Going Viral: How to Stay Calm Amidst the Pandemic Storm

Going Viral: How to Stay Calm Amidst the Pandemic Storm


“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs . . .”

If, by Rudyard Kipling

Here’s some “Breaking News,” as the media likes to say. There’s this coronavirus (aka COVID-19) going around and, unlike most “Breaking News,” it’s important and it’s impacting lives. The good news is that the overwhelming majority of people who contract the virus will recover completely with fluids and rest. The bad news is that given the large numbers involved, even if 99% of the people who get the virus survive it, many will not. As Seth Godin writes in his blog, “There’s a slow-moving tragedy happening, and it’s going to impact people we care about.”  

There appears to be little one can do to avoid the randomness of getting the virus, or to prepare. Wearing a mask is currently said to be ineffective, other than perhaps stopping you from touching your hands to your face. Commercially available masks apparently don’t block particles as small as COVID viruses, and the germ is thought to remain potent on surfaces for nine days. No need to buy a respirator or stock up on oxygen supplements – you’ll need a hospital if you get pneumonia. Yelling at people near you who cough and don’t cover is both rude and ineffective. About all you can do is buy soap – if the stores have any left – and wash your hands a lot.  

The coronavirus has unleashed a panic. We’ve been through scares before such as SARS (2002-03), the Avian Flu (2006), the Swine Flu (2009), and the Zika Virus (2015-16), but this time it’s different. Travel is being curtailed, events around the world are being cancelled, and people are being encouraged to stay home. Even though the economy is sound the stock market is in free fall with record single day declines. 

Nick Slater CaricatureAs the international correspondent for the LOA! team, I’ll note that the reaction over here in Europe is even more intense than back home. At the time of this writing, the virus has hit Italy harder than any other European country, and Italy has responded by enacting restrictions ranging from travel bans to the postponement of the Serie A football (soccer) season. The French have closed the Louvre and banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people, but virus concerns didn’t prevent the largest-ever gathering of people dressed as Smurfs. Here in England, of course, it’s “Keep calm and carry on.”

The coronavirus is the “perfect storm” for the media because they can’t be blamed for over-hyping it like a “named” storm on the Weather Channel.

This virus is real, it’s causing great suffering, and it’s coming to your town if it’s not there already. The coronavirus is covered 24/7 with constant updates on the number of cases and deaths and the countries and counties and cities to which it has spread. Even when a health official has something positive to say, the next word in the coverage is often “But” followed by why we should discount what was said. Those fanning the panic would have us believe it’s Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death right here and now. And as Prince Prospero and friends discovered, there’s no hiding in the abbey while the plague passes through the countryside. 

Here’s suggesting that we all decline the invitation to obsess on this, to follow it throughout each day, and to be consumed with worry about it. Medicine and medical care have come a long way since the days of the of the great plague, and a lot of smart, caring people are working on this, with funding to support them. Unless and until otherwise required, here’s to staying the course and living our lives. Which means spending time with those who matter to us and staying focused on achieving what matters to us.

Notes and sources: Your Look Out Above! authors have a bucket list event planned for this spring: attending the French Open in Paris in late May. Nick is currently living in London, so this is the year to go. If they hold the tournament, and if planes are flying, our plan as of now is to be there. Look for us week one on the TV – we’ll be the two guys in the upper deck not wearing masks!

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