Hello world and welcome back! There is too much going on regarding the outbreak and the decisions being made, so I’m using the majority of this newsletter to discuss my thoughts and provide some references (apologies if it runs over 3 minutes). If you are completely over COVID-19 talk feel free to skip to the second section :)
The virus has continued to thrive off our complacency, and luckily for it, the US has taken an approach that I still can’t seem to figure out. Other countries (China, Italy) that have shown the same (if not less steep) case curves and breakout rates have now determined and enforced a system to combat the spread. There is no walking around outside, going out, and it’s become a federal issue.
The US, on the other hand, is taking a hybrid approach (hybrid on a number of levels). I’ve been waiting each day to see what further measures would be taken by law enforcement, but as of today (Tuesday), I haven’t seen any major additions to our temporary state ‘lockdowns’ or clear federal intervention for a joint plan or vision; rather, we’ve already resorted to a Trump promise of 15 Days To Slow the Spread, with plans to already start opening up the economy. Against the advice of health experts, our president’s interests are rooted in the economic implications rather than the complete stifling of the disease. As he states, 'our country wasn’t built to be locked down.’ How do we stop the spread if our president doesn’t believe in enforcing the strict distancing? How can he confidently predict an economic bounce back in 15 days if there are no set plans or laws in place that is containing the spread? How can our country move past this pandemic if our leaders aren’t following a unified vision? Even if a full lockdown cannot be implemented, having understood, tailored measures are essential to any progress. Complacency is recognized and acted on, hour by hour and day by day.
IF a lockdown can be enforced, the virus will slow. It will allow hospitals to scale up supply of test kits, reduce cases, and calm this outbreak. A national lockdown will surely cause heavy hits to our economy and social lives. Yet it will be predictable. Stringent measures have shown to have done the trick (China!). And with a more clear understanding of the timeline, safety measures can begin to be more thoroughly thought out and stimulus plans can be tailored to those who are getting hit hardest for the limited time period. It is impossible to solve and implement solutions to two global problems simultaneously.
It seems that the collective mindset of enforcement is already looking to open up while all other countries are doubling down on locking down - the statistics in Italy and China are critical. There are many external factors at play that do alter the thinking - our democratic system as well as the upcoming election complicate decisions of what is right and for whom.
The question is clear and stark, and any decision carries extremely high costs and tradeoffs. We’ve hit a inflection point in which we either shut down the U.S to the best of our ability, sacrificing livelihoods for lives - this does not mean circumstantial laws for different counties and states based on the implied risk and curve; or we play it out, which it seems like where Trump’s head is at - we take temporary measures and before witnessing results and begin planning our economic rebound. The focus seems misguided which, even if fine in the short term, has little prospect for long term success.
I’m nervous what’s going to happen in the next couple weeks. Even if people do their part in quarantining fully I’m unsure how enforcement will determine what constitutes success and when people will be able to travel again (fear of it being far too early).
At the end of the day, it is a moral issue. We can sacrifice some lives to keep our economy at a viable minimum, or enact measures to prioritize health of the entire population over all else. I thought there was a right answer but I don’t know.
I am currently reading a book called The Content Trap: A Strategist’s Guide to Digital Change. In one of the early chapters, Anand describes the process of handling the Yellowstone fires of 1988. To quote:
The management of Yellowstone’s 1988 fires had several notable features. First was the sheer bad luck of the cigarette butt and horseshoe spark - we can call them benign triggers.
Second was passive management response - the apparent indifference of park supervisors, in part traceable to the distressingly inaccurate predictions of fire experts. As late as Aug. 2, for example, they remained optimistic, arguing that the combination of rain, weak winds, and young lodgepole pines would contain the flames. Despain said, “the fires will slow down considerably before the end of August if we don’t have rain. If we do have rain, the fires will cover far short of what we’ve mapped out. We don’t predict a whole lot more than what we’ve already got.”
Third was the intense managerial disagreement and conflict over the appropriate course of action. Supervisors in Yellowstone, Targhee, Bridger-Teton, and the shoshone National Forest differed on how and how quickly to suppress the fires., So did the heads of the US Forest service and the National Park Service. State politicians and senators had their own, often passionate, views.
… The Yellowstone fires of 1988 seem a lesson in management - in what not to do.
A disturbing number of similarities. Stay safe.
On a (truly) Lighter Note
I have remained in the D.C. area for the time being, and with both roommates home, I wanted to take on another project outside my normal interests. I decided on canvas painting, which I have almost no experience other than one Sips and Strokes class I took in Saint Louis:
I ordered a set of six canvases with a hope to create a number of different earth views. I am still deciding on what my next view will be so let me know if there are any sights you find particularly inspiring or beautiful - first stop Golden Gate Bridge!
I followed Ryan O'Rourkes tutorial found here and documented the progression of my painting.
The process took about 6-7 hours from start to finish (30 minutes prep, 1.5 hours drawing, 3 hours white and black, 1.5 hours color). Biggest surprise was the sheer amount of time and work into creating the B/W background and creating a semi realistic structural base. B/W was more time intensive but found the coloration to be more challenging. Might stick to something a little easier for my next, but will try to get back with another piece next week.
Thanks again for reading! As previously mentioned, I want to create a multidirectional, yet curated flow of information and thoughts. If you could please comment with anything you’ve been reading, listening to, watching, thinking about (literally anything), I would truly appreciate it - I know a newsletter is not the best medium for this but I am actively thinking of ways to open it up. -Sachit