We’re all gonna die someday Lord;
we’re all gonna die someday.
Mama’s on pills, daddy’s over the hill,
but we’re all gonna die someday.
Oops. I wasn’t going to do this. Last week, I wrote Pandemic—an upbeat post about my OCD as related to the current news cycle. The Wuhan coronavirus wasn’t freaking me out. That seemed so unusual to me that I needed to blog about it. Historically, news of a new infectious disease paralyzes me. Unable to move beyond my one recurring thought: We’re all gonna die!
I’ve been listening to Kasey Chambers all week. Once I started thinking about all of us dying, various songs kept popping into my head. Alexa, play The Captain.* Alexa, play Changed the Locks. Amazon music didn’t have that one, bummer—it’s my fav. As I listened, I wikipedia’d. Kasey’s has a fascinating life. Most of her youth was spent living in a tent in the Australian Outback with her hippy parents.
Susan and I discovered Kasey when her debut album came out in 1999. We saw her play in DC’s 9:30 club in 2002, Susan and Kasey, both seven months pregnant. But then we lost touch with her. On Wikipedia, I learned that Kasey put out ten more albums since then. I also learned she wrote an autobiography. Since I work in a library, I asked our “interlibrary loan” specialist to see if she could borrow a copy for me. As it turns out, there’s only one copy in the entire country. A rare book. I can’t wait to read it.
Alexa, play We’re All Gonna Die Someday.
A lot has changed in a week. When I wrote my post Pandemic, I envisioned a coming global catastrophe, but it seemed remote and someone else’s problem. I googled it frequently throughout the day, gawking, essentially, the way a driver might rubberneck an accident. Interested, sort of excited, ready to be distracted by something new.
On Wednesday, I happened upon a graphic that displayed the exponential growth of the infection rate. The time duration between ten cases and one hundred cases was equal to the duration between one hundred and a thousand. The graph predicted we’d be at ten thousand cases by Thursday night—which we were. The next two increments are a hundred thousand and then a million. Just over a week between each milestone.
Time to freak out.
I’ve spent the last two days with CNN’s “Coronavirus Live Feed” up on my computer. They post an update several times an hour, and when they do, a little (1) appears on the browser tab. When I see that (1), I pop over to the tab to learn what’s new.
Here are some things posted today:
US orders 14-day quarantine for Americans evacuated from Wuhan. Great. Then what? If someone gets sick in the fourteen-day period, do they reset the clock? They’ve all just been exposed again. It might take them a year to get out of quarantine.
‘There’s no doubt’: Top US infectious disease doctor says Wuhan coronavirus can spread even when people have no symptoms. I begin to obsess. In the pit of my stomach, an uneasiness, not nausea but something else, turmoil. I bounce my foot while sitting on the couch. My toes wiggle constantly. I itch and scratch. Agitation, keyed up.
Novel coronavirus is a US public health emergency. We have seven infections currently in the United States. Soon, seventy, seven hundred, seven thousand, on and on. Susan and I ordered R95 masks today. Separately. We each went online and ordered masks. Better safe…
The experts report a two percent death rate. They take the total number of deaths and divide it by the total number of infections. Flawed. This makes the assumption that no one currently sick is going to die. Better to divide the number of deaths by the number of illnesses that have fully run their course.
259 ÷ (259 + 252) = 50.7%
Scarier. My kids don’t buy this.
Sophie: “Dad, don’t you think the people who do this for a living know how to calculate the fatality rate?
Eli: “I don’t know why you’re wasting your money on masks.”
I feel guilty. On my post last week, I got a bunch of ‘good for you’ comments. Pam@ichoosethis wrote “What a great feeling not to be worrying about these types of things!” King Ben’s Grandma: “I’ll bet it’s great to be able to joke about it instead of being freaked out.” Zita666479 wrote “Finally, I have read a posting that is not freaking out over the coronavirus.” Sorry ladies, I’m officially freaking out now.
The obvious question is—how does worrying help? Other than buying those masks, there’s not a single thing I can do stave off a pandemic. Plus, Sophie announced at dinner: “I’m not wearing a mask to school.” Maybe Eli’s right, they are a waste of money.
It’s in my nature, my DNA to obsess over pandemics. I’ve done it time and again, and I now think it’s sort of cute that I thought I was beyond those feelings. I’m still not losing sleep, but I’m having trouble concentrating at work, and that’s not much better.
Only time will tell us if the exponential growth predictions are right. And a small part of me hopes they are, because who doesn’t like a car crash, right? But the bigger part, the sensible, mature part wants this behind us. I want my family and everyone else to be safe. Until then, we should all heed Kasey’s advice:
If you want to kiss my ass, well you better do it fast, ‘cause we’re all gonna die someday.
* While reading about Kasey on Wikipedia, I learned that her song The Captain was used in a pivotal scene on The Sopranos. Apparently, this good fortune garnered her a ton of attention in the United States.