Over the last couple of months, I’ve delayed putting pen to paper on the topic of the Coronavirus. It is a hot topic, and I didn’t want to be part of the hysteria; but now, as people are hunkered down and scared, I thought I would start to share my thoughts daily to help keep things in perspective.
You might ask yourself, “Who is this lawyer guy to speak about a possible global pandemic?”. Well, most of my previous clients know I have a wide range of experience in global affairs and emergency protocol management. I have also worked with the UN in various capacities dealing with human suffering and crisis management in the military. Combining this with legal training in Canada and the history of addressing political and corporate bullshit, people sometimes seek a frank take on major political issues. My angle is to seek information from the experts and rip away political nonsense from the debate.
One thing I can say for sure is, do not get your Coronavirus information from Conservatives news sources backed by Russians or Anti-Vaccers in coffee shops in Seattle.
So here we go…. the most frequently asked questions I am receiving:
1. Is it Safe to Travel, and When Can I Travel Again?
Vacation plans falling within the next 3 months are all but cancelled for most of us. People want to know what my options are…. if I cancelled because of the virus, do I lose my money? Can I reschedule? Well, yes and no, and it depends on how you book your travel. Today’s consumer wants the lowest possible price, so they shop online, and they find prices lower than what was traditionally found on major players websites. Well, it’s no surprise that travel corporations try to recover the lost income from price pressure by making you pay for everything else. The Airlines and hotels are willing to give you the lowest possible price, but they punish you if you don’t buy cancellation insurance
The cancellation fees are very clearly showcased when we’re booking our travel; if it says clearly, that the trip is a non-refundable price unless you bought trip cancellation insurance, you’re fine; and if you didn’t, well that’s exactly what trip cancellation is for…. a death in the family, an illness and in some cases a pandemic or natural disaster. I anticipate there will be some major lawsuits once this issue dies down over corporations taking advantage of this policy to the detriment of the consumer, but that is an issue for a future article.
Just as an aside, I wanted to mention that the talk of the government bailing out the airline industry totally pisses me off. My understanding of business is that when times are good, you make good profits, and you should save for when things could go bad. A global pandemic has been a clear and present danger to the global markets for decades, and it should have been baked into corporate strategies. The airlines should have been responsible for saving during the good times so they can survive the tough times, and they shouldn’t be able to go to the government and say bail us out, or we will go bankrupt. Many of these executives spend a lot of resources supporting political parties that criticize people who go on welfare when they lose their job… funny how corporate welfare is OK in this circumstance.
2. Should I Stock Up On Emergency Supplies?
I think its smart to always have a reserve of income in the bank and some level of non-perishables ready at any moment for a crisis. However, regardless of whether you are pre-prepared or not, what I am seeing from the expansion of the coronavirus does not represent any type of Ebola virus zombie attack situations that would require stockpiling ammunition of food and water. The Coronavirus appears for now to be a more aggressive form of the flu, and because it’s new, it will take longer to develop measures that reduce its lethality. At the moment, it is more lethal than the flu but far less widespread. Currently, many more people died of the flu than the coronavirus. But, this is not where the dialogue ends.
There are many articles on Facebook telling everybody to relax; scientific Neanderthals are sharing stories “revealing” that more people die of spider bites than the coronavirus. I wouldn’t call this robust thinking. New threats to public health require substantial planning and execution of measures designed to protect the citizens in order to limit the damage. I saw another article that said our fears were irrational because a variety of other diseases didn’t turn out so bad (ebola, SARS, bird flu, madcow, etc)… OK Einstein, did you consider that their impact was perhaps mitigated because we had a government that could react and stay ahead of the threat while a decent medical system minimized the loss of life?
Our infrastructure supported by scientists who actually know something about what they talk about are always wargaming possible scenarios 3, 6, 12 and 24 months ahead. At the current rate of spread, the Coronavirus could be as widespread as the flu, and it is more lethal. So, we should be paying attention, but not panicking.
The elderly and sick are more at risk. That doesn’t mean we necessarily need to stockpile toilet paper in our homes. But we should be looking closely at the capacities of our hospitals. Because those infected and suffering from the virus will need hospital beds to survive. So, we need to create more capacity to treat people suffering from severe flu symptoms. Governments need the support of the private industry to acquire more tests and beds. I have not doubled my stockpiles of emergency supplies, but I am looking for the government to make sure they are taking measures that can deal with many more sick people 3 months from now and I am encouraging my parents not to travel and limit their exposure until we can better understand how to treat the virus and mitigate its lethality to our older loved ones.
3. What are the Powerful People Doing to Protect Themselves That We Don’t Know About?
I answer this question with a question…What do you call a homeopathic remedy that is proven to work? Medicine. Be advised that the private sector will try to take advantage of your fears by selling you things with unproven claims, and the act of buying something will pacify your concerns until you read the next article tomorrow and continue the cycle.
But the question is a good one. The powers-that-be often provide a form of generic advice that helps the masses on a grand scale without necessarily sharing the individual and very expensive things that powerful people do to protect themselves. Pandemics are generally egalitarian in their approach to infecting a human host. So, other than isolating yourself on an island like some of the rich and powerful, your options are limited.
What I advise is reasonably simple:
· Socially Distance your family from the public.
· When it is necessary to go out, sanitize your hands at every opportunity
· Stop eating sugar
· Start exercising (at-home exercising is a great alternative)
· Get lots of sunlight and walk in the woods
· Limit alcohol and drugs
· Reduce your stress
· Call someone you love and remind them how much you appreciate all they did for you.
Basically, power up your immune system. Happy, healthy people do much better when viruses affect them so we can turn this event into something positive by making healthy life choices.
Did you know that caregivers live the longest? It’s because they do something that matters, and they connect with people and go to bed fulfilled. Nurturing relationships with people we care about in many ways is probably the best defense other than washing our hands and staying away from highly contagious areas.
Angry, depressed people have weaker immune systems. Stress kills by itself, don’t give this virus an advantage by being stressed. As an aside, one thing that I do use is concentrated oregano oil as an antioxidant that helps deal with viruses. It tastes absolutely horrendous which gives me a feeling that maybe it’s doing something to kill the virus while it battles my white blood cells… which makes me think as I write this that perhaps I should buy some oregano stocks if they exist.
4. What About My Kids, Should I Restrict Their Activities?
There was a recent study out of Finland that compared two Villages side-by-side across the international border between Finland and Russia. The Finish Village was very modern and germ adverse. Think obsessive parents following the kids around with Lysol wipes and constant sterilization. Then picture 5km across the way in the exact same environment, a much more unsophisticated Russian community that did not employ non-stop Purell and Lysol disinfecting antics. The Russian kids actually went outside and played in the dirt and probably ate dirt (good for gut bacteria). They studied a thousand kids from each town. Apparently, the Russian kids had a 90% less rate of allergies to peanuts and a far higher overall health score than the germ protected Finish kids. So, my point here is that children that are exposed to germs, bacteria and viruses develop healthy immune systems (obviously within reason).
Children that play outside are healthy and active and receive lots of vitamin D which is necessary to fight illnesses. So, quarantining your child indoors with no sunlight and giving them a Lysol bath every day is not going to protect them. In fact, it may make their immune system weaker when it comes time to fight the big battles.
Keep in mind, I’m not a doctor and have never played one on TV. However, from what I have been able to decipher, there have been no General government warnings that children are particularly vulnerable. In fact, it seems that children are resistant to the coronavirus effects although they can spread the virus, so restrict visits to the grandparents for a while. So, my advice to the client who asked me this question is to get your kids outside, tell them to wash their hands regularly and limit social gatherings.
5. How Do I Fight the Anxiety this Story is Creating?
This question is very relevant as it addresses our current system of sharing information masquerading as news created by Dr. Evil himself, CEO Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook.
Internet advertising and Facebook make money when you click. The top minds in design and marketing are creating ads solely intended to get you to click on them so that they can generate Ad Revenue.
The reality is that humans respond to fear more than they do to hope. So ads that are inflammatory, fearful or downright inaccurate are all over the place because they generate revenue.
Real knowledge is power and can help mitigate stress arising from Coronavirus fears and anxiety. You want to make sure that you’re not getting your information on the coronavirus from the same sites that are promoting Trump’s ridiculous policies because the consequences are much more severe. There are many conservatives and, sadly or ironically, older people who are attacking the government when they likely need good policy and accurate information more than anyone.
I told my client to stay calm and to be well informed. I advised him to go to government websites… not conspiracy theory websites. The World Health Organization is a great place to start. In our amazing country, Health Canada provides outstanding information that is thoughtful, accurate and well researched. This information is factual and not designed for clickbait and/or politically driven. Consuming this information will not only keep you informed but will also help you keep calm. And if you’re calm, you’re happy and if you’re happy you’re healthier, and the coronavirus doesn’t like happy healthy people.
Crisis creates an information vacuum, and humans deal with fear differently. Our instincts are to hoard during stressful times… perhaps we don’t need to signal social outrage over people buying toilet paper. Keep in mind that toilet paper takes up a huge amount of shelf space compared to soup and so it is very easy to see empty shelves, and when people see shelves empty, they want to buy that product. It doesn’t mean they are bad people and that humans are horrible, save the outrage for the government officials who cut back funding to science-based approaches to health and safety.
Last point for those humans out there that want to make a difference. I would encourage everybody not to revert to racism, tribalism and xenophobia in the face of crisis and especially this crisis. Getting accurate information is key.
Kindness, not paranoia, is our path out of this crisis… and remember the words of Martin Luther King:
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbour will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others.”
Starting tomorrow the lawyers at Millars law will be posting daily VLOGs to share information that can be useful as we all weather the storm.