Mar 222020

When COVID-19 started, I believed that it would be generally well-contained and that the doomsdayers were being too dramatic. It felt like news channels selling more ads by getting people to tune in. I was wrong.

The virus turned out to be sneakier and more-infectious than I appreciated, spreading from person-to-person for days before symptoms are felt. An outstanding question as of right now is whether some people can be infected, spreading the virus, but never feel symptoms. If so, most of us will catch it. There is still so much that we don’t know. Until you have 80% of the data, you will not have an accurate understanding of the nuances.

In short, COVID-19 is a big deal. But I remain optimistic because I believe in the resiliency and the ingenuity of humans. I remember when AIDS was death sentence and doctors were nearly hopeless, but progress has happened there too. Look at the incredible progress we are making on other fronts, including various forms of cancer. Things take time but focus and urgency invariably result in breakthroughs.

We are lucky in a sense — this is not nearly as deadly as other pathogens like Ebola. I believe we are likely to find therapeutic treatments that will reduce mortality of those infected, even though building up immunity, perhaps through a vaccine, will take a lot more time than many people think. I have witnessed, first hand, how easy it is to tip the scales for a frail senior citizen with both my mom and dad, so, unfortunately, I’m not surprised that odds of survival worsen for our most fragile.

This may wind up being a blessing of sorts — never in the history of the world have we seen such a concerted response to a virus by the human race. We have never closed our stores, restaurants, churches, gyms, and theaters, asking the entire nation to self-quarantine. It is scary, but perhaps this will be the moment we have a genuine breakthrough against viruses of all types, before a new and far more deadly one pops up some year into the future. It has always amazed me that in the 70+ years since penicillin helped us combat bacterial infections, we have not figured out effective drugs to fight viruses like the common cold.

Time will tell, but see the silver linings that are always there. Yes, in the short run, we will lose more people than we want, and the economy will take a mighty body blow. The good news is that the financial markets continue to function, and the banking system remains well-capitialized, a silver lining from the last financial crisis. If you have a longer-term view, I’m certain the best is yet to come.

I.M. Optimisman

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