Time for another check-in.
First up: we need to accept that this is not going to be over in a month. Unless we develop an affordable, effective, mass-producible vaccine within the next 6 months, it’s going to run its course through the entire globe. During that time, we’ll have to continue social distancing. We may get some relief during the summer as we enjoy sunlight and fresh air, but it’ll be waiting for us again in the fall and winter.
If you haven’t already, talk to your parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles – anyone in your life over the age of 50 must be distancing themselves – ideally self-quarantined. Make it clear that this is not something to be trifled with.
As the World Health Organization adviser Bruce Aylward clarified last week, a ‘mild’ case of COVID-19 is not equivalent to a mild cold. Expect it to be much worse: fever and coughing, sometimes pneumonia—anything short of requiring oxygen. ‘Severe’ cases require supplemental oxygen, sometimes via a breathing tube and a ventilator. ‘Critical’ cases involve ‘respiratory failure or multi-organ failure.’
We must adopt a collectivist mindset. It’s not about what you or I want, but what WE need. This is an opportunity for our country to grow. Overnight, millions are facing unemployment – in a matter of days and weeks, they will not be able to pay rent or buy food. How will we take care of them? GoFundMe and Patreon are not going to cut it this time. We have to take care of each other. No one left behind.
As the social scientist Arthur Frank reminds us in The Wounded Storyteller, the body in illness is not a ‘monad’—meaning a unit of one—although our entire health-care system is built on this notion: the individual hospital beds, the sense of isolation. Rather, it is inherently “dyadic,” because the body is never not in relation to others, especially in cases of contagious illness. The sick body is always in dialogue with the medical system, with spouses, and so on. Research showing that diabetic patients with empathetic doctors have better outcomes than those with brusque doctors, for example, highlights the material and corporeal reality of Frank’s point: The body is a social encounter, not just a vessel for our hyper-individualism.
But change is afoot. Millions are working from home for the first time – potentially changing the workplace forever. Personally, I found remote work to be very empowering and returned a lot of control over my life away from my employers. This could be a huge power shift back to workers and communities.
There will be silver linings throughout this disaster. We have to find them and use this opportunity to make our country a place worth living. Look at what’s happening already: mandatory paid sick leave! The first bump to unemployment in years! Think of how much more we can do. Now is the time to strike.
Lastly: squash the conspiracy theories! So far I’ve already seen:
* The CIA engineered it to tank China’s economy (more popular a month ago, for obvious reasons)
* Democrats did it to win the election
* Trump did it to close the borders
I can’t wait to hear more. The truth is not hard to find: it came from a Chinese “wet” market where many types of wild animals are kept in extremely poor conditions. This video does a good job explaining this (as well as the origin of SARS) without xenophobia.