The following is a working script used for this webcast. It isn’t a word-by-word transcription of what was said, but it is close and also includes some charts and other information that is easier to see visually.
Welcome to a special edition of the Beyond Coexistence webcast, a weekly production of the Objector Church, a religious humanist community rooted in the values of peace and social justice.
Your host for today is James M. Branum.
Today’s webcast will be different from our usual magazine format program, and instead will be focusing on issue: Our Community’s response to the COVID-19 viral outbreak, also known as Coronavirus.
In this episode we will begin by looking at what we know (and don’t know about) the COVID19 outbreak, and then we will discuss a 4-pronged approach of how our community can do our part in combatting this outbreak.
And then to conclude, we’ll have a tiny bit of inspiration with a song by the one and only Debbie Friedman.
So, let’s get started.
What do we know
First, let’s review the facts we know right now (and I’m basing this information on the latest advice from the WHO-World Health Organization, as well as a lot of conversation with my wife, a physician who specializes in family practice medicine):
First, COVID19 is very infectious. It is likely easier to catch than the flu, an airborne infection that can certainly infect anyone in a room with an infected person, but possibly further with infections being reported by people who lived in apartment buildings who likely caught it via the building’s ventilation systems, as well cases of pets being infected. We may know more in the future as to the specifics of the methods of transmission of the virus and appropriate safeguards, but for now we must assume that this is a highly infectious disease.
Secondly, we know that about 80% of those who become infected, have only minor symptoms. This is good news (since it means most people will come through this safely) but it is also bad news, because many infected people may still go to work, school and other places, while they are still infectious, which is doubly dangerous given the highly infectious nature of COVID19.
Third, according to the latest information from the WHO, the remaining 20% of the infected will have a more difficult situation to deal with. So far in Huabei province, China:
14% of those infected – end up with pneuomonia like symptoms
5% of those infected – end up with critical illness requiring hospitalization
3.7% of those infected end up dying
Of course mortality rates appear to vary widely and are not spread out evenly:So it appears that the mortality rate dramatically increases at age 50 and up.
Fourth, we know that there is no cure for COVID19, only supportive therapy. Someday there will likely be a vaccination for COVID19 but it may be a long time before it is available and in the USA we have to assume that it may not be affordable for everyone.
Fifth, there are some key things we don’ t know yet – most notably whether this virus will have a seasonal component to it, similar to the flu. If yes, things should be getting better soon in the Northern hemisphere as the weather warms up, but it may not work this way at all.
So given all of this, let’s consider what we might be looking at here in the USA.
We have an estimated 327 million people in this country. The flu infects an average of 8% of the US population this year, which tends to be seasonally driven but also mitigated by the existence and use of a vaccines. We do not know if COVID19 will have a seasonal correlation or not, but we do know there isn’t a vaccine for the virus, so we should assume the numbers will be at least as high as the flu, but likely much higher.
So let’s run a few hypothetical scenarios to see how this might play out:
|Est. Total US Population (2018):||327200000|
|Hypothetical #1||Percents||# of Pop.||Note|
|Mild Illness||80% of infected||20,940,800|
|Pneumonia||14% of infected||3,664,640|
|Critical||4% of infected||1,047,040|
|Dead||2% of infected||523,520||about the same size as the population of Fresno, California|
|Hypothetical #2||Percents||# of Pop.||Note|
|Mild Illness||80% of infected||41881600|
|Pneumonia||14% of infected||7329280|
|Critical||4% of infected||2094080|
|Dead||2% of infected||1,047,040||near the same population as Austin, TX or San Jose, CA|
|Hypothetical #3||Percents||# of Pop.||Note|
|Mild Illness||80% of infected||130880000|
|Pneumonia||14% of infected||22904000|
|Critical||4% of infected||6544000|
|Dead||2% of infected||3,272,000||larger than the population of Chicago|
We are talking about catastrophic losses.
What can we do to respond to this?
I would suggest we need a 4-pronged approach.
First, is education and outreach. This is something we, at the Objector Church can excel at. We don’t have buildings or much in the way of infrastructure but we do have an online presence and we can use that for all its worth. And this webcast is just the first part of this— look for sharable memes, articles, and other resources in the coming days on our social media pages and at our website objector.church. We urge you to join us in this effort in encouraging your friends and family to do what we all need to be doing right now to deal with this public health crisis.
Secondly, we need to up our game on basic hygiene. We all need to be washing our hands a lot more, covering our mouth and hose when we sneeze, etc. The problem of course is consistency, because most of get lazy and complacent. One suggestion I would have to combat this problem is that we might want to consider making actions like this ritualized.
In my other religious community, a reform Jewish temple, our rabbi recently told us that the temple has mounted small signs above the bathroom sinks that have the traditional blessing for handwashing, and that as a way to help us to wash our hands long enough, that we should consider reciting the prayer while we wash our hands. — In the same vein, I know many health care providers sing “Happy birthday” to themselves when washing their hands.
I don’t think it matters so much what the ritual is, but I do think there is value in doing such rituals as a way to help us to remember to do the right thing — because this is really about love of others. Any of us could get infected at any time, and if we end up being part of the 80% who only get a mild infection, we may not even show symptoms during the early days when we are infectious. So washing our hands and taking other steps to safeguard ourselves and others could literally be a life-saving thing.
Third, all of us, need to be prepared to go into isolation in the event that we become infected and/or live or work in an area where infections have been confirmed. And for most of us (especially the 80% who are infectious but not seriously ill), the best place to be isolated is in our own homes for 2-4 weeks.
So, assuming one has a safe home with working water and electricity, one still needs to deal with two other things at a minimum: medicine and food.
By medicine, I mean that a household should have a one month of supply of needed prescription drugs, as well as an assortment of OTC medicines to alleviate discomfort in the event of a mild infection — stuff like cough drops, Tylenol, advil, Kleenexes, etc.
On the food front, I would suggest households consider one of three options for preparation: (1) a basic option, (2) a good option, or (3) a best option.
And I have to also mention that we need to consider the non-human members of our household in all of this — so having plenty of pet food, supplies, etc. is important.
- Description: This option is based on simply surviving – to have enough calories and basic nutrients to survive on, and especially to deal with a possible infection. — And of course, this option is only a good option for healthy adults without dietary issues.
- What to stock up on: Rice and beans should be the primary staples. The cheapest option is to buy dry and cook, but you can also go with canned products. Your second priority is hydration (which can be an issue with this illness) – so having some products with electrolytes can be helpful. After that, I would suggest thinking about other items to improve your rice and beans (veggies, meat, seasonings, etc.) — And of course, while grocery shopping, it is also important to stock up on needed paper products: toilet paper, Kleenex, feminine hygiene products, diapers, etc.
- How to maintain it: The easiest way to maintain this option would be to put all of the needed items in a waterproof container (5 gallon plastic buckets) and then you know you are always ready to go.
- Cost per person: Bulk dried beans and rice can be found for under $1/lb, so assuming that each person might consume 8 oz of each per day, the minimum cost would be around $30 per person.
- Description: This option involves a family simply buying a month ahead on groceries, and then establishing a cycle in which they continually use and replenish their stock, until an isolation is needed.
- What to stock up on: This part is easy — pretty much what you currently buy! Except, you do need think about food keeping long enough — which means that you might be able to eat salad for the first week of isolation, but for weeks 2-4, you probably will need to eat cooked greens instead. But with the exception of fresh salad, most other food products can be kept for a month – most often in frozen form.
If you are like most people, your household probably buys groceries 1-2 times per week in a haphazard way, so thinking a month ahead can be a challenge. If you have never done this before, I would suggest you consider each member of your household and their basic dietary needs, and then think a week at a time. In our family, my wife leans vegan, I eat mostly low-carb and my son tends to eat like mom some days of the week, but other days eats some meat and cheese. So what we did was we first focused on the overlap between our diets — we all needs lots of veggies, so we got lots of veggies that can be chopped up and frozen. After that we got rice, beans, tortillas and other grains along with fruit and some canned soup (mostly in the event we get sick and don’t feel like cooking) And then we thought about proteins – buying enough for each person (often buying larger packages, but then breaking them into small portions and then repackaging for the freezer). Next, we thought about sauces and seasonings — most of which we already were well stocked up on, but we did get some new teriyaki style sauces since stir fry is a common go-to-meal for us. And last of all came the all important toilet paper, etc.And… I almost forgot, we got enough dog food and treats to keep our hungry hounds well fed and happy.Also, I should mention that it is ok to get some treats — a box of wine from Aldi’s was my choice, but you might want to pick up fancy tea, or some chocolate, or whatever that floats you fancy. The idea being that small creature comforts and can make life a little easier.
How to maintain it: The key to this option working well is a principle I learned when I was in high school, working nights at Taco Mayo — rotating the stock.
The idea is that you always aim to use the oldest items first, so there is a continuous rotation going on.
An example of this for me would be with regards my stock of meat — I bought 3 beef chuck roasts (cheap cuts of meat that can be prepared in lots of ways — not just prepared as roast, but also can be sliced thin and then stirfried) to provide a month of beef, but when we got home, one chuck roast went into the fridge (to eaten first) and the other two went into the freezer. After the first one gets eaten, one from the freezer gets moved to the fridge and then (if and until we are in isolation), I buy another pot roast and put it in the freezer.
It works the same for all other freezer items — chopped veggies, my wife’s stash of beyond meat products, etc. You just keep the rotation going.
Cost per person: It depends on how much you spend on groceries. For us, we spent $380 at Aldi’s for the bulk of our shopping, but I have to admit that we lean on the foodie size of things, so your month of grocery shopping might look differently than our does.
- Description: This option is identical to the Good Option, except that each household is committing to buying extra food to share with others who may not be able (due to poverty, life circumstances, or lack of products in the future) to be to take care of themselves.
- What to stock up on: First take care of your household (see description above), and then after that starting putting together packages of non-perishable food items for others. My suggestion would be to consider getting a 5 gallon bucket with a lid from a hardware store (normally costing $5 or less) and then loading it up with bags of dried beans, rice and other staple products, along with OTC meds. And if there is extra room in the bucket, add rolls of toilet paper and other hygiene products. And if there are kids in the household, you might consider adding some evaporated dry milk.
- Cost per person: The total cost of the loaded buckets will be around $50 ($1/lb. est. for a total of 30 lbs. of rice and beans, $5 for the bucket, $15 for additional items to add to the bucket.
So that’s the food side of things. I would urge all of you to at least do the basic option, and to do it right away. I know for many of you, coming up with $50 will not be easy, but this is important. Please reach out to others if you need help.
Beyond food and medicine, the other preparations are going to be very individual. If one has kids, this is the time to prepare how to keep them happy by stocking up on library books, DVD’s, etc. If you are fortunate enough to have a job that let’s you telecommute, this is the time to get everything you need to be able do to that. And of course, this is a great time to get back into fun hobbies, read long-neglected books, etc. So the coming days are good ones to gather anything one might need for these past-times.
This virus may force us to be physically isolated, but we don’t have to be emotionally and spiritually isolated. This is the time to reconnect with loved ones and use the magic of the internet to stay in touch, but also to be looking at how we can help others from long-distance, by putting pressure on our political leaders to take this crisis seriously, to ask how we can help health care providers who are on the front lines of this. This is a time in which love and solidarity can make a big difference.
Your comments and questions are welcome. Please share them on the webcast’s post on facebook.com/objector.church or you can email me at james (at) objector (dot) church.
And to close our time together, I wanted to share this prayer for healing from the one and only, late Debbie Friedman:
James from https://www.objector.church