– Ben Martens

COVID-19: Day 157

Here are some common questions and statements that you might be hearing these days:

  • It’s probably not going to impact me personally.
  • I don’t feel the need to modify my behavior to help to global situation.
  • Can you even prove that this is really a problem?
  • Making these changes will be more detrimental then just letting it run its course.
  • Maybe we do have a problem, but who cares? Technology will save us.

Oh, did you think I was talking about COVID? No, those were about global warming. Pretty early on it struck me how this pandemic is a different version of the global warming problem on a very accelerated scale. I hesitated to mention it much because people are instantly divided into camps as soon as you mention global warming and I didn’t want to do that with the pandemic but that ship has sailed.

Both issues are these global, long-term, large-scale problems where a single person’s actions have very minimal impact, but it’s very hard to solve the overall problem without help from every individual making changes in their lives.

I realize that the comparison falls apart in many places too. For example, it’s a lot easier (but still difficult) to gather data about COVID. We know how many people are dying with COVID. The problem expands and contracts more rapidly and we’re able to measure it more effectively. We can try different approaches and see results in months instead of decades.

The problems are not the same and many people will have opposite opinions about the two issues, but you have to admit that core conundrum bares a strong resemblance: How do you get people to change their own behavior when they might never personally experience the rewards from their change? It ends up dividing people into angry, dug-in positions where they’re so busy yelling that they’re missing the reality. The truth is out there in no-man’s land and it’s hard to stand up in the middle without getting blasted by both sides.

Ok, enough with metaphors and similes, let’s circle back to that CDC graphic from last time. Remember that image that was going around social media showing how even the CDC says that the death rate is plummeting? I posted a copy of the image in the last post and said we should revisit it in a few weeks. The image was being misused because the posters failed to read the part which said that it takes weeks for the data to arrive. Well the data has arrived and now look at the data from July 4 and the data from August 8 on the right.

You can click into those images to see the timelines but even from a glance you can see how the numbers for July 4 are way higher then when the internet was claiming victory over the pandemic. Unfortunately I don’t know how many people will ever go back and notice the full dataset.

As you’re trying to internalize these numbers and what they mean for you, consider checking out this event planning tool from Georgia Tech. You tell it what county you’re in and tell it the size of your gathering and it gives you the odds that someone with COVID will be present. It’s a tad bit rough around the edges so it’s worth reading through some of the documentation before you have a reaction to it. But as an example, if I go to a gathering of 25 people in my county, there is a 1 in 5 chance that someone with COVID will be in the group. The big question in this data is how many people have COVID but never know it or get tested for it, but the site does allow you to adjust for that if you disagree with the 10 to 1 ratio that scientists estimate today.

Here in Washington, we seem to be plateauing after a second rise in cases started a month or two ago. I pray that people can actually stick with the guidelines and get a better grip on this situation instead of relaxing and letting it creep up again.

Nationally, the anger continues to build. Social media a dumpster fire, and even though we’re making slow progress, our country is falling behind other countries because we can’t get our act together. One of you told me you were at work wearing your mask and someone drove by on the street swearing at you for being a sheep. Even if that was more visible than most emotions, who doesn’t feel judged for the simple act of living their life these days? The mask has been turned into a visible pronouncement of your viewpoint.

Our sinful natures love the feeling of superiority. We love to see somebody doing something wrong and then act like we are able to withhold forgiveness. A recent episode of No Dumb Questions compared that feeling to black magic. You start off with a little taste of it, but you want more. As you get more comfortable with it, it feels better and better. Eventually your heart is consumed by it and you’re angry at everyone. The devil gives you that sweet little taste of hatred and self-righteousness and fans it into a roaring fire. The Bible speaks out against this in many places. For example:

Remember this, my dear brothers: Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. Certainly, a man’s anger does not bring about what is right before God. (James 1:19-20)

It’s possible to be informed about the pandemic without getting sucked into either angry trench but it’s impossible to do it alone. Thankfully, we don’t have to do it alone. God is still in control and he will guide us through this. Don’t let the devil strengthen his foothold in your life through fear and anger.