My Purpose

Originally Published @ on 4/12/2020 - Still just as relevant

I have chosen to offer this website as a forum for information about the current COVID-19 pandemic, in an effort to provide meaningful, factual and useful content during what will continue to be a destabilizing time. There is no indication that our media will soon get better at filling the knowledge void they’ve created; as a result, confidence in those who deliver our news has hit rock bottom at the exact moment in recent history when we need responsible media the most.

My past experience and current observations lead me to believe that the big picture of the pandemic is poorly understood, and there has been so much conflicting information floating around that it has been very difficult to see what awaits us beyond the immediate horizon. My goal is simply to provide resources so that each of us can approach the coming months with intention – as perspective widens, willpower to overcome circumstance increases. The opposite is also true, in that fear increases when awareness decreases, and in the aftermath of societal upheaval a vacuum appears that will be filled, by one voice or another.

Just as the Native American parable states, courage and fear are interrelated; now is the time to feed courage and starve fear.

My goal is to learn and prepare, because those who expect “normal” to return are going to be disappointed. The odds of future waves of infection are high, and a lot of changes will have to be made in order to keep the engine running once flu season arrives in the fall. The statistics paint a clear picture, in that the near-simultaneous global response saved millions of lives; it’s also clear that applying the same medicine several times will negate the economic prosperity that fuels innovation in medical technology. Being able to see a storm coming is meaningless if all you can do is watch and wait, and America’s economy has been even more critical during the last decade of malaise in a majority of the developed world. In particular, the last few years of higher growth gave a bigger cushion to land on, but after witnessing unemployment go from historically low to historically high in six weeks it would be foolish to expect us to fully recover before the re-emergence of a global peak in cases.

So, our responsible way forward is to plan for the worst and accept the need for major changes as soon as possible. Our goal should be to do whatever is necessary to limit death or economic calamity as we wait for the development of a vaccine. Pretending otherwise might make the next 12 months less stressful, but “flattening the curve” is more important – applying the same measures as in 2009 (H1N1) aren’t enough, because 60.8 million cases of COVID-19 will produce 2 million deaths, not the 12,000 from 2009. That number doesn’t include the effects of hospitals at capacity for long periods, which effectively increases the mortality rate of any serious ailment.

We are victims of our own success. The unprecedented scale of our response in taking swift, global action is helping to fuel criticism of overkill, but flattening the curve limited the exponential demands that would’ve dwarfed the current struggles to care for everyone in Italy, Spain or New York. Specifically, that scenario would have played out everywhere at once. There’s a reason this type of outbreak represented the worst-case scenario in strategic planning; our only saving grace is that the CFR is closer to 3% than 15%.

Our time requires leaders, who are honest. But each of us should recognize that the choice is ultimately a reflection of how much we value our older family members, because children in schools is a possibility this fall, but our economy will have to allow space for older workers to be productive and safely distanced. How many teachers over 50 are in our schools. Nurses over 40? Our most experienced people are the most vulnerable, because a 2% CFR at 60 assumes enough medical care to provide for everyone that needs it.

Our responsibility is to understand how little separates us from 60,000 dead vs. 2 million in the US; creating ways to incorporate this lesson while returning to work and school is a small price to pay, if 2 million Americans can receive a routine vaccine next year because they didn’t die this year. There a lot of people pondering how much sacrifice is worth accepting in order to prevent that scenario-my advice would be the same as it always would’ve been in the past: if you’re not sure how you feel about it, you should go seek wisdom from your parents. Their perspective may be different.

  • C.H. Rixey

    [Substack now live - 2/25/2021]