Navigating the Coronavirus Era

I’ll have to be honest. When I first heard about the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Wuhan in January, I didn’t think it would escalate and result in countries around the world scrambling for a way to mitigate the spread. Being “far away” from the epicenter made me feel disconnected and a part of me felt hopeful that COVID-19 could be contained before getting out of hand. After all, we’ve made it through SARS back in 2003 and MERS in 2012, both of which had higher fatality rates. But things are different from back then. We’re dealing with a different virus and in this day and age, “far away” isn’t really far away. As much as we benefit from globalization, we’re also feeling its full effect through COVID-19’s rapid spread, the deep interdependence between major economies, and how vulnerable we all are to unexpected shocks.

Right now, what we’re living through feels like something out of a movie, but at least we are all in it together.

Across the country, major cities including San Francisco, New York City and Seattle have issued stay-at-home orders to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of the virus. Schools and all non-essential businesses have been asked to close. Major events, such as SXSW, have been cancelled, and almost everyone I know is working from home.

San Francisco, where I currently live, was the first to order a shelter-in-place almost 2 weeks ago. What this means is I’m barred from gathering outside, but I can leave the house for “essential activities”, such as grocery shopping and going to the doctor. Most restaurants in my neighborhood have closed their doors, but a few have kept their delivery and takeout services up and running. People can also walk and exercise outside in public spaces, as long as they stay 6 feet away from others.

These measures are imperative for the health and safety of our nation, although devastating for our economy. This week’s uptick after the signing of a historic $2T stimulus package does not make up for the fact that the stock market has wiped out nearly 3 years of gains. Small businesses, the airline and hospitality industries are all suffering major losses and that extends downstream to the now 3 million+ workers whose jobs have been cut. My roommate, a marketing manager at a local restaurant chain, recently received an email regarding employment termination if the doors do not reopen by April 7th.

So yes, COVID-19 is very real and it can get personal. Even if it hasn’t turned your world upside down just yet, it is leaving people without an income and ability to provide for themselves and their families.

So please, let’s all do our part by following the social distancing guidelines, staying at home, and limiting the time outside to truly essential activities. With COVID-19’s incubation being anywhere from 2 to 14 days, we can be asymptomatic for a while and spread the virus to others without knowing. This community spread is what puts our healthcare system at risk. There are simply not enough beds, ICUs, ventilators for everyone and having to choose between which sick patient should receive care, is the last thing we want to do.

For those in the less-vulnerable category who underestimate the virus and call it “just another flu” (yes, I’m looking at you springbreakers), now’s the time to get serious. Staying at home is a small sacrifice compared to what our seniors and elderly have gone through (e.g., serving our country during World War II) or what our medical workers are doing each day to save lives. I know we’re all coping and adjusting to life under quarantine, but.. hey, we’re all in this together!

How are all of you doing during this time?

I’ll be checking in every now and then to post updates from SF, but until then, please stay safe and healthy!

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