Daily tallies of new cases and deaths from COVID19 are continuing to show up even more places on Internet. It is reported on weather sites that show temperature, wind, precipitation and new COVID19 cases for the local area. I noticed it now even on pages usually devoted for stock market indexes, Dow Jones, Nasdaq, COVID19 new cases. I don’t watch TV news, but I imagine the numbers are reminded to everyone every couple minutes.
Never before have we paid attention to up-to-minute ticker values for medical new cases or deaths due to medical conditions. Come to think of it, it used to be only a few people would get up-to-minute prices on stock exchanges but now it is a standard feature on many news outlets. Maybe this will become a similar fixture. News broadcast videos will eventually run out of space for the talking head because we will have current stock prices in one corner, current weather in another, hospital admissions and deaths in another corner, and political polls in the last. Each will be updating continuously and we’ll all be captivated by the implications: temperatures rise as the day progress, stocks fluctuate at trades are recorded, people will be going to hospitals, and the election prospects just shifted in one direction or another.
All of these numbers tell us that things are happening even if we are just sitting at a desk responding to some latest email or instant message.
I recall a time I would learn of stock prices only by looking them in the financial section of the newspaper, and even then I’d check maybe just a few times a year. It was mostly out of curiosity such as how my employer or past employer was doing, or just curiosity for something that may be relevant to some news story. When I’m in the office, I will see the stock prices every time I look up from my monitor because the room has a wall-mount TV tuned to one of the financial only channels. The continuous updates affects me subconsciously in an anxiety-inducing way. The feeling is that other people are trading stocks and I’m not, but maybe I should be.
I used to get anxious when stock indexes would move more than few tenths of a percent for multiple days in a row. Now I pretend to notice when there are multiple days of multiple percent changes.
My point is that this live and continuous update of the latest stock index numbers has become part of my awareness about the same way as being alone in the woods and realizing some predator is stalking me. Any moment the numbers may change in a way that will destroy me.
I see a similar analogy occurring with the real time updates on new cases and new deaths due to COVID19. Each of those increases hits me subconsciously, recognizing that I or someone I know will eventually be one of those numbers.
We haven’t had this kind of attention on medical cases. I’m sure those numbers always existed so that someone could see the numbers in real time, but those people would have job descriptions that required paying attention: hospital administrators, health-insurance providers, regional heath agencies, etc.
In the case of stock prices where most sites show multiple indexes, blue-chip stocks, technology stocks, commodities, precious metals, and oil. We are accustomed to scan all the values to get a better picture of what is going on.
In contrast, the current obsession with COVID19 counts treats these counts as the only thing that matters. Using the stock index metaphor, COVID19 data is just one index for the healthcare situation. It would be much more meaningful when there are other numbers equally up to date such as numbers of new cases and deaths for other conditions, total new admissions or deaths for all causes etc. The indexes can include things like new births to further put the numbers into perspective. I have seen all of these data in specific websites, but never on the same sites showing the ominous COVID19 counts.
It is probably inevitable that this kind of healtcare ticker system will become a permanent part of the news picture like I described above. The talking head will mention the latest numbers as frequently as they give weather updates, stock index updates, and sports scores. They will notice that the audience will soon be bored with numbers about COVID19 alone so they will add the other diseases and a total count for all causes to produce a more dynamically updating value.
Just as most observers of the stock index prices are just spectators of the daily variations, we will have a lot of passive observers of the healthcare numbers. Even though the numbers do not immediately effect them, there will still be a subconscious message that the numbers do present a danger to the individual so he has to keep paying attention for that jump-scare moment that could occur at any moment.
To those who are paying attention, I believe that this kind of updated information about this disease is having a psychological impact. The observations become part of our awareness but in a negative way of waiting for it to be our turn.
More broadly, this COVID19 situation has set up a sense of waiting for when that person will be added to those those numbers.
We hear that we are living in a new normal in the sense of how we have to change our behaviors and how we interact socially. We are also living in a new normal about how we persist our lives. Previously we may have perceived the world as something to enjoy with little risk of harm. Now we perceive the world as something that is deadly with only our luck giving us the temporary opportunity for enjoyment.
Before COVID19, we had the confidence of life and freedom, that we were in control of our ability to stay alive. We can live safely without any life support technologies and without some supervising nurse.
Now, the growing attitude is the feeling of the need to hide from death that could be waiting just outside our door. When we do go outside, we have to suit up with face masks, plastic gloves, and hand sanitizer. It will not be long before we convince ourselves that each new moment of life depends entirely on our diligence in using personal protection equipment, and on the watchful eye of government to protect us from people who do not comply with the rules.
We once had a confidence that we could go out and thrive out alone without any special preparation. This is being replaced with the sense that our life will end when government stops protecting us or when we can no longer use our PPE. Our lives are no longer in our own hands.
As I mentioned in previous posts, we are seeing this planet as no longer hospitable to our continued existence. We now rely on our government to shield us from the world.
We are seeing this with increasingly strict enforcement of stay at home orders with ever more stern warnings that we must stay apart from each other. We are being taught that our safety depends on other people obeying these orders. The sight of group playing in the park could result in the death of the one looking.
Violators of government orders must be reported, and reports must be answered with police action. This is the only way we can remain alive on this planet.
Our government officials are telling us that no one can be safe until everyone can be safe. It is not sufficient for someone to isolate themselves, they are at risk when any third-party group fails to isolate themselves. Thus we hear of reports of police breaking up groups on beaches, or drones demanding people to separate from each other. This is not for the protection of those people. Instead it is for the protection of everyone else, including people who are currently isolated in distant places.
The person who is doing everything right about self-isolating will always be at risk if other people are not isolating. The isolating person needs to get supplies (or have deliveries) where the entire chain is manned by people who never get close to anyone else. Everyone has to be isolating from everyone in order for anyone to be protected by self-isolating.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, this universal isolation command is a temporary substitute for our current lack of a vaccine. The goal is to achieve what is called a herd immunity where everyone is safe because they will never encounter someone who is infected. Because we don’t have acquired immunity yet, we could accomplish the same objective by making sure that no one gets close enough together to catch the disease.
During this period, we are becoming conditioned to believe that we can not associate with each other without risking death of someone. Our government leaders are saying this explicitly. They are saying we are being selfish and reckless when we do associate too closely because doing so will cause someone else to die.
No one can be safe until everyone is safe. This is meant to be a policy statement about a statistical objective. We can reduce the number of new cases if everyone would act as recommended. In order for this policy to work, we do need everyone to follow it.
The problem is that when each person follows it, they will likely begin to believe that their life is at risk if anyone else fails to obey the same rules. The violators, no matter how remote or how unrelated, pose a direct and deadly assault on everyone else. While it is absurd to say it in terms that a single violator can kill everyone, that is effectively what we are being conditioned into believing.
We need to do this because we do not yet have a vaccine. When the vaccine is available, we would have had maybe years of conditioning into believing that our lives are not protected unless everyone’s lives are protected. As a result, everyone must be forced to take the vaccine in order to eliminate the risk of anyone else dying.
This seems to me to be a very different way of looking at life. All throughout human history, we have always had our lives at risk. Even when the risk may be the consequence of what other people have done, we expected we can save ourselves.
We are entering a new normal where we assume our lives are in danger unless everyone else to obeys according to government direction. Our lives are hopelessly at risk if others do not obey and certainly if government ceases to give protective guidance.
We are learning that we can not live on this earth on our own. We all depend on external life support systems of government directions and universal obedience. Initially by following social-distancing and isolation directives, and ultimately be getting annual immunization shots.
This is certainly a new experiment, at least for the modern American citizen. It looks like we will find out how this experiment ends up, because it does not look like there is any way to stop it now.