The price of privilege

Why we're past the point of containment, happy birthday to me, more coronavirus news, pretty charts, and what about me

Hi friend,

The way we respond in unprecedented times reveals much more about ourselves than we even know.

While China was battling COVID-19 in November of last year, the rest of the world watched silently. Despite the dramatic shutdowns and number of cases growing exponentially every day, it was business as usual everywhere else. As it spread to other Asian countries, including South Korea and Japan, the soon-to-be pandemic went largely ignored by the West.

Once the novel coronavirus hit the shores of Italy, it was still dismissed by their neighbors. Now, all of the European countries are fighting to control this outbreak by instituting the very same measure that had gone unrecognized in Asia and Italy. Just this weekend alone, Germany banned public gatherings of more than two, and Italy banned all outdoor exercising, including walking, running, and cycling as a means to stop the spread of this virus.

While this outbreak has unfolded in the past few months, most Americans are still oblivious. For many, life is still business as usual. Despite the setbacks from closed businesses and flights, spring break and vacations continue. Even with mandated home lock-downs in place, I still see people frolicking in parks on Instagram and roaming the streets from outside my window.

Challenging privilege is an arduous undertaking, especially when asking Americans to stay at home to save the lives of others. Life has been too comfortable over the past few decades, being free of recession, famine, disease, or war within our borders.

Take, for instance, early statistical reports of COVID-19 coming out of China and Italy. The rate of fatality was most concentrated on the older population 65 and up. Instead of heeding this as a warning to immediately set up protection and isolation for the vulnerable older population, the younger generation took the data and made it work for themselves.

“I won’t die.”

Even as people started to die around the world, it wasn’t enough. There weren’t enough dead bodies yet to take this seriously.

“It’s just the flu.”

In fact, if we followed that very same logic (we won’t take this seriously until it surpasses the number of deaths as the flu, world hunger, etc.), we would only have started to take action after millions of deaths. As we know now, it takes weeks before isolation to directly impact the rate of infection, and creating a vaccine takes at least 12-18 months. We would have decimated our population before any flattening of the curve were to be taking place.

Still, there are many others who refute statistical data around the number of cases and deaths from the COVID-19. I wholeheartedly agree.

Until COVID-19 testing begins in any region, initial statistics of coronavirus and related-deaths are not accounted for. Many are sent home misdiagnosed with the flu, and deaths are recorded as pneumonia or other complications arising from a collapsed immune system. Others are at home, suffering alone, and unable to go to the hospital. Recently, the mayor of Bergamo, the epicenter of the worst COVID-19 outbreak in Italy, wrote: “for each COVID death there are three who die at home of pneumonia without a test.” The statistics we have are all grossly underreported.

In my opinion, we may already be past the point of containment. Some states are just now starting to close businesses, schools, and public spaces. International and domestic flights are still operating out of major hubs. Churches are still operating despite local ordinances. The majority of Americans are still walking around without masks or gloves, believing that social distance is all the protection they need. And the cherry on top: testing kits are still unavailable to the majority of Americans.

While I agree that further reporting will improve our statistical assessment of this virus, there is still this assumption that after testing positive, there is a whole medical facility, staff, and supplies ready and waiting. Getting tested will not add more ventilators to a hospital, open up more hospital beds, or bring back to life those we have already lost. 

Regardless of testing availability, it should not impact the precautionary measures we need to be taking at this moment. At this point, we should be operating as if everyone is an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19. Based on projections by Governor Cuomo of NYC, between 40-80% will be infected with the virus.

Since the level of severity is potentially linked to viral load (amount of virus within us), we should be isolating as much as possible to reduce aggregating additional viral particulates. We must err on the side of caution and learn from our brothers, sisters, and siblings from all around the world.

  • Stop traveling.

  • Reduce (or eliminate) movement through public spaces.

  • Cover up when going outside (gloves, masks, any other available protective layer).

  • Hydrate.

  • Stay healthy.

I love you all so very much. Until next week.

By the way… guess what day it is?

Guess what day it is today?⁣

It’s my birthday!⁣

And since cakes are sold out from online delivery, this mini @diptyque candle will do. 🕯🕵🏻‍♂️⁣

Just one year ago, I spent my birthday in Taiwan with friends and family while studying meditation around the world. And the year before that, recovering after a debilitating health condition that sent me to the hospital for months.⁣

My doctor at the time told me to get used to the hospital bed. “The sooner you can come to terms with what you’re going through, the sooner you’ll be happier.” It wasn’t until after the third month, with no visible signs of improvement, I had started to accept this as a fact.⁣

Except, when I had finally done so, my health started to shift.⁣

In giving up what I wanted my life to be, I relaxed to let go of the tension in my body. I slowly released the expectations of myself I had held so closely - measures of success, happiness, wealth, and superficiality. The dissonance between the past, present, and future had created ripples of anxiety and unhappiness for so long.⁣

In embracing the harsh present reality, I had finally arrived to start my healing.⁣

Today, I find myself up against the same challenge. I’m faced with the reality of an unknown future, health, and economy while an invisible virus wreaks havoc to the world and those I love. While my brain continues to birth infinite possible futures that have yet to unfold, I remind myself that the way forward is through the present.⁣

I am breathing. I am typing. I am thinking.⁣
I am believing. I am loving. I am breathing again.⁣

And that’s enough.⁣

In that hospital bed just over two years ago, I had promised myself that I wouldn’t take these simple moments for granted. And now, I revel in the opportunity to practice the very same lessons again.⁣

I am here.⁣
I am present.⁣
I am home.
March 25, 2020

My birthday wish? For you to stay home. 🤪

Let’s continue to do our part in flattening the curve, reducing hospital load, and saving lives.


Where I get my updates

A few sources I thoroughly enjoy. I follow Andy Slavitt, former Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under Barak Obama. His daily updates on the novel coronavirus are succinct, hopeful, and actionable. And for breaking news, Reddit (r/coronavirus) has been extremely reliable.

Beautiful, educational maps and charts

The NY Times published an extraordinary article mapping out the spread of the novel coronavirus out of Wuhan. Tomas Pueyo has done an amazing job culling together insights and data points that help educate the need to flatten the curve and act now.

What about me

Vox breaks down what the novel coronavirus means for people based on various age groups.

Tips on working remotely

In other non-coronavirus news, one of my favorite authors, Daphne Gray-Grant shares her tips on how to improve working from home.

As always, thanks for reading!

P.S. If you enjoyed this, share or sign up here: mindfulmoments.substack.com

Anything else? You can always hit "reply" to email me directly. 💌

Have a beautiful day!

Metta (loving-kindness),
Steven

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