My Turn: What will the long-term impact be?

Mik Muller, Greenfield Recorder. Published April 26, 2020

With social distancing now in its second month, the inevitable grumbling from the denier/personal freedom contingent is getting louder and louder. I see letters in this paper, on TV and social media with themes like: people are not dying in droves like we were told they would, so why are our personal freedoms under attack? It’s a Chinese hoax, perpetuated by the Democrats!

Well, the reason why 100,000 Americans haven’t died is because most of us are staying home to not get infected or get others infected. And it appears to be working! Yay, smart us!

I mean, the only way to stop the spread of any human-born disease is to completely seal ourselves away from everyone else. Pretend like we’re all inside our own imaginary bubble where our fingers and hands never touch a public surface, like door knobs, door handles, counter tops, table tops, railings, street crossing light buttons, and we keep our noses and mouths covered so we don’t breathe out spittle and potential virion, or breath in same.

Why so severe? Consider that, while you may not be infected, you may be a carrier because you touched something. Or maybe you are infected, but you don’t know it. Or maybe you just got infected two days ago, and won’t know it for another couple weeks. In all cases, you may be a vector with the potential for infecting an old person through hand-to-surface-to-hand connections down the line, potentially killing them.

So, we are now in our second month, with a potential for this social distancing period to last at least another month, perhaps two, if it goes away at all. The 1918 flu pandemic, which started in Kansas in March, came back in the fall with a vengeance, eventually infecting about one-third of the world population over the course of a year and a half in three waves, and killing 10 percent of all those who were infected.

That flu came back every year for 38 years.

Coronavirus has a case fatality rate of 3.4 percent. Not as bad as the 1918 flu, but still very bad. Stopping the spread is key, which is why the numbers have been so low, relatively speaking. (In comparison, the flu we experience every year has a case fatality rate of 0.4 percent.)

But what about when this is all over, if it ever does end? Will we trust people enough to touch strangers again? Friends? Will we become so used to being inside and having orders brought to our door (watch out for the Amazon delivery drone army!) that we no longer need to go out? Will we become so accustomed to Zoom and virtual reality interfaces that whole sections of society remain in their imaginary bubbles, safe and fed by Pizza Hut’s delivery drones? Could this become the jumping off point/splitting fork for segments of society?

Are we entering into a new sort of brave new world?

Man, I hope not. That would suck.

Mik Muller lives in Greenfield and loves backyard parties and live music in small places.