Hunkering down for the pandemic

This week started "work from home for the foreseeable future."  It's pretty much going to be nothing but sitting around the house and going out in the yard for a while.

This is because, in response to the coronavirus epidemic, pretty much everything is cancelled.  Last Thursday the news announced the first case of COVID-19 in my Monroe County, New York, where I live. That morning my boss advised all his reports to feel free to work from home.  The next day, the CEO sent out a message that we were closing most of our offices and ordering everybody to work from home.  On Saturday the county closed down all the schools.  Over the course of the rest of the week, the state government announced progressively more closures, and yesterday put the state on "pause".  This means pretty much everything is closed, i.e. all businesses deemed non-essential. I'm still not 100% clear what counts as "essential", but it's not much beyond food and medical care.

Fortunately for me and my family, I made good career choices in my youth.  As a professional software developer, working remotely is generally not a challenge for me.  I'm also fortunate to be working for a company that sells BCDR solutions with a subscription model.  Particularly with the increased move to telecommuting, the need for backup solutions is not going to go away, and our subscription services mean that the company will have recurring revenue even if new sales decline.  So not only am I in a profession that is well positioned to weather a crisis like this, I'm working for a company that is not in any immediate danger of going out of business.

Sadly, this is not the case for many people.  My brother, who works for the state unemployment agency, is already preparing for a massive influx of claims as people who aren't able to work from home go on unemployment. Local non-profits have already started sending out solicitations for donations and people on social media are calling for everyone to support local businesses that will be hard-hit by the closures.  I don't know what impact this pandemic will have on economy, either locally or nationally, but it will definitely be bad.

And let's not forget the maniacs who are hording toilet paper and hand sanitizer and generally causing way more problems than they're protecting themselves from.  Or the other maniacs who are convinced that the pandemic is some kind of political conspiracy theory and take pride in flouting even common-sense safety measures.  I don't mean to downplay the seriousness of CONVID-19, but some of the reactions have been completely out of proportion to the threat.  This is not the "insta-death virus", but it's not just a case of the sniffles either.  It needs to be taken very seriously, but it's not a reason to panic.  Panicking always makes any situation worse.

At this point, my only hope is that the response to the virus won't do too much damage to society as a whole.  Yes, it's a serious issue; yes, lots of people will die; yes, the state needs to take decisive action to slow or halt the spread of the virus.  But let us not forget that while the risk of illness is shared by all of us equally, the costs of the response are not.  More of the weight will undoubtedly fall on those least able to carry it.  While people like me will probably be pretty much OK, the status of those affected by business closures an quarantines is far less certain.  So while it's important that we take steps to protect the people who are most in danger from the virus, it's also important to protect the people who are harmed by those steps.  There are no free lunches - everything has a cost and everyone is worthy of consideration.

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