With help from Renuka Rayasam and Tyler Weyant
CAPITOL SHAKEN — The U.S. Capitol Police was rocked again today after a driver rammed a vehicle into a barricade outside the building, killing one officer and seriously injuring another.
The death of William F. Evans, an 18-year veteran, comes as the force is still reeling from the Jan. 6 pro-Trump mob attack on the Capitol, which left one officer dead and two officers later dying by suicide after responding to the assault. “It has been an extremely difficult and challenging year for us, but we will get through this,” Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman said. POLITICO has more on today’s incident at the Capitol.
JUMPING BACK IN — Last fall, two of my best friends and I quarantined before heading to the North Carolina mountains to see each other for a long weekend of hiking, pizza, good coffee and more pizza.
My friend, Kate, has one of those big, draw-you-in kind of personalities. She’ll make anyone feel like they’ve known her for years, usually accompanied by a bowl of fresh baked goods to share with her friends or coworkers. But as we packed up our bags, she surprised us.
“I was really worried about seeing you guys,” Kate said.
She’d been living alone in her apartment since early summer, seeing very few people aside from her parents, which happened rarely since they lived out of state. Kate said she wondered if she’d remember how to interact, if she knew how to have a good time with some of her closest friends. What would we talk about? Would we still like her?
Of course, she was wrong. Kate was still her extroverted self, funny as ever, and joined by a to-die-for pan of cinnamon rolls.
But I don’t blame her for being concerned. Sometimes I leave a Zoom call feeling peak awkward, as if I’ve forgotten how to confidently string a sentence together. Other times I’ve dreaded meeting a friend for a walk. I leave the gathering fulfilled — reminded of the human contact I’ve been missing — but the energy it takes to get myself there is a bit out of character.
Think about it: We’ve been trained to be scared of other people at this point. When we connect with a stranger out in public, we can’t even see below their eyes.
It’s a reality that will reshape the economy, culture and broader society — at least temporarily — as the pandemic starts to wind down and millions of Americans reemerge from their homes in earnest.
“Anxiety is maintained by avoidance, and we have all been acting as if we’re housebound, with social anxiety for the better part of the year,” said Ellen Hendriksen, a clinical psychologist and author of “How to be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety.”
Hendriksen described returning to social life like getting a cast off after a broken bone. Social muscles have atrophied, and it will take some time to rebuild these skills. For people like Kate, who didn’t struggle with interacting with others before Covid, this transition won’t take too long.
Others, who made progress addressing social anxiety before the pandemic, worry they’ve slipped backwards, Hendriksen said. For patients who have felt relief from living within a remote, isolated environment, it will take some time to ease back into large group settings.
Then there are the kids. When schools first shifted to remote learning last March, many parents reported improvement in their children’s stress levels, said Rachel Merson, clinical director of the child program at Boston University’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders. But as schools reopened over the past six months, shifting to more hybrid models, Merson said the center saw a 25 percent increase in parents calling to get help for their kids.
“There were many more kids than usual who we were referring out for higher levels of care, for whom a weekly therapy session we felt was not actually going to be a sufficient level of support for them, and they needed something more intensive,” Merson said.
Other children, after returning to the classroom a few days a week, begged their parents to return to remote learning, she said.
Children are resilient, Merson added, and she expects most to recover as the worst of the pandemic fades. But she worries that others, who dealt with social anxiety and intense emotional experiences pre-Covid, may find it difficult to return to school and participate as they did in the past.
For both kids and adults, the best way to transition back into pre-pandemic life is a gradual reentry plan. The speed and process can be different for everyone, Hendriksen said, but people can “inch into the pool. We don’t have to do a cannonball.”
Whatever your feelings may be about post-pandemic life, you’re not alone. We asked Nightly readers to share their experiences with social anxiety. Check out the results below.
Nightly asked you: We want to hear from people experiencing anxiety about heading into post-pandemic life. Maybe you’re an introvert nervous about returning to the office, or maybe you’re broadly concerned about large social situations. Or maybe you’ve never struggled with social anxiety before and are about to face a new challenge. Your select, lightly edited responses are below:
“I was very depressed stuck at home; impatient and eager for freedom but, now that I am fully vaccinated, I find myself reluctant — not scared but strangely reluctant — to actually remerge into public life again. Isolation has become a habit that is going to be hard to break.” — Kathleen Rollins, retired, Flagstaff, Ariz.
“I’m not concerned about contracting the virus, but I’ve been happy not to get any common cold this winter. I suddenly hear people around me getting sick, and I realize by lowering the guard, we’ll go back to suffering. I’m also concerned about the stress it brings to my life meeting all the people who are suddenly emerging from a year hiding and want to catch up. My life was busy enough in ‘pause,’ I can’t fit social activities in. Now I’m the one who wants to hide.” — Mercedes Gallego, journalist, New York City
“I love movies and I’m not sure how comfortable I will feel for a very long time going into a movie theater. Same with restaurants, and, of course, singing in church!” — John Wilkinson, minister, Philadelphia
“I worked nights for six months as a traveling ER nurse in Northern Michigan, coming from my secluded house in the country to stay in a series of hotels, apartments and Airbnbs in a small college town. When I was off work, I didn’t sleep well and it was hard, but nights alone became a refuge of sorts. I sat on porches and stoops and smoked cigarettes and watched snow storms and starry nights. I watched old movies. Bad TV sitcoms. Read books and magazines. But mostly, I reveled in darkness, quietly watching the night, chain smoking watching the night. Reveled in being alone. No patients piling up, there would be no texts from friends and family, expecting a quick response, no new neighbors watching me walk my dog and unload my groceries, attempting small talk. I’ve been done for a week. I don’t sleep well yet. And I still feel best at night. It’s cold and quiet and no one can see me. No one can need me. In the daylight, I should be productive and someone might need me. I still like the nights. I like the emptiness for now. It scares me a bit. It will pass.” — Brendan Straubel, registered nurse, Frankfort, Mich.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, all three of my jobs have moved online. Because of the relative ease of juggling them all from home, I have taken on more responsibility with all of them. Now, the idea of one or more of them returning to in-person makes me scared. I’m worried I don’t have the confidence to speak with supervisors and inform them I need to take on less. I’ve never been good at telling people no. And what’s worse is I am too type-A to ever let my performance suffer without a fight. My worry is after Covid, I won’t ever have time to eat, sleep or have a social life again…” — Quinton Beck, professor/project manager, Washington, D.C.
GREEN JOBS, GREEN DRAWBACK — President Joe Biden touted his $2 trillion infrastructure plan as a “once-in-a-generation” effort to tackle climate change while creating millions of “good paying jobs.” Some unions warn that it may ultimately cost a lot of jobs, too.
Labor groups, echoed by Republicans in Congress, are cautioning that Biden’s plan to hitch the jobs recovery to massive green energy investment could backfire because of the quality of employment it will create and the economic devastation it could cause on rural communities, write Rebecca Rainey and Eric Wolff. The complaints underscore the difficulty Biden will have in pursuing his two most ambitious goals: reviving the labor market by generating millions of jobs for unions — which traditionally thrive in old-line industries — and transforming the U.S. into a clean economy where electric vehicles and battery storage replace coal, natural gas and oil as energy sources.
The president’s push to decarbonize the economy will mean eliminating the kind of steady, fixed-location jobs that come with coal mines or fossil fuel power plants. The Biden plan would require the construction of vast numbers of solar, wind and battery projects, along with potentially new pipelines for carbon dioxide and hydrogen. But construction jobs are temporary and require mobility, and once those projects are complete, they’ll need few workers to maintain them and keep them operating.
VOTING RIGHTS FIGHT ESCALATES — Major League Baseball announced today that it was moving its July All-Star Game out of Atlanta over Georgia’s new election law, which includes new voter ID requirements, limits absentee ballots and gives the state Legislature more power over elections. It hasn’t yet said where the game will take place, but the decision comes after intense lobbying from civil rights groups and the MLB Players Association. Meanwhile in Texas, American Airlines and Dell Technologies are among the companies now publicly opposing bills from Republican state lawmakers that would restrict access to voting.
— Gaetz finds few friends: As Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) mounts a vigorous public defense amid the DOJ’s investigation over possible sex trafficking, he is finding few allies among other Florida Republicans. It’s a testament to the fact that even before he became a near-constant presence on Fox News, he relished getting into rhetorical fistfights with opponents — regardless of party affiliation — none of which endeared him to fellow Republicans.
— CDC: Vaccinated Americans can now travel: The individuals do not need to get a Covid-19 test before or after domestic travel and do not need to self-quarantine on return, as long as they follow public health measures. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said today that Americans should still try to avoid travel because the number of Covid-19 cases are rising across the country. However, she said, traveling is lower-risk for fully vaccinated individuals.
— Yang hospitalized with kidney stone: Leading New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang has been hospitalized with a kidney stone, his campaign announced today. “After experiencing abdominal pain this morning, @AndrewYang visited an ER where he was diagnosed with what appears to be kidney stone,” Yang’s co-campaign manager tweeted this morning. “His events for the day are cancelled, but he looks forward to getting back out on the trail soon.”
— Biden holds first call with Ukrainian president: Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke this morning for the first time since Biden took office, as reports circulate of a Russian military buildup in eastern Ukraine that has alarmed U.S. and Ukrainian officials. The leaders spoke for 30 to 40 minutes, according to a person with knowledge of the call. A White House readout of the conversation said Biden “reaffirmed the United States’ unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression in the Donbas and Crimea.”
ALL ABOARD! Expanded rail systems. Funding for crumbling roads and bridges. A new fleet of electric vehicles. There’s a lot in Biden’s new infrastructure proposal. There’s also a big price tag. Transportation reporter Sam Mintz and POLITICO Dispatch’s Jeremy Siegel hop aboard the ‘$2 Trillion Infrastructure Plan Express’ for a quick tour of Biden’s goals — and look at whether they have any chance of making it through Congress.
DON’T CALL IT A COMEBACK … YET — Representatives of the U.S. will be on hand but will not meet directly with the Iranians when the remaining Iran nuclear deal signatories meet next week, officials said today.
“One of the parties is telling … that they, for the time being, prefer not to meet directly with the other party,” a senior EU official involved in the talks said, referring discreetly to the Iranians, who have insisted that the U.S. should end all unilateral sanctions as a precondition to renewed negotiations, David M. Herszenhorn and Jacopo Barigazzi report.
Tuesday’s meeting in Vienna is part of a renewed push to bring the U.S. back into the accord following the country’s withdrawal under then-President Donald Trump. Officials announced the in-person gathering in the Austrian capital after a videoconference today led by the EU, which is the administrator of the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
SCANDALS OF ALL SORTS — Brooke Minters takes us through a week of scandal as told in political satire and cartoons during the latest Weekend Wrap, featuring the Gaetz investigation, Biden’s dogs and Trump’s impromptu speech at a Mar-A-Lago wedding.
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