The Day the World Stopped…

I have to admit, I’ve been reticent to take much of the situation surrounding COVID-19 seriously, at least until this past weekend. Now it’s weighing heavily on my mind and I feel the need to get some of it out.  It’s not that I didn’t see the possible impacts of the virus.  We’re looking at a plague with a incredibly high infection rate with truly unknown limits to what it could do to the population in the long term, or even the relatively short term.  Our elderly and chronically ill people find themselves awaiting the possibility of death simply by breathing the same air as someone who is infected.  And one of the worst things about the disease itself is that it becomes difficult at times to separate the panic from the reality.

The reality is, you will probably get sick and many will certainly die.

With that being said, it’s not surprising that we have taken the utmost precautions in attempting to keep the worst possible outcome from occurring.  Our world’s healthcare systems simply can’t take the strain of having everyone getting sick with this sometimes debilitating disease at the same time.  Even ignoring the lack of beds and healthcare workers to take care of people, we will simply run out of the necessary supplies to keep these people kicking.

Knowing all of this, I still found myself not ready to take things entirely seriously.  We’ve seen pandemic scares before.  It wasn’t that long ago that we even had fears of the coronavirus SARS taking over the world in a similar manner, not to mention H1N1 or ebola.  Looking at history’s greatest hits of the Black Death and the Spanish flu, we’ve been ready for ages for the next worldwide pandemic to decimate our population and that has often fueled our readiness for panic.  So, I took the news, as I watched and listened, with a bit of skepticism, while also realizing that should the worst happen, as tragic as it might be, there are a number of positives that could come from decreasing the surplus population.  Heck, we’ve been talking about overpopulation for as long as I can remember.  This could have severe positive impacts on things like climate change.  You know how we’ve been worried about how the economy can handle the aging Boomer population as they move onto government assistance?  These are morbid responses, yet, but in a situation where you hold no control, it’s important to see the silver linings, right?

I was concerned, but not for myself.  For some of my family, obviously, but, for as flippant of a comment as it is, death is a part of life, and I couldn’t help but seeing the long term impacts of this pandemic as being not-so-bad.  One of the worst things I saw happening, the toppling of the healthcare system, is something that’s been necessary for a long time so that we can build one that actually works for those in need, as opposed to the profitable empire it is today.

But now we’re looking at quarantining everyone and everything so as to flatten the curve.  And, in some ways, this is a solid idea.  We will decrease the burden on our hospitals and health care providers.  We will decrease the numbers of people being immediately infected and thereby decrease the numbers of high risk individuals who are also infected and may die from it.  Most importantly, fewer people will die.  We will buy ourselves time to figure out this disease and how best to battle it.  Heck, there are theories, albeit not incredibly well substantiated ones, that this disease simply won’t be able to be transmitted nearly as well once the weather warms up and humidity increases, so buying us some time could be incredibly useful in decreasing the direct impact this virus poses.

Yet, there are so many alternative issues created by a global quarantine, most of them impacting the young and impoverished. Small and local businesses will struggle, especially now that we’re looking at closing down our restaurants and bars.  Hotels will soon follow.  As well as, I’m guessing, the majority of the service industry.  Let’s assume for a minute that the quarantine will only last two weeks (which we should realize that by flattening the curve, we’re extending the length of time this disease will impact us).  That’s two weeks without wages for people who are, in most cases, getting paid minimum wage.  These people will not be able to survive.  Many of them have kids.  They will not be able to feed them.  They won’t be able to pay their bills and ensure they have a home and heat and all of the other necessities for survival.  These are not people who have cushioned savings accounts to keep them safe in an emergency.  These are people who struggle to live paycheck to paycheck, who will no longer be getting one.  They can’t work from home.  They will simply have nothing.  It’s only been ten years since we saw the subprime mortgage crisis.  How do you think the banks will fare today when the low and middle class can’t pay their mortgages?

While the impacts on the healthcare system and the death toll will be insurmountable without the quarantine, the impacts on our global economy with the quarantine are a complete uncertainty.  These impacts could, quite literally, cripple the world for years to come.

I can’t say which is better, looking at the long-term results.  Obviously I don’t want people suffocating to death in hospital beds because there simply aren’t enough health care workers to take care of them, but I’m fearful of what the long term impacts of the quarantine will be.

But I don’t like to work with fear.  Possibly because it scares me.

And the way I personally deal with such fears is to try and come up with better solutions.

And I came up with one.

I don’t have any of the expertise necessary to state that it is better, but it feels better.  It feels like it has the possibility of decreasing the overall impact, while realizing that I’m nowhere sure how we implement it.  My idea is a little out there.  It’s not one anyone will actually be interested in, mostly because those who are most negatively impacted are those in power.  But, the reality here is that there is only a small subset of our population who are really going to be most impacted by the disease if it were allowed to go on its normal course.  The reason we are quarantining every single person is to keep that small subset safe until herd immunity sets in.  We are locking everyone up for the few.  We are stopping the world so a percentage of the world doesn’t have to get sick.

Is there not a way for us to quarantine only those at risk?  Herd immunity works best if we have most people immune.  And most people can weather the storm, at least from everything I’ve read.  We could allow this whole thing to fly through our communities and simply have a bunch of relatively sick people doing the old-school chicken pox treatment for the next couple of months, while hiding our old and chronically ill.  Heck, we’ve got tons of empty cruise ships now, let’s give those old people an amazing vacation.  They can spend the next couple of months tooling around the open waters playing shuffleboard while the rest of us work to keep our world together.  And when they come back, we’ll have built up a fantastic herd immunity, kept the economy running, and they’ll have tans.

I haven’t run the numbers.  I’m not an epidemiologist.  But, I have to say, if the whole point of this thing is to keep the high risk away from the disease, let’s keep the high risk away from the disease.  But let the rest of us continue on, keeping the world moving forward to a brighter tomorrow.

My wife, as someone who is considered at risk, is not a fan of this idea…

And no, I’m sure if I were to really dig in, there’s probably good reason this wouldn’t work, even beyond the absolute insanity of putting our old and sick into concentration camps.  Heck, if one person were to get in who is sick, I’m sure the label of concentration camp could get attached pretty darn quickly.  It’s not a perfect solution.  But I can’t help thinking that there has to be some better solution than simply shutting everything down.  I don’t get out much, but I’d hate to see what happens to our world when no one does.

As always, have fun out there…but be safe.  #TheGreatHumanHunker2020