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All This Trouble, for Nothing!

It’s crazy, don’t you think? Crazy! All this drama, everybody being told to stay home, the economy crashing all around us… all this trouble for nothing! It’s a conspiracy, to increase government control of our lives. It’s an outrage!

Can you believe it? Some people actually think this way. It’s an outrage, all right. It’s an outrage to flout quarantine orders, an outrage to go out and try to live a normal life as if nothing has gone wrong. Something has gone terribly wrong. But I agree with one little piece of that made-up rant at the top of my essay here. It’s all for nothing. At best, it’s all for nothing. If everyone followed all the rules and maintained the required quarantine, took sanitary measures and didn’t touch their own face after touching anything else, nothing would happen. The progression of the disease would be stopped, or slowed to a pace that could be managed.


HANDS Wash them often
ELBOW Cough into it
FACE Don’t touch it
SPACE Keep safe distance
HOME Stay if you can

This isn’t news. We know this stuff. Well, you and I do. It’s simply stated but hard to do, at least hard to do thoroughly, completely, every time. But is it all for nothing? Is there no point in going to all this trouble ruining our routines, ruining our comfort, and to a significant degree ruining our lives?

Photo: NBC News

I don’t think anyone reading here really needs convincing, or if they do it would be hopeless for me to try. I thought this perspective, though, would be worth sharing. It came to me via my Hausman family brother Jim.

Emily Landon, the chief infectious disease epidemiologist at University of Chicago Medicine, took the lectern after Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D), who on Friday afternoon announced that the state would undergo a stay-at-home order for 2½ weeks starting Saturday evening.

“The healthy and optimistic among us will doom the vulnerable,” Landon said. She acknowledged that restrictions like a shelter-in-place may end up feeling “extreme” and “anticlimactic” — and that’s the point.

“It’s really hard to feel like you’re saving the world when you’re watching Netflix from your couch. But if we do this right, nothing happens,” Landon said. “A successful shelter-in-place means you’re going to feel like it was all for nothing, and you’d be right: Because nothing means that nothing happened to your family. And that’s what we’re going for here.” 1

I am reminded of the Y2K problem. It was a problem that went away. It came to nothing. You might be too young to remember, but approaching the year 2000 computer scientists raised the alarm that since the advent of computers, dates had been stored with only two digits. When the year rolled, no computer way down in its primal innards would understand it was not the year 1900. Every computer-driven process that was supposed to advance by a day, on that day, would melt down, blow up, or at best just quit. Powerplants would fail, cars would stop, everything from home computers to coffee pot timers would be rendered useless. For years, working up to a crescendo nearing the fearsome date, scientist, programmers, engineers, and technology managers of all kinds worked to identify problems and rewire the innermost electronic brains of everything that could conceivably fail due to the Y2K fault. The world waited with bated breath as the year 2000 started creeping around the world. The dam held. New Year celebrations were fully lit by splendid electric lights that kept on working. Everybody who wanted to drink champagne, blow horns, and kiss each other did just that.

Many people had thought — and the result seemed to confirm their thoughts — that all that effort was wasted. See, it was nothing! They were convinced it had all been a big hoax. Nothing happened! All that worry, we knew it was BS all along. Nothing happened.

Nothing. We want all this trouble to come to nothing.

_________________________

  1. One doctor’s straight talk about the coronavirus strikes a chord with anxious Americans — Washington Post, March 20, 2020
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