I hope that by the time you read this letter, Earth will have recovered from the COVID-19 epidemic of 2020. Today is the 4th day since I declared a state of apocalypse and began family preparations on March 11, 2020.
Day 1 was quiet, most people were unaware of what was coming. I was able to gather a few immediate supplies without encountering any panic. I did exchange a couple of reassuring looks with a few other survivors who were also trying to beat the crowd. I knew it would be days, not weeks before America started to shut down. I had warned family, friends, and the few readers of my Blog. A handful of my family agreed, most did not. Even fewer of my friends agreed. Most readers probably clicked on through to something more interesting.
My initial prediction was that Howard County would shut down schools by the 18th of March. This ended up coming earlier than I had expected, due to a 12 March declaration by the Governor of Maryland to close all Maryland public schools by 16 March. As I write this, nearly 10 other states have also shut down schools. I think this is when it started to get a bit more real for the uninitiated public. The Dow Jones tanked that day, roughly 2,300 points. (oddly though the skeptics drove it back up nearly 2,000 points on Friday).
Although President Trump is finally starting to grasp the gravity of the situation, there are still many skeptics. This was good for me, as it afforded freedom of movement yesterday morning in and around the grocery stores and other provision supply houses. Toilet paper and chicken breasts were gone. That’s okay though, because we already got our toilet paper and we really don’t poop that much. Plus, we prefer the “less healthy” chicken cuts, so there were some of those remaining. I was able to acquire everything on my list. Score.
Upon my return home, I learned that much of my sister’s previous skepticism had faded when she arrived to BJ’s Wholesale and found that most of the food she wanted was gone. She ended up grabbing what she could find of things she normally would not eat.
My brother had been out on a camping trip in Utah, and was not following the news. As of Friday evening (13 March), he was pretty sure that there’s nothing to this; I think he was angry that he couldn’t find toilet paper. I had spoken with my mother who lives elsewhere on Wednesday, and she was convinced this wasn’t going to go anywhere. By Friday night, she was “woke.”
As I sit here writing this blog, the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Tracker states there are 147,653 cases worldwide with 5,537 deaths reported; the U.S. has 2,174 reported cases with 47 deaths. I’m not sure if this will seem low to you, or high to you. I need to be clear that I’m not worried so much about the virus; I’m worried about the panic that will result. Quarantines and panic will bring the world economy to its knees, at least for a few weeks or months until things stabilize. During that timeframe, it’s hard to predict what the fallout will cause.
As has already been said by enough people: the vast majority of active cases have not been reported. In the U.S. this is for a few reasons: 1) there is a scarcity of test kits; 2) most people don’t know they have it yet; some won’t experience symptoms (mostly kids); 3) there are a lot of people who are scared of quarantine, so they’re going to keep quiet. The Ohio governor suggested on 13 March that there may already be 100,000 active cases in Ohio, despite only about 13 reported cases. If that’s true, we’re looking at a 10,000x multiplier; for the U.S. as a whole, that would suggest that 21 million Americans may already have contracted it.
Playing with a bit more math: the death rate in Italy is approximately 6.7%. This is likely a bit higher than the global average due to a larger percentage of elderly residents in Italy. It seems the average is closer to 3 – 4%. That would mean, if we have 21 million unreported cases in the US right now, we’ll likely see 630,000 deaths in the next few weeks. It seems a bit staggering, so I hope that the math is very very wrong. If the virus continues to spread to infect a quarter of the population, we may then see a total death count of over 2 million Americans.
People can rationalize the death, and think that 1% of the overall population isn’t that big of a deal (I’m sure we lose that many each year for a host of other reasons); the problem is the panic of the unknown. The economy will suffer, and that, my future friend, is what I believe truly triggered the apocalypse.
It’s the Economy, Stupid
The world economy is highly complex and interdependent. Localized famines and other disasters can be absorbed without too much trouble, but for something like this on a global scale, there simply is no way to absorb the blow. I know that the brothers and sisters of the Shire of West Howard were prepared, as best they could be, but the vast majority of people were not. They took their daily lives for granted, assuming that the shit would never hit the fan. When it did, things go ugly. We haven’t seen the worst yet.
Preparation Prevents Panic
So, what am I doing today? Honestly, not much. I’m calm and feel quite ready. Calm enough to take the time to write this letter and work on some changes for WestHoward.org.
Our family has always kept a reasonable amount of emergency supplies, so I simply needed to top them off a bit. The Shire of West Howard is an excellent place to hunker down. Unless this thing lasts for more than a couple of months, we likely will not need to bug out. To be honest though, there really isn’t anywhere else to go to avoid the coming panic. The virus is now in almost every state, and the panic will also be in every state.
So, here I sit enjoying a bit of quiet time to write and code.