Sue Caplan: Paranoid ‘germaphobe’ or patriot? You decide. | TheUnion.com

Sue Caplan: Paranoid ‘germaphobe’ or patriot? You decide.

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Sue Caplan

“Flatten the curve” became the new mantra this week, as our country grapples with COVID-19. Dr. Sanjay Gupta said we’ve never been more co-dependant on one another to help slow the spread of the coronavirus while our health care system prepares.

It’s your duty as a patriot, as flag waving, America-loving, pie-eating citizenry to hunker down!

“For the love of God, man. For the love of country. Stay away from me!”

Brilliant! I’ve found the glass slipper that fits my paranoia perfectly — I am a breast-beating patriot for hiding in my house, hoarding tuna fish and toilet paper. I pat myself through my layer of latex and say, “You are a good American dear, you’re saving this country.”

What’s the source of my patriotism? The source of my paranoia? I’ll bottom line it for you, my 81-year-old mom has leukemia.

By this logic, Howard Mandell, known germaphobe, is a patriot. The guy ordering Haz Mat suits for everyone in his business is a patriot. Oprah can shout “You’re a patriot, and you’re a patriot and you’re a patriot!” to her empty audience chairs at her studio in L.A.

Is this all crazy? It seems completely crazy, right?

Nope. I’m all in. What’s the source of my patriotism? The source of my paranoia? I’ll bottom line it for you, my 81-year-old mom has leukemia.

She lives next door to me. We are practicing good hygiene now, so that it becomes routine. After I visit, keeping at least 6 feet away from her, I make her wipe down the doorknob with antiseptic as I leave. I have delivered her first round of groceries, and I will do so until much, much more information is known. I live in rural California, one county over from where one person has died from the virus, and many are positive.

I know I am four parts paranoid, one part patriot.

Rationally, even as the probabilities are still so small, to ignore them right now is a game of Russian roulette. The chamber has way more than six cylinders, granted, but the muzzle is pointed at our most vulnerable citizens. We aren’t testing fast enough to really know the probabilities here in Northern California. So, until more data is amassed, I’m just assuming everyone out there sharing air space around me is positive.

Look, even if you are a good soldier, you might be a bit cavalier about this whole thing.

“Ah it’s all media (bs). You can’t live your life in fear. Everyone is overreacting.”

Listen dude, you catch it, you’ll suffer for a few days (or maybe not at all). Hack your way through it. But those insidious little crowned jewels of destruction will AirBnB their way from your lungs to someone else’s lungs, on their way to my mother.

Doesn’t anyone remember exponential equations from math class? Left unchecked, this thing can double every six days or so. Do the simple math: (% of infection with uncontrolled spread X population X mortality rate). If you want to add some complexity to the math, substitute “elderly and compromised population” and “elderly and compromised population mortality rate.”

Actually, don’t do that math. Better advice, just focus on not spreading it. Wash hands. Stop French kissing strangers. Don’t vacation in viral hot spots (don’t lose your sense of humor, folks).

The short-term economic downside of these draconian measures is going to harm our economy. If we don’t move, recreate, commute to our jobs, earn wages and spend money, businesses will suffer enormously. And that’s the hard price of saving my mom. Your mom. Grandpap. The dude who has diabetes. The gal who smoked too much as a teenager.

If you are a patriot, you will stand 6 feet apart, shoulder-to-distant-shoulder with your fellow Americans against this common enemy, and say “Not in my country, you corona-bastard!”

Sue Caplan lives in Grass Valley.


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