Opinion: Finding Meaning


Viral Lessons

The Beautiful Wife and I are still holed up in picturesque Midway, Utah, waiting out the coronavirus scare. It’s more or less brought our nation to a standstill, and that was before we knew much about it. We collectively know more now. I wish we could sit in a circle and sort out what it all means. Because that’s not possible, I offer these three lessons.

The BW and I watched a YouTube explanation by Dr. David Price, pulmonologist at New York’s Weill Cornell Hospital. (If you do this, search for the most recent version). It was a home-made presentation based on his first-hand COVID-19 experience. The virus is everywhere, according to Dr. Price, but our risk is manageable if we faithfully do three things. First, keep your hands super clean (frequent use of hand sanitizer or hand washing). Second, don’t touch your face (it’s hard to not touch but the virus travels by hand-to-face contact; for those exposed, a mask, even a clean homemade one, reduces face touching). Third—we hear this the most—maintain social distance, and shrink your social circle. There was more information on what to do if you develop symptoms such as a fever (assume it’s COVID-19 until you can get tested), or become breathless doing simple tasks (get immediate medical care). We were calmer and clearer on what to do after watching the video.

The next night we watched the evening news on TV. It began with a dire prediction of 200,000 U.S. deaths (actually a 90% reduction from an earlier forecast of two million), highlights of the worst things happening, and emotional responses from people sadly impacted. A person on a steady diet of such news programs could easily be overwhelmed by fear, which doesn’t help.

First lesson learned: We all have a choice—inform ourselves through expert, qualified sources, or let yourself be scared by a stream of emotional newscasts.

The second lesson is to look deeper. It’s more informative to look at the daily changes in COVID-19 deaths that at the total deaths (which are a small fraction of this season’s Influenza A toll). By my math, the rate of change for the 33 days since the first COVID-19 deaths averaged about 23% per day. The change in the 3 days prior to this writing averaged 15%. Each death is a tragedy, but it seems the rate is dropping and that, if it continues, is very good news.

The third lesson goes back to Dr. Price. He works at the battlefront of this disease, treating the most severely ill, constantly exposed. I’m enormously impressed with him and all caregivers. Their work is heroic; their combined sacrifice is monumental. Likewise, for the first responders (our daughter Amy is a firefighter). This morning, at the grocery store, I thanked the clerk going about his job though much exposed. Hats off to all who carry on with their daily work and keep our nation going. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip.  He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach. Email:  [email protected]

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