Museum of America in the Pandemic Year, 2020

Pick a SPECIFIC date to explore

-Apr 13: At the White House coronavirus briefing, Trump presents a campaign-style video to portray his response as timely, and lashes out at critics who are saying the the administration failed to act aggressively to prevent the outbreak from spreading in February. “We really have done this right. The problem is the press doesn’t cover it the way it should be,” Trump says. He also declares that he has “total” authority to force states to reopen. That same day, in an interview with journalist Bob Woodward, Trump says of the virus, “It’s so easily transmissible, you wouldn’t even believe it.” We don’t learn of this and other revelations from their interviews until Woodward publishes his book, Rage, in September. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announces the formation of a 7-state coalition to coordinate the reopening of the northeast region. The Governors of California, Oregon, and Washington announce a similar joint regional framework called the Western States Pact. The Supreme Court declares it will hear arguments via telephone. Immigrant detainees tell the AP that guards in the Otay Mesa Detention Center, run by a private prison company in San Diego, refused to hand over masks until detainees signed a form saying they could not hold the company liable if they were infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus. 

-Apr 14: The Department of Justice declares that a public health order restricting church gatherings in Greenville, Mississippi cannot stop a small church from meeting. President Trump states that he will stop funding the WHO “to assess the World Health Organization’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.” State Department officials warn against this action in a draft memo leaked to ProPublica. Trump also suggests that states disobeying his orders to reopen the economy would be akin to “mutiny.” Governors from both parties push back.

-Apr 15: The White House installs “Trump loyalist” and longtime friend of Roger Stone, Michael Caputo, to serve as assistant secretary for public affairs at HHS. Armed demonstrators protest Michigan’s coronavirus lockdown measures. President Trump threatens to exercise a never-used presidential power and adjourn Congress so he can make recess appointments to fill judicial vacancies and administration jobs without Senate approval. *

From the Cutting Room Floor...

Today, Michigan militia-affiliated groups are gathering together to stage “Operation Gridlock,” shutting down the main thoroughfares in snowy Lansing by driving up and stopping their cars, trucks, and RVs. Intentionally or not, they’re also blocking ambulances from getting to the hospital. This seems strangely callous on a day that Michigan is recording 28,000 cases and over 1,900 deaths.[1]

A handful stepped out of their trucks with assault rifles and walked purposefully through the city streets, seemingly unimpeded by police. White militias in the streets conjure images of the KKK, or Ruby Ridge, David Koresh, and Oklahoma City. A few hundred others assembled in front of the statehouse, Trump 2020 and “Don’t Tread on Me” flags waving. No police stepped in to stop them.

On the one hand, you have those who are trying to stop the spread of this illness and save lives. As one frustrated healthcare worker put it, “If you could swallow your pride and stay home like you were asked from the beginning, there wouldn’t have been tougher guidelines.” On the other, you have people who don’t see the virus as real. It’s a hoax, a means by which to undermine their president, an excuse to impose city rules on small town and rural folk, they believe. Or, if it is real, it’s limited to Detroit. To cities. Cities full of people who don’t look like them.

Today’s events bring to mind some classic lyrics:

Polishing up my AK47 / It’s a constitutional right, can’t be refuted.
Now they got us on TV / and making us look stupid.
Shot of me flipping my lid / at that mutt reporter,
a classic case / of race dilution.

I’m fighting for you / and a blue-eyed Jesus.
America first / the rest get the pieces.

Na Na Na Na.

Happy Birthday, Trisha,
I’m in the Michigan Militia.
Happy Birthday, Trisha,
I’m in the Michigan Militia.

Moxy Früvous, “Michigan Militia” (1997)

In news that eminates from seemingly another universe, Land o’ Lakes retired its former butter mascot, “Mia the Indian Maiden” in February, but we’re just now noticing it in grocery stores. Apparently, the best time to release the new and improved butter box art is during this pandemic closure. But the company made the change without saying much of anything about why it was time to remove it. Paradoxically, Mia was created by Ojibwe artist Patrick DesJarlait, partly as a symbol of cultural pride in the 1950s, when portrayals of Native Americans were often derogatory. So even though this seems like a “great awokening” move by Land o’ Lakes, they’re removing a piece of commercial design by a well-known folk artist promoting cultural sympathy.[2]

On its face, these things don’t have a lot to do with each other. Except I bet the group that is protesting Whitmer’s restrictions would probably see the removal of Mia the Indian Maiden as capitulating to “political correctness.” Trying to capture market share might be more accurate, though.

[1] Craig Mauger, “Michigan COVID-19 Cases Reach 28,000 with 1,900 Deaths,” Detroit News, April 15, 2020,

[2] Patrick DesJarlait Estate, “About Patrick DesJarlait,” PD-Estate, accessed April 15, 2020,

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Contributors' Voices

From Sonya Spillmann, editor and writer

Today, I’m exhausted. I’m in pain. I’m dealing with a cancer diagnosis in the middle of a pandemic and this feels particularly unfair and unnecessary. All I want to do is sit down and rest. Read. Or just do nothing. But how many mothers do nothing on days where the weather is beautiful and her four kids are all outside throwing water balloons?

Plus, my husband is cleaning the gutters and the house is a mess. I should clean up. I should also do some work while everyone is outside. But I feel like if I don’t sit down right this minute I will either collapse or burst into tears. I used to get mad, yell at the kids or my husband, but I’m too tired to yell these days. I just shrug my shoulders now, detach, and that scares me a little.

I’ve read that this pandemic is a collective trauma, and this explains why so many of us feel overwhelmed and scattered. Most days, on good days,  I believe this. But there are days like today where I feel like I’m the only one — the only one tired, the only one spinning in circles, the only scared, the only one putting their once pressing passion projects on indefinite hold in order to do the barest minimum to keep my family’s train on its tracks.

I used to stay at home during the week and work nights on the weekend as an ICU nurse. But for the last few years, I’ve been a stay at home mom with very flexible freelance writing work. So this past fall, when the youngest of my four kids started kindergarten, I was thrilled to have some extended time to myself for the first time in thirteen years. I started plugging away at a manuscript and began a book proposal.

But all that seems so far away right now. Like a dream. Another life. A joke almost.

This shouldn’t sound like such a burden — taking care of my kids while my husband works behind a closed door in our basement office — but it is. This was supposed to be the year I could finally accomplish something for me. Now, I’m just trying to get through it.

I already had my diagnosis when my kids stopped school suddenly in March. And they seem to be doing okay. My husband and I keep checking in with them. “It’s normal now,” my teenager says, nearly seven weeks after their last day. Their school, in one of the largest school systems in the nation, took over five weeks to get their IT and learning platforms up to speed. (There was a scathing Washington Post article about their failures). But I didn’t care. The last thing I wanted to do before and after a breast cancer surgery was have to monitor four virtual classrooms.

Before my kids school figured out their issues, before I found out the hospitals would indefinitely postpone all elective surgeries, allowing my surgical date to be moved up, the kids did whatever they wanted that wasn’t dangerous or involved me. I stayed glued to my phone. I would watch the press briefings, rotate through articles from the NYT, Washington Post, CNN, BBC, the Atlantic, then go visit Facebook and see what people were saying there. Then I’d start the cycle all over again. It felt like if I could just know enough, I’d be able to handle all of this.

Then after my surgery, I ignored the news, social media, my conservative christian friends — I did nothing except the precious work of resting and restoring my body to health. It’s like I could only pay attention to the pandemic or my cancer.

But not anymore.

Neither has resolved.

Earlier this week, I sat on the floor of my bedroom in grey pajamas, leaning against a dresser in a virtual waiting room. It’s not comfortable, but it’s the only spot in the house with a good wifi signal, good lighting, and is behind a locked door. In this telemedicine appointment, I consulted with a medical oncologist who went over my pathology reports and recommended a double mastectomy.

My neighbor’s father died of Covid-19. One of my friend’s husbands lost his job in the second week of the shut-downs. I am losing my breasts. The stories don’t end there.

I walk through my days weighed down with what’s happening in the big world and what’s going to happen in our immediate world. I carry the unknown of the pandemic in the middle of all the rest of the unknown with my health.

Every day, I face mortality two fold.

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Breitbart News. Trump Shuts Down Journo for Question Based on China’s Fake Virus Numbers, 2020.
NBC News. NBC Nightly News Broadcast (Full) – April 15th, 2020 | NBC Nightly News, 2020.
The Hill. President Donald Trump and White House Coronavirus Task Force Daily Press Briefing | FULL — 4/14/20, 2020.

*If the pdf thumbnails are not appearing, please reload the page. 

CNN, Ryan Young, Jake Carpenter and Paul P. Murphy. “Photos Show Bodies Piled up and Stored in Vacant Rooms at Detroit Hospital.” CNN, April 14, 2020.
Elsa, Evangeline. “COVID-19: Places with the Best Coronavirus Responses Have One Thing in Common – Women Leaders,” April 15, 2020.—women-leaders-1.1586936657148.
Goodman, Amy. “‘I Want an Apology’: Black Doctor Who Tests Homeless for Coronavirus Handcuffed by Miami Police.” Democracy Now!, April 15, 2020.
Jewell, Britta L., and Nicholas P. Jewell. “Opinion | The Huge Cost of Waiting to Contain the Pandemic.” The New York Times, April 14, 2020, sec. Opinion.
Lu, Marcus. “The Front Line: Visualizing the Occupations with the Highest COVID-19 Risk.” Visual Capitalist, April 15, 2020.
Matarese, John. “Milk Prices Soar, While Farmers Are Dumping It.” WCPO ABC 9, April 13, 2020.
Mauger, Craig. “Michigan COVID-19 Cases Reach 28,000 with 1,900 Deaths.” Detroit News, April 15, 2020.
Nesterak, Max. “Land O’Lakes Quietly Gets Rid of Iconic Indian Maiden Mascot – Minnesota Reformer.” Minnesota Reformer (blog), April 15, 2020.
Olinger, Jillian. “Opinion: Covid-19 Inequalities Show Racism Should Be Declared a Public Health Crisis.” Columbus CEO, April 14, 2020.
RSF. “Whistleblowing Doctor Missing after Criticizing Beijing’s Coronavirus Censorship | RSF,” April 14, 2020.
Schulman, Ari, Brendan Foht, and Samuel Matlack. “Not Like the Flu, Not Like Car Crashes, Not Like.” The New Atlantis, April 13, 2020.
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Additional Links

* 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.