This is an email from Flux, a newsletter by GEN.
Why Half-Normal Feels Even Stranger Than Total Chaos
Welcome back to Flux, a weekly newsletter from GEN about the powerful forces reshaping America.
I’m going to try to capture a mood here, bear with me. I’m not quite sure where this is going, which reflects the mood I’m channeling: Do any of us know where anything is going?
We’re in a profoundly in-between moment, and there’s something about this moment that feels even more disorienting than the dystopian weirdness of total lockdown. Here in New York we’re doing okay, or at least a lot better than we were a few months ago. The other night I was driving down Smith Street, a strip of shops and restaurants near my home in Brooklyn, and it was livelier than I’ve seen it since Christmas. It didn’t look like this, but it didn’t look like this either. It looked…normal? Almost. Elsewhere, though, all over the country, bars and restaurants are reversing their reopenings, and the number of “red zone” states has grown to 21.
We have economic calamity at a historic scale, with 17 million people out of work. Yet the state of unemployment means radically different things to different people. This week in GEN, Mari Uyehara talked to six people who have lost their jobs since Covid hit, at income levels ranging from roughly $10,000 a year to more than $150,000. Adding insult to financial injury, most of these folks just lost the extra $600 a week the federal government was providing as part of the CARES Act
We’re having a national reckoning over systemic racism and a second Civil Rights Movement — President Obama posted his John Lewis eulogy on Medium — but we still can’t prosecute the Ferguson police officer who killed Michael Brown. And as our colleague Morgan Jerkins wrote this week, there remain many towns across this country that are unsafe for Black people at night.
This squishy-middleness is playing out in less serious arenas too. As Drew Magary pointed out Major League Baseball is leading all major sports in reopening errors, having badly botched the start of a shortened season that looks like it’s going to be even shorter than planned. Meanwhile, the Covid-free NBA pulled off a flawless resumption of its season on Thursday night with two fantastic games in its Orlando bubble.
Even the time of year feels in-between. Today is the first day of August, normally the slowest and most carefree of months, a buffer zone of barbecues and beaches, summer Fridays at work, a time to take our feet off the gas and recharge. And then, toward the end of the month, comes that creeping back-to-school, back-to-work, Sunday-night feeling. But this year, what kind of school? What kind of work? What this will mean for many of us is a return to the home office (or couch) where we’ve been Zooming since March.
Here at GEN, we’re doing our best to make sense of this odd stretch as we prepare for a fall that figures to be just as newsy as the rest of 2020. There’s an election in November, as you may recall, though not everyone is looking forward to it. We are, though, and we can’t wait to cover it for you.
Anything can happen, and probably will.
— Brendan Vaughan, editor-in-chief, GEN
Everyone in the pool! Except you, Congress.
The New York Times editorial board had a few things to say about Congress adjourning for summer break without passing anything of substance to help unemployed Americans who will lose $600 a week in aid. The unemployment supplement in the CARES Act, passed in March, was always going to end in July, and like the slow-moving disaster of this entire pandemic, we all saw it coming.
Only in recent days have Republicans belatedly begun a frantic effort to devise a coherent response to the crisis. Like students who wait until the night before an assignment is due, they have pleaded for more time and asked if they could submit a part of the work. The nation will suffer the consequences.
Republicans proposed cutting the supplement to $200 a week, Democrats refused and the result was….nothing. Congress shoved the boogie board in the car and drove away, leaving unemployed Americans to foot their bills with $600 less a week, and still no jobs in sight.
Flux populi: Prep school pandemic
A pool at a country club in Greenwich said on Wednesday that it would shut down for at least two days after a swim coach came into contact with someone who had tested positive.
While the parties that are believed to have seeded the outbreak have been widely discussed among students, parents and others in Greenwich, the conversation on social media has taken place largely on private accounts and pages.
Greenwich health officials have said that contact tracers have had a difficult time tracking down teenagers willing to admit having been at the gatherings.
The Jersey Shore is doing what it does best — spread disease
Like those prep school teens, we know you want to party. We all want to party, and in most cases we’ve been partying responsibility, out of doors, six feet apart, sitting on a picnic blanket, maybe with a margarita in a coffee mug. (Shhhh.) But down at the Jersey Shore — ground zero of whooooooo hoooooo! — officials have seen a 28 percent increase in coronavirus cases in a state that had some of lowest levels of the disease in the nation. What happened? Parties happened.
A party that dozens of Long Beach Island lifeguards attended has been linked to 35 cases of the virus, according to the state’s health commissioner. A house party in Middletown, N.J., has been blamed for 65 new cases; 52 of the people infected were between the ages of 15 and 19, Gov. Philip D. Murphy said. And a graduation party in Westfield, N.J., farther north, resulted in 17 cases.
Listen up kids, the New Jersey state Twitter account — which we respect more than our parents, grandparents, or even Bruce Springsteen — is very disappointed in you.