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  • Kathryn R. Biel

It's Not About You

Updated: May 7, 2020

I feel like I'm about to beat a dead horse, but since I've already had this conversation with at least three people today, I will share it here.

It's not about you.

This is not about whether you get sick or not. It's not about whether you are in the high-risk group or not. It's not about what you had planned. It's not about your comfort or ease of life. It's not about your losses. It's not about you.

We are in an uncertain time. Unprecedented really, as society as we now know it did not exist the last time there was a pandemic of this proportion. And yes, some of this sucks. Really sucks. But we are not closing schools and canceling everything out of panic. We're canceling because of science.

COVID-19 is a novel virus. Our bodies have never seen it before and therefore have no immunity or way of fighting it. That is why it is so communicable. Thankfully, children don't seem to be getting sick with it. But perhaps are they the ones spreading it? Who knows. We won't know until widespread testing becomes available. But with the current rates of transmission, could it reach a 100% infection rate?

We don't know.

What we do know is that in about 80% of the population, they are fine, even asymptomatic if infected. That's great news. Except for the 20% who get sick, they get really sick. Really, really, fatally sick. So sick that this 20% could (and would) immediately overwhelm the health-care system. This is what has happened in Italy and Iran and the Wuhan Province. Overwhelmed to the point where there are no resources available. Overwhelmed to the point where a doctor (or nurse or PA or whatever pair of hands is there to help) must decide which patients receive treatment and which don't. Essentially, who may live and who will definitely die. If the health care system becomes this overwhelmed to the point of collapse, we can expect a massive fatality rate from COVID-19. How many loved ones are you willing to lose?

The whole purpose in social distancing is to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed. It is being referred to as "flattening the curve." Sometimes scientific graphs and statistics can get boring, so look at it in terms of a cat.

We know this works. We have historical, epidemiological data to support it. In 1918, when the soldiers came home from WWI, they brought the Spanish Influenza with them. The 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic infected approximately 500 million people worldwide (an estimated 1/3 of the world's population) and killed 50 million (10% of those infected, or roughly 3% of the world's population). Philadelphia reported it's first case in September 1918, and then held a parade to celebrate the end of WWI, in which over 200,000 people were estimated to attend. The city went on quarantine by October 3. At the peak of the disease, 250 people per 1000 were dying. A few hundred miles to the west, the first case of Spanish flu was recorded in St. Louis on October 5. The city went into quarantine on October 7. At peak, around 50 people per 1000 were dying. Why? Social distancing to stop the spread of the disease.

If the graphs aren't your thing, you can think of it this way:

Matches in a row, all burning. One match is not in line and now the fire does not continue to spread to the rest of the matches.

South Korean, Hong Kong, and Taiwan have shut down and are containing this disease. They are also doing widespread testing. Wuhan, Iran, and Italy are not. We know how those stories are unfolding.

So what can we do?

  • Wash your hands.

  • Take a deep breath (but only if you are not close to other people). This is scary. This is uncertain.

  • Cover your cough and sneeze.

  • Be patient. We are all struggling with this.

  • Practice social distancing. If you must go out, try to keep about 6 feet in between you and the next person. Limit when and why you go out. If it's non-essential, maybe it's a sacrifice you can make for the short-term. Try and go out at non-peak hours to reduce your interaction with people.

  • Wash your hands. Any time you are out, before touching things, after touching things. Wash your hands. Carry hand sanitizer and clean when you get in the car. Wipe down your commonly touched areas, like doorknobs and counters and light switches.

  • Accept that life will be altered for the time being. We are doing this for the greater good of society and not overwhelm the healthcare system. We don't want a 20% worldwide fatality rate. That would really suck. Give the doctors and nurses and therapists a chance to save people. Give people a chance to live.

  • Wash your hands.

  • Read a book (I've got several on sale to get you through this time).

  • Support local and small businesses through online sales and off-peak business. Let's keep Mom and Pop shops afloat.

  • Be patient.

  • For the love of God, don't use this as a time to go out and socialize. The point in shuttering businesses and activities is to prevent people from being together. It's not a time to go to the movies or the trampoline park or the mall. Go outside. Breathe the fresh air.

  • Take this chance to practice reducing, reusing, and recycling. Maybe our environment will be a better place after all this if everything isn't single-use and disposable.

This is it, people. It's our time to stand up and work for the greater good by staying put. It's our time to learn how to be resilient. To tough it out through hard times and grow as kind, compassionate human beings.

And maybe, just maybe, history will look back and also call us a Great Generation.


Telling stories of resilient women with humor, heart, and a happy ending, Kathryn R. Biel is an award-winning author of numerous women's fiction, romantic comedy, and contemporary romance books. Her newest book, Seize the Day: The UnBRCAble Women Series, #2, released November 7, 2019.

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