Below are some collected thoughts on what is going on with COVID–19. I’m not going to promise they are coherent or all that intelligent. I’m trying to get them into text and online quickly, so I may contradict myself or miss some glaring flaws in logic. My apologies if it goes off the rails anywhere.
Wednesday was the craziest damn day I can remember since, perhaps, September 11, 2001. While the causes and immediate effects of each day were dramatically different, both are ones that will be seared into my memory.
Yesterday it seemed like each refresh of a news page or check of Twitter brought about some new story about COVID–19 that made me say “WOW!” and immediately share it with others.
There was the morning official declaration of a global pandemic by the WHO.
There was the news that the Congressional doctor warned staffers to expect over 100 million Americans to contract the virus.
There was news that the White House was locking down all COVID-related briefings.
That was before lunch.
When I picked up the girls from school M told me CHS had begun preparing students for classes to be postponed without really saying that was a possibility. They were downloading apps that would assist in eLearning, getting kids who need food assistance signed up for food delivery, and otherwise gently nudging kids so they would be ready for a change in school access.
The girls and I had a long conversation on our ride home about what was going on. They had some slightly crazy thoughts, but for the most part were on the right track. We’ve had several discussions about COVID in recent days and I did my best to reiterate what we’ve been saying: we are unlikely to face any life-threatening complications from COVID. However, we are almost certain to come into contact with the virus, if we haven’t already, and could face a range of uncomfortable complications from that contact. If their schools get closed it was more about keeping people like their grandparents and newborn cousins from getting sick than about our health.
In the afternoon and evening came two more huge waves of news.
The Big 12 and other conferences announced they would lock down their basketball tournaments beginning today.
The Ivy League cancelled all spring sports.
Two private high schools on our side of town announced they were closing until mid-April (These are super expensive, non-religious schools, so I’m guessing they have multiple week spring breaks so families can go to Geneva or Nepal or wherever, so this halt likely only knocks out a couple weeks of class).
The NCAA first announced that they were recommending all sports be played without fans in attendance. Moments later its president announced that he was locking out the public from the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.
That was the first “Oh shit, this is getting real!” moment of the day. But not the last.
Later in the evening I was making a final run through Twitter before I settled into a book when the NBA decided to go crazy. First, the game between the Jazz and Thunder had been abruptly cancelled seconds before it started. Then word that Jazz center Rudy Gobert had tested positive. Finally the biggest bombshell of the day: the NBA was suspending the season. I flipped over to watch the surreal fourth quarter of the Nuggets-Mavericks game, what would be the last NBA game played for awhile.
In the midst of this, the president was speaking and not helping matters much. Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg was seen to be visibly ill on the bench in his Big 10 tournament game downtown. And Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson announced they had tested positive.
Just before I went to bed at 11:30 Scott Van Pelt and Sean Farnham were speculating on ESPN that we may have seen the last college basketball games of the year. Which, HOLY SHIT!!!
I went to bed but struggled to relax and fall asleep after several hours of getting buzzed by breaking news and frantic texting.
What to make of all this?
Before yesterday I was firmly in the camp of “we should be vigilant but not overreact.” I thought people panic purchasing groceries and cleaning supplies were lunatics, causing more harm than good.
While that is still my general line of thinking, there was one other thing that came out yesterday that adjusted my thinking. This concept of “flattening the curve” resonated with me. The overwhelming majority of Americans either will not get sick, or will not face anything close to life-threatening illness. The biggest issue, though, is if too many people who do get dangerously sick do it at the same time and flood hospitals beyond their capacity. If we all take steps to slow the virus’ spread, we can stretch out the rate at which the sickest people hit the healthcare system, allowing it room to care for them.
Not that I wasn’t being safe, or teaching my girls to be safe, before. But now I’m a little more diligent about it. And shutting down public gatherings makes more sense. A little inconvenience for us all can make this crisis much more manageable while giving those at the most risk a better chance of getting access to care.
In two or three months we might look back and think it was insane to play games in front of empty seats or suspend the NBA season, close down schools, etc. But if that allows the healthcare system to cope with a flood of severely sick people and slows the spread of the virus, it will be worth it.
Several people have asked me “What does S think about all this?” She’s a pretty calm, rational person. She has remained so throughout this. She’s not cancelling our spring break plans – yet – or making any other dramatic changes to our lives. I figure as long as she is chill, I should remain the same.
It was interesting to sit next to her during a conference call this morning and listen in on some of the steps her employer is taking to plan for the inevitable. I should not/can not share specifics, but I will say they are talking through all scenarios and trying to come up with the best plan to keep the most people as possible healthy while treating those who are sick. There were some hard questions asked, and the response was always “We have a plan for that.” Hopefully it is the right plan. I would imagine most major healthcare systems around the country are having the same conversations with similar conclusions.
As if the times we are living in weren’t crazy enough, this drops on us. I remain optimistic that we will get through this. As a society, it will require some difficult decisions and adjustments, hopefully only for the short term. And hopefully things will slow down a little today so we can catch our breath.
- Fortunately Fred just has influenza A. ↩