Scattered Coronavirus Thoughts

I’m still processing this pandemic as I putter around my house and deep clean my kitchen. I’m pretty far away from being able to form fully coherent thoughts, so here’s some scattered thoughts that keep popping into my brain:

For probably the first time in history, the majority of people around the world are paying attention to the exact same thing at the exact same time. (The Spanish flu coincided with World War 1, a person’s perspective on prior major world events depended on what side your country was on, and people during previous pandemics didn’t have the real-time connectivity of the World Wide Web). Which is fascinating to consider. Everyone’s pointing in the same direction. Hopefully a silver lining is that this terrible — but shared — experience creates alignment that we can use to come together as a world community.

Everything just feels so reactive. People are only changing their behavior when they’re forced to. Countries that haven’t had major outbreaks yet are carrying on like it’s not going to happen to them. It’s super puzzling, frustrating behavior.

I’m super worried about the mental toll this taking on everyone. I haven’t really seen any news outlet really mentally preparing people for the fact that we’re all sitting at home watching body count numbers rise. This is no doubt having really acute effects on people’s mental health, and it will have very lasting effects as well. Because this is such a shared experience, I hope we can openly discuss our fears, anxieties, etc, and use this as an opportunity to de-stigmatize talking about our mental health.

After this is all said and done I’m going to be fascinated to see the ecological impact of all this. China’s air pollution dropped significantly when their quarantine efforts began, and now the whole world is limiting movement, industry, and human activity in some capacity. I’m curious to see what effects this has on air quality, water quality, flora and fauna, etc. If things are measurably better, how can we retain some of those gains and transition this shared effort into addressing the long-term health of our planet.

After 9/11, everyone was keen on chanting NEVER AGAIN! and made significant changes to how society operates. This will be orders of magnitude worse than 9/11, so I hope the response is orders of magnitude more drastic. I really hope this leads to universal health care in the US, paid sick leave, a stronger social safety net, and a better recognition (and the pay for that recognition) for everyone who keeps our society humming along.

The world just told us to slow the fuck down. We’ve all been moving at breakneck speed, trying to eek out every last drop of productivity out of our days. This pandemic is forcing everyone to re-calibrate, slow down, and focus on what matters most.

Occasionally, my mind drifts to the fact that there are almost 400,000,000 guns in America. And then I panic force my brain to change the channel.

With everyone sitting at home, there’s a lot of labor and resources sitting at home. So many people – myself included — want to help, but it’s difficult to know how exactly to materially help beyond staying at home and not spreading the disease. I had a talk yesterday with one of the people in change of 3D printing efforts for the largest health care system in my city. I’ve been thinking “of course let’s just print a bunch of masks and equipment!” but he painted a different picture of the challenges and changing needs of the medical supply chain. There are efforts underway to democratize production of equipment, but it would be nice if there was just a loud and clear order of “hey Brad, do this, this, and this.” You best believe I’d get right on it.

Thank you so incredibly much to all the medical professionals, truck drivers, warehouse workers, grocery store workers, farmers, and everyone else who are on the front lines and keep society functioning. And thanks to all those people in professions that are perpetually undervalued: teachers, restaurant workers, sanitation workers. I hope we come out of this with a newfound appreciation of everyone, irrespective of their occupation or status.