Commentary / Coronavirus

Optimism – in the Age of Coronavirus

optimismWhat are you crazy? Pollyanna? Think the rest of us are nuts? How can you be optimistic in the age of coronavirus? Here is how. Follow me …  

First, remember that bad news always squeezes out good. A 2014 McGill University study found journalists and readers tend to a “negativity bias.” We gravitate to bad news. Put differently, we are conditioned to sift news for the worst, as “bad news could be a signal that we need to change what we are doing to avoid danger” – even if the risk is low.  

Similarly, readers react faster to “negative words.” Let’s see is that is – whoa, panic, death, global war, shocking, tragic, destruction, pandemic – true. Versus: Stable, secure, people recovering, return to healthy, happy, peaceful, thoughtful. What do you think? We are all different, but perhaps there is some negative news bias – it grabs us. 

Second, numbers remain comforting – even if the word comforting does not grab us. In 330 million Americans, we have 22,123 cases of coronavirus, and 282 have died. Your chance of contracting the virus – on these numbers – is one in 14,916. Your chance of dying, one in 1,170,212.  

For comparative purposes, annual data surrounding flu, which presents similar symptoms, offers comfort. Annually, between 16.5 and 66 million Americans get the flu. Roughly 200,000 are hospitalized, between 8200 and 20,000 die.  

What does that data tell us? Beyond ease of transmission, we have a sub-population perennially at-risk to any virus. In a sense, the same precautions taken to avoid coronavirus transmission should – logically – attach to flu. It can be serious for some.  

Differences are four – which is why we are “socially distant.” First, we do not know how swiftly coronavirus is transmitted.  Second, we do not know which vulnerabilities make it serious. Third, we do not know why it progresses to pneumonia in a small percentage the vulnerable.  Last, we are only learning the nature of recovery – how fast, what lingering effects. All that spells caution, not chaos.  

The key is “not knowing.” Uncertainty – not death numbers – is why we are hunkered down. Keeping perspective is essential. Uncertainties exist around transmission and recovery, but that does not make the virus a Black Plague. It is not. It is simply new and has an uncharted transmission and recovery curves. 

Third, how about those recoveries? Not widely reported, they should be. Globally, a third of all confirmed cases have already recovered. Logic – and scarcity of test kits – suggests many more may have contracted and recovered. Those not dying are recovering. 

Even in the US, recovery is seldom mentioned. Onset differs state by state, and we can expect new cases as test kits proliferate, but recovery is occurring. Like confirmed cases, recovery is tipping upward. 

Globally we have seen – just now – 297,635 cases. We have also seen 94,625 recoveries. In the US, we came late to this party, and that is good. Our transmissions are so far lighter and later since we shut down borders. That said, even now, we are getting recoveries.  The point is that bad news – new cases and deaths – dominate, even as the good news is soft-pedaled.  

Fourth, let’s take a longer view. The virus will pass, likely in weeks. The retail impact will be sharp but softened by fiscal support to individuals, families, small and large businesses. Credit markets will stay functional with a strong, coordinated monetary policy. That is already happening. 

Most of all, the US economy’s underpinnings – oil’s volatility aside – are strong. People will return to work after layoffs, income streams resume, and consumption revives. Since consumption drives recovery, the return should be reasonably quick. 

Fifth, having survived this scare and shock, our country will be stronger than before coronavirus. Riding out a crisis, responding, and learning to be resilient creates a reservoir of confidence, strength, and preparedness. Again, many will say – are you nuts? The answer is no.  

History teaches us, but so does experience. What do you see around you? Probably this: More pulling together than pulling apart, more discerning important from unimportant, more focus on family and neighbor than national bombast, more attention to detail, and appreciation for facts. All that is good.

What else? Perhaps a greater sense of personal, family, community, and national identity, a rising sense of cohesion and commonality, rather than default to differences, refuge in division. We are realizing – all at once and all together – how united we can be.  In that realization is enormous hope.

Some of us saw this happen after 9-11. Some saw the default to kindness, reidentification of fellow Americans as kindred spirits, a recommitment to making us “one nation under God, indivisible.” 

Older Americans saw this sentiment in other moments, good and bad, encouraging and frightening, after our extraordinary moon landing, in the wake of assassinations in the 1960s, Korean War, and WWII.  

What offers hope – a well of optimism – is simple. We Americans do not like to admit to ourselves or others that we are, most of us, clear thinkers and can-do. We are good hearts. We do not take stock of this national characteristic often, but then we do not confront the need to pull together often, either. 

Optimism – grounded and comforting – comes from knowing we have clarity of thought, even if we differ. We have a can-do history, character, and capacity. We know right from wrong, mercy from judgment, effort from jarring rhetoric. We know how to get things done – and we do. We always have.  

Our post-coronavirus world will be different. We will be awake to hygiene, global connectivity on health. We will be prepared with crisis response tools, policies, strategies, practices, and public-private partnerships. We will rethink overdependence on China and the value in diverse supply chains. We will be ready for whatever comes next, in ways we would not have been without this pandemic.  

But most of all, we will be aware that – as a People, as individuals, families, communities, states, and a nation – we are ready, solid, resilient. Is that not good news, after recent ups and downs? Pollyanna? No. 

We Americans know how to pull together when circumstances require. Our real challenge is remembering to value each other after this crisis passes, how to work together to when stakes are less immediate, concentrating on staying “one nation under God, indivisible.” I am optimistic. 

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Linda M
2 years ago

Enjoyed reading this even if it was a week later.

Leonard Stuart
2 years ago

Enjoyed the article I am also positive and this will pass. Just be smart about it. And I am tired of hearing only the negative and how bad it will get. I am glad that the President vocalizes some hope, which we need badly.I am tired listening to all the news and doomsday just around the corner, it will pass,stay hopeful and dont listen to the news media. Sit down with a good book clean out youre closet, donate the items to charity. Discover nature go for long walks. That is what we are doing .

2 years ago

I think this AMAC board is about 98% Republican & Trump. You will not agree with what I say, but the USA needs to become united again or we are falling into what the Communists wanted us take direction in 1958. Divided we Fall”

2 years ago

The slow reaction of POTUS is the biggest thing that bothers me. A lot of valuable time was lost. Trump says his hands were tied by regs, but why did we not accept the WHO testing??? I think this would have been different, why did we have to reinvent ???????? Big Ego on being greatest medical group on earth

2 years ago

Get off your soap box

Pat H
2 years ago

Faith over Fear!!! Faith, is not just the Absence of Fear, but the Willingness to Walk through it!!

Claudette Croteau
2 years ago

Timely, and so well-presented! A must-read!

2 years ago

Thank you. At a time when we need hope, the media offers nothing but gloom and doom. After all, what matters more to them than ratings?

2 years ago

Great and beautifully written!

Sally Jonas
2 years ago

Thank you! We all needed that!

2 years ago

I think this is a warning from God for all of us to shape up & sin no more. Just look at what has happened in the world since the 80’s . We need to become united instead of divided . This is wake-up call.

Carol Calle
2 years ago

Carol Thank You. Very well spoken. God Bless this USA…and He will if we can just begin Thanking Him for this learning time rather than complaining about what He has allowed to come to us.

2 years ago

Thank you for a more positive attitude viewpoint on how to handle the COVID19 at present. I am trying to look past the point of getting over the exposure hump until we match services to the needs of people who need care. We also need to start looking sharply at the attempts by both the media and people like Pelosi and Schumer to turn the blame of this outbreak on Trump. The current reaction to stall aid to us taxpayers, so they can sneak the Green New Deal and other things on their wishlist, has to be noted and marked as their problem when the outbreak gets worse because they couldn’t have their wishes granted.

2 years ago

And today, here in Texas … “Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has moved to halt abortions in the state, an effort his office says will free up critical medical supplies during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statewide order Sunday, Abbott postponed all elective surgeries as a means to conserve medical supplies needed by hospitals to combat the spread of COVID-19. Under the directive, which lasts until April 21, hospitals can’t perform surgeries unless the patient faces an immediate risk for “serious adverse medical consequences or death, as determined by the patient’s physician.”

Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office confirmed in a statement Monday that the prohibition applies to “any type of abortion that is not medically necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.”

The office said failure to comply could result in penalties of up to $1,000 or 180 days of jail time.

The order follows a similar decision on Friday by Ohio’s attorney general, and has sparked a fierce backlash from abortion proponents.

Officials in Washington state and Massachusetts, where abortion rights are more widely protected, have said similar orders halting elective surgeries do not apply to abortions.

It’s still unclear how Texas providers will respond. Some abortion providers had already postponed surgical abortions by Monday, but were still performing medication abortions, believing that they were not included in the order. Advocates have also questioned whether the attorney general’s directive, which came in a press release, is legally binding.

In a joint statement, the CEOs of three Texas Planned Parenthood affiliates said they were reviewing the order on Monday to ensure compliance. The organization performs the bulk of the abortions that occur in the state.”

Allan Brem
2 years ago

I have been optimistic from the beginning. I have no reason to doubt that real information and actions will solve the problems and that the economy and Market will rebound. I have yet to see data that would suggest the preposterous things that are being done. I am over 75, have respiratory issues and type A blood but I have no fear of going out in public. The numbers of cases of infection have yet to be linked in anyway to suggest I need worry within my space and time.

2 years ago

love this. Very upbeat and much truth. Thank you for some optimism – it is not all black and we see much more of people caring, understanding and helping than of selfish hoarders. This too shall pass and the “sky” is not falling, despite efforts of the media to paint all black. I avoid the news usually because it seems that is all they pander. Let’s stick together, wisely follow the guidelines to limit the spread, care for those afflicted, and pay attention to good news and friends.

David Nelson
2 years ago

Good article but you forgot the forgotten war. We the Viet Nam era veterans can see the truths in your words even though we are still the forgotten. We can blame Viet Nam on Kennedy, Johnson or McNamara, but the real culprit too our loss was Cronkite and just as unfortunate was his giving birth to the destructive liberal movement.

2 years ago

Thanks so much for publishing good news ????

Randy Geiger
2 years ago

I am a baby boomer, proud son a couple from the greatest generation. I learned never to fear, give up or give in. Made it through the Cuban missile crisis, Vietnam service, recessions, 911, the Carter, Clinton and Obama presidencies, voting for Trump and now will make it through the China virus. Our flag flies high in the front yard . Our Bible is on the kitchen table. Our powder is dry. We are helping neighbors where and when needed. We give thanks every day for being born in this country. We are grateful for all this country has given us and proud what we have given in return. My wife and I learned from what our parents had to deal with during the Great Depression and their sacrifices during World War II and what they shared with us from those experiences. This too shall pass. We believe.

John Karkalis
2 years ago
Reply to  Randy Geiger

It’s sad that the history you relate has become a casualty of our schools. A self-absorbed, narcissistic generation will never know the things you and I learned.
For the current generation history begins with its birth.

Margie Wickham
2 years ago

Wow! I wish more people could or would read this article. It has been a difficult time, but it is good to reflect on the positive and remind us to bring this hope into the future when the virus is old news!

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