Early thoughts on COVID-19

First slowly, and then very rapidly, the world has changed. A week ago, we were discussing whether to cancel a baby shower for my inlaws. Two days later, my kids’ school was closed, provisionally until April 1, but almost certainly much, much longer. People who can work from home, like me, are doing so. People who can’t are losing their jobs. Everyone is talking about flattening the curve. Models and projections about the eventual decline of the coronavirus outbreak range from May to September, while its re-emergence next year seems possible, and maybe even likely.

This virus presents a fascinating public health issue, in that most people who get it remain asymptomatic, and have very low risk of death. That low risk of succumbing to the virus belies the risk to those who are older and have underlying health issues. Social distancing is so vital not because of our personal risk, but because of the risk to others. There is, of course, the second order risk that our medical and other systems will be overwhelmed, leaving everyone in a very scary place.

We are waking up to the reality that this is an essentially wartime effort, requiring the same degree of sacrifice and privation that earlier generations have endured. Crucially, though, humans are united against an enemy, rather than fighting among themselves. Every day, the consideration and generosity I see from so many individuals is heartwarming.

What is important at a time like this? My thoughts:

  1. Taking care of each other. We can do this by preventing the spread of disease,. We can find and commit to remedies for those affected by the disease and subsequent impacts on families, schools, and businesses.
  2. Refocus our priorities on creating our own fun, tapping into our creativity, relationships, and the world of ideas rather than simply consuming.
  3. Understand that so many of our systems and so much of our lives rely on assumptions that tomorrow will be like today. Adaptability is the only option, we all must reconcile ourselves to letting go of an event we’ve been eagerly anticipating or a creature comfort that is no longer available.
  4. Joining the ranks of parents who will be working with children at home, I understood that my days and evenings would change dramatically as childcare and work are rearranged. With the increased stress of juggling more responsibilities during the day and giving up relaxation time in the evening to make up work, avoiding burnout will challenge everyone. But it’s crucial to find equilibrium, a way of being that we can maintain for as long as we need to live without the liberties to which we’ve grown accustomed.

Most of all, I am grateful for the many advantages I have, and will look for opportunities to assist others during this crisis.