A Few Thoughts on a COVID-19 Weekend


We came back from that. (Image: Benjamin “Jeffrey” Powell via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0)

That’s the view out my window in west central Oregon just now — it faces south, and there are usually jet trails up there as many, many people travel between California and Portland, Seattle, or other points north.

I’ve been busy and didn’t notice the clear sky until today. It shocked me, as I haven’t seen that in about 19 years, when they closed air space after 9/11.

There is a different feeling in the country today, though. Back then, it was fear of attack. Now, it is more constructive: we are limiting a new virus and we are also watching out for the vulnerable parts of our population (as a 66-year-old, I do appreciate that!).

The magnitude of the current crisis first sunk in today. I do think that this novel coronavirus is only a little worse than flu. Seriously, per the CDC estimates this morning, through March 14th the US has had tens of millions of flu cases during the 2019-2020 flu season, with some 700,000 hospitalizations and up to 59,000 deaths.

Can you imagine the media response if those numbers applied to COVID-19? It would be covered as an apocalypse!

As the flu is, each year.

“Don’t even get me started on polio!” — Jonas Salk. (Image: Wikimedia, public domain)

Minor apocalypses like influenza unfold around us constantly, but we seldom take them to heart, if unaffected, because evolution has hard-wired us that way.

Of course, COVID-19 is more contagious (each case possibly infecting 2-3 people, per this report, versus the flu’s 1.3-person infection rate).

Still, that’s less than measles — 12-18 new infections per each measles case is an often-cited figure, per this report. And some Americans are no longer vaccinating their children against this once-common childhood illness (last year had the most measles cases reported since 1992, per the CDC).

Still, as of March 20, the CDC reports more than 15,000 confirmed or presumptive cases of COVID-19 in the US (all 50 states plus 4 other jurisdictions), and 201 deaths.

And we don’t know much about this brand-new viral entity. There is no known cure, no known vaccine.

The new coronavirus outbreak, COVID-19, reminds us how we have struggled to keep ahead of mutating pathogens through the ages. The mortality rate for COVID-19 infections appears to be 1–3%, somewhere between the 2009 H1N1 influenza outbreak (0.02%) and the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) epidemic (15%).

Dr. Randy Cron

Those figures may vary from ones you have read in other sources. Any of them could be correct, or all might be off to a greater or lesser extent.

No one knows everything they need to know to understand COVID-19, let alone beat it.

Yet.

Experts are on a steep learning curve with this, and they’re doing a wonderful job sharing information and reporting on findings as quickly as possible. For example, Google Scholar currently has live links to articles about COVID-19 in the various relevant major online publications.

And GenScript USA posted this very general overview on March 12:



But the boffins are only marginally more informed than we are. It’s a new ballgame for everybody, and we can do our part by not expecting a single quick answer to this problem, tempting though that is.

We can also shift our focus on life from the often hectic daily routine to the world immediately around our doors and windows.

This is very difficult, and I don’t even want to think about the economic consequences — wait. Yes, I do.

“You’re welcome. Pass the mustard, please.” — Aircraft workers on break in 1942. (Image: FDR Library via Wikimedia, public domain)

To put things in perspective, I was raised by people who personally experienced World War I, the Spanish flu, the loss of most everything they had during the Great Depression, polio, World War II, the Cold War, McCarthyism, and more. These incredibly resilient and optimistic people — the generation my parents and grandparents belonged to — survived and laid the foundation for own prosperity today.

I remember some of those people — they were tough. Nevertheless, they grew old and died, as everybody eventually does.

So. Here we are. Things could be better. They could be much worse. And we don’t know what tomorrow has in store.

In other words — it’s the same old predicament that humanity has experienced for tens of thousands of years, wearing a COVID-19 mask at the moment.

But this must be a new and unpleasant experience for younger people who grew up insulated from such hard facts by technology and other protections.

Relax. You’ll find a way through this. Every generation does.

Too, look at it this way — Nature is forcing you to sit in one place and watch Spring unfold, if you live north of the Equator . . .



. . . or experience the bittersweet shift into autumn and winter in the southern hemisphere.



What price that?

Life goes on all around us, every moment of the day and night, but we seldom have the chance to look at it happening.

Now is a brief window of opportunity for all of us to notice something around us other than ourselves.

Do it, before daily grind time comes again! As it inevitably will.



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