I can tell you the exact moment people started taking the Coronavirus seriously: It was when they cleaned toilet paper and sanitizers off the shelves — everywhere.
Hoarding is a sign of panic and these people wanted to make sure they had plenty for them.
Is that human nature? Maybe not for everyone, but for far too many. Despite our big brains, we are still animals and the survival instinct surges strong. Our “new reality” is activating our atavistic animal brains.
“We are incredibly unprepared” for the onslaught of the disease, said Dr. Irwin Redlener, of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness. There are not enough beds, masks, protective clothing and ventilators to go around. In case of a moderate outbreak, 200,000 Americans will need intensive care unit beds; we have fewer than 100,000, according to a Health and Human Services estimate. Some 64,000 will need ventilators, but there are only 62,000 on hand. Remember that.
In my last report, I talked about this being a war — which I want to call the CoronaVirus War, but it is actually World War III, when you think about it. The world is fighting the disease.
Across Europe, nations are sealing their borders to prevent the spread of the disease. France is requiring citizens to have a form downloaded from the internet to leave their homes, to shop or walk dogs, for instance. Police can demand to see the document.
Europe learned its lesson from Italy, where at the onset, a government official said on TV, people rushed into the piazzas to show they were “not afraid.” Foolish bravado. Now Italians are singing patriotic songs from their balconies as they are trapped in their homes.
The isolation is still a novelty. What happens when the novelty wears off? A late-awakening President Donald Trump said we could be in real danger until July or August. Can Americans bear being cooped up that long? Can our economy survive?
One way or another, yes, the economy will “survive,” even if it takes years to recover. Billions of dollars, if not more, will be handed out to American citizens and businesses. That could change the antipathy many Americans have toward “free stuff,” which could result in a shift in political thinking, but that’s not today’s topic.
Let’s talk about the dark side of the human impact. This is a dystopian imagination. I am not predicting it, I am saying in a city where people have been shot over a parking space, it’s possible.
A few days ago in a store, a woman was paying at the cash register with her husband a few feet to her left. Another man walked up, put his purchases on the counter and stood next to the woman.
“Step back and give her some space,” the husband said to the man, who didn’t move and had a blank expression, as if he had no concept of social distance.
The husband muttered, “Stupid fuck,” as the transaction ended and the wife walked away from the cash register.
Would it surprise you had one of them pulled a gun and fired?
Until now, if someone invaded your personal space, it was annoying. Now it could be fatal. Some people will react violently.
Until now, there has been product in grocery stores, but what happens if the supply train is broken because workers who produce the food fall ill?
With genuine shortages, how long will it be before stores are looted at gunpoint? And if the stores are cleaned out, home invasions are next. That’s why gun and ammo sales are going through the roof.
Many of them will be too ill to respond, and others will stay home to protect their own families because desperate people with guns will be roaming the streets. When money runs out, the currency will be weapons.
Remember the shortages I mentioned? If our social distance measures don’t work, our hospitals will be swamped and lock their doors. I can imagine family members bringing their stricken mother to a hospital and physically threatening staffers to get her treatment. If people will kill for a parking spot, what might they do to save Mother?
It is fact, not fiction, that the Brooklyn D.A. announced he won’t prosecute “low-level” offenses. It’s like Larry Krasner has a twin. Half a day later, Philly cops also were ordered to not arrest low-level offenders. “Just give them a good beating and send them on their way,” Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw did not say.
How long will it take for the veneer of civilization to shatter and we resort to every man for himself in a dog-eat-dog world?
Extreme? Yes. Impossible?
In a less catastrophic scenario, how many weeks will it be before cabin fever sets in and people go stir crazy?
What if people start going out and socializing? And the more who do will attract even more. How do we stop it?
Will the government ban it, and if so, will they enforce it by arresting people?
Would they do that, when jails don’t offer social distance? Arrest seems unlikely when the Brooklyn D.A. won’t arrest actual criminals.
Cultural movements have momentum, often bending toward entropy, which is social disorder.
But remember: This was not a prediction. It was imagination. Make believe. Right?