Tuesday night.

Today’s final visit to the vaccine trial clinic was the most social interaction I’ve had in almost a month: a five-minute chat with the doctor in charge of the small trial was the most I’ve spoken to another living being. (The Ohio vaccine line was mostly giddy, distanced, and shivering in the chilly weather.) The nurse’s touch as she withdrew five ampules of blood was the only human contact since, well, the last time they did that, about a month ago. I said this before, and I’ll say it again: I’m going to get alllll the massages and make alllll the friends when this is over. I wonder how many others are going mildly feral and will have a hard time adjusting to the world.

On the plus side, my participation in that study (which had a 33% chance of being a placebo) ended up making me $300 – that should cover the impulsive online shopping I’ve been doing on and off.

On the down side, I’ve been expelled from the Vaccine Hunters. Heh. Well, not so much expelled as told that a) taking a vaccine from the trial program ended up depriving another person of their chance, and b) they find it “ethically grey area” to give infiltration advice to Canadians who want to go to the States for their vaccine. That came straight from the group’s admins, and it’s pretty damn weird, because a) you’d already need to be healthy to sign up for the vaccine trial (high-risk people weren’t eligible; even smoking pot would disqualify you), b) it’s an experimental vaccine that’s not guaranteed to work (quite a few vaccine trials died a quiet death over the past year), and c) the vaccine trial’s organizers told me, explicitly, during our first meeting, that if I get a chance to take an approved vaccine, I should do so – they didn’t expect any trial participants. to go a full year without getting vaccinated.

As for their US infiltration criticism… I think I mentioned this before: the only class I ever failed was Advanced Bioethics. I fully acknowledge that my ethical system is different from that of most other people. (Nothing illegal, mind you, but the golden rule really doesn’t apply in my case. Heh.) Therefore, I fully acknowledge that maybe I’m the wrong one – but it seems to me that if a nuclear superpower bans the export of the life-saving vaccines you’d ordered well in advance, then you’re ethically, morally, and philosophically in the clear if you can get to them. There is a strange – perhaps uniquely Canadian – phenomenon where people (not anti-vaxxers, but regular people) who become eligible for their vaccinations refuse to sign up. “But others need it more than I do!” they say, and when enough people do that, you end up with empty appointment slots and general disarray. That’s an extreme version of politeness, the sort of outlier that hurts everyone on the large scale. I think this is the same thinking at play: sneaking past the border and getting a vaccine shot that had been allocated for Canada way back in 2020 isn’t something a nice and moral person would do, in their opinion, so they choose to silence the whole discussion instead.

The other possibility is that the Vaccine Hunters leadership is trying really hard to be apolitical. On their Discord channel, there’s plenty of people raging against Doug Ford, but the group as a whole doesn’t criticize anyone or take sides when it talks to the media. Perhaps this is their very strange and proactive attempt to preempt any criticism. (Nice journalists reach out for comment; not-so-nice journalists might join the public chatroom and take notes based on what they see.) Either way, my sole contribution to the group was advising dozens of Canadians on the fine points of getting across the border, getting your shot, and getting back. After they banned that particular topic of discussion, there wasn’t much else for me to do there.

I would be lying if I said that didn’t hurt, and I seldom lie. A clean break is for the best, though. I shouldn’t have gotten so emotionally involved. In a way, from a certain perspective, this is helpful. I’m no longer in the US and not affected by their politics, so quitting that political blog a few months ago helped sever that part of my life: a clean break. As my personal pandemic is about to end, I’ll really have to start detransitioning from the covid news diet, and being in that Vaccine Hunters chatroom would not have been productive… I still plan on volunteering at vaccine distribution centers, but life is far too short for hanging out with too-polite-to-live bioethicists. I wonder if this the ultimate fate of every progressive alliance: at some point, philosophical divisions break the group apart as the core philosophy (in this case, “all the shots in all the arms”) fractures. Oh well.

Meanwhile, I’ve devoured Simon Rich’s Sell Out, a four-part story that originally appeared in New Yorker. (It was much easier to find than I’d anticipated.) As a two-time immigrant, I found it absolutely hilarious. I only hope my neighbours didn’t get too alarmed by sharp and sudden bursts of laughing. Next up, literally any other story that Simon Rich has ever written. The man has talent, eh.

I’m trying and failing to adjust my sleep cycle for the very, very early awakening on Friday morning. My covid shot in Toledo is scheduled for 1pm (even though it’s really just FIFO), my rapid PCR covid test is at 11am, and it takes five hours to get from Toronto to Toledo. Given a 90-minute buffer for snacks, gas stations, possible traffic, etc, I should leave at 4:30am. That implies getting up no later than 4am. Considering I stayed up till 2am last night playing Stardew Valley (ye gods, it’s so addictive), I’m not off to a good start. Perhaps if I force myself to get up at 6am-ish tomorrow and Thursday… Worst-case scenario, I can just pull over and take a nap – and if I sleep through my alarm that morning, I can always reschedule, but I’d really rather not extend my personal pandemic by even one more day. First-world problems, I know.

In covid news, Ontario is quietly undergoing a very Canadian form of revolution: instead of following Ford’s patchwork of inefficient guidelines, Toronto and Peel (also Toronto, but a bit to the west) have announced their own localized measures. Any workplace that had five or more covid cases that “could have reasonably acquired their infection at work” over the course of two weeks will get shut down for 10 days. That. Is. Huge, y’all. This is the kind of policy we should’ve had in place a year ago. It’s far too late now, but this will do some good. The hard part will be proving whether the cases were work-related or not, but here is hoping they’ll figure it out and move quickly. This is really quite remarkable: the medical leadership of the biggest city in Canada has snubbed the premier of its own province. Ford has been getting brutal criticism locally, nationwide, and even in Washington Post. Some claim that his party is finally working on providing some paid sick days, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

In less local news, the pandemic is still accelerating around the world: that’s easy to forget if all you look at is the US, UK, and the parts of Canada that are not Ontario. According to the WHO, new cases have been increasing for eight weeks in a row, with 5.2 million new cases reported worldwide last week. The world’s official covid death count is just over three million right now: unofficially, it’s much higher. I can’t describe how bizarre and macabre it is to know that while the pandemic is almost over for everyone I know, it’s actually accelerating for billions of people elsewhere. If there were some way, somehow, to sneak people from Brazil or India into the US and give them their shots, I would’ve done so in a heartbeat…

Good night, y’all. Stay safe out there.