Museum of America in the Pandemic Year, 2020

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Nov 4: The US hits a grim milestone with 100,000 new COVID-19 cases reported in a single day for the first time. Biden wins more key states, moving closer to victory. Trump supporters begin to gather around vote-counting centers, protesting what they believe to be the illegal counting, or not counting, of votes. President Trump’s campaign asks the Supreme Court to overturn a Pennsylvania state Supreme Court ruling letting election officials count mail-in ballots received up to three days after the Tuesday’s election. The United States officially pulls out of the Paris Peace Accords.

From the Cutting Room Floor ...

A sense of foreboding continues through the entire day today, no doubt fueled by the steady stream of election news without any resolution. Ballots must be removed from envelops, signatures verified, votes run through machines, paper jams cleared, tabulations double-checked. It’s going to be a long process. But we knew this. Despite the tension, it’s clear there were no reported incidents of major violence.

And the morning brings some encouraging news right off the bat. More LGBTQ+ candidates ran and won in this election than ever before.[1] More good news: unlike 2016, election interference from hackers, especially Russian and Eastern European hackers, either failed to materialize or was quietly neutralized by the US cybersecurity forces.[2]

Still, plenty of disinformation, both diffuse and targeted, flooded in through phone apps and other non-mainstream channels. Even if Facebook attempted to address its failures in 2016, conspiracy theories over WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, promoted huge amounts of pro-Trump, anti-Islamic content to Indian-Americans.[3] 

Misinformation tying Democrats to Castro and Latin American leftwing governments found its way to the Latinx population in south Florida.[4] This certainly seems to have been a factor in the drifting of these populations toward Trump this election. “Joe, Joe, they think he is a socialist,” said one man in “Little Havana,” Miami, Florida.[5] Trump’s anti-immigration policies, most notoriously allowing ICE to place Spanish-speaking children in cages, on the Mexican border, seemed not to phase some of these voters. Perhaps these results show that, in some cases, those who grew up outside prevalent American systemic racism will not understand certain aspects specific to it. Conversely, many Latin American societies have seen the worst of politics, with “socialism” signaling nothing but capricious authoritarianism. Though nothing like that ever happened here, it’s an easy disinformation target to associate “socialism” in the US with the unique histories of other parts of the globe where these regimes really did exist. This president’s corruption, so glaring to some people, can, for others, hide in the dark and the noise behind words, like “socialism” that in reality signify nothing.

Some might feel the same way about “racism.” If no one threatens violence or makes a bigoted comment, perhaps, or if they see Black politicians and musicians and athletes and actors, then “racism” no longer plays the role that it once did in our society, they might argue. Charges of “racism” from the left might be like charges of “socialism” from the right: words meant to scorn, shame, exclude, mobilize—or just chum for clicks—but without real content. Yet, when you observe what is going on in Detroit today and into tonight, it’s hard not to see “racism” as a very real factor.

Wayne County contains predominantly Black Detroit and, according to the US Census, just under 50% of its occupants identify as white, non-Hispanic.[6] Over one-fifth of the population lives in poverty. The county has suffered from this pandemic disproportionately badly compared to neighboring areas.[7] It is solidly Democratic and voted for Clinton in the 2016 election by almost 300,000 votes.

Just after 9:00 this morning, news outlets noted that Biden’s lead over Trump in Wayne County had pushed him over the top in Michigan more broadly. That lead grew through the morning. Once the president tweeted his displeasure, crowds of white people responded by gathering just outside the space where election workers count absentee ballots at the TCF Center.[8] They wanted admission into the building to “challenge” ballots in the mostly Black city. Dozens more assembled outside the TCF Center chanting, interchangeably, “stop the count” and “count every vote.” Inside, some pounded on the windows surrounding the ballot counting space, shouting “let us in.” Police had to push them back, and workers papered over the windows to keep those outside from posting pictures of those on the inside on social media. Inside the counting space, around 400 registered ballot challengers meandered around the tables all morning, 134 Republicans, 134 Democrats, and 134 not affiliated with either party. But sometime mid-morning, Trump’s campaign filed legal challenges to stop vote counting. A few GOP challengers on the inside of the ballot counting space, some of whom were attorneys, attempted to intimidate poll workers, claiming that the mere filing of the lawsuit should be enough to stop the count. Police eventually removed them because they either took off their masks, crowded the poll counters, attempted to take pictures of ballots and workers, or became verbally aggressive.[9] Republican ballot challengers remained inside the facility, challenging ballots well into the afternoon—227 of them.

By evening, Biden’s lead grew, as predicted. Right-wing media from outside of Michigan produced “evidence” that thousands of illegitimate votes were making their way into the TCF counting room in the back of suspicious vans. That “evidence” turned out to be the local ABC videographer unpacking to film the vote counting and, ironically, the right-winged protesters alleging fraud. All of this agitation to keep the votes of Black folks in Detroit from voting. Nothing approaching this level of intervention occurred in largely white areas of Michigan. It was from these rural areas that men came bearing rifles in April, bursting into the Michigan capital building, threatening even to kidnap the governor.

Even in “liberal” areas of the US, the structures of racism held firm. California voters rejected Proposition 16, a repeal of the state’s ban on affirmative action. Social justice activists are left confused. The national reckoning on racial inequality following the death of George Floyd, Brianna Taylor, Rashard Brooks, and so many others did not make enough of a difference to voters.[10] Is it because protestors don’t vote? Is it because this summer was replete with white virtue signaling, with no follow-through to actually engage the issues?

With America’s inaction addressing larger structural issues behind racial disparities, one wonders how we will be able to address other broad problems that confront the globe, like the issues surrounding global warming . America officially abandoned the Paris Climate Accords today with just a whisper of protest. It seems that the goal of addressing the warming world is not something that most Americans care about.[11] That can be seen from our response to this phase of coronavirus—with cases quietly trending upward again, perhaps in the wake of Halloween and college football gatherings. Republicans in some rural areas refuse to take the disease seriously even when their political candidates are dying from it.[12] Even when our lives are on the line, some of us will not even put in the ounce of prevention to prevent the pound of cure. Meanwhile, we will storm vote counting locations to make sure “others” cannot take an election from “our side.”


[1] Timothy R. Bussey, “‘Rainbow Wave’ of LGBTQ Candidates Run and Win in 2020 Election,” The Conversation, November 4, 2020,

[2] Kevin Collier and Ken Dilanian, “Military Says It Took Cyber Action against Russia, Iran Pre Election,” NBC News, November 4, 2020,; Eric Geller, “Initial Signs Point to Surprisingly Hack-Free Election, but Risks Remain,” MSN, November 4, 2020,

[3] Nitish Pahwa, “Hindu Nationalist Trump Memes Are Everywhere on WhatsApp,” Slate Magazine, October 21, 2020,

[4] Sabrina Rodriguez and Marc Caputo, “‘This Is F—Ing Crazy’: Florida Latinos Swamped by Wild Conspiracy Theories,” Politico, September 14, 2020,

[5] Tory Dunnan, “Cuban Americans in South Florida Help President Trump Win State,” WPTV, November 4, 2020,

[6] “U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Wayne County, Michigan,” U.S. Census Bureau, July 1, 2019,

[7] Kristen Jordan Shamus and Kristi Tanner, “Wayne County, Detroit Account for 47% of State’s Coronavirus Cases,” Detroit Free Press, April 3, 2020,

[8] Todd Spangler, “Biden Takes Lead in Michigan as Vote Count Continues in Largest Counties,” Holland Sentinel, November 4, 2020,–largest-counties.

[9] Kristen Jordan Shamus and Tresa Baldas, “Chaos Erupts at TCF Center as Republican Vote Challengers Cry Foul in Detroit,” Detroit Free Press, November 4, 2020,

[10] Alexander Nieves, “California Voters Reject Affirmative Action Measure despite Summer of Activism,” Politico, November 4, 2020,

[11] Matt McGrath, “Climate Change: US Formally Withdraws from Paris Agreement,” BBC News, November 4, 2020,

[12] Harmeet Kaur, “David Andahl: North Dakota Legislature Candidate Died from Covid, Appears to Win,” CNN, November 4, 2020,

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Contributors' Voices

Journal Entries By Laura Noah, a “long hauler” who got COVID-19 early and is still in recovery. Laura Noah’s op-ed, I lost my voice to COVID-19: But I, and thousands of other “long-haulers,” can’t afford to stay silent any longer was published on October 06, 2020 in the Chicago Reader. This excerpt is from Things Can’t Possibly Get Worse, January 18, 2020 to November 4, 2020. Edited for clarity, relevancy, and privacy of loved ones; otherwise transcribed as originally written.

January 18, 2020

I could have brought something home from India, although the highest temp I’ve had has only been 99.2, so probably nothing scary. Maybe just a virus from travel. 

January 25, 2020

I can feel the increasingly rapid deterioration of my body and I don’t know how much longer I’ll be functioning even at existing levels.

January 26, 2020

I feel physically like all my symptoms are worsening. I even know that feeling this way is absolutely not helping and I feel powerless to stop it.

February 8, 2020

My breathing still feels off although not like asthma. Why am I so fatigued?

February 11, 2020

Feeling utterly exhausted. Maybe a new virus. Maybe the old, still lingering.

February 22, 2020

We know for sure there is stuff happening in my body outside the norm but we don’t know why.

February 25, 2020

I feel relatively calm and philosophical. My body has combated a lot, and I believe it would successfully fight off COVID-19 if attacked by it.

March 2, 2020

Yesterday it got really weird to where I had chills and an elevated temp rising to 99.8 in the evening. I have an occasional dry cough and I had the worsening throat constriction feeling again.

March 21, 2020

I feel like I have something spreading through me. Will our child still have two moms and four grandparents when this all ends? The pandemic has resulted in a world “pause” button as some have said. Will we squander it, or will we reset? I am not well, but I am still alive.

March 25, 2020

It’s difficult to work and also parent.

March 26, 2020

C. has COVID-19. The world can’t lose this person. So many deaths. There is a part of me that hopes I’ve had it already, but it seems unlikely. I have no symptoms now, though, and opted not to test even though Dr. H. offered it.

March 27, 2020

I got some sleep. I realize we will all have our good days and our bad. Our kid has been clingy to me and I need to allow for that so kiddo can feel safe and protected.

March 28, 2020

I rally for our kid’s sake. I try to connect with our child from a place of strength. Each interaction matters, even if seemingly small.

April 3, 2020

One of the worst nights of my life. Temp 101.4 in the early morning. My worst nightmare is me and S. both getting sick and no one to take care of our kid. My child makes me want to fight for life with absolutely every cell of my body.

April 4, 2020

I am still quarantined from the two people I love most.

April 5, 2020

Kiddo got under the covers and sobbed of needing me and called me on Facetime. Kiddo said: I can’t do this. This is looking more and more like COVID.

April 6, 2020

What they don’t tell you in all the goddamn lit about symptoms is how it cycles in the most psychologically fucked up ways. It can lift and there’s this energy and lightness that returns and just as fast it can descend and the weight of cement bricks and the heart slowing or increasing and the head pounding and the fucking useless cough.

April 10, 2020

Where’s the other side?

April 12, 2020

The coughing got bad again. I’m still getting an elevated temp. I feel it all descend on me then I get hot and my body kicks its ass and I feel somewhat okay again.

April 13, 2020

I joined this Body Politic Support Group. There are so many posts and it is difficult to keep up but there does seem to be a pattern of experience of sorts emerging that the medical experts have not accessed. Sometimes I have to actively remind my body to breathe.

April 17, 2020

There is no end to this in sight. I am terrorized by the thought of being alone in a hospital hallway, and dying there, just an anonymous body.

April 18, 2020

Coughing and shortness of breath and fever again.

April 23, 2020

Freaky heart and oxygen stuff happened during my walk today so I have some outpatient testing coming up now.

April 29, 2020

This afternoon we’ll end the self-isolation. Mostly, I am relieved and very excited. I know the symptoms aren’t entirely gone.

May 6, 2020

No fucking antibodies. I didn’t know how angry that would make me.

May 20, 2020

S. tested negative for antibodies also. I don’t get it. I really do not. Today I feel grief. Maybe I never got COVID-19 or maybe if I did get it, it was more recent. None of it makes sense.

June 16, 2020

I get a cooped up feeling at times, yet this is kind of all I’ve wanted: to have time and space for us three with less obligations from others. I get to rest and recover too. We are fortunate in many ways.

June 20, 2020

Last night the kid barely slept so we barely slept. The exhaustion weighs so heavily.

June 21, 2020

What does it matter if I can’t prove that I ever had C19?

June 26, 2020

I will just keep helping individuals through the support group and also C. who is still really struggling.

July 4, 2020

This pandemic. I am either entirely isolated or I am always with others. There is no middle ground.

July 8, 2020

I just saw the ENT and I have a laryngeal ulcer which is not common, and my voice box is inflamed. I had COVID-19. I have no doubt anymore.

July 18, 2020

I feel depressed, fighting to live emotionally now as much as I fought to survive physically. I remember just thinking, India is the big trip, then rest. We did go. And it was wonderful. And then we came home, and I carried coronavirus in my body. What shape will we all be in when we come out of this darkness? Like COVID-19, the roots of illness to our democracy were seeded long ago.

August 3, 2020

I really don’t want to do a laryngeal biopsy.

August 23, 2020

What will be the cause of the laryngeal ulcer? Will it be cancer? COVID-19? Fungus? TB? Auto-immune? Will the procedure kill me? I don’t get to control any of that. I can only try to be present in my life.

August 28, 2020

I grieve for hugs.

September 7, 2020

I can take the strength and hope that I’ve shared with others and I can provide that to myself now.

September 17, 2020

Parts of me are healing, one by one. I am driven to tell what I see. I read out-loud the op-ed to myself and I cried.

October 19, 2020

Something for sure feels off. A cold? A reaction to the flu shot? I don’t know. I’ve not been walking because that has been exhausting me. I feel like I could sleep for hours right now.

October 24, 2020

I truly thought after month five I would never experience this onslaught of symptoms again unless I was reinfected. Sitting and standing in particular exhaust me utterly. We have our ballots.

October 26, 2020

My breathing feels heavy, warm, and squishy. I can’t stand for more than maybe two minutes. So much effort to fill in the mail ballot. Requires thinking and that feels like a challenge.

October 27, 2020

First chair shower. Sobbed during it. Hair is finally washed. Feeling cleansed. Better. Yet a fucking chair in the shower. That’s where this has landed.

October 31, 2020

Halloween. Beautiful day, of course. Temp normalized for a couple days only to be replaced by severe migraines then temp went back up yesterday. Covid or cancer? I’m not the only one processing that question. Folks who have post covid diagnosed cancer shared that covid sped up the growth of cancer cells.

November 2, 2020

Feeling way more like myself today. You forget when you’re not feeling it. Then there’s this flooding in the entire body of illness. It permeates, like an internal onslaught. There’s this intense, uncomfortable sensation of ugly heat. Alternatively, there are periods of bone-chills. 43 weeks of learning the signs.

November 3, 2020

Everything and nothing. The year of waiting. I just received a diagnosis of “breast disorder” of unknown origin.

November 4, 2020

There will be chaos with it this close. Trump tried to declare victory, of course. I want a pause. I want to rest my body. I want to stop feeling like nothing is enough. Forget joy or pleasure. Just give me peace and boredom and safety and stability.

Read more


“Chaos Erupts at Detroit Ballot Processing Center,” Fox59 News, Detroit,  November 4, 2020,

“President Donald Trump attempts to claim election victory as several states still count ballots,” CNBC, November 4, 2020,

“What Election Night Looked Like In Trump’s And Biden’s Backyards,” Beyond The Headlines, Insider News, November 4, 2020,


Boucher, Dave. “Trump Campaign Files Lawsuit to Temporarily Stop Vote Count in Michigan.” Detroit Free Press, November 4, 2020.

DeVaga, Chauncey. “However the Election Ends, White Supremacy Has Already Won.” Salon, November 4, 2020.

Collier, Kevin, and Ken Dilanian. “Military Says It Took Cyber Action against Russia, Iran Pre Election.” NBC News, November 4, 2020.

Cooley, Alexander. “California Voters Reject Affirmative Action Measure despite Summer of Activism.” POLITICO, November 4, 2020.

Bussey, Timothy R. “‘Rainbow Wave’ of LGBTQ Candidates Run and Win in 2020 Election.” The Conversation, November 4, 2020.

McGrath, Matt. “Climate Change: US Formally Withdraws from Paris Agreement.” BBC News, November 4, 2020, sec. Science & Environment.

Campbell, W. Joseph. “An Embarrassing Failure for Election Pollsters.” The Conversation, November 4, 2020.

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