It’s hard to write this considering there is so little information to give. COVID-19 has now been labeled a pandemic. The stats from Italy are continuously changing. Information from China, the beginning of this mess, has been altered or washed over. And even here in America, where we have freedom of press, there is such widespread panic it is difficult to counter what is truth and what is simply hysteria. More importantly, tests haven’t been administered to enough people to really know the numbers. So, how are we supposed to feel?
First let's look at the facts we do have. There was a really great article written by Yascha Mouk, not so ironically entitled ‘Cancel Everything’ where he broke down some,information:
“The first fact is that, at least in the initial stages, documented cases of COVID-19 seem to increase in exponential fashion. On the 23rd of January, China’s Hubei province, which contains the city of Wuhan, had 444 confirmed COVID-19 cases. A week later, by the 30th of January, it had 4,903 cases. Another week later, by the 6th of February, it had 22,112. The same story is now playing out in other countries around the world. Italy had 62 identified cases of COVID-19 on the 22nd of February. It had 888 cases by the 29th of February, and 4,636 by the 6th of March. Because the United States has been extremely sluggish in testing patients for the coronavirus, the official tally of 604 likely represents a fraction of the real caseload. But even if we take this number at face value, it suggests that we should prepare to have up to 10 times as many cases a week from today, and up to 100 times as many cases two weeks from today.”
When I read it this morning I couldn’t help but be afraid. My mother, who I see every day, is Diabetic and has Pots. I have fibromyalgia and a weak immune system. A 24hr flu will knock me out for three weeks with debilitating nerve pain. It's safe to say I’ve got no hope.
I am sitting in the hub of one of the developing sickbeds. Right below Seattle and Portland in a tiny town where they’ve closed all the schools until April. Kate Brown has effectively closed all big events over 250+ and since then all small events around have closed. Yesterday I went to the supermarket and it was like walking into some strange dystopian novel. There were lines that wrapped around the store. Everything was emptied out- except the gluten free bread (thank god). And people, who were once shopping, seemed to have abandoned their half empty carts everywhere. I made a joke to my partner that we were in the beginning of the Left Behind Series. People seemed to fill their carts to the brim with Doritos, eggs, and toilet paper without really thinking about why they would need these things. And everywhere there was the distinct buzzing of fear as we all huddled in this grocery store trying not to be too close to each other. It was suffocating.
Quite recently when I called to make a doctors appointment about nerve pain specifically they told me if I had any symptoms at all to just not come in.
“But if I do have it, aren’t you going to test me?” I asked.
The nurse over the phone very plainly said, “No. It’s better you stay away from people. If you have heart palpitations or more high blood pressure problems just go to the emergency room. Don’t come in here.” Which felt wild.
What are we to do if we can’t even be tested? This is America- right? My first thought was to share some dark suicidal meme about giving up because our generation is so used to laugh- crying to the end of the world. It’s what we do. It’s what we’re good at.
In juxtaposition to my nervous hand washing I live with two healthy strong men who have spent the last couple weeks joking about the hysteria. Because it won’t affect them as deeply. Its easier for us all to say that the ‘freaking-the-fuck-out’ is for other people and we get to laugh at their heart pounding nervousness. My partner David says its more scary how much money people are going to lose. Because without safety measures, which Trumps administration has refused to any in place, children are going to go hungry because the schools are closed and their parents may not be able to handle the fall through. The stock market is its most volatile since 1987. The smartest person I know, Aaron, says this has made him a free market capitalist. That the only entities who are actually doing something are business because they’re mitigating their risk. But all in all- it feels like the world is preparing for a shut in.
Or as Yascha Mounk so strongly puts it- social diissttaannncccinnnnggg. “we must change our behavior anyway. If you feel even a little sick, for the love of your neighbor and everyone’s grandpa, do not go to work.” And as a member of the many who will be greatly effected by this strong turn of events- please stay the fuck away. No, just kidding.
There’s a huge argument to be had for social distancing. My introverted friends make it all the time. But I think there’s a stronger argument for remaining calm and compassionate. We have, in the past two and some decades I've been alive, seen so many things. We’ve gone through 9/11, terrorist attacks, swine flu, mass shootings, good governments, bad governments, mass protests- so many huge things that at the time felt like they would be the end of us. But the dawn breaks over marble-head and we find ourselves a little more aware of the possibilities of the world than we were before. Our eyes open.
I am not saying to ignore the fear. I am saying- feel it. But also feel an intention to do better. ‘Social Distance Yourself’ but don’t just stalk up on hand sanitizer, shut off your phone, and hide away in your netflix cave. We are the generation of technology and self help books. Use this time to solve the problems of the world. Open your mind to ways you could help your neighbors. If you’re a possible entrepreneur or if you’re thinking about starting to write that book- take this as an excuse to hole up and do it. If you’re a hacker get us some damn answers! If you’re healthy offer to get groceries for people who can’t make it to the store. If you have a free moment call up your friends and check in. Share a moment. And if people are freaking out around you stay calm and say, “It’s scary now but it’s going to be okay.” Because whether it is or isn’t doesn’t matter. What matters is our connection to the world around us.
This is an opportunity to show the world that in spite of the people in power who are ignoring signs we can as a community be mindful of the mental and physical health of the humans around us. That we can be prepared, vigilant, and not give into fear mongering. We can, as my teacher back in kindergarten put it, be helpers.
Friday was the strangest day I’ve ever had. I was home with fibro pain, working on websites for clients, and watching AHS Apocalypse. Somewhere around ten o’clock I began getting bombarded with text messages and emails. All from people making sure I was okay and staying healthy. Little things like, “Hey I just want you to know I really care about you.” Simultaneously Aaron would walk into the room and tell me a dozen stories about people being assholes. The NBA player who tested positive for corona-virus running through the locker room and touching everything (subsequently sports have been canceled). A couple buying up all the toilet paper and hand sanitizer and selling it on amazon for triple the price because, as they put it, they’re ‘hustlers’. And everyone buying up the gosh darn toilet paper.
And then my friend August Jackson, the golden haired man who I looked up to so much in college, made a post that said everything I wanted to say.
“But I'll ask you to take this seriously. Would you rather look back on early 2020 and think, "That wasn't so bad after all, and I'm a little embarrassed I got caught up in it," or "I was a fucking asshole and a couple of my friends died." From a risk assessment perspective, the answer should be obvious. From how we treat other daily risks, the answer should be obvious.”
Whether COVID-19 is going to wipe out a lot of people is up for debate. What’s more important now is that we take proper precautions, remain calm, and take care of each other. I wish you all well. Now, I hope you have some phone calls to make. Here is some good information-