As events unfold very quickly I have been hesitant to write a post, mainly because I am fully aware that this post might be outdated before the proverbial ink is dry. But I have always written when things have been difficult and obviously for most of us that is the case. Even if you are not directly affected by the pandemic, it is hard not to have anxiety. And I would guess at this point hardly any of us are not indirectly affected. We all have people in our lives that we worry about and those people may be at greater risk than we are. Personally many of my family members are in the medical field. As proud as I am of what they are doing, I am of course concerned because they have greater exposure to the virus. Essentially we don’t live our lives in a vacuum and even if we are safe and healthy those outside forces can cause pressure.
Just like with our Instant Pots that pressure has to go somewhere and it is interesting how different people are when they are letting it go. Some spend hours on the internet dissecting every scrap of information and others bury their head in the sand and pretend its not really happening. Those are the two ends of the spectrum of course and most people fall somewhere in between. Even day to day I find myself careening between those two extremes and it has been hard to find a balance. I want and need information, but it is disappointing how difficult it has been to find credible information. That gets a little easier every day, but even sources I trusted in the past I am not so sure about in today’s world. I find myself missing the news casters of my childhood. Where is today’s Peter Jennings? I vividly remember after 9-11 him having a kids show with a giant map on the floor explaining where Iraq was and telling us why we would be safe. He was calm, impartial, and factually accurate. I yearn for those days.
At this point my personal most trusted source of data is the John Hopkins site. This map shows the current number of case and is the source being cited by many other news organizations. Because they are an independent medical facility of the highest caliber I trust them for information and medical advice. They are a little dry and there isn’t the sensationalism you see in other places, but that allows me to draw my own conclusions based on facts. I know its tempting to allow others to hand you the conclusions, but I believe in this ever changing environment that is dangerous. For me at least facts calm me and sensational journalism does not. Please don’t read anything political into that statement by the way. There is plenty of sensationalism on both sides of the aisle and when real lives are on the line that is the last thing we need.
So what are the facts telling me? Despite efforts to flatten the curve internationally that is not happening. Perhaps it was inevitable no matter what we did and the best we can hope for is to flatten the curve in specific areas. There are hot spots in places like northern Italy and New York City where the death toll will be very high. Personally I am grateful we are in a remote area as it makes social distancing easier. All social distancing does though is slow things down. Eventually a large percent of the population (and we don’t know how many yet) will get the virus. The good news is 80% of those people can be treated from home. Of the the other 20% only 2-4% will be critical. Don’t get me wrong that is a ton of people, but statistically the odds are pretty good.
The problem with those stats is that it doesn’t account for people who are impacted by corollary problems. For example a person needs dialysis treatment, but cannot get that treatment because hospitals are filled with other patients. Someone has a heart attack and ambulance aren’t available because they are treating other patients. Those types of scenarios are actually scarier to me because they happen everyday and rely on our medical system at full capacity to get the best treatment. That’s why the folks in the medical field are so agitated. They are looking at projections and understand they can’t give the best care if they are overwhelmed and don’t have the people and equipment necessary to meet the need.
Which takes me to leadership. In many aspects of my life I have found leadership (and I am not just talking political here) lacking the last two weeks. I am however starting to see various leaders sharing their plans with us. Work was happening behind the scenes but not surprisingly communication of those efforts lagged behind. I see this all the time in my life and it is unfortunate because in the absence of solid information people just make things up. I am particularly impressed by how local leaders are starting to get on television and talk to people. It is obvious that most people truly care about what is happening and want to do their best but many of them are woefully under skilled in handling something of this magnitude.
In all fairness not many of us have the skill set to easily deal with a disaster of this magnitude. We live in an instant world. Instant results, instant gratification, and instant information. Even those of us who remember a time where that wasn’t so, anyone else remember going to the library to look up a fact, we have gotten used to getting what we want instantly. And not being able to do that is not surprisingly manifesting in some unusual ways.
Thankfully we had planned ahead and gotten a months worth of basic supplies in advance, but yesterday I ran our of conditioner. It was a stupid little thing and something I had just overlooked in the stock up runs, but for me it was a big deal. In order to avoid going out I looked online but saw they were charging $15 on Amazon for a $4 bottle of conditioner. That enraged me, so I jumped in our truck and went to Dollar General where I found it for $4. The problem was while I was at Dollar General I was exposed. There is no way to go into any store without running the risk of being contaminated and my competing desires of not getting financially fleeced, not wanting to expose myself, and wanting my conditioner right damn now were raging in my head.
It’s hard under those circumstances to not snap at people, or blame others, but that is one thing I am trying very hard not to do. Those poor people at Dollar General are bearing the brunt of this and it shows on their faces. The last thing they need is me taking out my anxiety on them. To the contrary in my mind those front line people are the quiet heroes in this scenario. Every day they go to work in grocery stores and gas stations and put themselves at risk. They are also doing it for far less money than I am making working remotely from home.
These are complicated times and people’s true characters come out under stress. I want to be a person who lifts people up instead of placing blame. I want to be a person who is selfless rather than selfish. But it is hard. Because it is scary. Everyday I see the death count grow and although I intellectually understand that people die every day this is different. Not just because of the risks to us individually, but because of the risks to us as a species. Will we survive this, of course. Will we remain unchanged I hope not.
Personally I believe our larger society was in need of a wake up call. It is a harsh lesson to be sure, but when history looks back I believe this will be a pivotal moment in our cultural development. One day we woke up and the world had changed and it happened very fast. How will we respond to those changes? What will be the long lasting impacts especially for the next generations? Will this further tear us apart of bring us together? As an optimist, I am hopeful that long term those changes will be a good thing, but the cost is so very high.
As of this moment 19,725 people have died from Covid-19. Those are the ones we know about. Many of them would have died soon anyway from other causes, but what is one day worth to a person? One week, one month? They aren’t anyone I know personally, but they could be. The longer this goes on they probably will be. I can’t stop it from happening, but I will do what I can to slow it down. I will stay in place, be selfless instead of selfish as best I can, and be ready to help pick up the pieces when this is all over.
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