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Keep Living

It has become virtually impossible to even know who to listen to, as there are thousands of experts talking about everything from molecular biology to statistics to epidemiology and who is right?

Social distancing? Sorry, but I don't agree. I think life is more important, and life comes with risks. (I apologize for the exponential infusion of cynicism in this angry ramble, but WTaF...)

It has become virtually impossible to even know who to listen to, as there are thousands of experts talking about everything from molecular biology to statistics to epidemiology and who is right? One thing is for sure, we have collectively become Egon Spengler: we are terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought.

As I type this, the current stats for influenza in Virginia are here,but we all know you aren't going to read through it, so I will summarize: 10,234 cases, 782 deaths. At the risk of making this argument overly data intensive, I'm going to convert that to a mortality rate: 7.64%. And that's the disease we aren't really worried about, because we have these treatments and vaccines, so hey, no biggie. Don't worry about that, because the real big one is coming, so we must stay away from each other, we have to stop living, to prevent this (inevitable) infestation from wreaking havoc upon our society.

Wait, we kinda just did that ourselves.

An incredibly intelligent friend shared a bit from the NY Times about our perception of risk. He's a pulmonologist, which is the type of doctor that takes care of people with influenza in the ICU. I'd share the link, but the Times wants you to have a subscription or give them a kidney to have access, and precious few would read through it either so I will again summarize: when it comes to assessing risk, we suck at it.

There is another bit that I read a long time ago which has proven out like the prophecy in an epic fantasy about how we form and maintain our opinions. Summary: I am not going to change your preconceived beliefs. No matter what logic I use, no matter the data I show you, your mind will simply continue to believe whatever it is that you want to believe. If my argument is in lockstep with your own opinion, well... exactly! But if I present evidence that goes against what you believe, something funny happens: it still strengthens your convictions. It also proves that nagging insight that's been lurking for a while: I am a babbling idiot and anything I say from now on can and will be used against me in the court of public opinion.

So we are supposed to all adhere to "social distancing" for the betterment of society, to protect our loved ones, our young, our old, our vulnerable. To even suggest otherwise clearly demonstrates a wonton disregard for our disadvantaged. Um, what about smoking and alcohol and (gasp) driving? Why do we continue to be allow these horrid activities? And stairs. Every year, 1000 people die falling down stairs. Don't get me started on concussive injury in sports, because a life without football -- or the ability to use your head in football, I mean soccer, wait -- well it is no life at all.

So we are shutting down the world. Being together is too dangerous. We are locking down nursing homes, not allowing people in to see their family members, for their safety, to protect them against a virus that isn't here (yet!), while ignoring a dozen other viruses that spread exactly the same way and kill them just as dead. Because the other stuff was just part of life; but not this, it is new!

Everything we do in life has risks and consequences. The wise thing to do is assess the risks, try to mitigate them within reason, and then live life to the fullest, understanding that, sometimes, things aren't going to go as planned. Right now, we have lost our collective minds, terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought. We are not even considering the damage we are going to unleash. Like this virus, the deleterious effects of our hysterical reactions are going to expand exponentially. Our calculated actions will be worse than the damage from the virus had we just gone on with life, happily unaware.

In case you made it this far and agree with me, here are two things I recommend you do, every day, even when there is no deadly pandemic. These are simple things that will let us all live our lives to the fullest while mitigating risks within reason. I'd tell you that I am a pathologist (which is still true, even if I am now unemployed) to support the validity of my arguments, but it doesn't matter. If you don't agree with what I said here, I am not going to change your mind, and you now think I am an even bigger threat to society. Fine. You do your thing, I'll do mine, and life will sort it out:

  • Rule 1: stay home when you are sick, and encourage others to do the same. If you have a fever, you are sick. Stay home. Stay in your own damn bed, don't bring your plague to work and get everyone else sick. I don't care what orifice is affected, keep it away from me until it stops oozing. If you are an employer, don't be part of the problem. You know what I mean. This is how you mitigate flu-like illnesses that are spread by coughing. And don't give me the crap about asymptomatic carriers, because it's symptomatic people who break this rule (and employers who make them) that are the real problem.
  • Rule 2: Don't put stuff in your mouth if you don't know where it's been. Other than some truly scary parasites that can burrow through your skin, things that make you sick have to get in through an opening, and we are usually the ones that do the work. If you shake someone's hand -- an act that now ranks with squirrel-suit base jumping in absolute risks -- don't put your hand in your mouth. Or up your nose. If you are a healthcare worker going from sick patient to sick patient, hand-washing is an important part of preventing the spread of disease from one person to the next. For everyone else, you wash your hands for your own safety -- to make them safe to put in your mouth. If you feel the need to do this 1000 times a day to reduce your risk, that's your choice. I like to live on the edge. But you don't have anything to fear from me, because I always follow rule #1.