About That Coronavirus Psychological Response Mechanism…

MTA workers disinfect the subway station while people exit the station in Manhattan, March 4, 2020. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

In response to Tweeting the Market Back to Life

Some media voices are behaving as if the most concerning aspect about the ongoing coronavirus crisis is that some people are calling it the “Wuhan virus,” a label that they contend is racist. One would think that the most concerning aspect of the coronavirus is that it can, you know, kill people, particularly if they’re elderly or immunocompromised.

A few posts below, Michael observes, “most of us have an instinctive opinion that the world is either too easily panicked or too difficult to rouse from sleepwalking.”

Over the past two decades, we’ve had a lot of (thankfully) false alarms or problems that turned out less severe than people initially feared: Y2K, a lot of the post-9/11 terror alerts, the talk of mega-hurricanes after Katrina, Jade Helm, the Ebola virus on U.S. soil, the idea of Trump’s being a Nazi dictator, the false nuclear missile launch alarm text sent out in Hawaii, the idea that tax cuts or the end of net neutrality was going to kill us all, the idea that killing Qasem Soleimani would lead to World War Three . . .We’ve been warned about a lot of Big Bad Scenarios that did not come to pass.

I wonder if the past experiences with those not-so-bad outcomes or threats that didn’t materialize cultivated an instinctive cynicism and nonchalance, and that some people now simply don’t believe that a Big Bad Scenario could happen.

They’ve been conditioned to see any ominous development as just another news cycle shiny object to try to score points about — or yet another attempt by those in media who can’t stand the president to, say, for the millionth time, that Trump is history’s greatest monster. Or, the possibility that coronavirus is an actual Big Bad Scenario is so scary to some people that they can’t cope, and embrace denial by treating it like just another news-cycle shiny object to try to score points about.

As for the inevitable “it’s not going to be the Big Bad Scenario” arguments, as noted in today’s Jolt: A) Just because it’s not big bad for you, doesn’t mean it’s not a potential Big Bad Scenario for the 11 million Americans over age 65 with poor or fair health; and B) The U.S. has 46,500 medical ICU beds and hospitals can maybe double that in an emergency. On any given day, they’re about two-thirds full, normally. The goal now has to be to keep the number of people requiring treatment below that 90,000 or so number.

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