I have a “hunch” that you don’t really want to read what I have to say regarding COVID-19, the coronavirus sweeping the globe. I am not an expert on infectious diseases. I am not a …
I have a “hunch” that you don’t really want to read what I have to say regarding COVID-19, the coronavirus sweeping the globe. I am not an expert on infectious diseases. I am not a doctor. What can I say that would be of help?
But we are here at this juncture in history, and in our cultural moment, everyone has an opinion and a need to express it. COVID-19 is what everyone is thinking about and discussing. What else can I write about this month?
Writing, along with dark humor, is, of course, a way of coping with devastating news. We need to talk about it. For instance, after the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01, everyone felt a need to express their outlook. Many Americans felt the world had changed overnight. We were inundated with opinions. There were thoughtful responses to be sure, but also maudlin epiphanies, conspiracy theories and poorly written songs. The word “hero,” so rightly attributed to the first responders of 9/11, became in time overused.
Yes, we need to talk about it. But it is important that opinion be tempered with facts. I hope by the time this column is published, people will have stopped saying this virus is “just like the seasonal flu.” And yes, it is true that the seasonal flu kills many people, but there are also vaccines for seasonal strains. As of yet, there is no vaccine for COVID-19. It is important that panic not overwhelm evidence. For example, face masks are better used by people who really need them. And, is hoarding supplies really helping the community?
Our President said he has a “hunch” that the global death rate due to this new virus is lower than the data-driven evidence being reported by organizations such as The World Health Organization (WHO). For so long, he maintained that all is well. But, as most people know, a touchy feeling “hunch” is not a scientific quantitation. And as this situation revs up to “get real,” people are now realizing the extent that COVID-19 will impact our communities, particularly our healthcare systems.
COVID-19 is revealing the fragile fault lines of our society: from the hourly workers who can’t afford to stay home when they are sick, to xenophobic prejudices, to discrepancies in access to the internet.
My “hunch” is that it seems as though we are on the cusp of another moment in which the world will change overnight.
So, what can we do?
First, people can help by taking this crisis seriously. Many authorities are now predicting a universal spread of this virus. They say that if we can slow that spread, we can hopefully keep our healthcare systems functioning. This is why efforts to contain the virus are so important.
Second, so little is still known about this virus and the situation is so fluid that there is a lot of misinformation afoot. Organizations such as WHO and the CDC, as well as local public health agencies, are the best outlets for reliable information.
Finally, be prepared but be mindful of others. This crisis, as dire as it may be, might be the only way we will be able to unify this country. Remember, we are all in this together.