Did you hear? Covid’s back! In prog form.
First Lady, esteemed doctor, baroness of baroque dress, high priestess of impolitic slips, her megadumbesty Jill Biden caught Covid. Or tested positive for it. Or had a slight hack, covered under the broad medical prognosis of “mild symptoms.” Who knows what the shrouded White House doctors really thought of Mrs. Biden, or if her shnoz swab was a false positive because she caught the bug everyone gets in early autumn. It didn’t much matter—within a week she was back in public, at Ground Zero standing in for her husband on the 22nd anniversary of the 9/11 attack. (The President was far out at Anchorage lying about being at the same spot just after the towers fell. But, hey, on a day everyone remembers, sometimes we forget the details.)
In my neck of the NoVA woods, a nearby elementary school is mandating masks after a mass outbreak of maybe four Covid cases. In ruby-red Alabama, a junior high school reinstituted required face coverings as a precaution against the “slow raise (sic) of Covid cases.” (Maybe the school admin should blanket their faces with Hooked on Phonics worksheets to avoid PSA typos.) Socialist conferences and varying comic-cons (Do I repeat myself? Yeah, I repeat myself.) are requiring maw-straps… which forces me to bellow the immortal Homer verse: NEEEEEEEERRRRRRDDDDDDDS.
Rightwing Twitter is replete with febrile warnings about the return of lockdowns, curfews, and capacity limits to tilt the next election blue… fourteen months out. Populist senator J.D. Vance introduced a bill to preclude any state or local jurisdiction from forced masking. The CDC bullhorned a warning about a new virus strain—dubbing it “BA.2.86,” which sounds like an annoying astromech droid.
In short, the Wu-flu is on everyone’s minds again, which depressingly means the neurotic are about to have an excuse to shove their hypochondria down our throats. And if hospital cases continue to climb, we may even witness the recrudescence of the worst, most wretched and soul-scarifying scene associated with the pandemic: choreographed nurse TikTok dances.
Missing among all the “Covid comeback” scaremongering is a simple fact: COVID-19 never left us. That isn’t some persnickety, know-it-all virologist claim—viruses don’t *poof* and disappear but go dormant thanks to rising immunity etc. And I’m far from a “Long Covid” truther. The truth is that the pandemic, and the damage it wrought, is still affecting us. And I don’t mean because of the annoying tax-funded commercials you’re hearing everywhere for a booster jab that doesn’t even prevent infection.
Some businesses—and I don’t mean stock-listed juggernauts straddling multiple states—are still climbing out the indigent ditch dug by government lockdown orders. Others are shutting their doors, years after peak pandemic. One of the unfortunate victims of non-association mandates include a brewery in my hometown.
Longtime readers of yours truly, e.g. unus my dad, will recall this isn’t the first time I’ve written about a Middletown, PA fixture. I waxed appreciatively about our local flea market back as a young college graduate. Twelve years later, comes a sequel in my writerly universe—imagine if Marvel Studios had the patience to wait that long between CGI-sugarburst serials!
Tattered Flag Brewery is set to shutter at the end of this month. The owners, one of whom is a veteran who dreamt up the hop pourer in the “mountains of Afghanistan,” announced the closure on Facebook: “Had we known the pandemic was coming, we would not have expanded as quickly as we did. When the Covid shutdowns happened, we resigned ourselves to the fact that we would likely go out of business.”
Prescient words—too prescient. The red premonition has come to pass. The brewery, which expanded into a liquor distillery and full-fledged gastropub, is another fallen domino in a long run that was cued by government overreach. No longer on trips home will I get to assume my favorite stool facing the second floor vista, downing IPAs while gazing at a dojo that once was a pharmacy, the empty plot where a newsstand used to sit that I bought comic books from as a Spider-Man obsessed boy, or the office of the local fishwrapper I dashed out a column for ten years straight. (Another Covid casualty.)
In a capitalist economy, businesses rise and fall all the time—20% or so go kaput within a year of opening according to every MBA ever. Yet the pandemic mitigation diktats were unprecedented in scope and authority, and their financially deleterious effects are still rippling across countless balance sheets. Entire swaths of many U.S. cities still resemble ghost towns, with shuttered storefronts and empty shelves. Student learning loss, a polite euphemism for mass dumbing down, hasn’t been made up. My kids still come home from school every day with threatening drips out their nostrils.
The start of this year kicked off the required payback period for government loans issued to businesses as a “sorry but not sorry we won’t let you operate” lockouts began. And while many of the Paycheck Protection Program lends have been forgiven, nearly a million remain outstanding.
The grim conclusion to draw is that Tattered Flag Brewery won’t be the last commercial fold up caused by the double whammy of Covid and forced closing. Many unlucky merchants never left the financial ICU since that fateful spring.