Coronavirus and My Job

Say it with me: I vow to share only reliable, sober-minded information. I vow not to spread the virus of rumors and fear-inducing stories.

I do not think coronavirus and COVID-19 are a hoax.

It seems prudent to me to follow the whole Flatten the Curve thing, whereby we all take measures to avoid overwhelming the health care system all at once.

I’m 56 years old this year. Which means that I’m either in the at-risk population or very close to being in it — depending on if you believe the people who say the at-risk population is those over 55 or the people who say it’s those over 60.

Even so, I’m not terribly worried for my own sake. At least not about the disease itself. After all, even in the portion of the population I’m in, I have a better than 98% chance of being OK if I got it. I might even have had it already. From around December 20, 2019 until nearly the middle of January 2020, I had something that exactly matched the symptoms I’ve been hearing are associated with COVID-19 in every detail. 

That’s too early, you say? Well according to this Newsweek article the virus may have been spreading unchecked in China as early as October, 2019. Which is plenty of time for it to have traveled to Los Angeles, given how many people go from here to China and back every day, and also given the fact that I’m often in places around the city where lots of Chinese people go.

Actual photo of me with whatever I had in December and January

This doesn’t mean I’m going to do foolish things in the belief that I’m already immune (I’m well aware that there’s some debate as to whether people who’ve had it once can get it again). Even if I am immune, I wouldn’t want to be a carrier to someone who isn’t.

I’m somewhat more worried when it comes to my 79 year-old father and my sister who had breast cancer a couple of years ago. But, according to the most reliable reports I’ve read, even if my elderly father got this, there’s more than an 85% chance he’d be just fine. My sister’s odds are much better than that.

Something else worries me a lot more than the virus itself. It’s the effect that the unchecked spread of unreliable information and fear-mongering reports — in both the regular media and especially in social media — is having on the general public. I try to remind myself that, being reasonably well-informed on this subject means it’s unlikely anyone whose posts I’d see on social media knows more than I do. Sadly, that goes for much of the mainstream media as well.

There is nothing to be gained from reading the latest up-to-the-minute reports. There really isn’t that much more that could be said, at least in terms of anything practical or useful. The number of confirmed cases will continue to rise. But much of that rise will include, not just new cases, but will also reflect the effect of more and better testing of people already affected. We’ll also see more celebrities getting diagnosed. That’s all I need to know. The specifics are unnecessary.

I am hopeful that one of these days we’ll hear about a vaccine or new treatments. Again, I’ve read about how difficult it is to make a vaccine or treatment for something like this. But a lot of very smart people are working on it. And so I choose to remain optimistic. I’m also looking forward to the warmer weather that will come as soon as it stops raining here, since viruses aren’t as active in warm weather.

In any case, more alarming statistics and other such reports are not going to do me any good. I’ve put myself on a media blackout for the time being. I trust that the information I actually need will find its way to me. It always has before.

It is a disgrace that so many of us are so intent on scaring each other as much as possible. There is no amount of ad revenue money or social validation and prestige that’s worth the chaos that these unchecked rumors, gossip, and general fear-mongering could cause. 

Already, there’s no toilet paper or hand sanitizer to be found anywhere in the city of Los Angeles. I pity those who have hoarded such items or who are trying to profit from reselling them at high prices. The karma they are producing will be a heavy burden for them to bear.

Whatever you may think of the present American political administration, remember that — as their detractors endlessly remind us — they are a bunch of old men. Old men are, by far, the most vulnerable to this disease. And old men who travel a lot and constantly interact with the public are especially at risk. I’m not a fan of this administration, at all. But they have a stronger motivation than most of us to do their utmost to curb the spread of this illness.

I would like to see their opponents in the mainstream and social media put aside the finger-pointing, mockery, and blaming — even if it might be deserved — and get down to the business of cooperating to make things better. It might not be as good for ratings or “likes,” but we all have to make sacrifices right now. I am trying to be as optimistic as I can that this is even possible.

In any case, that’s out of my control. What I can control is what I do. 

So, in addition to doing all the social distancing and hygiene stuff, I have taken the vow that I put at the beginning of this article. I’m not going to share any information that sounds unreliable or contains unnecessary amounts of gratuitous scariness. I’m not going to consume any more news than I truly need.

That’s because I have an important job to do. Whenever everybody around me is freaking out, it’s my job to remain calm and centered. A lot of people depend on me for that. This has been my main job for many years now.

My job also includes answering loads of emails from freaked out people around the world. You can help me to do my job by understanding that I am already keeping up on the best sources of reliable information about this outbreak. I do not need to receive material that is clearly intended to scare its readers (you’d be surprised how many people have felt it necessary to “educate” me with this sort of junk).

Thank you for your support!


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