Frozen In The Face Of The Wave

Lost in a sea of incomplete data. I think we all just want to see Christmas together.

I’ve always been mesmerized by progress bars. Whether it’s formatting disks, copying files or downloading an Ubuntu ISO, I still get that glazed over look when I observe progress. But the progress of the coronavirus is unbelievable. The size and scale of the pandemic are mesmerizing and truly frightening. My jaw has dropped.

An article posted just yesterday on Yahoo! Business shows that the investor community is eyeing a short term boom in hospital stocks. They are projecting 100% utilization of most hospitals due to the size of the pandemic. And they say we’re just getting started. From the executive summary of the article:

Right now 2 million Americans are infected with the coronavirus. The total U.S. death toll by April 15th will be more than 20,000. We estimate that 80 thousand of the 2 million infected Americans will be hospitalized over the next 2 weeks. That’s why we are short-term bullish on hospital stocks.

April 15th, normally tax day, is just 22 days away. In the span of 3 weeks, they project that more than 20,000 people will have died from the coronavirus. They are also tracking a trend: every 3 days, the number of people dying from the virus will double. And it has. Here is the latest chart from worldmeters.info:

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Notice the steeply rising incline of the slope. That’s what it looks like when the number of deaths doubles every three days. That’s the face of the wave. But that’s the aftermath. From the same Yahoo! article:

Our model also tells us that the number of infected people was 400,000 on March 8th, 800,000 on March 11th, and 1.6 million on March 14th.

These calculations imply that the American death toll will be 12,800 on April 7th. To put that in perspective, yesterday, the total death toll in Italy was 3400 and 3000 in China.

Much of what we’re seeing in America represents the cost of under-reported data on the spread of the coronavirus. Trump has been downplaying the pandemic for months, and it wasn’t until the last few days that he got really serious about the size of the pandemic:

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Trump went from, “This is a hoax perpetrated by the Democrats” to, “Oh sh!t. This really is a pandemic.”

The lack of testing kits and the suppression of results lead to incomplete data as to how bad this thing really is. In February, we underestimated the virus. We are still behind the ball as cases mount. A good chunk of this can be attributed to Trump’s attempts to downplay the size of the epidemic before we called it a pandemic.

Trump says he’s concerned about us and that he’s using the full force of the government to fight the virus. But I’ve seen numerous pictures of Trump in recent days, and he looks more like a man inconvenienced that can’t run a proper campaign for his re-election than a man concerned with the fate of the people he claims to represent.

The state governments are starting to call for lockdown, banning gatherings of large sizes, closing restaurants and bars, and doing everything they can to confine people to their homes, and for good reason. I haven’t heard a peep from the 1st Amendment advocates about this. I have heard people criticizing the Democratic Party for encouraging people to get out and vote during a pandemic, and for not postponing the primary elections. And the measures we take now could stall or slow the spread of the virus.

I’m not waiting for the government to tell me that I have to stay home. My family and I are staying at home. We’re hoping to weather this storm until it passes. And I’m worried about the people who don’t get the message. I’m thinking about how 14% of the American population has an IQ of 85 or less. Will they heed the message? I’m thinking about the states with an average IQ of 95. Will they heed the message?

Study after study I’ve seen shows that social distancing works to flatten the curve. Social distancing will reduce the total number of infections and the total number of deaths. There are two factors at work here. The virus needs hosts to live. It can’t live for very long and it requires new hosts for replication once the current hosts figure out how to fight the virus or they die. And in order to survive, the virus must stop killing hosts, and just make them a little sick instead.

Most viruses do that. They start off deadly, but as their hosts die off, the more deadly variants die off, with natural selection favoring a virus that doesn’t kill its host. That part takes time. I’m waiting for that part to come.

I’m also washing my hands with soap and water. Soap is like a wrecking ball and bulldozer to viruses. Soap breaks down the structure of the virus and the water washes it away. Wash your hands after contact with anything outside of your home. Don’t touch your face after touching anything that has been touched by another human hand. Think gas pump handles and shopping carts, doorknobs, and door handles. Eat at home, not at Joe’s. It’s only for a little while. 8–12 weeks, I think, though at least one source says more like 18 months.

Make your own little “eye of the storm” at home. Stock up on food, not toilet paper, install bidets (they’re more environmentally friendly). Hunker down and get comfortable at home.

Find a way to work from home if you can. Set up a home office space just for that. Dedicate the space and hardware for work from home. Plan on working from home, and imagine yourself doing that if you’re not already. It can happen.

I know it can happen because now, office phone systems are based on IP, not on the old phone system. Voice traffic gets priority over our networks. Video conferencing traffic gets priority over the internet. The technology required to work from home is mature now. It’s reliable, cheap and easy to use. Computer, docking station, a couple of monitors, keyboard and mouse, and a headset. It all works together.

So the face of that wave. It looks really effing frightening. But we are a resilient nation, with resilient infrastructure. Many of us (about half) can work from home, all of us can maintain social distance, keep in contact with our friends and relatives, and not go insane until this thing passes. And it will pass. Let us let the coronavirus pass together. Let us all see Christmas together.

Write on.

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