The Coronavirus Pandemic is on our doorstep, whether we like it or not. Between outright dismissal (crazy) and panic (understandable), there is a middle ground of being cautious. And that is the ground on which I am walking, and I am paying close attention to what the scientists are telling us*. Conversely, I am not paying too much attention to television news anchors or general media reporters. (Speaking of reporters, I have been hugely disappointed by the Stat News coverage of coronavirus. This is something they should be good at, but at best, I think they have been mediocre on the current crisis.)
In addition to being obsessive about washing hands and generally avoiding touching surfaces, I am doing something which is very difficult for me: not hugging. I am a hugger. I love people. I believe in the human touch. But hard times mean hard decisions. As a result, I am avoiding even handshakes, trying to stay away from crowded spots, and generally maintaining a reasonable self-quarantine. And no travel. It is not crazy to be cautious — we are all going to be exposed to this virus, whether we like it or not**.
Every morning, I like to go for a walk to clear the cobwebs, and I will continue to do that. Though, I will probably set out a half-hour earlier, reducing the likelihood of encountering other people on the street. I have stocked up my medication for about two months. My biggest fear isn’t the disruption of technology or consumer goods supply chains. Instead, I am terrified of the idea that China can’t ramp up the pharmaceutical production.
The idea of being quarantined in my apartment doesn’t scare me much. I like being in my apartment. I have a gigabit connection to my apartment, so it is ideal for me to do my calls. I am a fanatical user of Zoom and Facetime, and for the next few weeks, I will shift my meetings to Zoom and avoid getting on the plane. I am avoiding Uber and Lyft rides, as well. On the bright side, I am thinking of self-quarantine as a chance to reduce my carbon footprint — a tiny bit, at least.
Indeed, I am finding the silver lining of the self-quarantine: I can use the time to read more. I have a few really great new books sitting next to my bed. I can use the time at home to edit and share on my photoblog. And most importantly, I can finish writing up interviews with folks such as Jimmy “Wikipedia” Wales. And as if that wasn’t enough, I have about seven different kinds of Earl Grey teas to try. What I am trying to say is that it is possible to roll with the new reality of today without giving in to the fear of fear itself. That is what I am opting to do.
In the coming days, things are going to get a little difficult for us. Our media is optimized for maximum engagement, and that means scaring us with outrageous headlines and short snippets of information. That isn’t going to help. We have politicians who will use this pandemic as a way to garner votes and attention. It is not going to help. We will be swimming in a sea of lies. And someone always pays the cost of lies —usually, it is the normal, common people. The best we can do is to use common sense.
PS: I am going to share a handful of long reads every day, so you can keep yourself distracted and educated during the forthcoming few weeks as we deal with the idea of self-quarantine.
* Corona Virus FAQ by Dr. Megan Murray, Harvard Infectious Disease Specialist. This is as thorough an overview as you can get.
** You’re likely to get the coronavirus.
March 4, 2020. San Francisco