Heavy. That’s how it feels right now. We are bombarded with case counts and death counts. Seeing the Johns Hopkins map looks like a doomsday timer counting toward something incomprehensible. The drama builds to new daily crescendos as we brace for the worst amid criticisms of not being prepared or being slow to adjust our choices.
There is a tone of inevitability in the headlines and sometimes an undercurrent of “this is what you get,” like we somehow deserve COVID-19. Even in times of crisis, blame must be assigned. Even in the heat of the battle, we need to find some scapegoat for our misfortune. Let the wailing and gnashing begin.
Such is how drama is created. A narrative begins, searching for direction and audience until we are hooked and brought along on the ride; the tension building and building until we reach an emotional peak. As spectators, we’ve come to expect a dramatic climax. The point of the story brought to completion, leaving us breathless. The Coronavirus drama is tailor-made for the storytellers. However, this time, we’re in it.
Will the heroes save us in time? Will they stop the doomsday clock before it’s too late?
Coronavirus is now our story. Yes, we are still the audience but each of us also has a role to play. Now actors, we have to show up and deliver our lines, take our queues, and move across the stage. At least that’s what the storytellers want. They want us to dutifully embrace the drama, feed the tension, and make the story more dramatic. Gripped, we will see, do, and think of nothing but the story, following our prescribed part.
The kicker for this story is that it is being written as it goes. Not only are we audience and actor, we are also writer and director. It is truly our story. Elements of the narrative are acting upon us but we are still able to move within it and influence its outcome. As I wrote the other day, we are not helpless.
The counter we hear clicking away on the website is not counting toward some inevitably dark crescendo. We have to resist the urge to panic in the midst of climbing case counts and the tension every news outlet is trying to build. The drama is unfolding but it is ours and there is a lot happening within it that does not make any headline. What is happening between each new case and each new death? Glorious life.
Explosion of Innovation
In the midst of the pandemic is an explosion of innovation, activity, and energy in all sorts of constructive directions. Teams are developing tests, medicines, and vaccines to combat the virus. Technology is being redeployed in new ways to help medical teams interact with patients, track the spread of the virus, predict outcomes, link people, and procure goods and services rapidly and efficiently.
Our food supply chain has been reworked to support a population with less mobility and leveraged restaurants in new ways to feed people. Necessity is forcing innovations and adjustments. We are finding new ways to work. We are finding new ways to entertain ourselves. We are also active in different ways. I’ve never seen so many people out walking around in my neighborhood.
Hygiene has taken on new meaning in the age of Coronavirus. Chapped knuckles abound but they reflect a new devotion to cleanliness as a means of prevention. There are those among us who are isolated but I see so much more interaction on different levels. Facetime and Zoom are fulfilling the promise of bringing those of us separated closer together in meaningful interactions.
Our federal, state, and local governments are being tested in novel (pun intended!) ways. They are being forced to move quickly and decisively. Though we won’t get perfect decisions, quick and decisive is appreciated. Accommodations are being made for the crisis and there are glimpses of practical common sense within the bureaucracies that can so often seem opaque and unresponsive. Good things will come of this pandemic that will help us be more nimble in future situations.
A Powerful Health System
In spite of the continued headlines about being overwhelmed and the dramatic photos of our frontline medical staff with suction cup marks around their faces, our health system is fighting the good fight quite effectively. Patient capacity is increasing with the conversion of inactive convention centers and hotels into emergency hospitals and military hospital ships are being brought-in to support large metro areas.
At the same time, our system is still caring for millions of chronically ill patients. Coronavirus has the headlines but many more people are threatened by their day-to-day fights with existing diseases. Our primary care and specialty medical providers are still supporting these patients in the midst of the Coronavirus drama.
The medical supply chain is groaning under the load but is holding together and finding ways to get products where they are needed. There is plenty of gloomy prognosticating but the amazing talent and industrial muscle of our healthcare industry is showing through. We will begin to see the recovery rates climbing on those doomsday tickers. We should all be proud.
Yes, it feels heavy. We are hungry for updates. We want some glimpse into what is coming our way. The truth of the matter is likely that the virus was already spread weeks ago and is going through its lifecycle. Death rates will continue to dip as more cases are identified and, though it is highly contagious, COVID-19 will become one more in a long line of contagions we’ve learned to cope with.
The point? The story is unfolding. We have a big part to play. The inevitability we are feeling is exactly that, a feeling. Feelings are reactive to external stimuli and we are getting lots of negative inputs. We must be resolute. Determined to do all we can to manage our immediate world and make the right decisions to protect ourselves and those around us. But we’ve also got to be resolute in our hopefulness.
The only thing inevitable about this pandemic is that we are going to come through it. Together and ultimately, stronger.