Week 3: Resilience, Love and Faith
Updated: Apr 10, 2020
A Journal of the Plague Year: Week 3
So here’s the tally, as of this writing: Chatham County has 44 confirmed COVID 19 cases and 3 deaths. Georgia: Over 5500 cases and 176 deaths. The United States: Over 250,000 cases and 6000 deaths. And the entire world: Over 1,000,000 cases and about 55,000 deaths.
The COVID 19 pandemic has been predicted to peak in the U.S. around April 15. A study I recently saw by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in Seattle predicted that at that point we will have an overall national hospital bed shortage of about 88,000 beds, as well as a shortage of some 20,000 ICU beds (https://covid19.healthdata.org/projections). That same study also predicted a total of around 94,000 deaths in the U.S. from the novel coronavirus by August 4 of this year (although the “first wave” of the pandemic will largely be over by early June). Georgia’s peak is predicted to occur a little later—on or around April 24. We are projected to have around 3200 COVID 19-related deaths in our state, with a peak shortage of 1880 hospital beds and 941 ICU beds.
I know that’s a lot of numbers, but the real point of all of the numbers is this: This is far from over. In fact, we’re just getting started.
I’ve seen criticism of the statement by Dr. Anthony Fauci that the United States could have “between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths” from this pandemic. A Twitter post I saw recently stated that this figure was “preposterous.”
Dr. Fauci, who has been the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease since 1984, has recently had to beef up his security detail because some people who don’t like what he’s been saying have threatened his life. News flash: Anthony Fauci doesn’t care a whit about politics. Like most of us in the medical community, his data-driven opinions are immune to social influence. When Dr. Fauci says something, I think we should all pay attention.
So here’s the gist of it: The United States, the world’s richest nation, is now the global epicenter of the COVID 19 pandemic. By the time this is all over, we will have both the most COVID 19 cases and the most COVID 19 deaths of any country on the planet.
I am not going to try to dissect how and why our initial strategies to combat the pandemic went wrong. That’s a topic best visited in retrospect. But I would like to talk about how this can all end.
First of all (and this is important), it will end. This is the “new normal,” as I wrote in a previous column, but that new normal is temporary. Life will ultimately hew back to the mean. By early June, the worst of the pandemic should be behind us.
What will happen then? We’ll see social distancing rules relaxed a bit—and there will be lots and lots of testing. People will test to see if they are immune, because quite a few people will have had the COVID 19 virus and not even know it. There will be point-of-service testing before any elective medical procedures and potentially before any sort of gathering, because we won’t be able to put off elective procedures forever, and because is readily apparent that we cannot give this virus any quarter. Quarantining affected individuals and tracing the contacts of those individuals—measures successfully used in South Korea, which handled the COVID 19 outbreak remarkably well—will be used to keep future outbreaks contained. Finally, some 12-18 months down the road, we’ll see an effective vaccine. And that will end most of this, once and for all.
So how do we manage in the interim?
Obviously, being deprived of many of the things that give us joy is disheartening. Human beings are social animals, so “social distancing” can feel like prison. Weddings have been postponed, concerts cancelled, and sporting events (even March Madness!) have been eliminated.
But the human race is nothing if not resilient.
We’ve dealt with wars that exacted terrible tolls on humanity--two, in fact, in the last century. Mankind has also survived plagues of a far worse sort, during times when we had nothing to rely on but hope, alchemy and our unerring faith in the Almighty. The 1918 influenza pandemic occurred at the exact same time as the First World War—a double whammy of unprecedented proportions during the “modern” era.
Things are going to be stressful over the next few weeks. Some of us will be grieving people we’ve lost. But one thing is certain: Life will go on, in more or less adulterated fashion—and our species will endure, just as we always have.
I do think we have something from all of this. Modern culture takes far too much for granted. We fight on social media over things that don’t really matter, worry about possessions that have no lasting value, and consistently fail to grasp the fine threads of sheer perfection that are interwoven into the day-to-day fabric of our existence.
So here’s my admonition to each of you during this stressful time: Love the people you love with all of your heart. Cherish the moments you spend with them, because those moments are precious and ephemeral. Appreciate the beauty that surrounds you every day: Sunset over the river, the warmth of a lover’s hand, the joyous peal of a child’s laughter. Be more tolerant and less angry. We’re all in the same leaky lifeboat right now. We need to act like it.
And that unerring faith in the Almighty that always helped our forebears get through times like these?
It might be a good time to check back into that resource, too.