What I Got Wrong About COVID-19
I’m taking some time for reflection this week and just pondering the crazy situation that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon us all. I, for one, was a total disbeliever that anything like this would or could happen, and I wanted to put into words a few things that I think I got wrong about COVID-19. Perhaps my observations here might help others to openly consider their own beliefs and conclusions.
- “We’ve seen this before.”
Look, we can all start by acknowledging that the media has predicted about 100 of the last 5 world disasters. So by now, it should be human nature to question that which we learn about primarily through TV news and social media, and that’s where most of the information regarding COVID-19 came from in February and March. If you’re my age, you’ve already lived through a bunch of these “scares,” (anyone remember Y2K?!?) and for the most part, nothing too serious — at least nothing worth changing our lives over — really came from any of them.
So my initial belief was something along the lines of “if you want to live in fear, go ahead; I’ll respect that and steer clear. But I’ll just live my normal life and be smart about how I do that.” This feeling was rooted in a sense of genuine optimism that I have on a day-to-day basis in everything that I do. Being optimistic and positive helps us 95+% of the time, and the net effect of that compounds into massive, incalculable differences in one’s quality of life. The opposite is wasting much of one’s life and one’s opportunities by worrying about things that will never even come to pass. I want to make it known loud and clear that I think it’s good to be optimistic, but it does mean that this exposes you more than others to SOME degree of negative outcomes.
In the case of the “pandemic rumors” 7-8 months ago, my optimism caused me to discount the concerns being shared, and particularly the news media. Their job is to sell fear (<— this statement is true), but this doesn’t mean they’re always wrong. Instead, my paradigm was wrong. I was looking at this through a lens which was clouded by my optimism, and by my own past experiences.
In my own defense, 95% of people reading this post felt the same way. Maybe 98%. One learning from this is to make an even greater effort to
“listen like you know you’re wrong,”
as I’ve heard from Jordan Harbinger. That leads me into #2 …
- Believing what I thought was credible data without digging enough.
Previous to about April or May, I thought the World Health Organization was a benevolent organization whose sole purpose was to advance the health and safety of the human race. I believed the data being shared by the WHO, which included most notably, the rather non-threatening case and death rates coming from China, and particularly from Hubei province and the city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus. This data specified some 80,000 cases in all of China and about 4000 deaths by the end of March. Note that at this point, it was widely suggested that the first signs of the virus occurred around early to mid-December, but any news of it was suppressed for a period of about 5-6 weeks until mid-January. During this time, a massive festival was held in Wuhan, and thousands traveled in and out of the city by mid-January.
So, if a disease that started 5-6 weeks before it was even acknowledged, and was allowed to spread mostly unfettered during that time, could cause SO FEW cases and deaths, then how could it get out of control in a country that started responding when there were only a few hundred cases and under 10 deaths? I made a huge mistake of believing the data regarding China, which was supported by statements from the WHO.
Aside from the stats from China, it was also promoted that:
- There was no evidence of human-to-human transmission. (January 14)
- There was no need for international travel restrictions. (February) Currently, over 150 world nations have such restrictions, with about 35 of those countries being “completely closed” to foreign travelers.
- Transmission can only occur through contact with infected persons or surfaces. There is no airborne transmission. (March)
- China’s response has been “exemplary,” and they haven’t covered up anything. (Still being parroted to this day)
I’ll also throw in the WHO’s disgusting treatment of Taiwan, which it won’t even acknowledge as an independent nation for fear of inciting the CCP. It’s clear now that the WHO is in the pocket of the CCP, and that data being shared with their “seal of approval” cannot be taken as fact. I’m not sure what the answer to this particular issue could be other than the fact that it’s important to question a lot more things, and in particular, to consider what motivations any source of information might have.
Since this time, as I have fact-checked things being shared in the media, I’ve tried to find at least 2 other corroborating pieces of evidence for anything questionable.
- Not acknowledging reality around the transmissibility of this disease.
On March 10, 2020, 61 members of a choir in Mount Vernon WA, came together for a practice session. They spaced out their chairs about 10 inches apart, and generally took some light precautions as many people did in those early days of COVID. In the end, 53 of the 61 people at that choir practice became ill with COVID-like symptoms, with 32 having a test to confirm the illness. 2 of the choir members died.
HOW DID WE ALL NOT LEARN MORE FROM THIS ONE SINGLE INCIDENT?!?
Now, there is evidence of MANY incidents mirroring this one where “aerosol transmission” appears to have occurred. In fact, the notion that COVID spreads through touching infected surfaces has been largely debunked at this time. Transmission occurs through the air, through breathing droplets emitted by people who are infected.
One of my respected friends suggested to look at it this way … consider the cloud that forms when somebody puffs on a cigarette … do you notice if you walk through that cloud? Of course. Now a difference is that you can SEE that cloud, and though you can’t see the particles of virus that are breathed (or coughed or sneezed) into the air with COVID, they are there. I understand that this is an over-simplified and slightly exaggerated way of looking at this, but this concept made sense to me. It’s in the air anywhere around a person who’s infected.
As a result of this understanding, wearing masks when indoors in public, or in close proximity with others outdoors, has become suggested. Now I dislike masks as much as anyone, and I also object to being “ordered” what to do, but shoot, even a 5-year old can tell that there’s a difference in what you emit around you when you’re wearing a mask. And there’s probably a difference in what you take in as well. If you’re one of those “mask-holes,” just put it on when you’re around others, please. Your slight inconvenience is not more important than millions of others having a little more peace of mind. But I digress.
Anyway, airborne transmission was a game-changer here, and to add to this greatly, we have learned pretty clearly that people can be contagious up to a few days before they have symptoms. If I get infected with COVID today, I’ll probably start showing symptoms in about 6-7 days. BUT, I’ll likely be contagious in about 2-3 days, meaning there’s a window in time where I might spread the virus without having any idea that I even have it.
None of what I shared here was a part of my reality back in March. I thought the disease could only be spread AFTER someone was sick, and even then, you had to come into contact with the virus through ways that were relatively easy to avoid if you were responsible.
This all leads me to the last key thing I feel I got wrong about this whole situation.
- “It’ll pass soon enough.”
When the lockdowns started in March, I thought they would be over by May. Now I will notably omit anything about the concept of lockdowns from this post because the jury is definitely is still out on what is the best way to handle this situation in the long-run. I’ll just say that a short period of lockdown did and does seem to make sense to “flatten the curve.”
But as far as ending the threat of the virus, 2 months was never going to cut it. Perhaps this is my sense of optimism over-flowing again here, but the notion of getting back to “normal life” quickly was a really ridiculous notion all along. This ties back to airborne, asymptomatic spread of the virus, along with the ACTUAL death rate, which will likely prove out to be under 1%. Some might cite a relatively low death rate as some sort of weird proof that we should have just let things play out. But instead, because the death rate IS low, there are more people walking around with this. And when you combine a 99% survival rate with airborne, asymptomatic transmission, what this means is that you have a WHOLE LOT of people out there spreading the disease without even knowing.
This simple concept is why this pandemic will be a major factor in our lives for many, many months to come.
Here’s the last thing I want to say about this. I learned a life philosophy a few years ago that I would phrase like this:
“What’s right is more important than who’s right.”
As you navigate challenging times and sort through conflicting information, remain committed to one thing: getting to the truth. Getting to TRUTH is more important than being right. It is the essence of science. Hand-in-hand with this concept is the idea that it’s OK to be wrong sometimes. In fact, it’s perfectly human. We are all flawed beings, and we will make mistakes.
When it comes to this COVID pandemic, my mistakes were being too optimistic in the beginning, drawing too many conclusions from too few bits of data, dismissing evidence about the transmissibility of the virus, and assuming it would all pass in much the same way that other prior challenges have passed.
I still question a lot of other things, particularly surrounding the way that lockdowns have been implemented; whether we hurt more people than we helped, and if we could have come up with better strategies. No one really knows the answers to these parts yet. But maybe, in the end, these answers might be revealed as well.
I think it’s important to always remain open to possibilities that are outside our own way of thinking. This is how we learned that the Earth is not flat. It’s how all human evolution occurs.
If anything from this blog resonated with you, drop me a note below.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. You are in a lot of good company. Most people missed it. The knowledge of the airborne nature of the disease made clear at the end of February and was wantingly withheld from us by the White House (thank you Bob Woodward for airing this truth.) Simply requiring masks from the start- like all of Asia has done for some time- contact tracing, and reliable tests, would have saved hundreds of thousands of American lives and possibly shortened the economically devastating shutdown. The fact that wearing a mask has been politicized exacerbated the situation is only prolonging this problem. In September, we drove our son to college to Wisconson from New Jersey, dutifully wearing our masks each time we stopped along the way. In Indiana at a pit stop at a nice hotel, a teenager with his unmasked family attending an unmasked wedding glared at us and then spit at us – I suppose because we were wearing a mask (minding our own business I might add.) Hatred, division, a lack of respect for science, and interest in politics over all else – is the reason we are still in this mess. We, on the East Coast, in March and April saw tents erected in front of our hospitals to accommodate the people for whom there was no bed due to the overflow of patients. We saw people in car lines for miles – trying to get a test. Most of us lost one or two people and knew at least 15 others who got very very sick. The impact is still devastating. Just today, we learned that Broadway theatres will not open until May 2021. A dead Times Square is unimaginable. Thousands of artists and other ancillary businesses will starve. But still, even though this is under our noses, we still thought it would be over by the summer. We missed it too. Everyone missed – because we were not given the straight truth from the start. We need transparent leadership. Thanks for the thoughtful piece. Keep the faith. We will all be stronger and wiser I hope.