Spring is fast approaching, but it feels more like winter, as the corona virus epidemic grows more and more invasive of our every day life. Schools are closed, restaurants and movie theaters, gyms and Broadway. All closed. Yesterday the White House urged people to not gather in groups of 10 or more! Imagine! That means Cathy and I cannot gather with our children and grandchildren (we’re 22!). It is amazing how quickly and how completely life has changed in a calculated effort to flatten the curve for infections. Lives will be saved!
When life gets so disrupted, it takes some time to recapture our balance and our sense of security. We need to be careful about what we read and, more importantly, what we act on. Information spread through Facebook, for example, is not always reliable. We need to be more critical, take the extra step to source the information. This is certainly called for if we intend to share things to our networks. Unscrupulous people will try to take advantage of people’s anxieties, so please beware of those selling a quick buck or a quick “cure” for the virus. Be sure to check in with your elderly friends and relatives, not only in terms of scam artists, but also to make sure they have what they need to ride out this event.
We have to take care of each other. The call for social distancing is an excellent public health move. But we ought not to allow it to undermine our care for our neighbor. We can reach out by phone, by videoconferencing, by talk with people from their porch, or on either side of our backyard fences. Stay in touch with your friends, just don’t do that at a local bar! (Oh yeah, those are closed!)
One of the striking things about this virus is that relatively healthy people can carry it for many days, passing it to others, particularly to vulnerable others. This is the fact behind the social distancing policy. I may not feel any symptoms, but I may still be a carrier, negatively impacting those around me. Some compare this to the flu, and think we are overreacting. Well, we have a vaccine for the flu, and most people get it, dramatically decreasing the instances of flu. While there are still many flu cases, and many people still die from complications caused by the flu, imagine what it would be like without the vaccine. We do not have a vaccine for the corona virus, therefore it can easily speed through a population that is not attending to the fact that healthy people are carriers. Given this, what strikes me is that the corona virus underscores a fact and a moral obligation. The fact is that we are all entangled in ways we barely understand. The moral obligation is that we ought to act in such a way that we don’t endanger those around us. Most of us get that when it comes to driving our car, right? Now we need to get that in the way we negotiate this challenging time.
A silver lining in this otherwise dark moment is that being out in nature is not banned. We can spend time in our yards, work in our gardens, go for a hike, take long walks. Depending on where you live, we can enjoy the birds in their annual spring competition for mates, watch the daffodils stretch for the sun, with their bright yellow or white faces, spy the hostas beginning to push up the shoots that will soon be rich and thick leaves. There is so much to be grateful for, that we live on such a magnificent planet.
Yes, there is a virus impacting our lives in ways we thought not possible just two weeks ago. Yes, our vulnerable loved ones are at risk of a life-threatening illness. Yes, our national response has not been as robust as it might have been. But we are also quite advanced in our knowledge of viruses and the best public health policies to implement. We have the technology that enables us to remain connected to each other. We also have this amazing planet, that can always call us out of our own anxieties to wonder at the beauty, creativity and resilience of life. We humans are also part of that beauty, creativity and resilience. It is a reminder, in the words of the medieval mystic Julian of Norwich, that all will be well, all manner of things will be well.
Be sensible. Be responsible. Be attentive to your family and to your neighbors. Spend time outside, in nature, in the creative chaos that is spring in our corner of the globe.
Be safe everyone! All will be well.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Mark Doorley, Ph.D.
President, Board of Trustees, CFET