COVID-19 threatens our way of life but the real dangers are not what you expect.
I think now is a good time for us to all take our masks off and take a deep breath. The Coronavirus has captivated humanity unlike the previous disease outbreaks we have seen before. Here in California, we have largely been bystanders but it seems to hang behind our collective consciousness like a looming storm brewing on the horizon, inevitably headed our way.
The story of the coronavirus poses as another epic conflict of “man vs. nature,” pitting us against an enigmatic, faceless, bioterrorist that could be around any corner.
But if The Walking Dead has taught us anything, it’s that our greatest foe even in a clash of epic proportions at the core is ultimately “man vs. man.” What spreads even faster than disease and arguably causes more damage is fear and hysteria.
The hysteria has us retreating into our shells, vilifying our neighbors and suffering the consequences of our ignorance and obscene lack of preparation or foresight. Although our society is no stranger to global epidemiological panics, we seemed to have learned or remembered very little from our previous massive scares.
[Watch “Vox Explained: Pandemic,” they basically called this.]
I think the way this story ends, depends entirely on how we as a society choose to respond to this now. As we certainly creep towards our first pandemic since 1918, it’s important to maintain our composure as we decide our following actions. So far our response to this epidemic has exposed some qualities in us that I find very disturbing and I fear that if we continue, will only make things worse.
I think the scariest part of this virus is the lack of information. The mystery and fear has created a frenzy among humanity. The Coronavirus has invaded every aspect of our lives on a global scale; schools closed, employees sent home, music festivals cancelled, stocks and oil prices are plummeting.
Yet, the CDC has not suggested any of this. These aren’t the results of large populations falling ill, too sick to work or purchase products. These are results of fear, panic and retreat from the unknown. (People are even afraid to buy Corona beer for God’s sake.)
COVID-19 is popping up around the U.S. faster than Starbucks and its citizens are left hanging on every news alert to learn any information. Our medical workers are widely in the same boat. They have been left ill-prepared and unequipped to combat a virus that we only vaguely understand.
I spoke with Dr. Rolando Arroyo, an anaesthesiologist at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco and co-creator of my girlfriend Gaby, on COVID-19 and what the medical community knows so far.
He says 20-60% of the population will contract some form of COVID-19 but the majority will have no more than “light flu-like symptoms.” 1.5% will likely die but those are mostly made up of people with pre-existing lung related illnesses (asthma, emphysema).
The only statistic that seems to stand out to the public is the 3.4% death rate, that is exponentially higher than that of Swine Flu (.02%) and the season flu (.1%).
However, this number is built upon the same dearth of information. It does not account for milder cases that go unreported, those carrying with no symptoms at all or asymptomatic cases that don’t visibly match the criteria. That death rate is falling daily as more people are diagnosed.
In my eyes, if you’re anything like me – middle-class, relatively healthy with access to healthcare, cute – you are going to be A-OK. WE are NOT the ones that we should be worrying about.
The people that are really going to be hit hardest as always are the most vulnerable in our society; the elderly, sick and the low-income, minority communities with poor or little access to healthcare.
A lack of resources is what will ultimately cripple our society, a more urgent symptom of the virus. Dr. Arroyo states that his hospital was given only 250 test kits, in a city of almost 900,000. Shortages of masks, smocks and other medical equipment are being reported in hospitals around the world.
We, as one of the “most developed” countries, have not prepared the most integral systems in our civilization for a situation that we UN-[Swine Flu] DENIABLY [SARS] SHOULD [Zika] HAVE [Measles] SEEN [Ebola] COMING [influenza].
I understand that it is not so simple to just create mass amounts of test kits once a new virus starts to spread (although the Trump administration promised “millions” of kits days ago). The thing is, this shouldn’t have been a surprise.
China refused to acknowledge the problem that they knew they had on their hands. They tried to censor the doctor who was warning us about the Coronavirus. This left China’s medical workers, Red Cross and hospitals completely on their heels when the virus finally showed up at the front door. Their Gov. left them behind the 8-ball to scramble with little supplies and information to contain a virus that was already beyond the point of containment.
The U.S. chose to follow a similar pattern of negligence. We’ve known the dangers of “wet markets” like in Wuhan and the hot spots that are breeding grounds for new viruses, like where SARS had been festering for months before it was released. We’ve known that we were ill prepared to handle the next outbreak WHEN it came, for years. Throwing 8 Billion dollars at the problem AFTER the virus had already spread beyond containment is not proactive or responsible leadership, it’s a half-assed feint at problem solving.
[WATCH Vox: Why new diseases keep appearing in China]
We should have BEEN PRE-paring for a situation like this and had a plan of action and resources ready. At least have a discourse to relieve the anxieties of our frantic middle-class Americans while providing aid and attention to our most vulnerable communities, who will actually be harmed by the virus.
Meanwhile, those with the means to, are hoarding all the bottled water and toilet paper (check out those articles) they can get their hands on. And I honestly have no idea what they are expecting – if our water supply gets cut off because of the coronavirus we’re going to have a lot more to worry about than wiping our asses.
…good luck to those living in communities with poor access to and/or unhealthy water sources.
Where is this level of mania coming from? It seems as if the world is living in a constant state of anticipation of the end of the world.
The unknown appears to be the biggest fan to the coronavirus panic’s flame. “Community spread” seems to be a fancy “IDK.” With a vacuum of information we are quick to find an answer and if we can’t find one, we scapegoat one.
With previous viruses we could see the culprit for the most part, or at least they were far enough away for us to not really care.
- Zika – Mosquitoes
- Swine Flu – Swine
- Bird Flu – Chickens
- Ebola – Bats? (Eh, whatever it’s in Africa. YOLO)
COVID-19? Well, we know it comes from the coronavirus but where did that come from? And how does it spread? So far the answer we have been given is:
We didn’t waste a moment in airing out our dormant racism and xenophobia at the first possible chance. The CDC even issued a warning about stigma and racism towards targeted communities.
Many of us have heard the story and ones similar to Jonathan Mok, 23-year-old from Singapore. He was attacked and beaten in central London by four men that told him, “we don’t want your coronavirus in our country.” Similar stories occurred even here in San Francisco.
[WATCH: TRT Video on increased racism]
I heard one person ask, “is it ok to eat Chinese food?” YIKES. The pervasive myth of this as a Chinese virus is so dumbfoundingly ignorant and the intention of avoiding all things from China, delusional. For instance, we’d have to stop using pretty much all medicine and drugs as they produce and control the majority of our drug market. The “Yellow Peril” nostalgia is real.
It’s sad to see such primitive behavior arise in this state of fear. Our approach to managing this situation has been quite frankly, medieval [The NY Times thinks so too]. In situations where we feel we have no control, we can end up desperate to find control, wherever we can get it. It causes us to make hasty, irrational and selfish decisions.
The closing of borders, travel-bans and general fear of humans, are echoes of the same fear-based discrimination we have seen. We’re turning our backs on fellow humans to save ourselves. We’ve essentially taken the “Build the Wall!” approach, worldwide.
Israel has closed off its borders entirely, requiring a 14 day quarantine for Israelis to re-enter. Saudi Arabia and Jordan have followed suit and most recently, Italy has gone into complete Draconian shutdown.
Quarantine was invented as a response to the black plague. In those times, they truly had no idea what they were up against and they devised an emergency response that managed to help. In modern times, quarantine can be useful in short term or isolated circumstances but should be reserved for only then.
We should have plenty of resources and knowledge in 2020, to prepare our nations to handle a situation like this without having to resort to such extreme measures as locking everyone in an entire country in their houses (Italy).
Closed borders means no exchange of resources like food and medicine, no aid or cooperation in a constructed, apocalyptic atmosphere (The Walking Dead was right). This further cripples our economy, rippling panic throughout the world, creating branches of new issues for us to deal with. It might seem like the best option for these Governments and I’m not here to assert my judgement over theirs but it didn’t have to be this way.
It’s naive to think that we can close ourselves off from the “infected” population and stay safe. We live in a connected world, more so now than ever. It’s not that simple to literally shut out the world. Products are produced and shipped from around the globe and delivered to our front door. Borders are purely ideological and are never impenetrable.
People live internationally, we can’t just slam the doors on those who happen to be on the outside without expecting repercussions. We should expect more of ourselves and create more sophisticated responses for times of emergency. The connectedness of our world and species is our strength, not our weakness.
Can We Learn From This?
Seeing our response to one of the biggest global crises in my lifetime, has not left me with much optimism for the next. I can’t help but view this situation as a predecessor for our immense natural challenges to come with climate change. Although, I still see a chance for us to actually LEARN and CHANGE our behavior (scary concepts for us).
Once the next natural disaster hits, will we be caught off guard once again, resorting to throwing money at the situation after the worst has already happened? Can we begin to prepare ourselves before the impending dramatic shifts to our way of life? Could this COVID-19 outbreak already be a symptom of climate change?
It is a respiratory disease and most of the people dying have been patients with prior lung related health conditions. Is it a coincidence that we have the most deaths in China, that has some of the worst air quality in the world?
We’re running out of water in San Francisco, California because of a respiratory disease? Imagine what it will be like when we IDK, ACTUALLY RUN OUT OF WATER.
It is embarrassing how unwilling we are to acknowledge the uncomfortable realities that are heading right for us in plain sight. The COVID-19 epidemic hysteria I fear, is just a taste of what we can expect to come in the near future.
It’s time to wake the fuck up and get our asses into gear and actually create a plan to manage if not mitigate the impending crises that we will have to face.
Stay Calm, Be Smart
I understand that this can be a scary time that we’re in but don’t be seduced by your “flight” instinct, now is the time to fight. We will write the end of this story with our actions and our decisions.
Should you wash your hands 10x more often, cover your cough and stop touching your face? Yes, should you stop going outside, to restaurants, friendly gatherings or proceeding with your normal life? No. (Unless you’re a senior or currently are sick).
Be conscious of those that are actually in harm’s way; the elderly, sick and low-income communities or those without proper access to healthcare. Be thankful if you are blessed with current good health and if you live in an area with sufficient resources.
Be careful where you are getting your info from. You know the media has been having a field day with this, they hit the content jackpot with this virus and are thirsty to spit out the next sensational headline or sell the next cleaning product, at the soonest opportunity.
- Check the CDC website directly for the most accurate information: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html
- Worldometer has charts counting the total number of cases and deaths by country: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/
- Masks are not intended to protect YOU from getting sick, they’re for protecting OTHERS when you are sick.
- Be nice to Asian people and Italians.
- Stay away from Corona beer, not because of the virus but because it’s nasty.
- Washing your hands is always a good decision.
Frankly, you have a pretty high chance of getting the Coronavirus and a pretty great chance that you’re going to be okay.
If you’re a coder keep coding and if you’re a baker keep baking, surrendering our lives is not going to protect us. Let’s learn how to respond instead of react. Let’s take our failures and turn them into lessons for a healthier and more stable future.