Playing the Coronavirus Odds
You’ve probably heard of the “If I get corona, I get corona” spring break partier, but in case you haven’t, here he is:
I don’t bring it up to criticize him. Others have done that and should do that. He’s apologized. You can read his apology in the second half of that YouTube video.
I bring it up, instead, to make a confession. Early in this pandemic, my attitude was very much like his. When the virus was still “only” in Italy and China (i.e., when only a handful of cases had been documented in the U.S.), I chose to be dismissive. I heard that “only” a very low percentage of people actually died, and they were people unlike me. They were 60 years old or older (I’m 46), and they had existing cardiovascular, lung, or other conditions (to my knowledge, I have none of those). It’s not that I bore the more vulnerable any ill-will. But the fact (if it is a fact) that I’m less vulnerable gave me a certain courage, if “courage” can be used to describe my reckless insouciance.
I didn’t go partying on a beach with scores of my closest friends. Even before Sangamon’s governor issued a shelter in place order, I (and my spouse) started being more cautious about going in public. One reason was I wanted to avoid being a vector for a disease that would kill someone else. Another reason, however, was convenience. Even in “normal” times, I’m not one for going out in public. A spring break beach party isn’t something I’m temperamentally inclined to do. Even in my early twenties, that type of thing didn’t appeal to me. That’s not because I’m a better person. It’s because I’m not wired that way.
Even now that I know better, I still hold what is probably an inordinate faith in the numbers game. Every day, Sangamon’s department of public health releases the number of deaths and breaks them down by age and sex. I look them over and scan quickly, noting to myself that for the most part, the ages are 50 and over.
As I’ve tried to argue before, pretensions to courage and morality mix uncomfortably with felt security. I’m not much different from that spring break partier. The main difference is that he stated what I was thinking, and he was shamed publicly.