The inevitable cruelty of getting back to normal – COVID-19

So, we’re all stocked up, or as much as we can be without joining the hordes of hoarders. We’re starting the first day of our first week of social isolation. I’ve gotten over my first and second waves of anxiety. I’ve accepted the fact that we’re going to see a lot of deaths from COVID-19. I expect that future investigations will discover that there have already been many deaths from this disease that were unrecognized because no one had a way to test for SARS coronavirus 2. We’ll likely be able to trace a spike in pneumonia- and heart failure-related deaths starting back in early February.

Much of the economy is on hold, and I expect that we’ll be in a recession for at least the next year as a result. But I’m gradually growing less afraid that we’re going to see a worldwide depression. But that change from my earlier fear doesn’t gladden my heart much. The change is due to thinking back on previous threats and how we’ve incorporated them into our lives. As financial commentators phrase it, we ‘price it in.’

What I’m suggesting is that faced with the threat of worldwide economic depression, massive job losses, & all of the fallout that comes with a downturn, people will just start living their lives again. Yeah, I’m proposing that we will just start accepting a 1, 2, or 3% death rate from C19.

At first, the news of so many deaths will captivate our attention, and 80 or 90 out of every 100 news headlines will be about the toll the pandemic is taking. Then gradually you’ll see it diminish to a scorecard at the end of the news broadcast, the way that the TV news when I was a boy would report the day’s casualty and KIA numbers from Vietnam.

People will return to work. People will start going to clubs & bowling alleys and church services.

And we’ll keep getting sick, and a percentage will die, but the economy won’t shut down.

I’m basing this prediction on past behavior. In the 1960s, 55,000 Americans a year died in car wrecks. During the peak of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 90s, more than 200,000 people a year died. In the last decade, gun deaths have been a major killer in the US. In 2017, there were more than 37,000 shooting-related deaths. Every year, there are between 12,000 and 61,000 deaths from influenza, and we can’t even convince some people to get vaccinations.

Eventually, I expect, we’ll develop some herd immunity and the lethality rate will drop.

But the really sad — and even cruel — reason that we’ll go back to business as usual is because the highest percentages of deaths from C19 are likely to be among the elderly, the poor, and folks who have preexisting conditions. Those people are already handily ignored by the more fortunate among us.