Where Do You Fit On The “Covid-19 Fear” Spectrum?

Finally!  We are starting to open things up again.  On Sunday May 24th I was out getting a few things.  Despite having to wait in a line to get into London Drugs, with most people wearing masks, there was definitely a more vibrant feel out there.  It hasn’t felt like this in a long time.  To be completely candid, I thought all of this was going to happen sooner; that the curve would have flattened and started to slope down well before it has.  Although, I never thought the investment markets would have rebounded so quickly either.

You’ve probably had many conversations over the past several weeks about what we are experiencing; what we should and shouldn’t do as well as what the future will look like this summer, the fall and into next year.  So as we start to slowly loosen the reins on what people can and can’t do, I thought it apropos to pen my observations on balancing risk and living life to its fullest capacity.  There is a 1 check mark poll at end of this as well as a place to tell me what you think about all of this.

Opinions seem to vary widely as to what degree we put in place safety measures.  As with most topics, there can be 2 extreme ends of the spectrum.  This is definitely the case today.  You are either trying to keep personal freedom paramount or safety is your ultimate goal.  There are people firmly planted on both sides of these 2 camps.  One side believes people should be able to make their own choices while the other believes the government should be the one laying down the law on what we must do.  It’s much like the polarization in the political realm where the polar opposite philosophical sides are Socialism on one end and and Libertarianism on the other.  The reality though is like any 2 extreme positions, the silent majority span the broad range in between.  With that said, here is what I see as the 2 Corona virus poles:

On one side you have the, “Let what happens, happen” stance.  This mindset is convinced that this is mass hysteria; wearing masks and gloves is overblowing the reality of the situation.  They firmly believe that governments and those following their lead, are putting restrictions where restrictions shouldn’t be.  Personal freedom is the most important human right.  They operate under the motto of, “if you think you are at risk just stay home”.  They may go as far as “it’s survival of the fittest”.  This is intellectually honest if you subscribe to a Darwinist’s or Naturalist’s worldview.

The other side shudders at people who could even think that.  In contrast, their response in every action they take is, “Any risk is too much risk”.  This group wear masks (some even gloves as well) everywhere they go.  Rather than social distance 2 meters they stay away 4.  Without any hesitation they will call law enforcement should they see a small group of people gathered outside, despite sitting well apart from each other, just as the governmental rules on social interaction, have stipulated.

Around the world, various countries have had their own rules and protocols on how they will deal with the pandemic.  They too extend to the 2 polar opposite sides.  Sweden has left it up to its citizens to determine how they individually want to live their lives during this.  Ironically, Sweden is seen to be on the socialist side of the political spectrum yet they’ve left it up to their citizens to do what they think is best.  Sweden’s erring on the side of personal freedom fits my own position however, a societal costs and medical system pressures have to be factored in.  Sweden definitely has more deaths per capita applying their personal freedom bent.

The other pole has situations such as one in India, where groups of migrant workers crouch down on the ground while they were sprayed with chemicals.  It was supposedly as a way to disinfect them before they entered their home province.  In the Philippines, police and local officials had curfew violators put in dog cages.  Others were forced to sit in the hot sun as punishment.  In the port city of Mombasa, Kenya police fired teargas at ferry commuters and hit people with batons.

These are some extreme reactions simply because of fear and the unknown.  The basic fact remains though as it has from the beginning, that the highest risk by far is to the elderly with compromised immune systems.  So, the question I put out is this.  Should we all be forced to wear masks despite the vast majority of us not likely carrying the Corona virus?  Or should individuals be more responsible for their own health and protection of those around them, facing severe ramifications should it be proved they have caused harm?

It seems to me that fear is what is driving the push for safety measures and restrictions to personal freedom and accountability.  A fearful population dawning masks continually reminds us of risks.  Emotional communication through facial expressions such as a smile doesn’t get communicated to others.  I’m sure you’ve seen the stark change to people’s demeanors when this all initially, hit.  What will be the impact to society as a whole if fear is largely still there?  Even when a vaccine is discovered and developed against Covid-19, many will still wear masks worried about the unknown virus lurking in the vapor of someone else’s breathing.

One of the by-products of fear is blame.  In this case, it is being put on those of Chinese descent.  Those who live in our neighborhoods.  Obviously, ethnic Chinese people have no connection whatsoever to the actions of a Chinese government on the other side of the world, no matter the government’s being intentional or not.  The fault lies not with a certain group of people, which is done so often.  One group is the perpetrator while another is the victim.  This is a disease all unto itself that has been swelling (that is a whole other topic)….

To get out of the fear vortex, we need to know where the risk is.  I was cutting my front lawn 2 weeks ago.  A man who looked to be in his early 70’s, was walking on the sidewalk, in my direction.  I noticed he had a mask hanging loosely around his neck.  As he got closer and at least 1 house away from mine, he pulled the mask over his face.  He walked past while I remained well away from him.  When he was about 100 meters past my house he pulled down his mask again.

I’d say this is risk mitigation overkill.  His actions tell me I could very well have Covid-19 but he doesn’t know so “I’d rather be safe than sorry”.  If that response to risk is paralleled to our driving habits, we would only be allowed to go 30 km’s per hour on our highways.  There would be no car traffic anywhere near a school or in parking lots.  The stats are clear on people getting killed by cars.  Per 100,000 people in Canada there are 5 people killed each year by people driving cars.  Our country-wide death toll for Covid-19 has been just over 16 per 100,000 people.  Approximately 80% of those deaths have been to those over 60.  Australia, New Zealand and Japan are well below 1% in fatalities.  Ironically, with us trying to avoid the Corona virus it actually makes us more susceptible to future waves of Covid-19.

Rather than being blind to the risks, wouldn’t it be better to know where the risk (the virus) most likely is?  To focus on that?  This is what people in finance and investing, do.  It is one of my main objectives as a Financial Advisor.  Determining where the risk is and what those risks are to my client’s (and my own) investment portfolios are.  We don’t concern ourselves with painful risks because the risks are numerous.  The only real risk we concern ourselves with is the permanent loss of money.  The highest degree of permanent loss is buying a financially weak company or paying too much for an investment.  Anything outside of that should only give you short term financial pain once in a while.  You need to be able to accept the non-lethal risks to reach long term goals you have for their finances and ultimately your own life.  Trying to avoid all risks is actually detrimental to your long term, financial well-being.  It’s really no different with the Corona virus and ultimately, Covid-19 risk.  Yes, you might get sick.  If you do, it will most likely be quite uncomfortable.  It may even be scary.  However, no matter what happens, you will have lived life as you were created to.

To know where the risks are, we need expansive testing.  The place to start is in the facilities and workplaces that carry the highest risk of transmission.  I think this should be the next logical step to balances personal freedoms with public safety of the public and the economic health of us all.  It also chops uncertainty right at the knees.  It kills the emotionally cancerous virus of the unknown.  Not knowing is the breeding place of fear.  Fear is definitely something we don’t want festering among us. It impedes the path to living a fulfilling life.  We may not get back to normal as we knew it before however, getting as close to it as possible by eliminating the undercurrent of fear is where we should start.

So where do you fit in the “Covid-19 Fear” spectrum?  Be completely frank and tick the button that most closely represents your position.  Nobody will know your choice.  I’d love to hear your insights and your opinion (strong ones and rants are definitely welcome).  Scroll to the bottom to write yours…

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Results as of June 4th:

0%  Let What Happens, Happen! (I Wished I Lived In Sweden)

29%  We’ve Done Enough. Now Let People & Businesses Decide

38%  I’m Right In The Middle (Not Worried But…)

29%  I’m Still Nervous & Will Wear A Mask In Stores Etc.

4%  I’ll Wear A Mask Anytime I’m Around People (And Everyone Else Should Too)


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