Thursday, September 30, 2021

Covid Diary December 16 to September 30


Poverty and shooting mar Durham during Covid:


Moving forward:

The death of independent restaurants:


Homeschooling exacerbates stratification, putting families on different playing fields:


“If you can come up with a vaccine in a year, why are we sitting in a community where there is no grocery store with fresh fruits and vegetables.”


My year-end wrap:


The reality of nursing homes:

My dad, a medical center physician, in his corny dad way, has renamed Operation Warp Speed Operation Dead Speed, attesting to its dysfunction and slowness.


The social fabric of America is unraveling:


Trump rioters invade the Capitol:

We've come undone.



Where I ask over email our DDI and downtown business leaders not to reopen too fast and the reaction I got:

Sorry to use this thread for something off topic, but has there been any interest in pushing on City Council to do another shutdown? I'm getting many more anecdotal case reports from supermarket workers, baristas, grocery owners, etc. Our staff is coming to work every day anxious now. I know a shutdown similar to April is not business-friendly, but I think we need to put public health first here. We posted the attached to IG, FB, and Twitter and got positive responses/views.

In case you didn't see it, the legendary Titina Vuotto of CarpriFlavors passed mid-Dec of Covid:



Hi Ari—


This is a very difficult decision and one where the arguments on both sides are compelling.  My personal opinion is that while a complete shutdown of businesses may cause numbers to trend down, it will also put a number of individuals in an even more precarious position—restaurant and retail and other small business employees not having steady or reliable incomes (and in some cases medical insurance).  I believe that the restaurants in downtown are doing everything they absolutely must (and in many cases going beyond the bare minimum) to ensure that they remain open and their employees (and customers) remain safe and healthy.  The added resources and assistance from Greenlight Durham provides additional assistance in tracking of cases, listing of testing sites, and other COVID-related resources.


I won’t argue as to why the numbers are increase (eating out vs small family/intimate gatherings indoors).  However, by allowing small businesses to stay open, the owners can decide what the appropriate response/answer is for their given situation and in downtown we are seeing each business owner decide what makes the most sense for not just the business operations but, in many cases, what is the most responsible thing to do to protect employees.  Due to a lack of any significant and comprehensive federal, state, and/or local small business assistance, it is difficult to advocate for a complete shutdown as this would place an intense financial stress (on top of the stress many businesses are already carrying). 


These are my personal thoughts. It is a difficult situation we are in and I think many thought we’d be a little further along in combating this virus.  Regardless, as we continue to move forward, no matter how slowly, it remains difficult to plan when there’s so much uncertainty.  I rely on the one-on-one conversations I have with multiple business owners in downtown to try and advocate what makes the most sense and provides the most benefit to the overall downtown business community.  The wants and needs of a restaurant owner vs a salon owner vs a retail shop vs a live venue space are so varied and each must be considered.  I continue to believe that the business owners in downtown will operate in a safe and responsible manner.


Nicole Thompson

President & CEO

Downtown Durham, Inc.

Hi Nicole, 

Thanks for sending.  I appreciate your thoughts.  Just to be clear, I would still encourage restaurants to do takeout and outdoor dining. I think that is the best path until most of the vaccines are distributed. I think the fact that the mayor and city council have not enforced any type of stay-at-home order with the exception of going out for food/supplies/etc. (as we did in April) is foolhardy and leading to needless disease and death. Evidently we've become numb to the numbers of the sick and dying and have accepted it as a byproduct of our need to keep things open through this surge in cases. The fact that most of the disease burden falls on lower income folks just reinforces my distaste for how this has been handled.



I was just looking at the stats tonite.  13 Durhamites dead in the last week due to Covid (probably an undercount):

County Total CasesTotal DeathsDateRate Per 10,000% of all cases by dateNew CasesNew Deaths7 Day New Cases AvgCases per 10,000 last 7 daysCases per 10,000 last 14 days
Durham17,826158Jan, 19554.52.6120011783979
Durham17,626157Jan, 17548.32.5826471803976
Durham17,362150Jan, 15540.12.5520131864179
Durham17,161147Jan, 14533.82.5217511984378
Durham16,986146Jan, 13528.42.4913611954379
Durham16,850145Jan, 12524.12.4713001954277


We know that the new variant of Covid is out there and may be 50% more transmissible and we are still not locking down.


The UK struggles:


This American Life on the Capitol Riots:


15 Durhamites died last week of Covid.  How many more need to die before the city takes steps to keep people from gathering and mixing? 

This is exactly the case where a gradualist, incrementalist practice of progressive politics runs headlong into the life or death situation which is Covid.







After it's over: The mood now seems to be one of preparation for what comes after our society's lockdown. Will business-as-usual reign?

The only problem is in double mask hell, is no one can hear you speak.

Some reflections on the five hundred thousand (and counting):

The problem with this is that people are like wood, and so long as there is dry wood, there will be fire so long as the virus still exists. I have no doubt this will lead to greater infections statewide.

A year into the pandemic, full-on burnout has taken hold.

Durham kiddos return to school amid controversy:

Voting rights are under attack across the country. Can we push back?

It's the Coronaversary.  (One year since things really shut down around here.) The year that nothing happened and everything happened, when no one changed and everyone changed.

All of the bakery employees have now received at least their first shot. Most have received both. Thank you to Greenlight Durham for facilitating many of the shots.

As predicted, there are vast vaccine inequities and access to information around vaccines:

Downtown Durham is busy with people, people out at bars (Glass Jug), and scooters ripping and running all down Main Street. It appears the fine weather together with vaccines for most (?) have given people new confidence to get out. We've certainly seen an uptick in sales at the Bakery, and especially at Farmer's Market. The news cycle appears less terrifying now that Biden is president. It (and Trump) no longer hangs over the community like an evil scepter. People are worried about variants, and there are still lots of infections in the U.S., but somehow this seems more manageable. We continue to distribute funds via the Durham Neighbors program, and free lunches every day to the needy.

In poorer parts of the world, the virus rages on. The possibility for a vaccine-resistant variant rises with every day we fail on this.

The world needs more vaccines, and the 1st world has them:

The prospects and volume of Durham businesses have really picked up the last month. With vaccines and lower infection rates, people are getting out more. Business owners seem to be in a better and more optimistic mood as well. As my grandmother would say, "Money's like honey."



The shifting CDC mask guidance has caused real problems for us. Now some customers (and vendors!) feel they can walk into the bakery sans mask and will fight us verbally for their right to be served inside without a mask.  It’s deplorable and confusing for everyone involved.



The masks have come off.  Covid must be over.  Bars, restaurants are filled with cooks, servers, and patrons without masks. Is it too early? I guess we’ll see if there is a fourth (?) wave. Only half the population in NC is vaccinated and yet the Covid rates are plummeting. So I guess things are working? It still feels too early for us to call it, so we are still requiring masks on all employees and also all customers inside the Bakery.

The Bakery turns 40 years old!


Wow. Ain’t nobody wearing masks anymore.  I went to Phillips Farm in Cary and literally 5 out of 400 ppl were wearing masks.   

I was the only person inside the bar wearing a mask and everyone looked at me like in was the weirdo.  And I thought, maybe I was.

After much deliberation, we were one of the last Durham businesses to require masks indoors, and today, we went mask-free for the vaccinated.

just as soon as we were in the clear and went maskless at the bakery, the delta variant reared its ugly head. #thefourthwave?


The mask mandate returns in Durham due to a spike in cases from Delta. Just one month later, masks return to the Bakery.


I lost my best friend and I lost my rabbi due to Covid.  The weird thing is, they are still alive.   


Food service providers are finding it hard to stay staffed up. I can't get deliveries from US Foods because so many workers at the their warehouse are at home with Covid (delta):;


It appears that we have crested the hump of the delta infection wave and reports indicate that mu (the next strain) is in fact not vaccine-resistant. Does this mean we're in the clear or will mask mandates (and regular vigilance) lessen only for delta to return again for another (lesser?) wave of infection? Vaccine boosters are in rollout mode. Feels like an inflection point.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Vernon Mitchell

 It is here that we recognize and pay tribute to the memory of baker Vernon Mitchell who passed away this past Monday from a pancreatic cancer that took him all too soon. Vernon was a gentle giant, over 6'4'', long and lanky with a warm smile, great sense of humor, and an easygoing way about him. He was with the bakery only four months, but we will miss him dearly. He is survived by a loving family and friends.