In America, we pride ourselves on being resilient. Facing challenges and not shying away from them.
Unfortunately, in this crisis, I’m seeing vanishingly little of that.
The rallying cry isn’t “let’s work together to adapt to the new situations” but it’s whining about “when can we go back to what it was like before”. It’s time that we stand up as a society, adapt, and face this challenge.
These are unreal times. It's really hard to believe this is the reality we live in now. I've definitely had some struggles with this: Heather and I were supposed to go to the Saastr conference March 10-12. In early/mid February when they announced new health and safety measures as a response to the coronavirus. I thought it was an over-reaction because the conference wasn't that far away and this coronavirus thing seemed under control here. I was wrong. By the time they cancelled the conference in March I was wondering why they waited so long. Things shifted so quickly, and I wasn’t prepared for it.
Now, it’s over a month later. Everyone seems to be repeating the phrase "the new normal", but most people seem to be struggling with internalizing it. Every day I see people looking at things that are supposed to happen in July/August/September and still thinking "well, maybe... let's not be too quick to cancel it". Unfortunately that's just not realistic thinking at this point.
I’ve been struggling to write this for over a month. My first attempt was data heavy and 2 pages of text and analysis before I got started. Here’s the summary. The politicians and media (both right and left leaning) are all struggling with the same thing we’re struggling with, they’re having trouble believing it, and their overly-hopeful reporting is not helping matters.
It seems that most people have latched on to the IHME model as a guide of what’s going to happen. That was always an optimistic model that assumed that isolation guidelines were quickly tightened and strictly followed, that’s just not realistic, that’s not how people behave. Last week that model showed 70k deaths total in this country by August, we passed that number earlier this week. In less than a week. People like that model because it’s what they want to hear.
As a nation we’ve let this virus get out of control. It’s past the point where we can expect to use isolation strategies to stop it, all we can do with those strategies is buy time. Time for better treatments. No matter what we do now a LOT more people will die. I fear that we’re going to continue to bury our heads in the sand, take many of the worst actions, and that number will be 1M+ people from the virus and more (perhaps even as much) from the economic damage. I don’t believe that reopening the economy the way it’s being attempted will fix the economic side either. Everything hinges on controlling the virus, unless you can get the virus under control the economy will be unable to recover.
A vaccine won’t be available for 12-18 months AT BEST (the world record to date is 18 months). Maybe we’ll get some other therapeutics (antiviral drugs as one example) that will work well sooner, but there’s no guarantees there either. With both of these the effort isn’t just the time it takes to develop and test the treatment, but also ramping up production to a monumental scale. There is some hope right now behind remdesivir as a treatment, but it won’t be enough by itself. We need to come to terms with the life we’re living now being the new normal, really, for 2+ years. I could be wrong here, there’s still a lot we don’t know about this virus. I hope I’m wrong here! Unfortunately, right now with what we do know, I believe that anyone who’s predicting better either doesn’t understand the science, knows something that is a closely held secret (unlikely), or is believing their emotions over their brain.
For my fellow business owners. I recommend planning as if things will stay the way they are now for 2+ years. Even if the economy is reopened many people who can will continue to self-isolate. If your business can be geared towards serving them I believe you’ll continue to have a viable business model. Please don’t bet your business/livelihood on things changing back quickly.
Let’s work together to find practical ways to live in this reality. Let’s adapt. Mass mask-wearing is a step in the right direction (but shouldn’t be a substitute for social distancing). Curbside pickup for food and goods is another good step. We need innovative ideas to better deal with social isolation in the time of physical isolation. Most of all we need to adapt to our New Normal.
Thanks for reading!