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Moving Forward in Our New Reality

The last few weeks have been nothing short of terrifying for a lot of us. As a mom, wife, daughter, and business owner, I’ve found myself struggling with many different aspects of how Coronavirus impacts me and my family. I have asthma and kidney disease, my son has asthma, my mom has asthma, my in-laws are doctors at a hospital in Spain. Like most of us, I’ve watched and felt everything turn upside down in the matter of a few weeks. And I know more uncertainty lies ahead.

I pulled my son out of preschool, started social distancing, and asked my employees to work from home on Thursday 3/12. Two days later, I woke up to tightness in my chest and shortness of breath. It was deeply unsettling to say the least.

Throughout the week, the symptoms went from uncomfortable to alarming; there was a point where I was winded by searching for my kiddo’s hoodie in a dryer full of clothes. I was exhausted, and slept most of the day. I’m an active person – I don’t get winded by things easily, even with asthma. Needless to say, I was freaked the entire week. Still today, Tuesday, March 24th, the tightness remains, but I’m confident my symptoms are starting to improve – whatever these symptoms are. I’ve chalked it up to anxiety + asthma + my body quitting after months of working non-stop, but who knows.

I’m a firm believer in things happening for a reason, and I think last week went down the way it did so I could slow down and level set. We have nothing without our health. I can’t be a good mom, I can’t be a good wife, and I certainly can’t run a business if my body gives out. It is the one commonality we share as humans: when in poor health, we can’t do the things we need and want to do. 

All the initial fears I had of “how am I going to launch my company, how am I going to keep paying my employees, how will we pay our bills if the economy collapses,” became secondary so I could focus on my health.

It also gave me a lot of time to observe things like data and projections people have shared about Coronavirus + COVID. I live, eat, and breathe data and human behavior all day long, so I’ve been trying to find more patterns than the obvious “if it’s not contained, it spreads quickly.” I’ve observed the predictions and modeling people want to believe. I find myself confused by the various statements coming out of people hoping to get an understanding or grasp of how things will go so we can all feel something we all need to feel: control.

Our tech lead, Russell Foltz-Smith wrote this the other day:

“mathematical seriousness for everyone. I feel compelled to put this here in a somewhat irritating way because I’m seeing a lot of people I think are very bright post a lot of very non-thoughtful content. and bad information right now is far worse than no information.

1) all models are wrong, some are useful.

2) prediction is impossible at this scale.

3) ‘flattening the curve’ is a generalized, idealized concept. The virus itself is not a continuous phenomena. while there is some ability to model population scale events as continuous, the thing itself is not and the math may work in weird ways.

4) the data being collected and presented is not uniform, is not being uniformly collected, is full of errors, and may be manipulated by process or by choice or by random error. law of large numbers may make some of that data f*ckery moot, but don’t think for a second a virus that’s hard to detect in the majority of people carrying it and there being trillions of dollars on the line for being honest about the scope makes for high fidelity data.

5) virus/biology is complex, not static. aka THINGS CHANGE.

6) we do not have the best minds/best computers feeding you information through mass channels, including the public internet. reader beware, EVERYWHERE.

7) you have a moral obligation to be overreactive and to avoid passing anything to anyone. Beyond that you have a selfish interest if you care about your own health and your own economics to do everything you can to avoid spreading this until we have far more information about how to treat it and how to navigate our new reality. you gain nothing by spreading the virus. you gain nothing by ‘predicting that we overreacted.’  stay home. avoid clogging any health care or public service infrastructure.

8) if you feel compelled to continue sharing data I strongly advise you to read up on your statistics 101 and calculus. I’m not kidding. You also should study up on basic biology and how infection works 101.

I don’t want to point out on every thread where people are sharing bullshit. there’s a lot of it.”

Russell is spot on. There are too many dynamics at play here to really understand what the outcome will be. For starters, we don’t have a clear understanding of how many people are actually infected as a baseline. But even if that data was clean, there’s way too many variables from one country/region to the next: how/when was quarantine put into place & how seriously people adhered to it, what the overall health/age of the country is (Italy has a larger older population, but the US has a lot of unhealthy folks), what the social norms are (kissing on the cheek vs. bowing), how well their hospital and healthcare systems are running, and whether or not the virus is evolving.

I know we are all looking for answers, and they will come over time. But as someone who has learned to live and grow in the discomfort of uncertainty at so many points in my life, I hope we can all find a way to hunker down and accept the uncertainty for a bit.

I hope everyone who is fortunate to still have a job can contribute in the best way they can (shout out to all working and stay-at-home parents who now added teacher to their list of titles). Find ways to help those less fortunate than you. And urge our government to help EVERYONE get through this in a meaningful way. As of today, the push for trickle-down economics remains – how does that work during a pandemic? People are hoarding toilet paper, you don’t think they’re above hoarding money in the state of panic we’re in?

Most importantly, we all need to STAY HOME and take this seriously until we’re far more educated about it. And even when we think we know enough, things could change, for better or for worse, but we’re in no position to bank on the better.

It is uncertain, and it is heavy, but embracing and growing in the uncertainty is all we can control right now. Be grateful for what and who you have. Protect your health. Deep breaths. One problem at a time. We are survivors, and we will find our way.

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