in the bodies that we have. Whether we are born white or Black, male or female, disabled or not—our bodies bear the burdens of generations before us, and define what we are now. Menominee poet, Chrystos, writes that “there are women locked in [her] joints for refusing to speak to the police” and in her broken knees lie “children torn from their families bludgeoned into government schools.”[1] She carries all of it in her bones and marrow. The physical self, a temporary shell into which all of us are thrown at birth, is already so full of those who came before us, so proscribed in what it will allow us to be and not be. I could see the dancers in the class today striving to expose the deep histories of their bodies, trying to let the “pus of the past ooze from every pore.” I could also see them struggling against the cultural identities that their corporeal realities have imposed upon them.

Are we really heading into a pandemic—that nightmare we presumed modern medicine warded off? Will my body, which carries the aches of my mother and my grandmother, which has been so sick before, betray me again? What of the brown and Black bodies that America has always disregarded, has always burdened and bludgeoned? Will they be betrayed like they have been so many times before—either by a virus or by a state that sees them as disposable?

Tonight, on the television, a pediatrician and vaccine expert Dr. Paul Offit, is on Christiane Amanpour’s global affairs show on CNN. He seems to say I’m exaggerating. Another respected voice insisting that people are making too big a deal of the coronavirus.

But we are all afraid that our bodies will betray us, that the world will stop being safe and predictable. You can see it in the hoarding that has begun across the nation. Hand sanitizer is selling so fast that manufacturers are struggling to make more.[2] That makes sense, given that the virus is spread from surface to hand to eyes or mouth or nose. People are also hoard-buying of medical masks. Major government health experts, the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services, are all saying that only healthcare workers or the sick need to wear masks. And, even when worn, they’re rarely installed correctly, so why bother?[3] Surgeon General Jerome Adams had to go all-caps to fight off people’s fear: “Seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS!” he’s tweeting. Apparently, just staying home when you’re sick, just washing your hands with soap and water, these things are sufficient. The panic of the public is what we really need to avoid, he contends.

But there are other narratives, more worrying. The Department of Defense, for instance, thinks this will indeed be a pandemic by the end of the month and is making preparations.[4]

So, who do we trust, the government … or the government?


[1] Chrystos, “I Walk in the History of My People,” in Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa (eds.), This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. SUNY Press, 2015.

[2] Kate Gibson, “Demand for Hand Sanitizers up 1,400% and Sellers Are Rationing Supplies,” CBS News, March 2, 2020,

[3] Elisabeth Buchwald, “U.S. Health Officials Say Americans Shouldn’t Wear Face Masks to Prevent Coronavirus — Here Are 3 Other Reasons Not to Wear Them,” MarketWatch, March 2, 2020,

[4] Jenni Fink and Naveed Jamali, “Exclusive: Defense Department Expects Coronavirus Will ‘Likely’ Become Global Pandemic in 30 Days, as Trump Strikes Serious Tone,” Newsweek, March 1, 2020,

Read more

CBS 17. US Surgeon General Says to Stop Buying Face Masks, 2020.
CNN. Tapper Presses Pence: Do You Think Democrats Want People to Get Coronavirus?, 2020.

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Roosevelt, Franklin Delano. “FDR’s First Inaugural Address Declaring ‘War’ on the Great Depression.” National Archives, August 15, 2016.
Bedford, Trevor. “Cryptic Transmission of Novel Coronavirus Revealed by Genomic Epidemiology.” Bedford Lab, March 2, 2020.
FDA. “Enforcement Policy for Sterilizers, Disinfectant Devices, and Air Purifiers During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Public Health Emergency.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA, March 2020.
Tetro, Jason A. “Is COVID-19 Receiving ADE from Other Coronaviruses?” Microbes and Infection, Special issue on the new coronavirus causing the COVID-19 outbreak, 22, no. 2 (March 2020): 72–73.
Hassan, Syed Adeel, Fahad N Sheikh, Somia Jamal, Jude K Ezeh, and Ali Akhtar. “Coronavirus (COVID-19): A Review of Clinical Features, Diagnosis, and Treatment.” Cureus 12, no. 3 (March 1, 2020).
Qingqing, Li. “Pompeo Makes It a Habit of Blaming China, but Politicizing Virus Is Not Good for the US – Global Times.” Global Times, March 1, 2020.
Bicker, Laura. “S Korea Religious Leader Faces Coronavirus Probe.” BBC News, March 2, 2020, sec. Asia.
Perrett, Connor. “The US Surgeon General Once Warned against Wearing Face Masks for the Coronavirus but the CDC Now Recommends It.” Business Insider, March 2, 2020.
CNN, Jacqueline Howard. “Masks May Actually Increase Your Coronavirus Risk If Worn Improperly, Surgeon General Warns.” CNN, March 2, 2020.
CNN, Scottie Andrew and Jessie Yeung. “Masks Can’t Stop the Coronavirus in the US, but Hysteria Has Led to Bulk-Buying, Price-Gouging and Serious Fear for the Future.” CNN, March 2, 2020.
Repko, Melissa. “How Grocery Stores Are Trying to Prevent ‘panic Buying’ as Coronavirus Causes Stockpiling, Emptying Shelves.” CNBC, March 2, 2020.
Nielsen. “Nielsen Investigation: ‘Pandemic Pantries’ Pressure Supply Chain Amid COVID-19 Fears.” Nielsen, March 2, 2020.
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* Timeline summaries at the top of the page come from a variety of sources:, including The American Journal of Managed Care COVID-19 Timeline (, the Just Security Group at the NYU School of Law (, the “10 Things,” daily entries from The Week (, as well as a variety of newspapers and television programs.