July 13, 2020

Risk

Yesterday New York State recorded zero deaths for the first time since their outbreak started in March. They have gone from being an overwhelmed epicenter to the opposite. At the same time, several other states are setting records in positive tests and deaths are creeping up. Why is that?

We can see that New York’s governor worked hard to get people to stay home, wear masks, keep the correct distancing, waiting for the correct signs of control of the epidemic before starting to open up the economy again. Easy to do in New York City where the dangers were clear to citizens, they couldn’t ignore it. Much harder in the rural areas where people were more skeptical. But the citizens of New York did it. Amazing job when you compare it to Florida, Arizona or Texas, sadly.

The Atlantic has an interesting article about cognitive dissonance and how people will stick to their decisions, right or wrong, and look for signs of confirmation, while ignoring the signs that disprove it. Coronavirus doubting and resistance to prevention techniques are rampant right now in many places. People are stuck in their beliefs. They somehow live with the cognitive dissonance and explain it away. For some, their recognition of the true dangers of COVID-19 comes too late. Lots of stories right now of people ignoring the risks, poo pooing the illness, putting themselves in risky situations, until it is too late and they get ill, sometimes deathly so. The part that gets me about this is the other people they put at risk of exposure because of their unwillingness to change their beliefs. They, themselves, and their friends often perpetuate the misinformation. People easily share information to others to be “helpful” without checking for accuracy. This study shows that social media effects judgement but that it may be possible to slow it down by asking about accuracy. Amazingly, the simple question “is it accurate?” slowed people down enough that the information shared was more accurate and less misguided. More misinformation was shared when the question was not asked. If it could be that simple, we could make a difference. Asking people to slow down and check accuracy might actually help. Along with teaching empathy and care for others, we would really make headway. I can always hope.

Otherwise, I leave you with this fantastic site that can help you decide if it is safe to go to an event in your county, based on the size of the event and infection rate in your county. For instance, in my home of King County, Washington, there is a 9% risk that 1 person will have COVID-19 if I go to party with 10 people, but if I went to a meeting with 100 people, there’s a 60% chance someone there will have COVID-19. Contrast that with Miami, Florida where there is a greater than 99% chance someone at a 100 person event would have the virus, but even with only 10 people there, the risk is still 70%! I will admit that a 9% chance is still too high for me to start going to gatherings. I will wait.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six and be outside as much as possible. Be sensible.

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.

https://covid19risk.biosci.gatech.edu

https://www.axios.com/new-york-city-zero-coronavirus-deaths-980b84ce-3fb0-4be2-8bd8-81951e6ce14e.html

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/07/role-cognitive-dissonance-pandemic/614074/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200709121232.htm