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“This is the Ministry of Magic all over again!” I said.

The Ministry of Magic, as Harry Potter fans know, completely botched up the rise of Voldemort. The Minister and his administration were in denial, then went on a campaign of outright lying with false facts, bravado, and then a rude reckoning of the truth. The Order of the Phoenix is one of those books that really opens our eyes to incompetent leaders.

We were discussing the United States’ handling of the Coronavirus, COVID-19 health threat.

Everywhere on social media there was information – some true, some untrue, some alarmist, some pacifist, many telling us not to worry, but worrisome all the same. Our President, it seems, has not yet arrived at the true reckoning of the situation, and continued his bravado. The President blundered on about his building walls to stop the spread, his biggest problem seemed to be the Stock market index.

Meanwhile, the CDC did not have enough testing kits ready, so we do not know how pervasive the situation really is. While unprecedented, it is also concerning that we knew the world is more connected than ever, and yet did not prepare as a country. 

Vox article: here indicating that US is lagging behind most developed countries for testing Covid-19.

The World Health Organization declared the situation a pandemic on Mar 13th 2020. A pandemic knows no borders. Derived from the Greek roots, pan meaning “all” and demos meaning “people”, it denotes diseases that spread across multiple continents or worldwide.

The article here on WHO site lists the stages of planning and preparedness required for a pandemic. 

We all pass through phases of denial, a state of holy-moly, and a surreal settling in to things. (I had been vacillating between astonished denial & mild panic, up until the 1st week of March in California). We do the best we can. We see the terms quarantine & social distancing, and try to come to terms with this new mode of functioning. We are social animals now united by the need for social distancing.

Our company announced an ‘Encouraged to Work From Home policy’ like many other tech companies. That has now been upped to a ‘Mandatory Work From Home’. I know many of us used the public transit systems to get to the office, so we were obviously grateful to be told this, and to have the kind of jobs that can be done remotely for a short period of time. It was not lost on me that a great many people did not have the same luxury. What will this mean for them?

Covid-19 is unprecedented for many of us. People who had lived through the SARS outbreak 18 years earlier are probably the ones who have seen something similar in their lifetimes. For the vast majority of us though, this is new territory. How do we determine the best sources of information?

How do we learn lessons from the countries who are already dealing with the situation? Taiwan, China, Singapore. How did Italy quarantine their entire populace? What are the ways in which Society will be affected with this social distancing? It remains to be seen.

While the man at the top may not be taking Covid-19 as seriously as he should, local & state governments stepped up with proactive measures such as a call for Sheltering-in-place that was imposed across 7 counties in the Bay area affecting more than 7 million people. These are unprecedented measures. People are turning to their local leaders in their times of need. Many organizations have gone above and beyond canceling unnecessary travel, conferences, gatherings etc.  

To protect the vulnerable among us, we will need immediate plans, short-to-medium term plans and long term plans. We are currently in the immediate response mode. 

Humanity always comes together in the best & worst of times. When our leaders do not provide timely guidance, our collective reasoning can, and much like the Wizarding World united in the face of Voldemort, I am sure we shall do the same this time around: by collectively, voluntarily, distancing ourselves socially, being responsible, and putting the greater good ahead of us.

  • If you are reading every article on Covid-19, and wondering what to do in all the doomsday scenarios described, take heart, practice social distancing and follow guidelines set out by the WHO & CDC. 
  • If you are taking Covid-19 far too lightly and continuing to hang out with your friends, please watch this TED talk given by Bill Gates in 2015. He says our next big catastrophe to prepare for is not missiles but microbes. 

This time, it seems we are struggling against the onslaught of the Coronavirus.

The tiniest virus, it seems, brings us closer to the human condition than any other thing can. We are human and are therefore at risk.

Saumya Balasubramanian writes regularly at nourishncherish.wordpress.com. Some of her articles have been published in San Francisco Chronicle, The Hindu and India Currents. She lives with her family in the Bay Area where she lilts along savoring the ability to find humor in everyday life and finding joy in the little things.


Image licence can be found here.

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