We find ourselves living through a once-in-a-multi-generation event – a health and financial crisis, the likes of which most of us have never seen. If viewed through a calm lens of objectivity, this also presents a once-in-a-generation learning opportunity, that if acted upon, will give us a better footing should we find ourselves here again someday.
A crisis is a mirror that comes equipped with a very bright light capable of revealing some of our less flattering features. They were always there. We just couldn’t see them … or perhaps chose to ignore them.
A crisis doesn’t break things— farbood (@farbood) March 25, 2020
It shows you what was already broken
So where are the cracks? What’s broken? The list is long and I’m sure it’ll get much longer as we live through and eventually look back, but a few jump out immediately.
💸 We’re not financially prepared. The much-needed waves of stimulus are showing us that, in times of emergency, most Americans cannot sustain their households for very long without earned income. Almost 80% of us are living paycheck-to-paycheck and a $1,000 emergency would push most Americans into debt. Further, half of all small businesses have less than a month’s worth of cash to support typical outflow – stimulus dollars can’t come fast enough for survival.
✚ Our baseline is not healthy enough. By this point, we all know that the elderly and those with comorbidities are far more likely to develop severe symptoms. In Italy, 99% of COVID-19 patients who died had at least one pre-existing condition. Being old is not a preventable condition, but many of the other complicating factors are considered lifestyle diseases … diseases that are “commonly caused by lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating, alcohol, drugs and smoking”.
Fatalities by condition - Italy | U.S.
- Hypertension. In Italy, 76.1% of patients who died from COVID-19 had hypertension (high blood pressure). Nearly half of Americans have high blood pressure.
- Heart disease. 1/3 of COVID-19 patients who died in Italy had heart disease. Nearly half of U.S. adults have some form of cardiovascular disease.
- Diabetes. 35.5% of COVID-19 patients who died in Italy had diabetes. Over 10% of the U.S. population has type 2 diabetes.
- Kidney disease. 18% of COVID-19 patients who died in Italy had chronic kidney disease. 15% of the U.S. adult population has chronic kidney disease.
- Lung disease. 13.2% of COVID-19 patients who died in Italy had lung diseases such as chronic emphysema. 13.4% of the U.S. adult population has chronic lung disease.
- Liver disease. 3.1% of COVID-19 patients who died in Italy had chronic liver disease. 1.8% of the U.S. adult population has chronic liver disease.
🇨🇳 We’re very dependent on China for our pharmaceuticals and personal protective equipment. Essential building blocks of our health care are not under our control.
- Chinese pharma companies supply more than 90% of U.S. antibiotics, vitamin C, ibuprofen and hydrocortisone.
- The Chinese government has effectively cut off face mask exports by requiring manufacturers to sell to the government for distribution.
This is a significant supply chain vulnerability for conflicts, trade disputes, and pandemics.
🏥 Our health system isn’t built to scale. The biggest threat posed by this virus is the collapse of an overwhelmed medical system. We have sufficient people and resources for shifting/sharing in response to geographically isolated events, but we’re not prepared to handle a crisis that hits everywhere at the same time.
❤️ Relationships and priorities are called into question. No additional commentary on this one, other than to include the screenshot of an article recently featured in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required).
👩🏼💻 WFH is harder than some realized and presents a host of new challenges. 😂 I’ll have a lot more to say about this in an upcoming post later this week.
I attended a Zoom meeting of doctors who, as a subculture, is not used to technology (we are the "Reply All" crowd), nor understands the "MUTE" function. Some guy in the middle of the meeting says, "This guy's a fucking idiot." And that ended the meeting.— Wayne (@Toaster_Pastry) March 21, 2020
Defining the New Normal
Zooming back out. We have an enormous challenge in front of us in the coming weeks (months?). But once the storm passes, we’d be foolish to ignore the cracks exposed in our health, wealth, relationships, and supply chain.
Perhaps Seneca said it best:
A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials
Or if you prefer a more contemporary take, look no further than what Governor Cuomo said this week:
“When will things go back to the way they were? I don’t think it’s about going back. I don’t think it’s ever about going back. The question is about going forward and that’s what we have to deal with here. I don’t think we return to yesterday, where we were. I think if we’re smart we achieve a new normal.”
What will be our new normal? Not wasted, this can be an opportunity to start chipping away at financial preparedness, living healthier lifestyles, strengthening core relationships … and at the very least, finally learning how to properly wash our hands 🤣
Sources and Recommended Reading
- 10 common health conditions that may increase risk of death from the coronavirus
- A $1,000 emergency would push many Americans into debt
- 78% of US workers live paycheck to paycheck
- Cash is King: Flows, Balances, and Buffer Days. Evidence from 600,000 Small Businesses
- Diabetes, lung and heart disease common in U.S. coronavirus patients – CDC
- Coronavirus Spurs U.S. Efforts to End China’s Chokehold on Drugs
- Coronavirus tests U.S. medical system’s unhealthy reliance on China for drugs, supplies
- Nearly half of Americans have heart disease, study says
- Diabetes Statistics
- Chronic Liver Disease and Cirrhosis
- Estimated Prevalence and Incidence of Lung Disease
- Kidney Disease: The Basics
- NYU scientists: Largest US study of COVID-19 finds obesity the single biggest ‘chronic’ factor in New York City’s hospitalizations