“We’re still having sex,” my friend said to me.
“What?” I blurted.
“Do you know that some 75 million people have been infected with AIDS and 32 million have died?” She said.
“Yet we haven’t stopped having sex, have we?”
That’s a reason I got good with this shutdown
I accepted it won’t last long.
Just a matter of time before Americans say—
OK, so there’s a threat… we’re getting back to work anyways.
“When haven’t we faced threats?” A military buddy said.
After the most devastating attack on American soil on 9/11…
When we still faced a real threat of terrorists blowing up sporting events, public gatherings, planes, and everything else…
We didn’t just shut down.
Hide in our homes for the next decade.
We got on with it, and for better and worse we kicked back.
We’ve done the same here
America as a people have sacrificed something that runs as deep in our veins as Vegemite does in Australia.
In my short 20 years here I’ve seen time and time again, when our back is against the wall Americans put aside some of our differences and sacrifice for the greater good.
In America we deeply value freedom, but we’ve shown we more deeply value life.
Captain America says in Avengers: Infinity War, “We don’t trade lives.”
And America has shown, that to protect a small number of lives at risk from the virus, we do whatever it takes.
And then we get back to work
Whether you call it flattening the curve.
Or protecting hospital capacity or giving the country a little time to adjust, we had to go through a temporary shock to the system.
But we’re all too smart to believe that every threat is worth destroying the country for.
Sure, if we were faced with a world-ending pathogen like Ebola, to save the nation we’d lock ourselves away for good.
But with this threat more like “much worse than the flu” as my doctor friend puts it, we must go to extreme measures for a short time.
And then, as one of my buddies in government put it—
“We must quarantine and protect the small part of our population who is at risk, and then the rest of us get back to work—for them and for the rest of us.”
It doesn’t mean we’re beyond the threat
Of course there’s lots for people to be afraid of.
Seeing pictures of people dying with plastic containers on their heads.
Reading endless stories of the countless numbers our so-called leaders are warning will be infected and suffer.
We of course get that certain groups are incented to push for the worst case scenario and counter-measures.
And we’ve also had enough time assessing the threat to see…
Like the seasonal flu, the virus is most dangerous to the old and frail, and those who are already sick.
We don’t trade lives here, so we’re willing to shut down the entire country even though only a fraction of people have died relative to the 16,000 dead this year from the flu.
Yet we’re also willing to accept reasonable threats that come with being alive, and keep getting on with it.
How do we even measure the threat?
We of course know data is being used to drive fear and behavior.
Like talking about Italy without citing the demographics of those who have gotten sick.
Or deliberately using scary headlines like “Coronavirus killing more than a person an hour in NYC,” when the death toll was 41. (and 2 people an hour are killed or injured in car accidents)
Too as another doctor buddy says, “We have no clue what is the denominator,” meaning the real number of those who have been infected relative to those who are sick.
One thing we do know is just like the flu a lot of people can be carrying it without any symptoms worthy of even being tested.
By the same token others are looking at China saying, look how quickly they solved it, without questioning what we really know about any statistics.
Yet no matter what data you look at, one might conclude it’s a reasonably contained threat.
What is the REAL threat?
Clearly the virus dramatically affects only a small portion of our population, many who get it are asymptomatic, not even noticing it relative to a cold or flu, and many even severe cases are in recovery.
Perhaps the most pure data we have is looking at the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
It was the first major outbreak, what has been called a floating laboratory for studying the virus.
Of the 3,700 mostly elderly passengers onboard, only 712 people contracted the virus and 8 died.
Also some 17.9% of those infected showed no symptoms, meaning they were fine, but of course still a threat to spread.
Again, we don’t trade lives here, any loss of life is tragic, and the threat can still be scary.
But the data on the other side is terrifying too.
Some 40,000 people died by suicide alone
After the great depression.
So that excludes all the other people who died for other depression-related reasons, as well as those whose generations were financially ruined.
My economist buddy told me that it’s estimated the credit crisis cost some 500,000 lives.
And even looking around the country today after a short period of pandemonium we’re already seeing a massive number of lives impacted, aren’t we?
Not just economically, with people losing their jobs and livelihoods.
But also their life savings being evaporated in the stock market, which particularly affects the old and frail too.
And then too we have the massive strain on the healthcare system with people panicking to be tested, which has prevented those getting treatment who are actually sick.
We don’t trade lives in America but relative to the less than 500 deaths from the virus we are forced to count all the rest.
So it’s inevitable where we’re getting to
It was just a matter of time before Americans dust ourselves off and get back on the horse.
Some people might call this irresponsible.
They might be terrified of the medical threat or Americans being able to support themselves independently.
Rather than quarantining and protecting those most at risk they might prefer the rest of us all go down with the ship.
We all weigh it differently and some seem to prefer we’re clawing out of a depression and perhaps battling wars for the next decades.
Yet the majority of Americans are good at being resilient in the face of threats.
Like after 9/11. Or the credit crisis.
We can take some time to reset but then we just get on with it.
After all, even after some 75 million people have been infected with AIDS we’re still having sex.