Get your own grip on the problem. Most of us won’t die from Covid 19. However, if it gets to you and you are not distancing you speed it to those who don’t have the means to fight it more quickly. More immediately, in passing it on you will help overrun a health system that is not built for the number of patients who will require intensive care all at once. By isolating and distancing early, you are helping not just your neighbours and vulnerable members of your family, you are helping your own health service to get through a sudden and insane demand for intensive care.
We aren’t China. They faced this sort of danger many times before and so are better prepared to deal with this with a vast testing regime and plentiful supplies of masks and goggles. Nor are we a police state (yet). As well as collective action between countries to get health supplies moving, as citizens we need to sacrifice our freedoms. Distancing and voluntary isolation now may prevent the need for a more extreme lockdown later on.
Learn new habits (good ones are hard to acquire, bad ones hard to get rid of). I had no idea how to wash my hands in a way that prevents the spread of disease. In the old days before hand-sanitisers, no junior doctor was allowed to touch a patient until he or she could prove to the ward sister they could wash their hands properly. Find a video and check you’re doing it right now, and your kids (prepare yourself for a row with the impatient stroppy ones). Social distancing will become a habit when the deaths start rising, but the earlier you do it the more lives you will save.
Fear, anger and complacency are not useful (for now). Our natural fight/flight reflex to run or to be fearful does nothing to deal with complacency in others. None of them are much use to those whose lives we need to save. Loud expressions of anger drive unwarranted anxiety in countless others who are already doing their best to stop the virus. Needless anxiety burns the energy and resources they may need to fight the disease if/or when it comes to them.
Don’t get your news from social media. Anything you hear relating to Covid-19 may be wrong even if your ‘friend’ is a health care professional. Proprietary networks like Facebook and Twitter exist to make money from people sharing human emotions, that spreads, like, well, a virus. That makes all of us susceptible to a contagion of. Get your facts from professionals and opinion from experts. Use social media to connect with real human stories (not scaremongering) and plug yourself into enabling networks – and grassroots ways to organise help for others where it matters most, in your own area.
Look after the most vulnerable. 40, 000 people in Northern Ireland have had a letter to tell them to self-isolate for the foreseeable future. Be practical, if you know who they are, do get in touch and offer whatever help or support you can safely provide. This can be done informally, as we reach out to the handful of people we know directly. But maybe we could be bolder – work with mobile phone companies so an army of young people can call the 40,000 to see if they are okay and find out what services they need.
Innovation will change the scale and the shape of the problem. Yes, this is going to get worse before it starts to get better. But international collaboration is fast-forwarding testing techniques so we will get more precise information about who has the virus and who has had the virus now in the short to medium term and then a vaccine in the longer term. If you’re a journalist please use the positive as well as the negative data to give us all a more rounded picture. Hospitals are telling you the numbers of successfully treated patients, please report that too!
If you do get the virus, you want to be ready as you can. Eat as well as you can. And drink lots of water (2 litres a day). Cut your alcohol intake. Have a routine, it will keep your spirits up. If you have a sunny window somewhere in your flat or house, spend time in there (for the Vitamin D). With far less traffic about, the air is much fresher and clearer than normal so open your windows! Covid-19 may be nasty but it is not airborne. On your daily walk, enjoy the peace (and the birdsong).
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty