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It’s Not the Virus You Need to Worry About. It’s the System.

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Hired Gun
Staff member
HCL Supporter
Nov 26, 2017
US of A

It’s Not the Virus You Need to Worry About. It’s the System

January 27, 2020

by Selco
What would you do if one morning in your city you found out that there are confirmed cases of a new illness that rapidly spreads among citizens, and let’s say killed 15 people?

What if you saw on Facebook that in your neighborhood, in some mall, for example, a few people passed out and people said it is because of that illness?

What if you read in the news that the virus is very contagious and it spreads by air very quickly?

What if you saw people rushing into pharmacies for face masks and medications, and into the grocery stores for food and water supply?

Would you continue to live as before or you would consider going into survival mode and stay home with your family, or to leave a densely populated area to go to your cabin on the lake?

Now, multiply the mentioned situation above by 10, so let’s say the situation with deceased from the virus is 10 times worse, and so is the situation with panic and rushes to store and pharmacies, etc. and ask yourself this:

What do you imagine that people who are working in electric companies, police services, hospitals, fire departments, food delivery systems, public transport companies and elsewhere would do?

Do you think people working in areas that hold the system together would continue to go to their jobs or some of them might consider the option to go home and take care of their families? Do you think the stores will remain stocked? Do you think everything will keep running as normal?

How large a number of those people would there be? How would that affect the system? Would that mean the system might collapse?

Well, nobody knows for sure, but I think there is a big possibility for that.

It’s not the virus you have to worry about. It’s the system.
Virus or illness on itself might not be a problem in its essence, but the impact that it brings to the system and people might be so huge through the media that it causes the system to stop working in the normal way. So you could find yourself in a collapse not necessarily because of a huge pandemic, but because of the reaction to it.

Another case might be the simple unwillingness from the system to admit how bad the situation is in order to stop the panic when folks realized the truth.

So, what might bring the system to collapse might be a real pandemic or a reaction to the pandemic (which might or might not be controllable) or simply the government’s poor or late response to the pandemic.

I am not into fear-mongering, so I am not expecting an end of the world pandemic because the current virus most probably might be (like many times before) something that will be controlled with just a few troubles before it becomes a worldwide problem.

Right now as far as we know it could be a flu-like problem. What kinda brings things to our attention is the reactions from the government where the virus was born.

“Over-reacting” is a small word for it, and if we want to be positive about it, we might say that they are going with a “better safe then sorry“ attitude, but…

The Media
Media today is a big monster that feeds on sensational news and fear-mongering. It sucks you into watching the news, the “latest reports,” and updates. It kinda makes you addicted to it.

I will not even go into a discussion about product-selling based on “fear showering.”

To pay attention to the news make sense. To be addicted to it, and to base your most important life decisions on the “latest updates“ could mess you up really badly.

Or let me put it like this. If you waited for the Coronavirus to happen in order to go to the pharmacy and buy face masks and disinfectants, you have a serious flaw in your prepping. You should have that all the time in your preps.

You are a prepper/survivalist. You should be ready more or less for the disruption or fall of the system. You should already have plans, stashes, etc.

Remember, the event that leads to that might be less important, the result of that is pretty much always the same – more people than goods around you because of a disruption of the normal system. Try to concentrate on that (of course with some additions for the particular event that led to that situation)

The System (Government)
Do not forget one basic fact: you as a prepper/survivalist, at your core, most probably do not trust the system.

I am not saying you hate it, but you just do not trust it completely.

So, watch the news and announcements. Help if possible, obey if possible (and if it makes sense) but always keep in mind that the system at its core has a very basic obligation: to keep that system running. If that means the system has to lie to you or let’s say, bend the truth, it will do it, because to the system you are an individual, and the system is machinery that needs to run.

So, keep some common sense, and trust your gut instinct.

Focus on the Basics
No matter what, in the end, it always comes down to the basics.

So when you not sure what to do and when you are not sure what is gonna happen just go back to the basics and think about how you can keep yourself and your family secure and safe, fed, as far as possible from trouble, healthy, warm…and for how long.

Do not forget the emphasis on “how long.”

Do not get mesmerized by a particular possible event too much or too long, because yes, in the end, it is about the basics.

If you are reading this, it means you are among the people who are ready for it – as ready you can be – so do not panic.


Time traveler
HCL Supporter
Dec 3, 2017
Hey everybody, as an infectious disease epidemiologist (although a lowly one), at this point feel morally obligated to provide some information on what we are seeing from a transmission dynamic perspective and how they apply to the social distancing measures. Like any good scientist I have noticed two things that are either not articulated or not present in the "literature" of social media. I am also tagging my much smarter infectious disease epidemiologist friends for peer review of this post. Please correct me if I am wrong (seriously).

Specifically, I want to make two aspects of these measures very clear and unambiguous.

First, we are in the very infancy of this epidemic's trajectory. That means even with these measures we will see cases and deaths continue to rise globally, nationally, and in our own communities in the coming weeks. Our hospitals will be overwhelmed, and people will die that didn't have to. This may lead some people to think that the social distancing measures are not working. They are. They may feel futile. They aren't. You will feel discouraged. You should. This is normal in chaos. But this is also normal epidemic trajectory. Stay calm. This enemy that we are facing is very good at what it does; we are not failing. We need everyone to hold the line as the epidemic inevitably gets worse. This is not my opinion; this is the unforgiving math of epidemics for which I and my colleagues have dedicated our lives to understanding with great nuance, and this disease is no exception. We know what will happen; I want to help the community brace for this impact. Stay strong and with solidarity knowing with absolute certainty that what you are doing is saving lives, even as people begin getting sick and dying. You may feel like giving in. Don't.

Second, although social distancing measures have been (at least temporarily) well-received, there is an obvious-but-overlooked phenomenon when considering groups (i.e. families) in transmission dynamics. While social distancing decreases contact with members of society, it of course increases your contacts with group (i.e. family) members. This small and obvious fact has surprisingly profound implications on disease transmission dynamics. Study after study demonstrates that even if there is only a little bit of connection between groups (i.e. social dinners, playdates/playgrounds, etc.), the epidemic trajectory isn't much different than if there was no measure in place. The same underlying fundamentals of disease transmission apply, and the result is that the community is left with all of the social and economic disruption but very little public health benefit. You should perceive your entire family to function as a single individual unit; if one person puts themselves at risk, everyone in the unit is at risk. Seemingly small social chains get large and complex with alarming speed. If your son visits his girlfriend, and you later sneak over for coffee with a neighbor, your neighbor is now connected to the infected office worker that your son's girlfriend's mother shook hands with. This sounds silly, it's not. This is not a joke or a hypothetical. We as epidemiologists see it borne out in the data time and time again and no one listens. Conversely, any break in that chain breaks disease transmission along that chain.

In contrast to hand-washing and other personal measures, social distancing measures are not about individuals, they are about societies working in unison. These measures also take a long time to see the results. It is hard (even for me) to conceptualize how 'one quick little get together' can undermine the entire framework of a public health intervention, but it does. I promise you it does. I promise. I promise. I promise. You can't cheat it. People are already itching to cheat on the social distancing precautions just a "little"- a playdate, a haircut, or picking up a needless item at the store, etc. From a transmission dynamics standpoint, this very quickly recreates a highly connected social network that undermines all of the work the community has done so far.

Until we get a viable vaccine this unprecedented outbreak will not be overcome in grand, sweeping gesture, rather only by the collection of individual choices our community makes in the coming months. This virus is unforgiving to unwise choices. My goal in writing this is to prevent communities from getting 'sucker-punched' by what the epidemiological community knows will happen in the coming weeks. It will be easy to be drawn to the idea that what we are doing isn't working and become paralyzed by fear, or to 'cheat' a little bit in the coming weeks. By knowing what to expect, and knowing the importance of maintaining these measures, my hope is to encourage continued community spirit, strategizing, and action to persevere in this time of uncertainty.

Jonathan P. Smith
Lecturer in Epidemiology, Yale University School of Public Health
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