Welcome to the brave new world of pandemics.
The threat of the coronavirus has plunged all of us into uncharted territory, unless you are well over 100 years old and remember the flu epidemic of 1918, which killed between 17 and 100 million people, depending on whose count we accept. We now live in a brave new world of working from home, toilet paper hoarding, and obsessive handwashing previously practiced only by those suffering from OCD. And that’s just the beginning. Once this beast has run its course—no one has any idea when that will be—we’ll have to deal with the fallout: business failures, a huge drain on unemployment compensation, insurance settlements, law suits, and who knows what else.
The suggested way to stop the pandemic, to kill the virus once and for all, is social isolation. That means that the way we are trying to stop the virus whose main victims are the infirm and elderly is by employing a tactic that claims those same people as victims in the best of times.
It doesn’t take much research to reveal that our country was already suffering from an epidemic of loneliness brought about by social isolation. I’ll get you started; check out these articles, both less than a year old: this one and this one. And this one talks about the problem in the context of the current crisis.
What they’re saying is that, long after the stores are restocked with toilet paper and people think of a beer first when they hear the word “corona”, we will still be dealing with problems such as depression and other isolation-induced conditions.
I’m well known for encouraging (though some would justifiably call it nagging) my friends with MS to get out and get together. It’s good therapy. It fights depression, cognitive decline, and other physical and emotional ailments beyond MS. Sadly, the prescription for stopping COVID-19 promotes the progression of MS.
I guess you can’t have it all. ((sigh))
Ironically, a lot of people practice social isolation anyway. Netflix, Hulu, Prime, and a host of other online services make becoming a hermit easier and more palatable, but not any healthier. It turns out that isolation is bad for everyone. It’s a fact: Socially connected people live longer.
My point here isn’t that we should defy the restrictions put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19, but that, once we’re out from under the coronavirus cloud, we should appreciate and take advantage of the ability to get together as often as we can. An unknown writer in the New Testament put it this way:
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Do it when you can because some day you might not have the opportunity.
[While researching this article, I came across this helpful and eminently readable brochure about isolation from the MS Society. I commend it to your attention.]