Dealing with pandemic anxiety

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, May 12, 2020, 10:30 PM | comments: 0

If there's a universal symptom of the Covid-19 pandemic among the non-infected, it's anxiety. There's a disease out there that has no vaccine, and no particularly good treatment options. It's super contagious, and just as soon as you're convinced that it's just something old people die of, there's enough data to demonstrate that isn't the case. And now there's even the bizarre related syndrome causing inflammation of internal organs in healthy kids, and it's not an isolated thing. Oh, and probably 1 in 4 adults aren't working, with entirely industries themselves subject to death. Good times, right? I wish this was just exaggeration and hyperbole, but it's clearly not.

I'm lucky enough to be working, so my anxiety isn't rooted in that, though in the back of my mind I know there are no guarantees. My anxiety comes down to two things: One, the way out from all of this is not even remotely clear, because a vaccine is at best six months out, and probably longer. Two, the actions of people in general lately are not those you would expect given the reality of the first problem. Being that cavalier about it will make things worse, not just in terms of body count, but also in terms of the economy. What a strange idea that more sick and dying people won't also cause economic damage, as if there's a trade-off. Yeah, when economists and scientists get together, they collectively agree that there are no good outcomes.

To that end, I've resigned myself to listening more than trying to reach my own conclusions. Not all voices are equal. Politicians and talking heads on cable "news" are not experts, and they clearly don't seem to care what the experts say. For example, in today's briefing by the feds' top health officials today:

Sen. Rand Paul: "With all due respect, Dr. Fauci, I don't think you're the end all, I don't think you're the one person who gets to make the decision..."

Dr. Anthony Fauci: "I've never made myself out to be the end all. I'm a scientist, a physician and a public health official. I give advice according to the best scientific evidence. I don't give advice about economic things, I don't give advice about anything other than public health."

That's what causes me anxiety. We've seen this before, with climate change, but the outcomes of disregard are far more immediate, coming within weeks. In some rural areas, community spread is already on the rise, and you can bet we'll be seeing how those rural, under-equipped hospitals will be overrun. (And as usual, the poor and minorities will bear the worst of it.)

I'm disappointed that we're not smarter than this. American life has become so entitled and we're so used to convenience that anything reducing it is not culturally acceptable. I don't like it, at all, but if I had to do it for another year, I'd figure out how to make it work. I hope the experts are wrong, but there isn't any evidence that they are. It's not even that things are going to get worse, it's that they haven't gotten better in the first place, and nobody seems to care. No state met the weak restart standards of the White House even, so people are acting as they did mid-March.

I miss frozen margaritas at Epcot and cruises and beach days and just a simple lunch out by myself. The actions of the general public are not going to get us back to that any faster.


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