It felt like stabbing a friend. Like ghosting my own birthday party. So why did I bail on Bouchercon yesterday?
There’s 100 reasons anyone does anything. 99 perfectly good ones, and the real reason.
The 99 perfectly good ones are neatly encapsulated in any real news reporting: infection rates up (though they did start to plateau in New Orleans), positivity rates through the roof (10+% in Orleans Parish), vaccination rates too low to quell the summer spike, though the rate of vaccination has picked up a bit. The delta variant is 10 times more communicable, so even if I have a very low chance of infection, and a high chance of mild symptoms should I be infected, I also have a high chance of spreading the virus to an unvaccinated person while I am infected. Infection rates are unlikely to come down until just after the conference at the end of August, even if everyone vaccinated tomorrow.
Even if I never got a Covid infection, which is statistically speaking, as far as we know now, the most likely outcome, the follow-on effects of traveling through a hot zone are substantial:
- If I should get sick or have an accident while on the road or in New Orleans, getting treatment may be difficult, because of the overcrowded hospitals and small number of hospital beds.
- The airlines, currently notorious for scheduling problems, might cancel or change my routing, leaving me flying through Houston or some other hot zone.
- If the conference has to cancel after one day, like Left Coast Crime 2020 had to, getting back out of town could be challenging.
These are all the very good reasons to stay home. The real reason, though, is something I noticed in June amongst my published writer friends, all of whom have more need of a good book conference than I do. Every single one of them who had a bio-science professional in their immediate family or circle of friends has been a hard, if regretful, no since the beginning. Without fail, each of them said they’d checked with their trusted sources and the response, even before the summer surge became critical, was “no way, baby.”
So, I am sitting here, sad beyond describing that I won’t be there to support Faye Snowden and Steph Cha and the “LA/San Diego writers” as I think of them, and all the other wonderful writers of Bouchercon. I won’t fall asleep at midnight wishing I had a poker face so I could join the poker game, sharing my “fancy” whisky with those wicked writers who enjoy a glass of something special on conference nights.
I feel like it’s my patriotic duty to eschew all non-essential travel until the surge has passed. It is not fun. But accidentally killing someone’s child with a hot viral load that I didn’t even know I had–that would be far worse.