I had entered protected airspace and was a seven and a half feet and closing fast when I was stopped in my tracks by a wary glance that told me I was getting too close to the six foot limit. I smiled congenially but could not tell if it was being returned from behind her mask. I waited patiently for her to load two weeks worth of ice cream into her cart, and checked myself for almost risking her life. This is our new normal, what a difference a few weeks can make.
We are all marching towards death a day at a time, a somber fact that most of us ignore. The biggest killer of Americans right now is heart disease, or the obesity that leads to it, or apathy if you want to look at it that way. About 647,000 Americans die each year from heart disease, yet there is no daily death ticker on the news that says we lost another 2600 to heart attack and stroke today, if there was we might be loading our grocery carts with carrots instead of ice cream. We all know we are going to die, it probably won't be from Covid 19, but the question that keeps frightening me is how are we going to live with the Cornavirus.
There is plenty of finger pointing as to what brought us to this state, but a virus is about as close to a zombie as you will ever come. The most simple of forms, It is debated whether a virus is alive or dead, it's only mission is to take over a cell, use it to replicate itself, and kill it. Unlike other organisms (if you can call them that) it can only live for a short period outside of a host (us), and viruses don't have the mechanism to self replicate, which is why isolating the hosts is the main means of preventing transmission. But what is insidious about a virus is that they are always mutating and adapting to the ways we attempt to stop them. If they were static we would have wiped out the flu a long time ago. We can even engineer them to do all sorts of good and bad things. Before we go blaming whomever for not having an extra 100 million ventilators on hand, it is important to know we are up against some pretty tough competition, and always have been.
So we cower, sorry shelter, in our homes for a few weeks and wait for the angel of corona to pass over, then resume our lives. Thus far this seems to be the plan. And bear in mind the ones making the plans are the same ones deciding whether a mask is or is not beneficial. We are in uncharted territory here and learning as we go. But once we resume interacting with each other it takes just one infected person to enter our social circle and the dance starts all over again. This thing is apparently highly, highly contagious and we don't know yet if it is seasonal like the flu. And like the flu vaccine, which is in some years just 30% effective against the mutation, a Cornavirus vaccine is not a cure. This is likely here to stay, at least for years.
The social media junkies re-post expert opinions, with comments of their own, on a nearly constant play by play basis, but very little new and actionable information is at hand (mask or no mask?). The meme-sayers spout regurgitate words of encouragement that we need to just get through this period together, as if there is a definitive end in sight. But that is the problem, we can't keep doing what we have been to prevent transmission. The global economy is in chaos. The unemployment rate is spiking with layoffs daily, businesses are throwing up their hands already, and nearly every sector of the economy is grinding to a halt. If social isolation is our main means of prevention the cure will literally be worse than the disease. As unemployment moves past 10% Americans with little savings and plenty of credit card debt are going to become insolvent by the millions. That means no means to pay for food much less housing; massive homelessness and food lines. Our national suicide rate, already a leading cause of death, has been increasing exponentially over the last decade; what is going to happen to that when there is massive unemployment? The government has already thrown their big salvos of cash at the economy and can't keep it up. We can't pay ourselves with our own taxes.
We are in a war and treating it like a battle. And I don't think the government wants to give us the grim truth- we are going to have to go back out there into the front lines with the Coronavirus. We can't keep hiding in the trenches and people are going to die. This has overnight fundamentally changed society and our future.
The greatest generation faced unimaginable strife before World War II. They marched through the dust bowl starvation of the depression, to storm the beaches of Normandy and Iwo Jima. A country that was on it's knees after Pearl Harbor went on the defeat not one, but two super powers at the same time, in a relatively short period of time. Barely licking their wounds these hard men and women came home to build the biggest, strongest, economy on Earth bar none! And they did this with little complaint, asking for nothing other than an opportunity.
These brave men and women are almost all dead, and each subsequent generation has stood on the shoulders of their sacrifice, becoming more comfortable, demanding, and less grateful. We are soft and ill prepared for this war. I feel great sorrow for the millenials as their generation has been sold a bill of goods like no other. They have been raised on a pablum that they are all unique and special with a bright future ahead of them; that life should be made fair and their feelings mater. Then we saddle them with a massive student debt load and march them into a labor market that now does not want them. Their disillusionment is going to turn to anger, and I don't blame them. We have ill equipped them for strife, or at least their parents have. Start re-painting your bedroom, you are going to be there for a while.
If I am negative or grim I apologize, but I would personally rather prepare for the worst and hope for the best. The American ethos is adapt and overcome, but we can't start doing this until reality sets in. We are going to need great endurance to get through this war. Start by accepting the fact that you are going to die but what is more important is how you are going to live. Start planning for a future with the coronavirus, how you are going to balance your safety with your risk, and to those around you as well. If you have been contemplating getting your spiritual house in order this is a good time to do it. Right now we do not have a plan for living with this, we have a plan for hiding from it. I do know that obsessing daily over the death toll does no one any good. In a short period of time we are all going to have to get back out there and start saving our country.