Three weeks in to the current period of COVID-19 “social distancing” guidelines I have cancelled already-booked flights to Barcelona (cancellation of Mobile World Congress), Austin, Tex. (cancellation of SXSW), and London (cancelled company meeting). So it seemed logical that I’d cancel my flight to San Diego for the now-cancelled International Bridge Tunnel Turnpike Association gathering, but for some reason I toyed with the idea of taking the flight on a lark.
I finally decided to cancel this flight this morning after speaking with a friend Friday about my thought process. My friend proceeded to disabuse me of the notion that taking such a flight would have been anything other than a life-threatening proposition. He went on to justify his stance by sharing multiple stories of friends and family currently suffering under either positive COVID-19 diagnoses or hospitalized with debilitating symptoms.
Oddly, I had already questioned the wisdom of at least two colleagues pondering international flights – one for a vacation to Puerto Rico and one for a wedding in the Dominican Republic. The vacation was delayed. The wedding was cancelled. As I told both of these colleagues in an irritatingly raised voice: “No one is flying anywhere!” Yet, I too, was “weighing my options.” Sad.
Thank goodness for my friend. My friend described how he was driving from Detroit to Dulles Airport, located near me, to meet his daughter returning from an exchance program in Nigeria. Turns out the program, originally scheduled to be completed in May, was terminated prematurely a few weeks ago, a termination that was quickly followed by a closing of the only available airport. Cue terror and a call to the State Department.
Moreover, this friend reminded me what I already knew from stories seen on TV, heard over the radio, or read about in the newspaper: that anyone with severe enough COVID-19 symptoms as to require hospitalization had to be prepared to say their final good-bye’s when checking in at the hospital – as no visitors would be allowed. This is not to say that hospitalization is a for-sure death sentence, but, by now, we have all become acquainted with the many tales of patients dying alone or left with a tenuous Facetime lifeline in their final hours.
For me, the lesson was that everyone should, like me, reach out to friends and acquaintances to catch up on events and spread good will and empathy at this stressful time – but, mainly, to get a sanity check. My COVID-19 prescription is for you to call your friends until you find one – or more – with a personal experience of a friend, co-worker, or family member touched by COVID-19. Only in this way can we begin to come to terms with the magnitude of the crisis in this time of disconnection.
SOURCE: Strategy Analytics survey shows between 20% and 25% of respondents, globally, report knowing someone personally diagnosed with COVID-19.
It’s essential that we all reach out. We need to make an effort to connect to overcome and bridge our social isolation. The mayhem unfolding in some hospitals is happening out of sight, the struggling companies and their workers are reduced to statistics. Reach out.
From reaching out myself I have learned of the companies in the automotive industry immediately impacted by shuttered factories as they only get paid as vehicles are made. Some companies get paid when vehicles are sold. Some companies only begin making money once vehicles are being used.
Vehicles are no longer being made, sold, or used. Revenue is not flowing. Governments are stepping in to help.
American citizens are complaining that their rights are being abused under the current social distancing and stay at home orders. Businesses are suing to re-open their doors. The U.S. President laments the cure – social distancing and stay at home – being worse than the illness.
There are many reasons for these measures being taken mainly by local governments. Reach out and find someone you know who has been touched by the disease, someone you trust, and get your own personal firsthand account. I guarantee that after having such a conversation you will no longer be in doubt as to the severity of the crisis and the appropriateness of the response.
One of the stories that caused me to consider actually taking flight appeared on Morning Edition on NPR. A volunteer medical courier shared his story of a flight with five flight attendants and two passengers – himself plus one other.
The story told me two things. First, that the $50B Federal relief package recently signed in to law requires that the airline beneficiaries must continue to fly to all of the cities to which they flew prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. And, second, that the only people flying were those with urgent business – i.e. this is no time to be flying for fun.
The experience of cancelling my fourth flight since the arrival of COVID-19 also reminded me that nothing will be the same again. We have a new normal. Three weeks in to our current social isolation I am seeing barriers being erected in retail outlets to protect checkhout clerks.
SOURCE: Checkout counter with barrier at Lowe’s
Let’s face it. This is the new normal. There will be many accommodations. But if we want to see what those future accommodations are going to look like, we are going to have to stay indoors as much as possible to live to see that day.
In fact, the government turned up the prophylactic recommendations this week suggesting that all people wear facial masks in public. I can report that this recommendation is not being univerally adopted, but I am definitely seeing more handwashing and use of gloves.
So, please, find a friend touched by COVID-19. It shouldn’t be too hard. In fact, it is getting easier to do by the day. Think about the lag time between infection and the appearance of symptoms. Think about the stories of sufferers describing their inability to breath – like being under water. Think about the loved ones saying good-bye at the doors of the hospital, possibly for the last time. Think about yourself.
I have one more flight left to cancel – to Tel Aviv (for now-cancelled Ecomotion). I’ll probably leave this cancellation to the last minute just like the flight I cancelled this morning – and I’ll flirt with the idea of actually flying. But I won’t fly, because life is too short and precious and flying today is too dangerous. Even leaving your house is dangerous today.