As I sit here at my desk, in a small home Jena and I built in the foothills of the Cascade range in North Central Washington I am struck by how lucky I am. Both Jena and I have been able to work from home, we already had pretty stocked cupboards and were able to purchase enough to last for a while, and we're healthy. Well about that...
We've been practicing sheltering in place for the past two weeks and social distancing since the 3rd of March. We also have a personal isolation plan inside our house to stagger the impact should one of us get the virus so we won't have it at the exact same time.
I started a few drafts of this post. I was going to post a bunch of stats, and links to what we should do but I am sure most of us—and especially those of you who find yourselves looking at this post, know what to do and are frankly sick of those posts. Me too. I'm still going to post a bit of this, but not go into nearly the detail I had prepared. But I still want to cauterize the thoughts I am having and get a sense of the emotions I am feeling during these strange times we are in. So here we are, another post about the world's latest bout of viral outbreak. The novel coronavirus and resulting COVID-19 disease are here, another in a long, unbroken chain of pandemics. It would have been nice had we been more prepared for this. We knew it was coming. We've just been lulled into thinking all viral outbreaks would be contained like SARS, etc.
At the time of writing there have been 819,025 coronavirus cases worldwide with 174,684 in the U.S. Worse, there have been 39,794 deaths (3,400 in the U.S.). But these stats grow hourly and they can also be pretty deceiving. First, they don't tell the story of the non-linear growth we are seeing. While there are only 819,025 cases right now, that number will balloon into the hundreds of millions or more in the coming months. What's more—these numbers are actually suppressed. There are a ton of people who have many of the symptoms but who cannot get tested. There are many more who have been exposed but who aren't presenting any symptoms (as many as 86%). These people, while not sick, can still infect others. And now, we see, that for some reason, the younger populations in our country are being hit harder than they did in China.
All this is to say that it is highly likely that you or someone you know will contract COVID-19. So far that still isn't so scary—or shouldn't be.
With proper medical care patients with COVID-19 have a very good chance at being fine.
The real problems arise when proper medical care is not available. This would most likely occur in the event that our health care system becomes overloaded. And this is the whole reason you have likely been told to socially distance or shelter in place - i.e. stay the fuck home.
But due to misinformation, a failure of leadership, and the good ol' American spirit of don't tell me what to do, the U.S. isn't doing all it could to slow the spread (or flatten the curve) and we are now the hotbed of this outbreak.
Shown more simply, some have called this The Hammer and the Dance
See, the key to minimizing the number of deaths is to make sure there are enough health care workers and ventilators for everyone who needs them. That only happens if we don't see the big red spikes in these graphs—it only happens if we flatten the curve.
A team of data scientists, engineers and designers made this really great tool: COVID Act Now to help people see just how much time their state has to prepare against hospital overloading. My home state of Minnesota has implemented shelter in place well in advance of their hospital overload line. That should give them a really good chance to minimize the deaths (sub 1000?) from this.
My current state of residence got hit early and the Governor was reluctant to order citizens to shelter in place early. He could have saved more lives if he did. Now the National Guard has been called in and field hospitals are being built (on actual soccer fields). We have only had 210 deaths so far but that number is likely to rise well past 10,000 due to slow reaction at the government-level and lack of commitment and diligence at the citizen-level (people are still out and about WAY too much around here).
The scariest part is that most states won't see their peak for
3-4 weeks. That means SEVERAL MORE MONTHS of staying
at home and avoiding crowds.
Unfortunately, we've seen the same things play out nationally: a denial that it is a problem, a slowness in understanding the situation, and a lack of decisiveness has and will cost hundreds of thousands of lives in the U.S.
Spoiler Alert: It won't be a very good job, and it will exceed 100,000.
And in case you haven't seen enough of these, here's one more exponential graph:
"Our grandparents were called to war. We're being called to sit on the the couch. We can do this."
So, we're being called to stay home—only going to work if we are in an essential area. It would be great if the government would be on top of this job-loss situation. Sending $1200 to each person once, this summer, is not what I mean, either. But that is a post for another day. (Spoiler: Canada once again shows US up.)
We can do this—we have to. We aren't a country who chooses to sacrifice hundreds of thousands even millions of lives, because something is hard. If a global pandemic cannot bring us together, I have little faith anything can. And that is truly disheartening and sad. America has lost a thread—any thread—that binds us together.