Earlier this week my company asked all employees to work from home, if possible. Tech companies were the first in the US to implement social distancing. A few days ago people were still saying that we are overdoing it, but as I write these lines, the White House has also called on schools and offices across the country to practice social distancing.
The tech world in Silicon Valley is quick to react, because we understand, more than anyone else, the tremendous power of exponential growth. The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 is unlike any other virus known to man. With the number of infections growing exponentially but without a vaccine or cure, anything can happen.
I think we should be afraid of the coronavirus, but no matter what, there is a need for calm and understanding.
Fear as soon as possible
If you’re afraid of getting infected, if you’re worried about the outbreak getting out of control, that’s okay, this is a very normal, very human emotion. Fear is the way to survive. Most of us are descendants of those who know fear, because in the process of evolution, those who are afraid at the right time will often survive and have a chance to perpetuate the race. Being afraid is so important that our brains already have the parts and reactions that trigger fear.
When disaster is about to hit, many people will react by rushing to shop, stock up; limit going out, do not want to send children to school; continuously monitor the number of infections; check the people around to see if they have any symptoms of illness, startle when they hear someone cough, wonder if they should report it to the police or not. Professor Peter Sandman, a crisis management expert, calls these adaptive responses, very natural and helpful when a person is faced with a new risk.
With many years of experience dealing with epidemics, Professor Peter Sandman has found that adaptive responses are often automatic. That means you may not be able to control your actions. Many people consider these to be mindless acts, but they forget that unconditioned reflexes are sometimes more helpful than stopping and thinking, because they happen faster. This is why your hand automatically retracts when it touches a hot object.
If you go shopping, stock up as soon as Vietnam has the first cases, it’s okay, your subconscious is just trying to adapt as soon as possible. No one knows when the epidemic will break out, it is difficult to say how soon, what is reasonable. In just a few short days, South Korea and Italy have grown from only a few cases to several thousand.
Those who criticize early preparation do not fully understand that it is necessary to prepare before the epidemic arrives, because by the time there is an epidemic, it is too late. Some say fear spreads faster than coronavirus, but the last thing we want to see is a pandemic that spreads faster than the public’s fear of it.
The faster you react, the more time you have to prepare, emotionally and physically, so that if there is a real crisis, you will be less surprised. My house is in an area with high earthquake risk, this pandemic is really a good opportunity for us to prepare mentally and see what we lack to prepare. Preparing early is much better than not preparing at all. When it happened, it was too late to prepare.
Those who prepare early, i.e. fear early, will cope better when disaster strikes. Those who are unprepared, when things happen, tend to overreact many times over, as a way to make up for their own mistakes. We went shopping many weeks ago in a fairly calm mood, because we bought for peace of mind, not because we were afraid of running out like those who let the water reach their feet to jump.
If you want to be less afraid, be prepared
“I was so scared (El Capitan) that I kept training and preparing for two years until it wasn’t scary anymore,” said Alex Honnold, the first and probably only person to climb bare-footed. El Capitan peak stands 900 meters, answered so when someone asked the secret to conquering fear.
Having something to do is the best way to deal with fear. We can turn fear into motivation to do useful things. Let’s prepare together as follows.
Be prepared that there is a high chance that many of us will become infected. Because of economic reasons, to avoid social disturbance, because of the number of infections being too high, because of resource constraints, etc., the options to completely prevent the pandemic (containment) will no longer work, but we must accept living with coronavirus and switch to options to slow the spread, to reduce the load on the health system (mitigation).
Keep your distance, exercise, eat and sleep in moderation. You may be healthy, not at high risk, but if you are infected, you can infect people at high risk and put an additional burden on the health system. If you are sick, isolate yourself in a separate room and notify the appropriate team. If you can work from home, don’t go to the office. If possible, shop online. If you have to stay home for a long time, take the opportunity to play with your kids, read a book, or do a personal project.
Prepare your personal finances to weather the coming economic crisis. Coronavirus causes damage not only to people but also likely to cause the US economy, Vietnam’s economy and the whole world to fall into recession. Another bad news for Vietnam is that the oil price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia has pushed crude oil prices down sharply. Austerity is not necessarily a good solution, because if you spend money, the economy will go up, but this is the time to eliminate unnecessary expenses (for example, buying iPhones, expensive jewelry, etc.) etc.). The real stock market going down is also a good opportunity for long-term investment. Those who are borrowing money to buy a house, this is also an opportunity to find a lower interest loan package.
Shop, stock up on what you really need and just enough. If you do it right, you will both save for yourself, reduce the pressure of scarcity of goods, and maintain reasonable prices for the whole community. If unfortunately the economy slips and you lose your job, then you may regret the amount of money spent several million dong to buy toilet paper and masks that you don’t use. You just need to stock up on food and medicine for two weeks, if you are unfortunately blocked, you can’t go out. Even in Wuhan or in Italy, there is no shortage of goods and can still order food online.
Accept and sympathize with the fears of others. Everyone has their own “Boggart”. If you see someone hoarding goods, don’t argue or criticize. We don’t know why they do it. Maybe they are feeling a lot of stress and shopping is a way for them to relax. When seeing so many people rushing to shop, an old man I know asked, do you change money? hoarding is the only way to make them feel secure, without regrets. On the contrary, if you live in a place where people don’t have the culture to wear masks when going out, join the custom. anyway, we are on the same side, if we don’t unite, it will be difficult to fight the epidemic.
Please respect and protect the patient’s right to privacy. This is your own way of self-respect and privacy protection. Translation spares no one. Today, if you do not respect and protect the privacy of others, it is very likely that tomorrow your privacy will be violated. Singapore, Taiwan or Hong Kong have fought the epidemic very well without publishing the full list of names, addresses, and phone numbers of the sick and those in quarantine.
Pay attention to changes in laws and policies. The coronavirus will pass, but the changes in laws and policies will last a long time. Crisis is an opportunity for leaders to demonstrate their competence, but it is also a time when people’s legitimate rights are most easily taken away, in the name of protecting the community. It is no coincidence that the WHO director has asked all countries to find a balance between protecting public health with minimizing socioeconomic disturbance and respecting human rights.
Believe in science. Only science and a deep respect for nature can help us overcome this problem. Listen to scientists, not KOL experts or Wikipedia experts. Be careful with information on Facebook or YouTube. Information on how to deal with the epidemic from reputable newspapers, announcements from CDC, WHO, from hospitals and government health agencies is the most reliable source.
Finally, don’t just worry about yourself, roll up your hands to contribute money to fight the epidemic. No one can fight the epidemic alone, but we must all work together. When no one is worried, you should be very scared. When many people are worried, you don’t have to be too afraid.