Riding the COVID-19 Storm Out

While the world is closed, explore the reasons not to panic.

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Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, addresses a briefing on the latest information about the Coronavirus Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, in the James S. Brady Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

Whether coronavirus, COVID-19, will permanently alter life in the U.S. and around the world remains to be seen.

It is almost certain we will all be washing our hands a great deal more. Will handshakes become a thing of the past? How many future meetings will become emails?

Telecommuting, erstwhile the territory of the tech industry and the gig economy has found new life in the wake of what President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency as of Friday.

This weekend, people are working from home and sheltering in place with their families as events, school, work, and religious services are all cancelled or postponed. Hopefully this will give everyone plenty of time to do a little digging just below the frightening headlines for the science news about the virus crisis.

There we can all find a deep, calming breath in the form of the many excellent reasons not to panic:

  • In China, where the highest number of cases have been concentrated, the number of new cases has fallen significantly. Apple may have shuttered its stores in the U.S. as a precaution, but Apple factories in China have resumed business as usual.
  • Most cases are mild, and the death rate is low. Estimates of the worldwide death rate range between 0.7% and 3.8%- and it’s probably much closer to the lower end.
  • In the U.S., as of Friday, no one under the age of 50 has died. The median age of people who have died in the U.S. of COVID-19 is 80. Most of the people under 80 who have died have suffered from other serious underlying health conditions.
  • No children in the U.S. have become seriously ill from COVID-19.
  • Most of reported deaths have were in a cluster in a long-term care hospital in Washington.
  • The U.S. weathered the the Swine Flu in 2009, which appears to be much deadlier than COVID-19.
  • While any deaths from this terrible virus are tragic, the fact that the number of deaths in the U.S. hasn’t jumped overnight from around 40 people- where it is now- to 500, is greatly hearting as well.

There might even be a silver-lining- besides all the hand-washing.

In the wake of WWI in Great Britain, the British authorities understood a problem that before had lain beneath the surface.

Conscription of soldiers into military service had revealed a terrible truth about the impoverished classes. Widespread hunger, lack of education, malnourishment, and inhospitable living conditions had rendered too many young men unfit for military service.

This discovery led to changes that greatly expanded social safety net programs for poor people, improving the lives of future millions.

In addition, the British working-classes had played such an integral role in the war, they found their status, organization and representation in government greatly improved once it receded.

The coronavirus scare has also revealed some untenable things about modern American society.

We now understand far better how many impoverished families depend on their child’s school for meals- not just for education. This is one of the main reasons public schools in New York are struggling to remain open.

It is now clear also just how many parents of school-age children would struggle not only to feed those children if school were unexpectedly cancelled, but how many working parents can’t afford to take even one week off work in order to care for their child in an emergency.

We should understand, too, just how many of our community members live paycheck to paycheck, and what that means in crisis. It has been revealed just how dependent small businesses are on the patronage of people in the community.

Amazon will survive this temporary shut-down; your favorite neighborhood might struggle to keep the lights on after missing a month or two of income.

What if this virus had hit us during the holiday season so many retailers depend on all year?

A wealthy nation like the U.S. should not have so many perched precariously on a precipice of financial disaster.

It is times like this that should make everyone a little more open to ideas like the ones Sen. Bernie Sanders has been espousing.

Like Great Britain post-World War I, we have a chance to realize that our communities are only as strong as our weakest and most vulnerable members. Keeping our neighbors, and neighborhoods, safe, fed, healthy and educated is in the best interest of society.

Both in the long term, and when something truly terrible threatens.

So please, stop buying more toilet paper than you need let’s all remember the most important lessons we learn for this crisis; patience, perseverance and hand-washing.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

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