It is day something or other in the social-distancing, quarantine, stay-at-home orders that have been posited throughout the US and the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a monstrous blight upon our societies, grinding to a halt much of the enjoyment that people here have been grabbing from the posh American lifestyle. More debt for more fun, am I right?!
There’s a bit of biting sardonic tone in what I said there and what I am going to be saying in a lot of this essay. I am in a sense, thinking out loud. There has been a lot of things going on with information changing minute to minute…
And that is where I have been getting wary these last few days. Granted, the worst thing about this pandemic is the loss of life. It is then the suffering that families and loved ones have to endure along with those who have suffered with the illness, and it’s the tragic strain on the healthcare system in this country and elsewhere. Beyond that, however, it’s the not knowing. It’s the lack of viable, consistent information. And that is probably why it’s gotten worse, not better.
Of the things my wife and I have been discussing was that a few weeks before the news started really breaking on this “novel coronavirus”, there were scores of people in the area we lived who were getting very sick. Much of it is anecdotal, sure, however in this case, the anecdotal evidence may be telling.
For starters, we don’t have true numbers on how many people are actually infected. We don’t know. There aren’t enough tests. Then, those who are infected have been reporting a whole range of symptoms. It goes from nothing to simple cold related illnesses all the way to full-blown-terrible-hospitalizing-flu-like and everywhere in between. It is why these stay-at-home orders are important, because until we get a handle on it, there’s no telling what may happen.
But now, as there are more and more coming out, there’ve been more people taking notice to that strange time in late January, early February, when many people were getting really freakishly sick. Again, all anecdotal, but without anyone having bothered to do the testing in the first place (since there wasn’t testing for this to start), we have no idea. All we have are what a family friend, who is an ER nurse, saying that this flu season has been “especially bad”. I knew of a household that all got sick, even those who “never get sick”. I knew of several people who spent a week or better in the hospital with terrible flu-like symptoms. Many of these people had a flu vaccine to no avail. Did the COVID-19 coronavirus already exist in the US before all the panic started? Who was looking? It was the flu! Why check for something else?
Only now it seems that people are starting to remember that time back nearly two months ago. Along with what my wife and I have been saying, others are wondering if the virus has been here already, only now we’re catching up. And then when a massively and densely populated city like Wuhan, China then comes under heavy fire, we all take notice. Panic begets panic and then anyone with a cold inundates the healthcare system, which let’s face it, isn’t the strongest system in this country.
Think of it this way, before it had a name, before we all became aware that we needed to buy toilet paper in bulk, we continued on with our days in early February as the estimates were that 10,000 people died of the flu. It was just the regular flu, right? Maybe it was; maybe it wasn’t. So when the President of the United States balks at the fact that we need to shut everything down, he might have good reason.
That again is the problem here. There is so much information without there being any definitive information. There’s no tests, no answers, and worse yet, no damn leadership (oh, what a surprise there! Did we expect better from an ex-reality star, narcissistic, casino owning real-estate tycoon who has a record of just saying anything that comes to mind without checking for facts or truth first?). Besides a few random stars (props to my state’s governor, Governor Pritzker), there has been a void. WHO and CDC officials seemingly can’t even get consistent information out through all the noise either.
Even so, where are we left at?
Leadership in times of crisis is difficult. The burden of either data-paralysis (meaning that there is simply too much information to comfortably make a decision) or a complete lack of information is a trial that can overwhelm even the best of leaders. Making a decision in a blind is more often better than not making a decision, but even so, the minute-by-minute change in information is giving me pause to say, “let’s all freeze here for a moment to at least get some sense of what is going on here”. Then again, can we wait a minute?
Again, we have NO idea just how prevalent this disease even is.
But two things are brewing here that makes this especially dangerous, even setting aside the fact that our world’s leaders are best gathered in a pooper scooper. We have so little valid information and too much information at once mixed with a fresh bout of good ol’ fashioned panic.
Then the stock market crashes (which I can go on another lengthy diatribe how that is all fake value). Then hospital systems do get overrun (because in all honesty it aint that hard to do). Then the toilet paper disappears from the shelf and OMG WE HAVE TO LAY OFF THE AMERICAN WORKFORCE TO PROTECT THE MILLIONAIRE AND BILLIONAIRE BUSINESS TYCOONS!!
Sorry. What just happened there? I kindof blanked out for a minute…
As of this week, over 3.3million workers are now filing for unemployment benefits as jobs dry up amid mandatory closures. Besides food and supplies, people aren’t buying anything, meaning that jobs related to anything but food are tanking. A few CEOs are suspending their own salaries with others mandating temporary wage decreases to hold onto their workforce through the crisis, but how long can this all last? Eventually sectors will begin to buckle under the pressure and furloughs (temporary layoffs) will start becoming the norm, meaning an increased burden on the government to produce handouts will become necessary.
Anyway, it makes sense to me that a lot of people are scared while others are almost flatly dismissive. I certainly agree that in lieu of reliable evidence and facts, we need to treat this with care. We can’t just assume that it’s been here the whole time and we can’t just assume that it hasn’t. People like my parents would not benefit from a laissez-faire attitude given their age and health. But then again, there are a lot of people being harmed by the shockwaves of this.
Again, more questions and fewer answers have been coming. It feels like we’re being led in a circle. Because one thing I can extrapolate from all this is that if the virus was here in January, and given the lack of tests, it would explain why the infections still appear to be exploding here in the US. Then as the testing grows, so will the numbers. It would have been spreading long before everyone caught on, meaning that we’re trying to put all the ketchup back in the bottle after it shattered on the floor.
Anyway, I really don’t know what to think or believe in any of this. I am just another American hoping not to get sick, hoping my loved ones survive, hoping others’ loved ones survive, and hoping to keep their job through the next few weeks while also hoping that someone, somewhere finds some answers to this mess before the leaders drive the car into a wall.