Today COVID-19 Became Real to Me
Not because I, or someone close to me, has contracted it I hasten to add. The number of confirmed cases in NZ while having more than doubled in the last two days, is still low overall at 28. There have been no detected cases of community infection, with all cases so far being related to international travel. Either the traveler themselves or a direct family member of the traveler.
The only way I’ve been directly impacted is through having some business travel to Australia planned for later in the month cancelled once the WHO declared the COVID-19 situation an international pandemic. So no — impact isn’t the reason for the sudden sense of grounding.
Very early on in the piece, when media started running with it — I certainly held the point of view that it was worthy of an eye-roll. That it was just the media doing their thing, blowing up another story, as they did with H1N1 / Swine Flu, or SARS, or Bird Flu. Not to underplay the impact these diseases may have had in some parts of the world but I’m afraid to say… NZ News is no more immune to peddling sensationalist bullshit than any other country’s, so of course it was made out to be the end of days for us here, too.
Over the last few days, we’ve been testing out network capacity for the entire company to work from home. Not because anyone is yet sick, but as a means of implementing social distancing in a preventative measure. But as we started this process, even though I’d reached a point of believing that, yeah, it was pretty likely that this thing would spread far and wide in NZ… I still couldn’t help but to think the reaction might be just a tad on the overkill side. That the efforts would likely be futile in preventing the spread over the longer term… So why?
And it was seeking the answer to that very question, looking into why we wanted to ‘flatten the curve’ that I started to develop an appreciation not just at an intellectual level for what was going on, but also more of an emotional resonance as well.
Flattening the Curve
What isn’t pictured on this particular version of the graph is the line that denotes the maximum capacity of the healthcare facilities for your region.
The ideal situation at this point being to keep the peak count of current active cases below or only minimally over the maximum capacity; compared to the uncontrolled situation where the length of time that passes with active cases may be shorter — but the peak goes so far over what can be managed that many more people die than would have otherwise been the case.
Simply because there is no capacity to treat them — be that a shortage of equipment, facility space or the human resources of the Nurses and Doctors themselves just being too stretched.
The death toll caused by overrunning the available medical capacity could be immense if these social distancing and isolation policies are not implemented and followed.
But the cost is the length of time we could have to live with these policies. An article I was reading yesterday on Vox.com suggested we could be looking at this for months to a year, rather than the weeks most people are talking about at present. I might have been sorely tempted to write this off as more sensationalist BS from the media — if not for the fact it was matching other sources I was seeing suggesting peak cases could be around an August timeframe.
And even more convincingly; the Imperial College report that came a few days earlier. While a number of articles (including that Vox.com one) had made reference to it or otherwise discussed the findings, it was UltrViolet who raised it by name to my attention as something specifically of importance.
It paints a fairly dire picture, honestly.
So now? Now this thing is real to me.
Look after yourselves everyone. We may be in for a long bumpy ride. But staying adherent to the social distancing policies being rolled out around the world are going to be key to ensuring medical capacities are not so stretched that people die needlessly (potentially even from non-COVID 19 related issues). Still; we’re going to need to find ways to keep in touch with each other and our loved ones.
Something else that this has made more real for me in the last day or so, for sure.