In times like these we realize just how fragile we are. Our culture, our economy, our world is, and us as a species. All of the technology and ambitions stopped in the tracks of a giant we must face. Humans do a good job in being resilient throughout the ups and downs of life — we bend, but we don’t break — but when something of this magnitude comes our way, without plans in place, it hits us like a tornado, as it impacts every corner of society. It is easy to crumble and be fearful, but that’s not what we need right now. It’s vital we all rise to the occasion. For it is times like these that can define a generation. Being a millennial, I know I certainly have been waiting, ready for a moment like this. What can I do? How can I help? We should be stepping up, and not backing down. Perhaps for some it will be time to commit to more unselfish acts such as social distancing, giving back and helping others, starting a business or organization that makes the world a better place. Maybe for some it might mean restoring broken relationships, build new ones because after all, life is short. We are being asked by our governments to rise. Not since World War II and 9/11 have we been asked to rise to the occasion like this.
Keeping Our Distance
To slow the virus down we have been asked to act as if we already have the virus. This has been called social distancing, a practice many of us are just getting used. The purpose of this is to flatten the curve. Less people will die because there will be a more readily available supply of hospital beds and ventilators to keep the severe cases alive. But it’s proving to not be all that easy to walk out as many of us are finding. Essentially this is a way to reduce the quick spread of the virus, and risk of overwhelming hospitals by asking us stay home for and extended period of time, perhaps the next 2 to 4 weeks so we don’t catch the virus or pass it on to anyone else. The most popular theory of how the plague ended is through the implementation of social distancing or quarantines. The uninfected would typically remain in their homes and only leave when it was necessary, while those who could afford to do so would leave the more densely populated areas and live in greater isolation. This is incredibly difficult for people though, as we have seen in Italy and Spain. We are social creatures. When something separates us from each other it frustrates and angers us. But in a time like this we must put our own needs and wants aside for the greater good.
Goodbye to the Handshake
The handshake is sometimes offered when we meet someone new or to signal that a deal is sealed. It’s simple gesture that has been with us since ancient times, is the handshake. The handshake began back in 5th century BC Greece, used as a symbol of peace, showing that neither person was carrying a weapon. From the passing of the peace in churches, or a moment described in some religious traditions as extending the right hand of fellowship to your neighbor, to the two-cheek kisses in much of the world, embracing is part of the human tradition across cultures. We’ve been asked to find some other means of the handshake. The chicken wing or head nod seem so sub par. When we get the chance to shake someone’s hand once again, it will be a time of great celebration around the world.
It’s a Pandemic
On March 11th, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Coronavirus, scientifically known as COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) as a pandemic. Things changed on that day. Stock markets dropped, governments scrambled to put together plans to bring citizens home and keep outsiders out. Since then time has seemed to have slowed. The world is still spinning, but the human species is frozen. Restaurants, bars, theatres, places of work and school have been closed. Fear seems to be the new panic. Although cases have risen to nearly 80,000 have recovered, people Lee forcing the totally infected to which is near 200,000.
This type of event is not unique to human history. It is new to the collective of people on earth now, but just over 100 years ago there was a much more severe virus raging, having global impact. The Spanish Flu in 1918 is thought to have originated at a military barracks in Kansas. It bounced back and forth across the plant for a entire year, wreaking havoc on populations. So many people perished that it accounted for more lost in all wars fought by the US in its recent history. Yes, a vaccine for COVID-19 is underway, and some are optimistic it will hit shelves this year. Meanwhile others believe the earliest it could be available to the public is Winter 2021. By that time the virus may have already run its course, and even be irrelevant. Without a vaccine our only option is to ride this out and hope to survive. And that could be one rough ride. But this is nothing new. Humans have been here before. We’ve endured, and then surged once again.
A Silent Predator
Perhaps the single worst part of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease in humans called COVID-19, is not the level of infectiousness, lethality or even its survivability outside the human body, but it’s long incubation period. . Many with mild symptoms will not even suspect they have it. Meanwhile they’ll pass it along to others, and the cycle continues. Social distancing works great with the flu and other viruses as you are typically know you have it. However, when you have a mystique virus like COVID-19 that can hide in the healthy, and prey on the vulnerable it becomes difficult to track and slow. For every confirmed case, there are most likely another 5 to 10 people in the community with undetected infections. These often-milder cases are, on average, about half as infectious as confirmed ones, but are responsible for nearly 80% of new cases, according to a new report.
Epidemics have shaped history in part because they’ve led human beings inevitably to think about those big questions. The outbreak of the plague, for example, raised the whole question of man’s relationship to God. How could it be that an event of this kind could occur with a wise, all-knowing and omniscient divinity? Who would allow children to be tortured, in anguish, in vast numbers? It had an enormous effect on the economy. Bubonic plague killed half the population of four continents and, therefore, had a tremendous effect on the coming of the industrial revolution, on slavery and serfdom. Epidemics also, as we’re seeing now, have tremendous effects on social and political stability. They’ve determined the outcomes of wars, and they also are likely to be part of the start of wars sometimes. So, I think we can say that there’s not a major area of human life that epidemic diseases haven’t touched profoundly.
“Epidemic diseases are not random events that afflict societies capriciously and without warning. On the contrary, every society produces its own specific vulnerabilities. To study them is to understand that society’s structure, its standard of living, and its political priorities,” said Frank M. Snowden in his new book, Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present. The world no longer has the luxury of disunity. Although these are tumultuous times, perhaps uncomfortable for most, they can be exciting in many ways. So much is changing and shifting, and this event will surely act as a catalyst in that. We need to, as humans, realize that we’re all in this together, that what affects one person anywhere affects everyone everywhere, that we are therefore inevitably part of a species, and we need to think in that way rather than about divisions of race and ethnicity, economic status, and all the rest of it.
There are crazy conspiracy theories looming that the Chinese have unleashed this on the world to punish the US and flip the world to the wonderful life of being a communist. These types of theories are destructive and lead to a rise in racism and separation. You’ve got to ask though, even if this were the case, why would the Chinese unleash something so awful on its own people in hopes that it might eventually make its way to the US. When China lowers it borders, it could face a second wave, a often much more severe stage of the virus that is more vicious than the last. We saw this the Spanish Flu as it slammed the US five times as hard the second time it made its way back. After all, all it takes is one person coming back into the country infected with the virus. And it starts all over again. Like a pen of sheep. If the gate is let back in the wolf can easily sneak his way back in to devour his prey. What we need to stop this tenacious beast is a vaccine. Although tests are underway it could still be a year until that is available to the public. So what do we do now? Do our part. Practice social distancing and follow the recommendations of the health authorities. Wait and pray, and surround ourselves with community even if that means by FaceTimes and phone calls. Let’s pray our governments step up and lead us as they are intended to do. Let’s have hope. Let’s not panic. And leave the rest up to God.