Coronavirus Concerns May Speed Changes in Restaurant Real Estate. Crowd Avoidance Feeds Push Toward Online Ordering, Food Delivery.

Why does the covid19 response not seem to match the risk? If this is less dangerous than a cold/flu, then why are we trying to quarantine off people and cities and countries like we’re dealing with the bubonic plague?

Short answer: We are all responding to an unknown unknown. That’s why. As the risk becomes more known, the responses will seem more reasonable. But, it’s all about communications.

This is one of my longer Quora answer/stories.. so I gave it a title and made a picture: Enjoy. ~Chris

Much Longer (and far more human) Answer: No way I’m giving readers a short answer on this one. You, the reader and thinker, are the active participant of learning, and deserve better. You deserve my best as a writer and teacher. Your family deserves it. We humans learn by telling and listening deeply to stories more than any other communication type. I teach with stories, it’s kind of my style. Yes, they are long winded… apologies in advance.

“Turn Left, Right… Here” – Our Response to the COVID19 Virus

What began as the simplest of teachable driving moments for my 15-year-9-month-old ended up stopping my heart! (Probably his, too!) After three seconds, the big dumb organ at the center of my body that only needs oxygen to continue to pump, lurched, thankfully, then thunderously galloped once more into perfect action!

There’s a very straight regular two-lane road that descends, steeply, towards the Scioto River in Columbus, Ohio, our hometown. It descends westward to the river that runs North-South through Columbus. This day, not too long ago, while being a diligent parent, teaching my child to drive, we took this path to the main road, Riverside Drive, aptly named… because, it, uh… runs by the side of the big river. As fate would have it, on this late afternoon entering the evening, the long normal 100-days-of-gray that Columbus winters are known for offered a brief respite from the bleariness in the form of late breaking high clouds. A spectacular setting sun streamed into the windshield from the West! Spectacularly bright!

My son is wonderful. Smart, well, smarter than me for sure and curious with a mind that does not stop. He was following the right, no… wrong word choice… for driving, the correct distance behind the car in front of us, cognoscente of the steep decline to the stop light. He saw than light was green against the blazing ball of hydrogen low in the sky and said, “Which way, Dad?”

I glanced up just at the same time: The light turned yellow, I thought, and the angle of the windshield lined up with the setting sun in the West sky and I spoke clearly, “Turn Left, Right… Here.” No time to stop before the intersection, too close at current speed.

What could go wrong?

The car, well, minivan… yes, I drive a minivan most of the time… the vehicle began to turn right. I said, “No!” Seeing that the traffic to the right was completely stopped and he had nowhere to go but the Sun was also blinding him in that same moment it was blinding me! I pointed across myself, maybe waving my arm and hand frantically in front of him, “Turn left. No… left. Left. Left!”

“You said Right, Dad?!?” and my son was still turning right.

“No!!! Left. Left. Left…” and I imagined the accident about to happen and allowed my body to relax. The minivan then suddenly moved leftward hard… so hard in fact it felt like it was tipping now. Great, he’s going to roll the minivan at what? 12 miles per hour? I thought, mused and began to panic all at once. My son had cranked the wheel leftward in time to straighten out our vehicle and direct it into the end of a guardrail directly across Riverside Drive. I know this intersection very well after living here for more than twenty years. The guardrail has been hit, bent and replaced more time than I can recall.

The guardrail was, still is, fifteen horizontal feet from the actual river and maybe, ten vertical feet from the water surface. No longer concerned about hitting another vehicle I began to calculate our speed and direction and figured we would collide with the edge of the guardrail. It would slow the vehicle enough, because of how he would hit it, to roll us into the water, which would be about forty degrees. Very cold. I saw in my mind we would flip rolling down the bank of the river and hit the water surface upside down. Picture it. Many expletives attempted to fill my mind, but I instinctively reached out and shoved the steering wheel more leftward as my son cranked it away from the approaching edge… finally seeing the guardrail, too. Sheer fear on his panicked face. Knuckles whitened instantly.

The minivan slid-spun (which was cool-ish in retrospect) about forty-five degrees to the left and came to a sudden halt. The smell only abused rubber makes on pavement filled the air. My passenger side window now completely embraced in the bright sunlight of the final minutes of the day like framed glory itself. I heard my son press the gas pedal to get out of the intersection and the vehicle whined but did not move. Other cars began to move and honk. The first tear burst from his one eye and trailed down his face.

As an anesthesiologist, I experience panic quite differently than most… lots and lots of training, it’s like a checklist in my mind takes over. We’re alive. Check. Okay. Breath, Chris. Then my mantra plays… #1 Don’t Panic, #2 Think before you Act and #3 During Life, if Possible, Have Fun.

Those are my mantras during stress and they almost always work. Almost.

“Dad,” his voice stressed but not completely crying, “I broke the car.” He immediately went for his door handle to exit the vehicle. Yep, we’re in the middle of a rush hour intersection with cars trying to go.

“No. Stop. Make sure the car is in Park.” I yelled in a commanding voice. He did this. Next, I said clearly, “Okay, is your foot on the brake?” He nodded. I spoke calmly and confidently as my heart began racing now from the adrenaline surging in my vessels from when my poor heart took a full three seconds off to check if my ass was still attached to my body! “Shift into Drive and let’s see if we can get out of the intersection and drive home.” I heard the adrenaline in my own voice. He did not, could not, I would never allow that. He shifted. The car worked. He began hyperventilating as moved into slow traffic. We’re fine now. We are in heavy flow traffic, along a river, with nowhere to turn or pull off the road and he says, “I can’t. I need to switch with you. I can’t.”

My mind is at once there in the car, with my son, and also remembering back to the operating rooms, years ago, with all the resident physicians I taught to remain calm when panic gripped their faculties. For themselves and for the patients under their care.

“You can. You are okay. The car is okay. I’m okay. What’s the first rule?” I asked like I have hundreds of times.

Without hesitation he spoke because since he was three years old, as a game at first, I had asked, today, the answer mattered, “Don’t panic.”

“What’s the second rule?”

“Think before you act.” He visible relaxed, his posture first, then his grip on the wheel, blood returning to the knuckles and then his face released its stress.

“Very good. Just drive. You’re fine.” I say as I feel my own racing heart slowing as I take deep breaths. I’m calm in my mind but my body has the same fight or flight everyone’s does when contemplating going inverted into ice cold water in a minivan.

“Dad?” He then asks as we are in stop and go traffic, moving but not really going anywhere.

“Yeah.”

“When are you going to tell me the third rule?”

I smile. “Someday, son. Someday… Just drive us home.” The last ray of sunlight dimmed away unceremoniously. This is true, I’ve never told any of my kids the so-called third rule but I guess if they read this, they’ll know. I’ve always believed Rule #3 is for you to learn on your own in your own life. Maybe I believe it is a way to find a little piece of who you are in this world.

And… back to COVID19… “Why does the COVID19 response not seem to match the risk? If this is less dangerous than a cold/flu, then why are we trying to quarantine off people and cities and countries like we’re dealing with the bubonic plague?”

Why did I tell you that story? Human nature is human nature and it does not change from crisis to crisis. The scale of COVID19 is certainly larger than teaching an American teen to drive but the same human nature rules of response, reaction, communication and reflection are in place.

I wrote this on March 1, 2020: Christopher Yerington’s answer to How is the Coronavirus spreading all over the world so fast? Is there no cure for that?

I also posted a similar articles/pieces on LinkedIn, Medium and Facebook. I got overwhelming responses, questions, concerns and feedback, both thankful and critical. I have looked for a manner in which to respond, and ultimately decided to write a follow up article about what response one might consider taking at this time knowing we are not sure of the risk, today.

Is COVID19 a pandemic? Well, yes and no. pan·dem·ic /panˈdemik/ is an adjective defined as (of a disease) “prevalent over a whole country or the world.” That sounds scary but it really refers to a disease spreading beyond what would be considered normal geologic borders like mountains, rivers, oceans, etc… as such, the fact that we are seeing increasing numbers on multiple continents means that COVID19 will be listed in the history books as a pandemic. Also, this definition gives sweeping power to governments to act, or to spend emergency funds for services and safety for their populations as we are seeing in Italy and South Korea.

Personally, I had no panic at all about COVID19 until my wife texted me early this morning: “Baby Yoda delayed. Not available for Christmas 2020! Nooooooo!!!” First off, there goes my Christmas idea for her and second, what a terrific example of the just-in-time world we modern humans exist. I panicked over having to come up with another cool Christmas idea, not the coronavirus pandemic of 2020!

I’m going to kid and joke, a bit, precisely because this is serious stuff. The discussion is serious. Human nature is full of laughter and joy, even in our scariest moments. I firmly believe the risk to the average American of serious or critical illness is very low. Again, as a doctor, seeing this unfold, knowing that the numbers of cases will soar with testing capability but that the seriousness of the disease will be more fully understood, I firmly believe the risk to the average American of serious or critical illness is very low.

Yesterday, in some of my comments and responses to readers, I was critical of the communications and decisions of my own hometown, Columbus, Ohio, USA. Columbus hosts, in early March each year, the “Arnold” or Arnold Sports Festival, which is the largest multi-sport event on Earth, even bigger than the Olympics! (Which I did not know until I read that yesterday.) I’ve been here more than twenty years and watched the Arnold grow each year.

Each year 20,000+ athletes come from 80+ countries to Ohio. About 70–80% of the athletes are actually semi-locals from Ohio and the Midwest. Of those, 60+% are under the age of eighteen as there are tons of events held for all ages. More than 200,000 people from outside central Ohio travel to partake, spectate, socialize, visit the Arnold Expo for the latest and greatest bodybuilding supplements and fitness tips or to just do the old fashion, time-honored hobby of people watching. I have been many times and every year; The energy of the event is insane! I grew up in the 1980’s and I know that Arnold is definitely a hero for some part of my psyche.

Now onto risks and responses. The ”Arnold” Event (+) the Novel Coronavirus (=) what’s known as an “unknown-unknown” and those are the scariest things to human beings. As such, the former Govenator, Arnold himself, Gov. Mike DeWine (OH) and Mayor Andrew Ginther, of Columbus, saw a perfect storm of people travelling from, well, most of Earth, to Columbus. They would all be sweating and breathing hard together in a confined space with hundreds of thousands of fans cheering right next to one another in packed exhibition halls. Risks present, response needed.

Announcements by radio, on Tuesday, internet and newspaper then followed, stated that spectators would be barred from all competitions except The Finals, held on Saturday Night. Next, we heard the Expo was completely canceled, on Wednesday. This morning, spokespeople said that they ( The Arnold) would allow spectators in the competitions. Then, only hours later, Gov. Mike DeWine announced that step(s) would be taken, a.k.a. force would be used, to prevent any spectators from entering the arenas. If you’re now confused, too, don’t worry, the event begins tonight. Hearing and watching the local news unfold over the last thirty-six hours was like being in that passenger seat with my son controlling the car careening for the edge of that guardrail with deadly freezing cold water just on the other side of a small hill that gravity would have naturally assisted us into to our deaths.

Economic forces and medical safety for a population collide! The “Arnold” brings $50+ Million dollars to Columbus each year and more than 100 local downtown small businesses, according to the radio, are dependent on that income to make their businesses work for the entire year. I had to really consider what the hell I would have done if I were governor. Thinking about the timing. What they would have known? Who they could have called, etc.

What they have done may actually be the best or worst thing they could have chosen. Which makes it the perfect politician decision. Regardless of what they do over the next four days in Columbus, Ohio, for those following the coronavirus in the USA… Columbus, Ohio, will be a testing bed. For what?Perhaps, for what the 2020 Olympics should do or not do. This will be a perfect testbed of whether one can mitigate contagion by reducing the number of individuals congregating in a place. We have a world class medical healthcare system at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and graduate schools in every -ology needed to take data and record, and publish, what will, or will not happen here.

The same 15-year-old, that nearly killed both of us just a short time ago, posed this query before school today, “Dad, if they are worried enough about coronavirus, shouldn’t they have cancelled the whole thing [The Arnold] and helped send everyone home, back to their home countries? Or, if they are not that worried, should they just have ‘screened’ everyone going in and out of the convention center?” And… he looked at me, unblinkingly, like I could answer this like I’m a YouTube video he just queued up.

That’s the entire problem right now, we do not know what we do not know. Hence, the phrase, an unknown unknown. Let’s say, in the case of The Arnold, they prevent spectators from participating in the convention center… those that are already here, in town, are going to socialize. Maybe cancelling the Arnold Expo keeps 80% of people from being here in town this weekend. I’m using this example because 80% of the people I personally know that routinely go, are not going. When asked by text or email, I said I’m not going this year and I live eight minutes from the convention center. Four out of the five groups I know are not flying in to town now.

So… let’s do some math, only 20% or roughly 40,000 total people are coming to town. Some arrived here prior to any announcements being made on Monday (that’s the first time they began making decisions) because they come in early to adjust to the time zone before they compete. All of the athletes the under eighteen years old have parents and coaches with them. The major athletes have entourages with them. Picture the Olympics if you have to and then cancel 80% of it… that’s what’s going to happen over the next four days. People will still be people, the parties will happen, they’ll just be a few less friends in town.

Human nature involves much more than the ‘competing,’ there’s eating, drinking, socializing, etc. I can tell you, without the Expo, 40,000 people are going to eat out at bars, visit restaurants and socialize a bunch more than normal precisely because there is no Expo to go to. Whatever happens now, it will be on a smaller scale than would have happened. That is a good thing. That’s a political victory-point for DeWine and Ginther and maybe helps Arnold revive the event next year… I can see the headlines, “It could have been so much worse!” I hope it is okay. That’s my sincere hope as Columbus would be much poorer without Mr. Schwarzenegger’s event pumping up our local economy right before each Spring!

Hopefully, my story telling has helped you see that the human response to COVID19 may or may not be matching the actual risk COVID19 poses to human populations because there are so many more competing (no pun intended) issues, such as the economy and local jobs. That’s the difficulty were having in making decision, even for ourselves.

In the last 48 hours I’ve heard or read that:

• Italy is suspended or closing all public primary schools. I have friends with kids completing semesters abroad in Italy.

• King Co., where Seattle, Washington, is, has made announcements that it would like citizens to remain home for a time. Weeks? The rest of the Month? The communication is suggestive but not demanding. Like the Arnold announcements on Monday.

• There exists a second strain of the virus that may or may not be more deadly and/or more or less transmissible. This may explain why the original data simply made little sense… I can hope China keeps releasing data as fast as they are extracting it from testing and recording.

The point is the rate at which new data and information is hitting you (and hitting me) is incredible, concerning coronavirus and you are supposed to assess risks to Yourself? Your family? Your community? Your work? Your schools? You are supposed to ride in this car with someone else at the wheel and “Remain Calm” and go about your normal lives. Well, yes, I suppose that ultimately, that is what we will all be doing. Life will go on. By 2025, COVID19 will be unnamable by most high school seniors in America. It’ll be a history no one remembers.

If Gov. DeWine and Mayor Ginther and a former Governor have guessed wrong; Columbus may be the Seattle story all over again in a month’s time. What is sad for this disabled doctor to behold is that these people had/have access to the CDC, the White House, the Cleveland Clinic, the entire Ohio State Medical system, the Cincinnati Medical system and the best answer was, “Cancel part of it but communicate that in an unclear and confusing manner.” I believe that Ginther and DeWine chose making some money for the economy over losing all the money for Columbus, OH in hopes of taking some risk but not enough to hurt the safety of Columbus, Ohio. In the end, I believe they are going to get neither. By being confusing, they will scare more people, for longer and into not attending many more things, possibly hurting the local economic activity and at the same time, they have created a situation where transmission of the virus is more likely than had they cancelled the entire event because some people will assume allowing any part of it makes it safe.

I do get it. It must have been hard to decide what to do.

What I wish would have happened? Well, I wish Arnold, Gov. DeWine and Mayor Ginther would have outright canceled it for safety concerns. Offered immediately to fly any athlete and their party back to their home countries, directly from the Columbus International airport. Then, the trio could have started a GoFundMe-type campaign and together, Arnold, along with maybe other stars from the athletic world could have donated… then Arnold, Ginther and DeWine could have reached out with a goal of raising $50M for the city’s businesses. That would have been the safe thing to do and shown concern and action for the businesses affected by the cancellation. As for the athletes themselves, I would have felt bad because they train so very hard for so long and then they have to eat perfectly for weeks or longer to arrive in competition shape… but they would have been safe to compete next year.

I hate even bringing public figures into discussions or posts, but President Trump said last night, in his own ‘unique’ language, the death rate from coronavirus is likely to be much lower than the currently reported 3.4%. I agree completely with that because hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions, globally, have likely gotten this virus, or viruses if there are multiple strains, worldwide and recovered because 80% of people getting it only experience a mild illness and none of those millions have been tested or recorded for the current data and death rate calculations. In simple terms, the 3.4% can’t be realistic.

The reason the coronavirus response does not seem to match the risk is that the risk is still being defined. Every day, data will get better and the picture will become clearer.

My training is in medicine and moreover in anesthesia which is very conservative. Medical experts err on the side of caution. Businesspeople err on the side of profit. Politicians err on the side of deniability. As a parent, I err on the side of safety for my kids. I firmly believe the risk to the average American of serious or critical illness is very low. My family is still going on Spring Break in a week’s time and we’ll be flying domestically.

What can you do, right now, today?

I posted these many times to my last article: To be as safe as we can for all colds and flus, learn this, teach this to your kids:

• WASH YOUR HANDS

• TOUCH LESS THINGS AND PEOPLE

• TOUCH YOUR FACE LESS

• COUGH OR SNEEZE INTO ELBOW

I wanted to expand that list now, adding:

• WIPE DOWN YOUR EYEWEAR, EARWEAR, AND DEVICES SUCH AS PHONES, TABLETS AND LAPTOPS ONCE A DAY WITH AN ALCOHOL SWAB

Other helpful hints:

Hand sanitizer with less than 60% alcohol is not a substitute for frequent hand washing because it will not effectively kill coronavirus. Washing your hands for 20–30 seconds with warm soapy water, completely drying them and doing this frequently each and every day is the best precaution all of us can take. Also, we use many more touchscreen devices than our own these days. Be wary of public touchscreens like the ones in McDonald’s, or at the health clinic that has you and every other person checking in at the check-in kiosk.

Notice where you go each day and ask yourself is there a manner in which you can still do what you need to do but be ‘less close’ to other people, in less crowds. I am not advocating changing your life, but thinking about how you would change it, that’s okay. Having a plan helps with the idea of control in our lives. I heard this morning, in America, there are 52 schools closed. That’s either completely overblown or deeply concerning. There’s just not enough definitively known.

The response(s) is/are not matching the risk because people are people. You have to think for Yourself and likely, You may have to prepare to be, for some time, at home. There are stories emerging where people who are buying extra food or cleaning supplies are ‘hoarders’ now. The human response to this scenario of contagion can be far more dangerous than the virus itself. In my estimation, that’s the real risk right now.

I have gotten over 100 questions in 5 days about How to Prepare?

You may be asked to remain home for a time; From work because your employer is doing their best to combat fear and prevent the entire office from being sick simultaneously, From school because of fears, and if you are in Seattle, From everything for a period of time. When this might happen? Your guess is as valid as mine. What if someone gets sick in your house? Really, if they are sick, it might just be the cold, or even a mild flu. Do you stay at home with them and wait it out until both of you are well again?

This is the best list to do, to practice and to teach yourself and others that I can compile:

• WASH YOUR HANDS

• TOUCH LESS THINGS AND PEOPLE

• TOUCH YOUR FACE LESS

• COUGH OR SNEEZE INTO ELBOW

• WIPE DOWN YOUR EYEWEAR, EARWEAR, AND DEVICES SUCH AS PHONES, TABLETS AND LAPTOPS ONCE A DAY WITH AN ALCOHOL SWAB

But to prepare for either the eventual call to hunker down in place or the possibility that you will have to care for someone at home. Either way, you could get stuck staying home for two weeks.

You should attempt to have two weeks’ worth of food on hand for each person in your home plus one other adult. Why? Our system, our American system, and I mean infrastructure for society’s basic needs, relies on just-in-time delivery of food and fuel. In most major metropolitan areas, there exist about two to three days of food for everyone and about three days of gasoline. That’s it. If a real crisis hits, trucks stop driving and just in time delivery turns into just shit out of luck. I’m going to say this again, I believe the risk to the average American of serious or critical illness is very low. I believe the risk of leaders overreacting out of an abundance of caution is higher.

The real crisis will be people’s panic. So, the simplest things can make a huge difference. Preparing a two-week supply of food at home should be done simply, smartly and inexpensively. You can, of course, go online and buy some prepared two-week supply made by a prepper who has thought this through for a long time. I do this because we’ll eat it anyway over time; You get a total of ten-pounds of rice and/or pasta(s) for each member of your family plus one more adult person, then add to that ten cans of fruits and vegetables for each member of your family plus one more person. Put that in a big plastic container, seal it and forget about it. Mine literally sits in a crawl space and we cycle it out every year or two. Set an alarm on your phone (I had to do this after forgetting about it for four years once) for a year from now. There, food handled for at least two weeks.

Why one other person?

In a crisis, people want to be helpful to others, it’s human nature. We see someone in need and some part of us wants to help. Especially when it comes to food and seeing someone hungry. Giving a mom of three, who lives down the hall in the building a five-pound bag of rice and 6 or 7 cans of food makes you a hero and makes you a friend. That is very much human nature. The ‘crisis’ does not have to be coronavirus, it could be another natural disaster in your area that makes the stores go short for a time. Maybe the power goes out for nine days, like happened to us in 2009. You can always, next year, when the alarm on the calendar reminds you of the food you stored away, give it to a local food shelter.

I do not foresee the cities running out of food, at all. I do see some places in America being asked to stay at home for periods of time, maybe even two weeks, maybe longer depending. That will likely occur in places that bloom as a ‘hotspot’ with coronavirus. Do not get me wrong, I am betting on the USA, the CDC and the WHO to get the data to understand the risk and then I’m hoping they effectively communicate that actual risk to the entire Earth. I am betting the most advance biotechnology infrastructure the human race has ever seen will, undoubtedly, find a vaccine or the methodology to slow down contagion and/or transmission and then completely stop this coronavirus. It may take six months, it may take eighteen months and it could be next week. Well, I do know it will not be next week, but that’s my human hope and optimism speaking.

I know a lot of people and they, and I, just experienced the “Turn Left, Right… Here” communications-scheme-moment in my hometown, of Columbus, Ohio, which is also known as The All-American-Town, USA. I sincerely hope other mayors, governors and leaders use every resource to communicate effectively and simply to populations. The President, love him or hate him, is using simple repetitive language saying we’ve done the best we (The USA) can to slow the spread, it’s not as deadly as we are reporting, testing will be nationwide this next week or so people need to stop and think for a minute, hey, I might need to be ready to be sick at home, with a cold/flu like illness and not go out, not be around others… it might happen. Has the USA been perfect on this response? Though I am not really sure we, the USA, understood the risks with what we knew coming out of China. We haven’t been perfect, but I’m sure we are getting better every day.

I know I am discussing scary things. They are scary for me and my family, too… and I know the medical side of what is slowly unfolding! I do know, unequivocally, this will help you reduce your personal risk:

• WASH YOUR HANDS

• TOUCH LESS THINGS AND PEOPLE

• TOUCH YOUR FACE LESS

• COUGH OR SNEEZE INTO ELBOW

• WIPE DOWN YOUR EYEWEAR, EARWEAR, AND DEVICES SUCH AS PHONES, TABLETS AND LAPTOPS ONCE A DAY WITH AN ALCOHOL SWAB

If you are able to put together a two-week supply of food for yourself and those you are responsible for and responsible with, in this life, great. If you can do that for one more person and keep that in reserve, then fantastic! If not, do your best in the Present and forgive yourself those Past mistakes and remove yourself from the huge Future dreams of tomorrow to take account of what you have today.

~Chris