In the Shadow of Fear

Dear Reader,

How has your life been affected by the coronavirus. At the time of this writing, about 50 countries have reported coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and the  death toll is near 5,000. In Boston, we are lucky enough to be virus free (for the time being), yet life as we know it is slowing being disrupted and panic is in the air. 

A few days ago, I went to FedEx to deliver a package and overheard another customer explaining the contents of his box to China. The guy, who looked like a student, was desperately trying to send 300 face masks and hundreds of sanitizing wipes to his family in China as soon as possible. He opted for the fastest delivery available and paid $241 for the shipping expense alone. I cannot imagine the stress this poor guy must feel to know that his family is in the danger zone. 

Items like face masks and hand sanitizers are flying off the shelves. I searched for the N95 face mask on only to find that the next shipment window was scheduled for between April 1st and 24th. Supply and demand is never in the consumer’s favor during a panic. There have been various reports of price gauging for the essentials to protect ourselves from germs, but also on some perishable foods. Tentatively feeding into this frenzy, my boyfriend and I purchased a few perishable items in bulk… just in case. While the panic is a lingering element in the back of our minds, it was on the forefront of my recent staff meeting agenda.

At the meeting, we spent thirty minutes discussing our department’s response to the crisis, in lieu of a strategic organizational plan from above. The most important (and obvious) piece of advice from the meeting was to wash you hands vigorously (as if you were Lady MacBeth trying to assuage her guilt by eradicating the ‘damned spot’ from her skin) and limit touching your face. We also went over the importance of having contingency plans in place. One colleague cancelled her trip to Europe, not because she feared the virus, but because she thought the risk of prolonged quarantine too high and undesirable to chance. Another colleague expressed concerns about how we were going to handle visitors. It was proposed that we put an announcement on the website to strongly discourage (ban) people who have recently traveled to the CDC Level 3 travel notice countries. 

So many aspects of our work and personal lives are about to (if not already) be totally disrupted. In my German course, the instructor spent 15 minutes with us discussing how we would meet in the event of a university shutdown. It was determined that we would video chat through Zoom and submit the homework online. Upcoming events are being cancelled left and right. Airlines are reducing the number of international and domestic flights.

This may well be the health scare of our generation. Swine flu (H1N1) in 2009 and Ebola in 2014 both killed and frightened, however, their disruption to our lives was not as tangible. A Harvard scientist predicted that we cannot contain the coronavirus and that within a year, it is doomed to infect between 40 and 70% of all humans. While fatalities seem to be limited to vulnerable populations (which is devastating!), there are fears that the coronavirus as we know it may mutate and become virulent enough to devastate even healthy individuals. There are also others, however, who believe that the pandemic will simmer down with the spring weather. I don’t know what to believe, but, I think that it is safe to say that we are not safe.

It is hard to live in the shadow of fear, but persevere we must. I find the element of uncertainty surrounding this pandemic incredibly fascinating… more on that tomorrow. Until then, Dear Reader, wash your hands, don’t touch your face too much, and most of all, stay positive and live as best you can. 



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