Parameters for this blog post: Pandemic level 0: Normal flu season. Pandemic level 5: Contagion movie. Pandemic level 10: The Stand by Stephen King.
I think we’re somewhere around Pandemic level 3. I say level 3 because of the following:
· There is a cause for concern. We are no longer at containment. We are at leveling the curve for emergency care and working to mitigate the spread as much as possible. The breakdown of hospital resources (ventilators) in Italy is an example of why we need to flatten the curve.
· There is some mild panic. It’s still thoughtful and rational. It’s “I need hand sanitizer and TP.” There is no real threat of looting. It’s not a real panic. Real panic is where you will accidently drown another person trying to find the surface of the water. It’s where you will leave behind loved ones in the face of danger because you are no longer thinking. It’s where fight or flight has taken over and where people refuse to open doors to neighbors out of fear.
· Long asymptomatic infectious period. A person can be infected with COVID-19 for as many as 14 days without showing any symptoms while being contagious. The R0 (R-naught), the estimated number of individuals that each infected person will transmit to, for the COVID-19 is currently between 2 and 3.
· Specific vulnerable population. In Contagion and The Stand, anyone and everyone could get the virus and all ages would get sick and die. Whereas COVID-19 is specifically lethal to elderly and autoimmune compromised populations. I’ve read a lot of data out there that say up to 40-70% of the world’s population will catch COVID-19, but only have comparatively mild symptoms. Obviously, more than just the elderly and autoimmune compromised can get sick and die.
· There is no vaccine. Yet. We don’t try to contain the flu during flu season. That’s because we have a vaccine. COVID-19 does not yet have a vaccine. That’s one of the reasons it is so dangerous.
· There’s a lot more data out there. This is not an exhaustive list. It’s some of the reasons for my thought process and estimate of the danger. Don't forget to do your own research.
In the Seattle area, many companies (mostly tech companies) have cancelled all non-essential travel. Also, those who can work at home have been sent home until the last week of March (at the earliest). Many of those companies have put support staff on “holiday hours” but are still paying full-time wages. Some are not, and that will lead to future problems.
As an author of dark speculative fiction, and a former military brat who lived in Europe during the Cold War, I watch this all with a wary eye. Every person of my local social writing group, Wit’n’Word, has a spouse who has been sent to work from home. Including me. This isn’t too bad. The Husband understands I need quiet and long periods of time to write. On the other hand, this entire week he has early morning conference calls with the people he was supposed to meet in Boston.
My dreams are unquiet. Example: last night, I dreamed that the Husband agreed to taken in 14 cats without asking me because two of them were singapura kittens and he knows I love them. There were also a LOT of people in the house because of the cats. By the end of the dream, I was slowly containing the cats and kicking the unwanted house guests out.
Clearly, my brain believes that the Husband is bringing a lot of chaos home and it doesn’t know how to deal with it all…yet.
I do have some anxiety. I really don’t want to live through an actual Armageddon. At least, not one this slow moving. Give me Night of the Comet any day of the week and let me have the world’s resources to survive on. You can skip the zombies, though.
Still, I have hope. Hope that the spring and summer months will become an obstacle to COVID-19 and its spread. Hope that a vaccine will be approved over the next year. Hope that I will still be able to make some of my summer convention season.
I also have common sense. Washing my hands regularly. Limiting my forays out into the world. Plans of what to do when I do go to conventions—gloves, wipes, no handshakes or hugs. The knowledge that some events may be postponed or cancelled and there’s little I can do about that.
Now, I guess we will wait and see.