A Life Less Analog, Technology

Social distancing in the time of coronavirus

Technology column header

Social distancing is one of our best weapons these days as the world battles the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Social distancing, cancellation of events, working from home. These can help stop or slow down the spread of COVID-19, which is now a global pandemic. The World Health Organization has advised us to maintain social distancing. We are supposed to keep a one-meter (three feet) distance between ourselves and someone who is coughing or sneezing.

Stay home as much as possible

Social distancing

Today, March 12, we are celebrating the 31st birthday of the World Wide Web. We certainly should be thankful to Sir Tim Berners-Lee for inventing the World Wide Web. Imagine how much worse the situation would be if we weren’t able to keep working or communicating online.

To put it bluntly, it’s better for us to stay home. In fact, 29-year-old Florian Reifschneider set up a site that has turned into a global movement. One that tells people to #StayTheFuckHome.

Here’s why:

“Due to the lack of immunity to this new virus, the entire human population is the upper limit of possible infections. And although exponential growth always seems slow at first, it can lead to unfathomably high numbers in a rather short time. With the numbers of infected people currently doubling in a matter of a few days[7], our medical systems will be potentially overloaded, which will lead to higher numbers of fatalities, due to people not receiving the care they need.”

It may be an unpopular decision, but governments have the responsibility to enforce social distancing.

As this The Atlantic article puts it, the solution is to cancel everything.

“The coronavirus could spread with frightening rapidity, overburdening our health-care system and claiming lives, until we adopt serious forms of social distancing.

“This suggests that anyone in a position of power or authority, instead of downplaying the dangers of the coronavirus, should ask people to stay away from public places, cancel big gatherings, and restrict most forms of nonessential travel.”

Flattening the coronavirus curve

Another thing we have been hearing about lately is the need to flatten the curve.

Here’s the remarkable graphic that is up on Wikipedia with proper attribution & a CC-BY-SA license. You can share this with the hashtag #FlattenTheCurve.

Covid-19-curves-graphic-social-v3

According to this Vox article, this chart shows how canceled events and self-quarantines can save lives.

“‘Even if you don’t reduce total cases, slowing down the rate of an epidemic can be critical,’ wrote Carl Bergstrom, a biologist at the University of Washington in a Twitter thread praising the graphic, which was first created by the CDC, adapted by consultant Drew Harris, and popularized by the Economist. The chart has since gone viral with the help of the hashtag #FlattenTheCurve.

Flattening the curve means that all the social distancing measures now being deployed in places like Italy and South Korea, and on a smaller scale in places like Seattle and Santa Clara County, California, aren’t so much about preventing illness but rather slowing down the rate at which people get sick.

Remember the greater good

Today, the National Basketball Association suspended its season. Now you know why we shouldn’t treat COVID-19 as a joke.

The time for being selfish is over. It’s not just our own lives but the lives of so many people. So let’s do our share and stop putting other people in danger.

Now is the time to keep the greater good in mind.

“Why expect more cooperation and compassion in the face of an epidemic? Because, contrary to popular belief, crises often tend to bring out the best in people. A report that looked at how people responded during the September 11th Twin Tower attacks showed that people bent over backwards to help others escape, sometimes at great personal risk to themselves. Other reports on the aftermath of natural disasters show that strangers will stick out their necks for each other to help.”

So, yes, we shouldn’t panic. But we also shouldn’t be in denial.

Let’s help each other get through this. We have to.