My COVID Times Diary – Accepting Death
Original post date 6/16/2020
Many people misunderstood the reason for the shelter in place that most of us ended up in during March. The point was to slow the rate of the outbreak, to make sure that our hospitals did not get overwhelmed which in the end saves lives. The so-called slowing the curve that we’ve all heard so much about. And the fact is, in general, America did pretty good with this. This of course had a negative impact on the economy, it was/is hard for people to reduce their social and physical contact, to make a sacrifice for the sake of others. But what I think most people didn’t understand was that this was never intended to significantly reduce the overall number of people who would get sick, but to stretch the length of time for the same number of people to get sick. Worse, it seems like people are having two overall reactions to this process.
First, people seem to think since the rate of deaths have leveled off or decreased, that we have beaten the virus and the pandemic is over. Other people seem to think that because the shelter in place, did exactly what it was predicted to do, that obviously the risk of the virus was overblown. This attitude, plus an extreme dedication to the health of the economy at all costs, has led to seemingly all states moving forward with expanding the opening of the economy.
This re-opening was very visible this weekend here in the bay area around San Francisco. Traffic volume was up, stores are open, restaurants have lots of new outdoor seating. Friends can be seen gathering at these restaurants and there are very few masks to be seen other than on the servers.There seems to be a general attitude that we’re passed the pandemic.
Of course we are not, as expected, the re-opening of business, restaurants, yes even our local mall, will lead to more people being in close contact and increasing numbers of infections. And in fact, that is exactly what we’re experiencing. Now there’s some debate that some of the numbers are a result of expanded testing which is true. However, the numbers I watch on a daily basis are the number of deaths of in California. There’s been a fairly stable 6-7 day pattern in deaths. And after about eight weeks of increases the numbers seem to level off and even start to fall. Correspondingly we began to open the economy and the numbers of death, by seven day average have stopped falling. They seem to be bouncing around an unfortunately nearly 100 per day average. Now California is a huge state and right now, most of the deaths are in Southern California. The number in deaths in the north and particularly the bay area are way down. But we’ve just started a really huge experiment by expanding the opening and we’ll know in 3-4 weeks what the result will be.
The fact is, this was always going to happen at some point, unless we got a miraculously quick vaccine. We as a society, typically at the county or state level, have a decided what an acceptable level of death is going to be. As long as that number, whatever each place sets, stays fairly consistent or decrease we’re willing to accept the risks of having businesses open with few restrictions. The cynic in me will also suggest that as long as the majority of those deaths come in the form of older (60 year+), sick (diabetic, high blood pressure) and at a higher percentage in poor and minority communities than we’re ok with it. Online, and social media can be the cesspool of humanity, you will even see comments to this effect. An article in CNN today had the headline, I’m over 60, stop talking about culling me…, but the reality is, to a degree larger than we like to admit, this is how our society generally thinks. Some groups have much higher value than others.
So this, is truly the new normal folks. For a much longer time than most of us want to acknowledge or are willing to accept. We will continue to see deaths, life will involve a face covering (mask) of some sort. For those like myself who fit the higher risk categories (over 60, diabetic, high blood pressure, respiratory issues and heart disease), masks will be an integral part of our day to day experience for the foreseeable future. Gathering and crowds will not be an option, travel will be limited, hugs and handshakes will be a thing of the past, at least for a time. So you will continue to see lots of people in masks, more places open and then when inevitable spikes occur, periods of retraction, restriction and maybe even shelter in place again.
All reasonable information suggests that 2021 is the absolute earliest that we’ll start to see any kind of mass distribution of a vaccine. And that’s assuming in the next couple of months, one of the hopeful vaccine candidates actually pans out. If that happens, it will have been an incredibly fast development of a vaccine, let’s hope that works out. Then of course with out science denying society and vaccine hesitancy, who knows if enough people will even get the vaccine to create the level of protection we actually need for herd immunity.
It’s a new world my friends, as I said in my first COVID post, you will never be the same again. That’s the one thing I’m still absolutely sure of in these changing times. ~ Michael ‘Rev’ Kane