COVID 19, the Coronavirus, is triggering global panic.
As I write this, the World Health Organization (WHO) just declared it a pandemic, citing “alarming degrees of spread and… degrees of inaction.” Right now, you will find over 120,000 documented cases worldwide and over 1,000 here in the United States. I’m positive that by the time you’re looking over this, those numbers will seem nostalgic. Things move blindingly fast. As illustration, three weeks ago, we hadn’t even heard of “self-quarantine.” Miriam Webster now catalogues it in the top one percent of lookups.
One might claim that the media is over-hyping the crisis to have eyeballs and clicks. One may be right. Yet, there’s also the best cause for concern. Involving the unreliable information stream; the natural fear we all have of the unknown; as well as feeling that people are leaves in the rapids, propelled without control; it’s normal to have to put on at bay the nauseous sense of panic welling up within our throats.
While the serenity prayer says, “God, grant me the serenity to simply accept the things I cannot change, courage to improve the things I could, COVID19 test clinic near me and the wisdom to learn the difference.” This disorder is indeed not in the “change the things I may change” column. The most effective advice is “make sure to breathe.” Clear a moment. Close your eyes. Take a long, deep breath. Allow it out. Repeat. Color it “acceptance”
However, what’ll our society look like post-virus?
And yes, it will be gone. There is a morning after. Most of us will be here when the sun rises on that day. If we use China as a template, the scourge – if handled well (and that is clearly a topic for another column) – will need about eight weeks to operate its course.
I’m sure you will find greater predictive minds than mine looking compared to that time, although I believe some consequences are already making themselves known.
Per Wikipedia, “Social distancing is… (a method to) control actions… to prevent or decelerate the spread of a very contagious disease.” As we all know, it has been implemented by curtailing and canceling large gatherings, such as for example concerts, sporting events, conventions – let alone schools, churches, and businesses. Cities have banned gatherings over 250 people. Italy has virtually locked the doors and discarded the keys. New Rochelle, NY features a one-mile containment zone. Most of these actions are now being executed with the intent of flattening the “expansion curve,” a lofty goal but with side effects.
We’re traveling less – even within our personal towns. We remain more within our homes, associating only with those we trust.
Sadly – out of a perceived necessity – we’re even reconsidering hugs and handshakes, trading them for fist, foot, and elbow bumps, as well as bowing.
Culture has been defined as “that’s exactly how we do things around here.” Our culture – for better or worse – won’t “do things” like we did before this disease. It won’t look nor feel the exact same, even following the Coronavirus is relegated to the exact same place in history as polio, SARS or the Black Plague. We will “do things” differently
As humans, we’re hard-wired to be with others. That’s why we form close relationships, build communities, construct cities. This epidemic is putting us at odds with our nature, causing sadness and internal conflict that may remain long into the future. It will show itself as us being more physically – and emotionally - isolated; nesting more, using virtual links more frequently than we do now, seeking out that connection we no more feel safe receiving in public. Fear and suspicion of the “other,” already a major difficulty in society, has been amplified.
You might or mightn’t trust my calculations but, being fully a battle-scarred optimist, I want to feel that maybe, just maybe, this horrendous period can give bright-light brilliance to the fact – irrespective of our color, gender, sexual preference, political leanings, even the country by which we live – we’re One. Each people loves and fears and does the best he or she knows just how to do. Yet, in a New York minute, it can all be change, through no fault of our own.
I really do know that no real matter what the future carries, we stand a much better chance if we are able to find ways to greatly help and hold one another through this period, whether that’s via a video conference or as part of large conference.