Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Virus Notes

I've come around to a new view (framing?) on the virus: people need to panic more.

I don't mean aristocratic Mrs. Howell style panicking - getting all frothy and screaming at anyone who sneezes. But the precautions most of us are observing with 50-75% diligence should likely be closer to 90%. Even more hand washing, even more distancing, though not to the crazy point quite yet. Hanging with a small group of friends in a park, fine. Hanging with a small group of friends facing each other in a confined and poorly-ventilated space, not fine.

I was persuaded on this by a report from a doctor in Italy who sounded like he was screaming a report from a war zone. Here's the money line:
“I really don’t understand this war on panic really worse than neglect and carelessness during an epidemic of this sort?”
Can't argue.

It reminds me of when people used to hesitate to recommend their favorite restaurants on Chowhound for fear of having them go downhill from oppressive crowds. I'd always note that while I've watched thousands of great places close from lack of interest, only a tiny handful went downhill from over-attention.

Our first response was bovine complacency, and that escalated - fast! - to a heightened alert some people find extreme. It's not extreme yet. It's only extreme in counterpoint to the recent complacency. As I wrote here:
We latch onto a framing until it's forcibly ripped from us. Getting your lunch money stolen by the school bully will no longer seem like the most traumatic possible thing once you've broken your leg playing softball, and that's instantly nothing if someone starts firing a gun, and even that becomes a mere blip when you've spotted the huge asteroid in the sky hurtling toward Earth.
We're still thinking lunch money, while the gunman approaches. Don't get frothy, but do resist complacency. All the smart and informed experts tell us this will be A Thing. In an interesting article about "flattening the curve" (the gist of which, never explicitly stated, is the geometric aspect; i.e. every infected person who passes the virus along potentially creates a forward-facing ripple effect of thousands of cases and dozens of deaths), an American doctor says:
“I think people are not yet fully understanding the scale of this outbreak and how dangerous it is to downplay,” he said.
Two other notes:

1. Word hasn't gotten out despite the media machine's eagerness for news, but the virus can present gastro-intestinal symptoms. It's not all coughing and fever.

2. FWIW I'm prioritizing getting enough sleep. I'm pretty sure I've seen studies showing that sleep deprivation suppresses immune response. So I'm not indulging impulses to stay up late and binge view TV or read another book chapter. And I'm not making early morning plans. Whatever I can do to protect and foster extra sleep, I'm doing. I'm also eating extra healthy. No meal skipping.

Here is a smart, well-written first-hand account from a resident of Beijing.


Anonymous said...

There’s nothing inherently healthy about not skipping meals.

Jim Leff said...

I think you meant “unhealthy”.

Body likes steady cycles of food and sleep. Disrupting/denying is stressing. I’m stressing my body as little as possible. YMMV.

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