It occurred to me last night that the least significant part of the Trump presidency may indeed be the Trump presidency itself. It’s hard to fathom that something so divisive and bombastic as Donald Trump could be eclipsed by anything. But here we are.
I had some time to think about this while dehydrating celery and planning out meals that will minimize the time we spend in the grocery store. We’re home schooling our kids and trying be as socially distancing as practical. My day job has stopped all employees from going into the office, and for our SAR team events we’re spacing out chairs more and trying to minimize exposure.
I was speaking with some coworkers the other day and a common thread seems to bounce around in people’s heads:
- Am I overreacting? Is a lot of this just the media and the always-on news cycle freaking people out?
- Am I under-reacting? Is this a lot worse than it could be and am I going to kick myself for not enacting more proactive steps towards the safety of myself and my community?
I mentioned previously that I was taking COVID-19 pretty seriously and got some flack: honestly I can’t blame them. I certainly don’t know what next week is going to entail and I know you don’t either. We’re all making educated guesses, at best.
None of us know what communities will find this virus at epidemic levels. We don’t know what communities will be largely spared. We don’t know what the government’s escalation will be. We don’t know how our views will change if and when a friend or loved one becomes seriously ill or dies. We don’t know how long this will last, when a vaccine will be available, or maybe that one day we’ll all awaken from mass hysteria and rejoice, throwing our chains of mental bondage off. We just don’t know.
And we’re used to knowing everything. At least once a day I have a question and I go to Google (or more recently, Duck Duck Go) and get my answer. Whether it’s looking for a recipe or wanting to understand why Indians were rioting in the streets last month, I get to know everything I want pretty much whenever I want to.
Public health authorities are trying to be assertive and state facts because that’s their job: to be authorities. But it was also their job to do that in 1918 and they failed pretty bad. To which you might rightly say:
Oh but Eric, let me pat you on your alarmist head. For you see, in the last 102 years we’ve come a long, long way.
Yeah I’m not so sure about that. If you read the major work on the 1918 Spanish Flu you’ll note a lot of spooky similarities. At the high level, you have government leaders trying to minimize things in favor of economies and elections (think Trump downplaying as much as possible). At the local level, you can read about clinicians and researchers who developed a COVID-19 test in Washington state only to be told to shut it down, with no alternative testing strategies in place, as their epidemic began.
Again, I don’t know where this pandemic is headed. Small changes in exponential growth can cause extreme variability towards not-so-bad results or absolutely nightmare scenarios. Mass graves in Iran can be seen via satellite, showing COVID-19’s wreckage. China, through an incredibly regulated system of preventative quarantine (including separating children from their parents and assuming infection until proven otherwise) has apparently slowed its new infections to a crawl. It wasn’t hand washing and coughing into your elbow that worked in China: it was forced quarantine and martial law.
I’ll leave this terribly negative post with one last note. There are striking similarities between vaccines and trying not to catch-and-spread COVID-19. Communities that do a good job of social distancing, cleanliness, and minimizing disease vectors will have better results. Because of this, there will be some people that will proudly proclaim (like a vaccine-denier) that they didn’t need to do anything during this faux-emergency and behold: they never got sick. That their good fortune is partially due to the diligence of others will be lost on them, primarily because they are selfish and dumb.
One more actually-last note before I go and check on my celery. Yes, I’m aware that as a somewhat healthy guy in my middle ages I’m not at high risk for dying from COVID-19. But actually you don’t know that, because it’s not true. I have an underlying lung disease, thank you very much. And so may your neighbor or friend. It’s not their duty to tell you about it and it’s probably not your place to ask. I have a friend who’s wife is pregnant and my good friend and neighbor is in his 70s. Even for a healthy-as-a-horse adult, I encourage you to report in if you catch viral pneumonia and tell me how it’s simply “a mild case”.
And with that, good luck. With your investments perhaps remember to be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.