How to survive in a pandemic

How to survive a pandemic:

Hi there, and welcome to the most damaging public health catastrophe of modern times. As of this recording, Canada has been lucky to register only a handful of cases, but the reason we’re effectively shutting down public life is because of the very legitimate fear that it’s poised to get much, much worse. Places like Iran and Italy dawdled on measures to restrict interpersonal contact. By the time they did, it was too late, and the virus was already running wild through the population. In one 24-hour period this week, Italy saw 368 COVID-19 fatalities. If Canada did nothing on COVID-19, there’s reason to believe we could see 70 per cent rates of infection. If that’s allowed to happen, an estimate from the World Health Organization shows that that the virus could kill up to 3.5 per cent of those it infects. At rates of 70 per cent infections, that’s a million Canadians.

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However, here’s the good news first.

Here are some of the greatest hits throughout history of deadly pandemics. The Black Death. The Plague of Justinian. The smallpox pandemic that basically depopulated the Americas. What made all those particularly deadly is that people didn’t know what was killing them. One day, the whole neighbourhood was just sick, and you were left to blame witches, an angry god or whichever minority you liked least at the time. Our most powerful weapon against this is that we know what it is, we know where it comes from and we can learn from people who have already suffered through it. Even the people who lived through the 1919 Spanish Flu didn’t have that kind of luxury.

1. If at all possible, stay home.

Some people can’t stay home, and those people are often the ones we need most. Cops, firefighters, utility technicians, delivery folks and medical professionals. We’re all screwed if they stop showing up to work. But I’m not talking to them; I’m talking to you, someone watching a video on the internet. If you are: An accountant, a lawyer, a university professor, a psychiatrist, stripper, clergyman or one of the thousands of other professionals who could work remotely in 2020, you’re going to need a pretty good excuse for why you can’t work out of your home through all this.

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That’s what I’m doing. I’m recording this video in my super depressing basement studio, and timing the shoot during one of the baby’s naps. Producer John Richardson is also editing this in wherever the hell he lives. We’re not doing this for our safety. We’re both healthy, strong men. If we get COVID-19, it’s a few days of binge-watching Fawlty Towers and then we’re right as rain. We’re doing it because every moment you’re outside your house, you run the risk of spreading the virus to someone who isn’t young and strong.

There is emerging epidemiological data to show that outbreaks underway in both New York City and Washington State were started by one person. They returned from a COVID-19-affected area overseas, didn’t self-isolate, and proceeded to do one of hundreds of activities that could spread the virus to strangers: Riding the bus, visiting a buffet, shaking someone’s hand. It’s entirely possible that dozens are dying across Washington State right now because someone coughed into their hand and then used a pin pad.

Because, you might have COVID-19 and not know it. Remember the Diamond Princess, that cruise ship that was quarantined and saw 700 passengers test positive for the virus. Half of those cases were “asymptomatic”: Meaning they didn’t have a fever, a cough or any of the other things that could alert them to being infected. Heck, I’ve got a sore throat and a slight cough right now. I don’t know if it’s COVID-19, but I don’t want to visit Grandma Hopper only to kill a bunch of people in her care home, even the one that calls me fat. So, in my sad studio I shall remain.

2. Consider those less fortunate

There’s a few sectors that are going to do just fine through this pandemic. Toilet paper manufacturers. The teleconferencing industry. And I have a feeling Purel isn’t too worried about revenue. But there are whole realms of the economy that are going to be absolutely thrashed by this. The tourism sector alone is probably going to be seeing losses worse than after September 11th. So, show some compassion. And also, think about what you can do to potentially help out places that are hurting. Call up your favourite restaurant or retail store, and buy a gift certificate that you’ll cash in to celebrate the end of this horrible plague. Your $50 or $100 might be just what they need to get through the worst of this.

3. Remember where this came from

Public health experts are pretty sure they know where COVID-19 came from. It first mutated in a wild animal, most likely a pangolin, before jumping to humans at a wet market in Hunan, China. Wet markets are places where large numbers of exotic animals are brought in and slaughtered on site. They’re called wet markets because, well, they’re wet. There’s blood and various bodily fluids everywhere. It’s basically the perfect place for disease to spread, and it’s happened before. SARS also came from a wet market.

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