– Ben Martens

COVID-19: Part 3

There were a lot of questions when I wrote the previous post. There are even more now, but we do have some answers mixed in. Will schools close? Yep. All schools in the state are closed until late April and many across the country are closed too. Will more restrictions be put in place? Yep. No gatherings of more than 250 people and if you do have a gathering smaller than that, there are restrictions about how your employees must be trained, the minimum distance between people, etc.

Is this an overreaction? That’s one we don’t have an answer for. At this point I feel like if we’re going to do this, then let’s do it. Let’s learn everything we can to make ourselves smarter for next time, but for now? Let’s lock it down. We don’t know what the right answer is, but I’m guessing we’re less likely to regret shutting things down. All of these dates about how long things will be closed are fuzzy. We just need to see that exponential curve start to flatten.

Humans aren’t great at absorbing the implications of math, especially in two ways that make this a tough problem. First, it’s hard to grasp the speed of exponential growth. Delaying by even a single day can mean thousands of additional people get infected. And since it seems that most symptoms take around five days to appear, we’re much farther up that curve than the numbers show right now.

The second math complication is that humans don’t process probability well. It’s called “neglect of probability“. It’s either not going to happen or it’s definitely going to happen. Will millions of people die from this disease? Will we run out of food? Will toilet paper be the next BitCoin? None of these are 0% or 100%, but treating them as such leads to a lot of irrational behavior.

I’ve completed 7 days of working from home and Elijah will be off of school for six weeks. Sporting seasons are being canceled. Most public events are canceled. Travel is locked down to some other countries. And so we’re back to the most divisive question: too much or not enough?

We have quite a bit of data at our fingertips. We can compare countries who did too little with those who reacted quickly. There are a lot of good articles out there and I specifically recommend one from Tomas Pueyo and another from a group of researchers and foundations. The second one is especially eye opening because their conclusion on March 10 was that this area wasn’t doing enough to stop the spread yet. A lot more measures have been put in place since then so hopefully the predictions have improved, if they were correct to begin with.

On a more micro level, our family is chugging along. It’s a tough situation to plan for. Trips to Costco and Safeway both showed a lot of people stocking up. I’m not sure if there is some secret, delicious recipe for toilet paper, but if you don’t have it now, you’re not going to find it. We’re well-stocked here (including ammo so don’t think about it… kidding… sort of.)

I’m blessed to have a job that allows me to work from home. Our team is adjusting well and I think we’re getting into a productive groove. My only real hangup is that this desk that I built in 2013 has never been the most comfortable thing. I can’t figure out exactly what it is, but a day at this desk leaves my back feeling sore. Since we’re going to have such a long spell of working from home, I ordered an electric base for a standup desk. I use mine a lot at work and it has always felt like too much of a luxury for home, but this situation pushed me over the edge. I saved some money by purchasing only the base. I’ll start with a simple plywood top but eventually I want to put a beautiful walnut top on it.

So we continue to chug along a day at a time. It’s amazing how many conversations I have about this single topic. I find myself wishing for a day where I don’t have to think about it. My hope is that once we get to “peak lockdown”, we’ll hit “peak panic” too and just hang tight for a while.

Psalm 91
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”