Museum of America in the Pandemic Year, 2020

Pick a SPECIFIC date to explore

-May 15: The House passes $3 trillion coronavirus relief package. President Trump fires State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, saying the 2013 Obama appointee “no longer” has his “fullest confidence.”

-May 16: Protesters gather outside the Glynn County courthouse in Georgia to demand the resignation of Jackie Johnson, the Brunswick Judicial Circuit district attorney, and George Barnhill, the Waycross circuit district attorney for their roles in the investigation into the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man who was shot while out jogging. 

-May 17: Governors continue to reopen as deaths pass 90,000.

From the Cutting Room Floor...

When Dr. Anthony Fauci is on screen, people listen. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen him on screen for some time, which is according to plan, apparently. He last appeared on Chris Cuomo’s Prime Time a couple of weeks ago. Something similar happened in March—basically any time he begins to take too much attention off the president. The thing is, a lot of Americans find Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx to be the only trustworthy figures in the room. We get nervous when the president is the only one allowed to talk, swarms of misinformation buzzing out from his mouth. With the actual medical people sidelined, it seems like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is the only person worth watching, which is leading to some breathless “Cuomo for president” language. But still, competence and compassion matters.

Arguments over “opening” are only getting louder. With the major healthcare voices pushed to the margins for the moment, that dichotomy of public health or personal liberty—which often means ‘liberty to get back to work in an office to make money to buy things to pay sales tax’—flows from corporations and a lot of governors on down. People are still tentative, though. Infection rates in parts of the country not hit in that initial blast on New York and New Jersey don’t seem to be falling much. Those numbers, in fact, might actually be rising. There’s another important thing we just discovered. Some jobs pay so badly that people are making more< money while unemployed than they do when employed. This really hacks certain politicians off.

Drowned out of these “opening” conversations are voices of marginalized people stuck in difficult situations who desperately want the pandemic to be enough under control that they can leave. “I’m a closeted Lesbian that is back in a homophobic house because of COVID-19,” writes one. It’s an anonymous cry for help Avery Smith shared with me. There are so many like it from all over our shutdown nation, and they provide an entirely different angle on the reopening debate.

Avery Smith hosts a highly respected podcast “Blessed are the Binary Breakers” and blog Queerly Christian highlighting the struggles and triumphs faced by the LGBTQA+ and gender nonconforming community. With a theology degree, Avery especially wants to create a safe space where those who are younger and are “still figuring themselves out”—at an earlier stage in their journey, perhaps—can be themselves, can find comfort, camaraderie, support, wisdom. Avery’s spaces are there for hard questions, “anything from ‘how do you know I’m not going to Hell?’ to ‘I’m closeted; I’m stuck at home with my parents; what do I do?’—this is a huge one right now,” Avery points out.

For many younger LGBTQA+ and gender nonconforming people, these stay-at-home orders have become nightmarish for reasons that have nothing to do with the economic ones trumpeted by some governors and corporations. “Say you’re at college, living away from the people who are maybe even hostile toward you,” Avery’s voice drops, “There’s a pandemic. You’re sent home. You’re stuck now—you’re stuck. You’re in this situation and maybe you’re tip-toeing because you’re afraid they’ll find out, or maybe they do know and they’re making your life difficult because there’s a lot of passive aggression and all of that—or less passive aggression. You don’t have your ordinary connections.”

I wondered if social media made things easier now. Avery nodded, but helped me to see that app-based community isn’t enough. “Imagine you’re a high schooler, and you go to your GSA club—so you have a little respite from having no one supporting you. You don’t have that anymore. A lot of clubs just aren’t meeting in any form.” Avery then shares another comment from the Queerly Christian blog:

it’s been really hard to live closeted at home and bc of the pandemic i have nowhere to go but home or work for the most part, and not a lot of hope to move out anytime soon. i think this is an issue a lot of closeted people are having, and those who deal with abuse at home because of being lgbtq+ have had it so much worse. especially minors. i’ve seen a definite uptick in that in my friend groups.

“So, are you hearing a lot of despair like this out there?” I ask. “Is there any hope?”

“At the start of this, I was getting a lot of messages from people that were more on the despairing side, including people asking, ‘Is this the end of the world?’ I’m not going to play the game where you predict the end of the world based on cryptic stuff in the Bible. But I don’t get as much of that now. I think it’s contextual.” Avery pointed me toward “Queer Church AR,” a success story from a “white bisexual woman who was the pastor of a white-majority church” who was fired from her congregation in the middle of this pandemic. It has a growing online following.

Still, there’s no denying that major barriers now stand in the way of safe community and connection. “Pride events are cancelled. Dating or getting together with friends is less safe. LGBT/queer spaces like bars or bookshops are/were closed. For those of us who are students, school years in spring were cut short, which meant for some that bullying was cut short but for others that the one space where they had friends that supported them was taken away.

“I have a friend group … that consists almost completely of trans + autistic and/or otherwise disabled young adults. This group of friends meets every Sunday evening at the house four of them rent to make and eat a meal, play games, and just chat and have fun together. They have not been able to hold these weekly dinners since February. And for some of the group, that was the one time all week they could be themselves: wear the clothes they like to wear, talk about trans and autistic stuff with people who Get It, and/or not have to worry about getting misgendered nonstop. So, it really sucks that the dinners can’t take place. A lot of my friends are experiencing some bad drops in mental health because of that loss of community.”

Later, Avery emailed to emphasize a few points we missed during our conversation.

“Since LGBTQA+ persons belong to every other identity group possible, from the most privileged ones (white people, rich people, etc.) to the most marginalized (BIPOC, disabled persons, poor and homeless persons, etc.), any consequences of pandemic on other identity groups is also a consequence for the LGBTQA+ community—but often with a twist.

“For instance, say a cishet person becomes homeless because of pandemic, and so does a transgender person. The cishet person might be able to find a homeless shelter to stay in; meanwhile, the transgender person may not be able to find a shelter that will take them in or that will guarantee their safety from transphobic violence.

“Another example: say a trans person ends up in the hospital for COVID. They may face transphobic remarks from hospital staff, misgendering, or even outright refusal to treat. I know of many trans persons (and other LGBT persons) who will not go to the hospital unless they’re literally on death’s door because they’ve been traumatized by health providers in the past.”

Read more


“New photos of Breonna Taylor’s apartment after deadly police search released,” CBS News (May 15, 2020),

Cenk Uygur and Michael Shure, “‘Coronavirus Karen’ Probably Regrets Not Wearing A Face Mask,” The Young Turks (May 15, 2020),

Mad Liberals, “Independence Day,” (April 15, 2020), [Trump would retweet this on May 16, 2020:]


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

Wong, Laura E., Jessica E. Hawkins, Simone Langness, Karen L. Murrell, Patricia Cohen, and Amanda Sammann. “Where Are All the Patients? Addressing Covid-19 Fear to Encourage Sick Patients to Seek Emergency Care.” NEJM Catalyst Innovations in Care Delivery, May 14, 2020.

Collins-Dexter, Brandi. “Canaries in the Coal Mine: COVID-19 Misinformation and Black Communities.” Harvard Kennedy School Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy, May 15, 2020.

Manderson, Lenore, and Ayo Wahlberg. “Chronic Living in a Communicable World.” Medical Anthropology (May 15, 2020): 1–12.
Wong, Laura E., Jessica E. Hawkins, Simone Langness, Karen L. Murrell, Patricia Cohen, and Amanda Sammann. “Where Are All the Patients? Addressing Covid-19 Fear to Encourage Sick Patients to Seek Emergency Care.” NEJM Catalyst Innovations in Care Delivery, May 14, 2020.
Allen, Marshall. “‘Immune to Evidence’: How Dangerous Coronavirus Conspiracies Spread.” ProPublica, May 17, 2020.
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Additional Links
  • “Entire Dr. Anthony Fauci Interview with Chris Cuomo,” Cuomo Prime Time, May 5, 2020,

* 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.