We are living in historic times. A century from now, medical personnel, civil authorities, small business owners, corporate leaders, average investors, and everyday citizens will study the lessons learned from this pandemic. Here are just a few of the ones we’ve learned already:
- We should all plan and prepare for crisis, disaster, or catastrophe — especially in good, stable times. Every family and business needs to build an emergency fund of 3-6 months minimum.
- It’s important to listen to knowledgeable, wise people (not conspiracy theorists and people on social media). However, even the most brilliant experts can be wrong. Predictive models are not crystal balls. There are unrecognized variables in nearly every situation.
- Panic never solves problems. If it did, we wouldn’t have any problems left. The antidote to fear and panic is perspective. Every day in the U.S., approximately 8,000 people die from multiple causes. Each year, we lose between 30-40 thousand people from complications of the flu. We do not shut down the nation.
- Bureaucracies often do more harm than good. Their function is largely based on outdated, territorial group-think, and they cannot change or adapt quickly. Control freaks almost always create more problems than they solve.
- All decisions have unintended consequences.Some of them can be disastrous. “Either/or” thinking is often a false choice. Health, both physical and mental, is heavily dependent on financial stability. The notion that we must choose between public health or a stable economy is a false choice. They are mutually dependent.
- Tunnel vision is usually a mistake. Rigid adherence to long-held principles of epidemiology can crash an economy and engender other, less obvious medical problems like cardiac events, severe depression, anxiety, sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, child abuse, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, suicide, violent crime, and eventually societal breakdown. It takes discipline and wisdom to see the big picture.
- “Better safe than sorry” is not always the right choice.It’s understandable in a crisis, but it rarely addresses the root of a problem. We can protect our most vulnerable people with selective isolation and quarantine and still move forward with life. Sometimes we must take reasonable risks.
- Saving a buck by reducing housekeeping staff and standards of cleanliness, especially in public places, can be horribly costly in the long run. Many hospitals, nursing homes, and medical offices are nowhere near as clean as they were 40 years ago. Better personal and public hygiene will turn out to be a very good thing in the years to come.
- Living and working in overcrowded, congested areas has been a problem throughout history. Smallpox, plague, cholera, yellow fever, malaria, and tuberculosis have taken the lives of millions over the centuries. Flu pandemics, in many cases, have been even worse. Perhaps this pandemic will teach us all to be more respectful of everyone’s personal space.
- We have more everyday heroes than we realize.Celebrities are not heroes. Nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, social workers, cafeteria workers, cooks, cleaning people, truck drivers, police officers, firefighters, EMTs, grocery-store clerks, bank tellers, delivery people, postal carriers, farmers, utility crews, and millions of everyday people doing their jobs and looking after others are heroes. They need to be honored.
- Politicians should not control the number of hospitals, ICU beds, ventilators, or CT scanners. Hospitals cannot be run as if they were merely ugly hotels, focused almost solely on occupancy rates. Surge capacity in beds, staffing, and equipment is essential. Since 1976, we have seen a 16% decline in the number of ICU beds in our country. Prudence matters. It always has. It always will.
This crisis will end. We will learn more than we can possibly imagine. For now, be calm, be kind, be patient. Your actions may be more heroic than you realize.