Much as spring is shaking off the last dust of winter, the country is beginning to shed the shackles brought by this virus and many are beginning to timidly stick their heads out the door to emerge back into society again. Nationally we have lifted the stay at home recommendations and many states are lifting stay at home orders and are either reopening or are planning to reopen. Of course, the news media is blowing up over this with dire warnings that death totals will spike, that the action is reckless, that it is too soon, and that it is politically motivated. And frankly, at least some of that is true. More people will become ill and sadly, some will die.
But we can’t hide in our homes forever, sooner or later we have to emerge and either catch it or not. The whole purpose of sheltering in place was to flatten the curve – to delay the inevitable number of cases long enough to avoid overwhelming the health care system. In densely populated places like NYC that almost happened despite the sheltering; the health care system there came perilously close to capacity. But in many other places the load on the system never came close to becoming overwhelming, which is a great news. Computer models greatly overestimated the number and timing of deaths and decisive action by the country did indeed manage to flatten the curve.
This is, in a perverse way, sort of a Kobayashi Maru – a puzzle without a complete and satisfactory solution, one where you find the best possible fit for an answer but that still results in unpleasant consequences. There is no easy answer to this virus – there never was. Play the scenario again and the frequency and counts of infections and deaths will certainly change day to day, week to week. But in the end, after the whole thing is done and over, whether that be six months or a year, and the total numbers will not vary all that significantly. This virus will take its due, whether quickly or slowly; I honestly do not believe there is any other end result.
So yes, there will be an increase in the death totals as we reopen. And it is really only by the vagaries of fate whether the virus touches any of us personally. And I believe that is the devil with which the world is collectively struggling. This virus is wildly, perversely, unpredictable. It is much like a tornado, swerving and weaving its way along and leaving one house literally in splinters and another right next door perfectly intact and whole. How does one reconcile that fickle nature of destruction? Excepting the areas where people are layered atop each other like cordwood where they have no chance to escape contamination, most areas suffered a somewhat random infliction of the virus.
There is, however, an exception to this: in my state we still have not had a single fatality of anyone under the age of 50 years – not a one. Far and away, the elderly leads the pack in the death totals. And really that is not surprising – they are typically in poor health with compromised immunity. But beyond that, they are also typically all crammed together in a nursing home or similar place. Their population densities in those places can rival that of a city’s, packed together with no chance to escape contamination. Prisons are now exhibiting the same issues: densely packed with no chance for separation from each other, once the virus finds an entry, it becomes nearly unavoidable. However, being a somewhat younger and healthier group, their mortality rate is far lower, at least as of now. But it does help demonstrate how quickly this virus can rip through a group of confined people.
There is always good to come from bad – always. Not always easy to find or see, but there it always there to be found. In this case there is a lot, skies are clearing across the world – smog is dissipating and the atmosphere is healing; the ozone layer over Antarctica has improved tremendously; the world is discovering new ways to get things done without driving and flying all over the earth; and people are rediscovering reading, painting, and each other. All positives, all good. There are food shortages so people are relearning how to grow their own food.
How the pendulum will swing once we reemerge remains to be seen; the opening act is beginning so we’ll have to wait and see. We will, of course, have to filter the news media as their agenda, their script for this, is already written and it will be laden with sensational examples of what horrors those states have heaped upon their citizens by reopening too early. But it will happen, it is happening, and will continue. What we will do with it, what we will make of it, should be quite telling of where we stand as a society. My hope is that we have learned from this and we find ways to improve the quality and means of living for everyone: to reduce the frenetic pace of life, to find more ways to reduce travel, to enjoy each other more, to restore greater balance to the family unit, and to continue to appreciate what we have rather than demanding more. My fear is though, that the return will quickly accelerate to full throttle once again and nothing will change. Time will tell. In the meantime, I need to go tend to my garden. Stay well dear reader.