I was having a conversation with some colleagues, and experienced a light bulb moment.
The thought began like this:
- 9/11 was one of the most shattering events of my life-time. Its impact was immediate. If I were to compare it to a weather phenomenon, one that came to mind was a tornado, because tornados strike with little warning, and the impact is both localized, and potentially devastating.
- The novel coronavirus has the potential to be (and arguably already is) a cataclysmic event, which is having an impact that is being felt by more and more people by the day. A weather phenomenon that came to mind here is a tsunami, because the originating event hides well beneath the surface, and even the tsunami itself is barely noticeable until it has almost reached a land mass.
Continuing with the tsunami analogy, consider also these parallels:
- Tsunamis often affect vulnerable populations, many of whom have few resources and limited options to escape its path. When I consider older populations living in care facilities, for instance, they are in much the same situation.
- There is a substantial lag time between the moment that an event occurs which can trigger a tsunami, and the moment at which the tsunami makes landfall
- Even after the waters recede, the impacts of a tsunami are lasting for those most directly in the “blast radius,” where the potential for disease can last for a considerable amount of time, and health care systems are stretched well beyond their capacity
- As others have observed, the impact of the novel coronavirus can be seen as a tsunami in many different ways, including its socio-economic impact and its impact on specific economic sectors, such as the service economy
There are models which give us insight into what sort of trajectory the novel coronavirus is going to take, in various geographies. Nonetheless, it is difficult for the models themselves to account for the great many variables of play, such as how long it will potentially take to get people tested, and to what extent individuals limit their physical contact with others.
Examples of such models:
- Estimating Risk for Death from 2019 Novel Coronavirus Disease, China, January–February 2020
- How Much Worse the Coronavirus Could Get, in Charts (an interactive page, which helps us see differences in the potential impact)
As this crisis plays out, we are all going to learn a lot about each other. At this moment in time, we are truly a global community, and we have the opportunity to rise to the occasion, letting our better selves emerge, and finding ways to support each other through this momentous challenge.