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Member since: Mon Jul 15, 2019, 06:26 PM
Number of posts: 1,928

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About the Stupid Meme Of The Day, and How Long This Crap Is Going To Last

All y'all have seen whatever stupid meme of the day that seems to be going around. Yesterday, it was "My boyfriend's sister's uncle's ex-wife, who I know is TOTALLY a reliable source, has seen tanks running in the streets in <insert city just close enough that people seeing the meme won't go personally look>." The day before, it was "OMG, what will be do when the trucks stop running?!?!?!?" (Pro-tip: they won't.) Fundamentally, we have a lot of dumb and/or scared people, and they let that anxiety out by telling each other scary stories. Today's has been, "OMG, we're realistically going to have to do this for a YEAR!"

No. No, we're not. First, please stop making up scary stories. Second, if you think this social distancing/lockdown crap is going to last a year, you aren't thinking straight. Here's why.

1) We're all going to get COVID-19. The game we're playing is to kill as few people as possible, quell dangerous hot spots, and remove reservoirs for this virus to play in. Mathematically, the first wave is about 24 days (based on infection, days until symptoms become apparent, and then either getting over it or dying in the hospital). If we all do this distancing for 24 days, we will stop the majority of the epidemic, just like China and South Korea. There will be a smaller wave, so add up to another 24 days to that, because we will have smaller case groupings - unfortunate medical personnel who are going down themselves even as the initial hospital hit dies down, and people in other necessary jobs who get unlucky with the wrong person coming face to face. Most of us won't get it, though, until (a) the initial waves are down, and (b) hopefully there's a vaccine or an antiviral available to make the course milder or virtually undetectable.

2) In that reality, we're all planning to survive. Most of us will make that goal. Civilization has high hopes of surviving. But if civilization is to survive, this level of containment must end about the time of the first waves, say 48-60 days from now. Simply put, this virus will get anywhere it isn't right now, in that time. There are no places and no industries that will be untouched. Governments MUST shore up their people's ability to buy food and survive NOW, but if it keeps up more than about 60 days, it won't work. Governments can basically print money, but that's about how long they can keep it up before creating runaway inflation because there are just not enough people working, and not enough economic activity, to keep up the pretense that the money means anything. Bread that costs $1,000/loaf in monopoly money won't be feeding the vast majority of the people. The joke is, some nearsighted analysts are urging people to buy health care stocks. Do they really believe that in 60+ days, that industry isn't going to be flattened by unpaid bills that NEVER will be paid? So, after the initial waves, people and businesses and entire economies are going to have to get back to it.

3) That means we're going to lose a lot of businesses, and change a lot of industries, in the near term - say 1-3 years. We're going to be doing a lot more telecommuting. A lot of malls will close - permanently. Much of our buying will remain online. Restaurants, bars, libraries, schools, and smaller festivals and venues will cautiously reopen. Larger ones may not, say state fairs or the largest music festivals, for at least a year. When festivals and concerts restart, possibly even when mere theaters reopen, it will be with additional rules and security. Rather than the foolish current security theater of cursory bag checks, there will be contact questions and fever checks. The airline (and travel, generally) industry will be the last to crawl out of the rubble. I don't think we're going to be flying domestically or internationally in any number until at least 2021 (assuming the current timelines for a vaccine and other trials), and even then it will look a lot like flying post-911. It'll look rather like the hodgepodge of additional security checks from place to place, but rather than pat downs it'll be the same questions and tests as going into a large venue, plus reporting requirements if anyone gets sick.

Bottom line: we are not going to be in lockdown for some long, indefinite period. We may see some returns to more stringent distancing measures before we all fight to get the vaccine, much like we saw in the 1950s.

Which brings me to this: We know how this works. This is NOT unique. The Spanish Flu epidemic, by the way, is completely the wrong analogy to COVID-19, except to the extent that we can take direct lessons from the spread in areas that distanced, versus those that didn't. No, to look at COVID-19, we have to take our lessons from Ebola. That disease was fully capable of going worldwide, highly contagious, and not susceptible to seasonal cycles. (The big difference is because Ebola kills so thoroughly and so fast, it had a self-limitation built in.) Unlike the situation in Africa, most people around the world have been quick to ditch the "It's a hoax!" stupidity, and to stick pretty decently to quarantine principles. Also, look to the waves of polio in the early 1950s. Like COVID-19, there were multiple strains, but only 1 strain caused severe and deadly response. About 1% of victims died or had permanent disability. Polio tended to be seasonal, because of higher levels of the virus in sewage in the summer - which led to some permanent changes in how we deal with sewage. But more importantly, there was a short-term protective effect discovered, with gamma-globulin, that could provide some protection, and then the Salk vaccine in 1955. If you look at the history of how the vaccine was created, we are literally years ahead of that process, in a matter of 3 months.

We're going to have a lot of changes for now, but not as drastic as people think, and not as long. But we do have to stop scaring each other, and ourselves. We need to fight back against all the tall tales on the Internet. If you see something, say something, to borrow the odious phrase. If there's a scary tall story, call it out. If there's outright misinformation like some of the sites touting gargling with salt water, report it, get it taken down, scrag it with fire in the comments, whatever you need to do. And above all, spread both truth and kindness to people who are in desperate need of it.
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