As the pandemic enters a new, deadlier phase in the United States, some Americans still won’t do anything to help

A nursing home director receives one of the first COVID vaccines administered to the public in the U.K., December 9, 2020 (Hugh Hastings/Getty)

A few days ago, one of the people I follow on Twitter posted a link to an article about how people in countries that have the COVID pandemic under control were returning to their normal lives. On the tweet I could see a quote from a woman in Australia about how people there cared enough about each other to take the necessary steps to keep each other safe.

I could not bring myself to read the article.

As I sit to write this, the daily death toll from COVID in the United States has surpassed 9/11. On both the 8th…


Donald Trump and COVID-19 make for a painful vaccine situation

President Donald Trump with top U.S. health official, February 29, 2020 (Alex Wong/Getty)

Who could have foreseen that having an anti-vaxxer in charge when a new vaccine is urgently needed would turn out to be a problem?

After Donald Trump’s disastrous election in 2016, one of the things I came across time and again was “Autocracy: Rules for Survival,” by Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen. First among the various rules Gessen (who uses they/them pronouns) suggested to Americans, already bracing for the degradations of our democracy to come, was: “Believe the autocrat.”

“He means what he says,” they wrote. “Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is…


The measures needed to safely reopen during the coronavirus pandemic vary by building

Socially distanced desks at All Saints Catholic College on July 16, 2020 in Dukinfield, England. (Anthony Devlin/Getty)

Things that are in many ways similar can still differ in other important ways. Take, for example, buildings.

Buildings often have many things in common. Walls are something you’re likely to see in most buildings. Ceilings and floors are also typically included. As a general rule, you’ll enter and exit a building through a door or other person-sized opening of some kind.

However, there are many ways in which different kinds of buildings are not the same. No matter how many features they may share, it’s important when thinking about how buildings are used to ponder their differences, too.

Consider…


No parades this year, but we can still celebrate and use this Pride as an opportunity to ask ourselves some questions

Digital billboards with ‘Black Lives Matter’ and a Pride flag in Times Square on June 22, 2020 in New York City (Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty)

By this time in June, I usually would have not attended at least one parade. Maybe two.

I have also not attended at least two parades this June. But I’m not attending them differently than in years past.

June is Pride Month. It’s when the LGBTQ community has parades and parties to celebrate ourselves and our long struggle for equality. Various brands slap rainbows on their logos to show how supportive they are. …


I’m a pediatrician who administers vaccines. So which am I, conspiracy theorists: a fool or a monster?

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I did not particularly enjoy watching my practice’s income plummet.

This seems the kind of thing it would be unnecessary to stipulate. Like “our vacation would have been better without the food poisoning” or “the murder hornets were a low point for the hike,” seeing the finances at your business tank is one of those experiences that you’d think most people would just assume is quite unpleasant without having to be told.

And yet, here I am pointing it out.

Why do I feel it necessary to play Captain Obvious? Because apparently there are people out there who somehow think…


In the pandemic, some call medical personnel heroes, but the label fits me awkwardly

Doctors, nurses, and staff of Carney Hospital in Boston watch a drive-by parade in their honor April 16, 2020 (Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

If you count residency, I’ve been a pediatrician for a little over two decades. For almost all of that time, it’s been work that I’ve found rewarding and enjoyable, if sometimes challenging or frustrating. I’ve gone to work without much ceremony, goofed around with my patients, while trying at the same time to keep them healthy and offer their parents helpful advice.

With the coming of the COVID pandemic, my work has suddenly taken on new gravity. There was no specific moment I can identify when my job was transfigured, but at some point people started using the language of…


A pediatrician on the challenges of making kids and parents feel comfortable in a pandemic

Dr. Summers, ready for patients during the coronavirus pandemic (photo by the author)

At this point in my medical career, I know what my relative strengths are. I feel pretty solid about the majority of illnesses and injuries that I’m likely to encounter on any given day as a pediatrician, but I know there are people who have more diagnostic expertise, and I know when I need to consult an outside opinion. I can interpret the usual blood tests I order, recognize a wide array of rashes, and have a clear protocol for which antibiotic to use next when an ear infection doesn’t clear up the first time.

But where I really shine…


A pediatrician on how coronavirus has affected non-emergency medicine

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We bought a new microwave for my practice, though there was nothing wrong with the microwave we already had. It works just fine and I imagine people warming their lunches in our break room today will make good use of it. But I can’t go into that section of our building right now, so we needed to get one for the part where I’m sitting.

The reason I’m not supposed to go into that area is it’s the “clean” part of our office, where members of the staff who don’t have any contact with our patients work. …


The other results I’ll be watching for on Super Tuesday

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This coming Tuesday, 14 states will be holding primary elections. The largest tally of delegates will get doled out based on Super Tuesday’s results, arguably the single most important event in what has shaped up to be a grueling and enervating primary race. Like all avid politics watchers, I will be glued to the television as the results roll in, doubtless furiously tweeting the whole time.

Maine is among the states casting votes that day, and as a resident I will dutifully head to the polls to vote for the person I most hope to see win the Democratic Party’s…


I haven’t missed watching the Academy Awards in three decades

Credit: Andrew H. Walker (Getty)

My earliest memory of the ceremony is Jessica Tandy accepting the Best Actress award for Driving Miss Daisy in 1990. I’ve tuned in with nigh-religious devotion every year since. It doesn’t matter what the potential scheduling conflict is, the Oscars will always win.

It used to be a point of pride for me to see every single film nominated for a major award. (By my definition, that’s all the acting categories, all the directing and writing nominees, and of course all the ones for Best Picture.) On a couple of really good years I’d seen them all before the nominees…

Daniel Summers

Mouthy pediatrician. Strident homosexual. Husband, father, runner, social irritant. Columnist at Arc Digital, Slate. Bylines hither and yon. He/him.

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