As Heather and I work from, and stay home, to be part of the solution, I found myself gorging on way too much negative news. As my sleep and mood deteriorated, I went looking for an antidote to the pessimism plague. I began a search for reasons to be optimistic. One of the first articles I came across was at Human Progress by Chelsea Follott. In Technology and Cooperation Help Fight the Pandemic Chelsea writes, “The threat from COVID-19 should be taken seriously, but there are reasons for rational optimism even during a pandemic.”
Here’s a brief summary of what’s been helpful from that article and a variety of sources to zoom out and regain perspective:
- As of March 24, 81,171 of China’s 1,500,000,000 (1.5 billion) people were infected by the virus (0.000054%). With their dramatic isolation actions, 3,277 died (0.00000218% of the population). Over 96% are now closed/recovered cases, with 66% of currently infected patients in mild condition.
- All 14 of the temporary hospitals in China have closed as parks, and tourist attractions are reopening.
- When Nobel Laureate, Michael Levitt, first analyzed Chinese infection rates, he tracked an increase of 30% per day in Hubei province. At that rate, the entire world would be infected in 90 days. On February 7, new infections dropped linearly and kept going. Based on this sharp change, he predicted all of China would improve in two weeks and stop in China by the end of March. Only 3% of Wuhan were infected. His analysis of the Diamond Princess showed with its optimal conditions for spreading the virus, only 20% were infected. He concludes most people are naturally immune.
- We have smartphones, internet connectedness, social media, diagnostic drive-through test stations, advanced computer forecasting, and online tracking maps to slow down the spread. Info about the virus is spreading faster than the virus.
- Research on a vaccine and treatment began within hours of the virus being identified. It took 48 years to create a poliovirus.
- The coronavirus genome was sequenced two days before the first death in Wuhan, China.
- We now have options like remote work, online courses, and virtual meetings that weren’t as available during the SARS and H1N1 epidemics. This is facilitating very rapid and widespread social distancing.
- Many companies have moved very quickly to work from home, closures, reduced hours, and other forms of reducing people-to-people transmission.
- Many jurisdictions around the world are declaring states of emergency, closing their borders, and restricting travel. This will “flatten the curve” and reduce the chances of overburdening our healthcare systems.
- Global banks are much stronger and less leveraged than in 2008. Stock markets should bounce back more quickly than the six years it took the Dow Jones Average from 2007 to 2013 to recover.
- Taiwanese research institute Academia Sinica, which has over 1,000 scientists, just announced it has isolated coronavirus antibodies. They’ve set up a Covid-19 platform to share information with and among research institutes to develop better testing kits, drugs, and a vaccine.
- A month after the outbreak started, 164 scientific papers were already available on PubMed with many more papers undergoing peer review. In 2003, it took over a year to achieve half this information with SARS.
- Antivirals and other drugs for malaria, AIDS, and MERS show early signs of hope in treating this new virus. More than 300 tests in China have shown success in these treatments with the coronavirus.
- New infection cases have dropped to zero in Hubei province (Wuhan is the capital) since March 19.
- As a result of their very high lockdown and social distancing measures, on March 24, South Korea had 97% closed cases, with 99% of the remaining cases considered mild.
Martin Seligman, director of Penn’s Positive Psychology Center, offers a quick and straightforward way to refocus our mind during these turbulent times; A simple exercise to help stay calm in the face of coronavirus uncertainty.
Don’t be an “apocaholic” and give in to fear. Face tough issues head-on. But do it with optimism and hope, not despair, disaster, and catastrophizing. As the old adage tells us, “tough times never last, but tough people do.”
Sources and More Resources
There are reasons to be optimistic regarding the coronavirus, Megan McArdle, The Washington Post
If you’re tempted to panic right now, do remind yourself that Americans have a long history of being slow off the mark during a crisis — and then pulling together to mount an overwhelming response.
Coronavirus and a Case for Optimism, Brett Dalton and Bruce Yandle, American Institute for Economic Research
We are convinced that markets — to the extent they are allowed to operate — working together with high-speed communications technologies, will significantly reduce the harm that could befall us.
Coronavirus: Five Reasons for Optimism, Adi Barak and Tamar Tunik, CTech by Calcalist
Compared to the 2008 crisis, the financial system is more stable; compared to SARS, medical technology is more advanced.
Optimism grows that drugs from past outbreaks may treat coronavirus, Christine Dolan, Just the News
Drugs developed in the past to treat malaria, AIDS, and other respiratory syndromes are showing promise against coronavirus.
Israeli Nobel Laureate: Coronavirus spread is slowing, The Jerusalem Post
Most people are naturally immune, and that since the infection rate in China is slowing down, “the end of the pandemic is near.”
Optimism in a Dark Time, John Horgan, Scientific American
The coronavirus pandemic might have positive consequences
Part of the Coronavirus Conventional Wisdom Has Become Too Pessimistic, Josh Barro, New Year Intelligencer
The better we get at interventions to identify and isolate specific people with the virus, the less we should need to rely on interventions that isolate the entire population.