After years of advocating and then judging pandemic disaster scenarios in policy debate rounds, it is now time to find out what I really believe and how I act in the face of an actual pandemic.
There are variations in people's approaches to determine how much harm is coming from coronavirus and its illness, COVID-19.
- Some describe the problem by the numbers of cases and deaths at his moment. I dismissed those numbers as unimportant, as they were transient and did not reflect the extent of likely harm.
- Doctors record the cases they see and public health officials aggregate them. Often, the numbers are compared to previous numbers or with current numbers for other illnesses, and changes create a trend of what to expect. I pay lots of attention to these numbers and trends.
- Epidemiologists look at what is known about existing cases and deaths, then use algorithms and models to estimate what the harm could be. Assumptions about existing numbers of cases, small variations in rates of transmission, and differences in severity of harm or death produce vastly different outcomes. I found opinions on US deaths ranging from 80,000 to more than 2 million. While I could pick one which agreed with my level of alarm or serves to advocate a sense of harm, I do not have enough expertise to make a meaningful choice.
Knowing about the potential harm, what choices do I make? Thankfully, I'm not making governmental choices. I can focus on personal decisions based on my privileged position.
- Do I continue doing my usual activities or stop them in order to isolate? I have good health and adequate insurance, so I still interact with friends and neighbors. I am conscious of their risks for exposure and choose a physical distance based on my (and their) sense of threat. When there is a government mandate, I (mostly) follow the law.
- Do I continue to spend money as usual? Should I change my investments? I'm retired, so don't rely on a job's income (a good thing, as my former company announced another round of lay-offs). I am more cautious, but have not chosen “only absolute essentials.” I made a few changes to have more cash available, but did not sell or reallocate assets. Unlike some of my relatives and friends, I was not certain enough about impacts of this crisis to change long-term strategies in an effort to avoid losses or make a profit.
It is hard to say if those are the best choices – but they emerge from my background in debate, assessing harms and considering policy choices. Here's hoping you are learning from your DUDL experience to make the best choices for you.
University of Denver, Sturm College of Law. 2255 East Evans Avenue Suite 406, Denver, CO 80210