Anyone else feel you are watching a slow moving train wreck unfold before your eyes? Hands covering your face, fingers slightly open to allow yourself a glimpse?
Photos across the country show a mix of responses, some responsible—temperature checks, masks, gloves and distancing. Then you see photos of masses of people with no masks, no distancing—they are tired of being locked up, I get it. But they are acting foolishly.
I have been told this week, if I don’t like it, I can stay home. I love how you believe you have the freedom to do what you want and forget that you don’t live on an island. You are not just putting yourself at risk, you put at risk everyone you come in contact with—the employees, the workers, and eventually first responders and hospitals.
Wearing masks and social distancing has been called living in fear. I see. We take precautions to protect public safety every day. We inspect airplanes and elevators. We wear seat belts and have installed airbags. We wear helmets. We wear sunscreen.
But there is also a difference—when we wear seat belts, sunscreen, and helmets we are largely protecting ourselves. When we wear masks, we are protecting others.
The experts warned us to not open too soon. I actually felt that if we could social distance, symptom check, limit crowds and wear masks, we could do a lot more. The reality is that we could have and not spiked the numbers. But people are not acting responsibly. And so what will happen is that this is going to be far worse, we will probably have to completely shut down again, and the economy will be far worse because of that.
People like to talk about freedom. But they forget the second half of the equation—with freedom comes responsibility. If you are only putting yourself at risk, I would say, have at it. Just sign a waiver so you don’t take up a hospital bed or a ventilator.
What are the risks here? One of the problems is that people have focused on the death rate as the key statistic. As we approach 100,000 deaths in the US, the NY Times has put the names on the front page to illustrate the loss. Ninety-seven thousand deaths, 1.6 million cases. You can do the math on that and get six percent. I agree that’s too high.
That’s the problem. People can discount the actual risk because most people don’t get this bad. The people who do are either elderly or have risk factors. It becomes a calculated risk that many people are willing to take.
But they are not looking at the people who get sick for a month and don’t have to go to the hospital. Or they do go to the hospital, have to be sedated on a ventilator away from their family and isolated for weeks. Or experience severe and permanent lung damage.
Make no mistake, this isn’t Ebola that will kill half of those infected, but it’s also not the flu either—which is less infectious, has a lower fatality rate, and can be mitigated with vaccines. Eighty percent of the people who die from the flu were not vaccinated.
So what do you do if you’re me? The last three times I had the flu, I ended up in the ER. I don’t believe I would survive this.
I came out with a list to protect my family and myself:
- Will not do business in any location where the server or employees are not wearing a mask—I already had to do that once this past week. I told the employee I was leaving because they were not wearing a mask and that I would write a letter to their owner to explain why.
- If there are people inside who are not wearing masks, I will leave.
- If there are more than ten people inside or if there is a line even with social distancing and it’s inside, I will leave—the thing that they are finding is that length of exposure matters because you can get exposed to more virus over a longer period of time.
- For the same reason, until there is a vaccine, I will not send my children to school. Even with huge amounts of precaution, if they are in a place where the virus is present for a period of hours, their risk of infection goes up.
- Will not go to a sit down restaurant—again, you can take precautions, but staying in a place of potential exposure for 30 to 60 minutes is a risk I’m not willing to take. BTW, I have been eating take out up to ten times a week, so I think I have done my part to help local downtown restaurants.
- Will not engage in business that requires me to be in close contact with anyone— and I told my wife she can’t get her hair and nails done, and will have to wait on massage, etc. You can take huge amounts of precaution but, at the end of the day, if the other person is a carrier, you are defeating several of the protocols for protection.
- No travel—no hotels, no air flight until there is a vaccine.
For those of us at risk, we have to figure out ways to stay alive in a world where people are only worried about themselves and not thinking of the impact of their actions on others.
There is some encouraging news this week on vaccines and some of the research suggests that non-symptomatic people are less likely to be able to spread the virus due to a lower viral load. But until we get over that hump, I think we are going to have a rough six to 12 months—especially with people throwing caution into the wind.
—David M Greenwald reporting