Covid-19: Who is Going Back to Work?

The bitter truth of the “New, Global Economy”

Anthony Layman

Anthony LaymanJul 12 · 5 min read

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Above is the picture of corporate America. In Asheville, NC, the landscape of “Main Street” — using this as a blanket definition of uptown — has already changed. There was an article written recently in a local paper which noted “25 restaurants leaving, and 25 restaurants coming.”

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And it’s not just restaurants. Some have opened; some not. The opinion of the day is a sort of, “at your own risk,” so to speak. The bad part — there is no insurance against an unseen enemy. Yesterday, President Trump wore a mask for the first time in public. What does that tell you? Do you think we are “flattening the curve?” Probably not.

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Photo by Olga Guryanova on Unsplash

I recently asked a surgeon at the largest hospital system in town — 10,000 employees on the payroll. Now owned by HCA Healthcare, the new, corporate behemoth can’t really share too much information — and really wouldn’t want to; reputation matters after all — so I asked the most reliable source I could think of. It was about three weeks ago now, and our conversation went like this:

“It seems to me that things are starting to get better.”

Answer:

“Spend a day in the ER. I can promise you, I am not seeing [the numbers] a decline.”

So there you have it. As they say, and as we have seen all over Twitter #heroesdontallwearcapes

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Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

Above is the “Face of the Nation” we should be following. Why not New Zealand? Why not Australia? Some Middle-Eastern companies have retraced on the idea of people in public, making it forbidden. Why aren’t we playing “follow-the-leader” with them?

I get that the economy is not only the engine of American, but the financial engine which runs the World as a byproduct.

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Photo by Science in HD on Unsplash

So here is an idea: Manufacturing has stepped in to do more than their part. Amazon, WalMart, Costco, UPS, Fedex, end even companies like Chewy, Box, and even meal preparation companies have kept the homes of America nourished. Door Dash has a new — but rather inflated — valuation of $16B. Amazon or Microsoft will be the first company to reach a $2T valuation. Postmates was purchased by UBER. And what does Warren Buffet buy? How about banking, energy and airline stocks. Why you ask, because they are undervalued. Will it take 2–5 years for him to reap real rewards on these investments, sure? But hey, why have a long-term, wealth creation plan in place anyway, right? It’s not like another financial crisis is coming…or something.

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I’ve mentioned several things previously: Slow down, evaluate your goals — how about beginning to work toward your dreams with some extra time enjoy the little things; make family a priority; or maybe even work toward a better relationship(?); learn to work slow and work with a purposeful and intentional mindset — build relationships, not customers(?); another good idea, perhaps. Find joy, wherever that is for you; internally or externally. Focus on re-prioritizing your values. All of these aforementioned are suggestions, but I am drinking from the well of my own ideas.

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Photo by Valentin Lacoste on Unsplash

Bottom line:

  1. Stay home, stay safe. The office may not be there, but work will, and ideally, you will. Not a bad idea anyway. I recently heard of an office closing in the technology corridor of North Carolina. 700 employees will never return to the office, they will work remotely from now on. The wheels that are the financial engine of the global economy will eventually start rolling a bit faster. The question: Will you have harnessed the precious moments, or will they have been squandered like the last twenty years? Time flies, right?
  2. Let the scientists work. And maybe even follow their lead. BIG GOVERNMENT, how about: not so much.
  3. Digest only news that is important for your safety and the safety of others you care for. News is news, and my personal compass points to cautionary consumption. David Muir’s segment on those who are actually making a difference in the world comes in the last two minutes of his show. “So, you mean to tell me that the top news anchor in the world intentionally, only dedicates two minutes for good?” There is an earth shattering indicator that we need change in the World. Here’s your sign.
  4. Re-prioritize. Family goals, life goals, work goals, relationship goals — all lives matter; last time I checked, mine is on a truncated time frame, and is without doubt, finite. The government will still print money, but where will we spend it if the unseen enemy cannot be harnessed, or at least captured?
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Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

I’m no “Phi Betta Kappa” or Rhodes scholar, but I’m smart enough to know the leading epidemiologists see this as a race against the clock, and also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They can, collectively, figure it out. Trust me.

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Instead of life being the “spinning top, on a gold floor that never stops, “get your ‘head on straight’ and eyes focused forward.” Those in front of you are the “King’s treasure.”

Anthony Layman

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Anthony Layman

Copywriter, Writer, Consultant

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Covid-19: School’s Out

Photo by Ruslan Valeev on Unsplash

We have entered the land of murky waters: re-open, step back and close, move forward — what consequences will result as of these decisions? Are we going to have a vaccine; who knows? Hopeful, yes. For certain, not even the best scientific and statistical minds in the world can tackle that equation — not by a long shot. Schools to re-open? Not in the Ivy League, with one exception, and who knows how that will turn out. Looking only to collegiate education, let those who are here, remain here. Do they really have to return to their own country, in their junior year (as an example,) and fight the reality of going to school at 5:00 P.M. in London, or 1:00 A.M. in Sydney (current time as I am writing;) C’mon. It’s heresy.

Let those who are here, be here.

Photo by Daniel Weiss on Unsplash

In North Carolina, it was projected the Governor would make an announcement on schools to return for the fall, and what it might look like, on July 17. Projected decision for “Options from 1–3;” delayed. No surprise, here. My best guess is “Option 2,” with a little added twist. The schedule I have come up with, in my own mind is as follows.

Using high school freshman as our control group, one set of students would go Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and attend classes virtually on Tuesday and Thursday. The next week, exactly the opposite, as the second half of the student body would follow the same schedule above. So, applying the math to a two-week period, you attend 5 days at the physical location and 5 days virtually. That seems to me a reasonable way to allow students to grow into the maturity of college planning by design, and default, where much of your time has to be independently scheduled, in a manner which allows you to effectively plan your time, not of your teacher’s direction (read: no micro-managing,) and learn to adapt to ever changing situations. We must anyway, right?

If Covid-19 hasn’t taught us anything else; examining priorities, “slowing the hell down,” re-framing goals based on moral or philosophical or religious values; and being flexible and adaptable, all while still remaining effective in your delivery and completion of work, maintaining a reasonable sense of what was previously a normal time frame, and to retain, maintain and attract new clientele; industry notwithstanding.

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Dr. Fauci seems to be, at the forceful hand of President Trump, falling closer and closer to the U-shaped curve of the guillotine with every, new report. And for why? For being honest? For telling the truth? For providing transparency in a time where politics would like to be with their “Aces in the Hole?” And for what reason? To drive the election to the results the President is wanting(?) — re-election of course.

I don’t personally see it happening. Trump is currently 6.5 points behind. Factor in the statistical anomaly of all the things which has given the media it’s “Day in the Sun,” and he is “up s%#t creek, without a paddle,” as they say. Even if the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) hits 30,000, and the S&P 3,500, say, by election day, I still think he loses. Those “Aces” will be revealed on the “flop” as “Deuces,” and Joe Biden will “rake in all the chips.”

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But is that what America [really] wants? Joe Biden has built a nice living, and a “golden-egg retirement” for himself in government. Forty-eight years. He doesn’t need to be President at 77 years of age. Nor should we want a President at that age — just my humble opinion. Please know, when you vote for Joe Biden, you are voting for his running mate. White, Black, Male, Female, Democrat or Republican, you are making an “All-In,” bet on the Vice President. So, choose wisely, my friend; if there is such a choice. And just so you know, per Las Vegas, Kayne is a 66–1 loser. Enough said.

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When Donald Trump ran for President, I didn’t vote for him. Why? Because he has a big mouth, opinions that are his and his alone (and can’t be changed,) and his politics is negotiation. Not for the betterment of both parties, but to the U.S. Yes, we are the United States, and yes, we are the most powerful country in the World — both militarily and economically, but it doesn’t give us the right to bully every other nation, state, country or government in the World! And that, is something he doesn’t have to negotiate.

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Countries come to the United States negotiation table holding those “Deuces” I spoke of. Russia, Korea, Iran and Iraq may be holding a “pair of fives,” but it is only because they represent fear to the safety and security of our Nation. They don’t have more military power, but they make nuclear weapons. They don’t have more oil, but there is this organization called OPEC. They don’t have more intelligence resources, but they have the ability to adapt, improvise, blend, “chamele (word is mine),” if you will, and infiltrate the what should be the most impenetrable and militarized country in the world. We are, but who is better at being the Chameleon? Who is the Axolotl? Look that one up; I know you had to. I would have had to myself a month ago: guilty as charged.

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Remember school? “School is out,” but “School is in!” And we had better learn to adapt. Be flexible. Be dynamic. Be more intelligent. More militant. More ready. Trump is good about making decisions. He is bad about seeing the potential outcomes. He is quick to shout in rage, bend the truth, TWEET without thinking and unwilling to apologize. Period. End of story. Those, in that exact order, are the three words and two sentences one of my colleagues uses frequently. A “Republican of Republicans,” (in the ONLY liberal county — out of 100 — in a Republican state) with much the same mindset of our President.

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So…you heard it here first. School will be in and out. You will be voting for the current President or the incumbent Vice President. A vaccine or not doesn’t matter. The Dow and S&P numbers don’t matter on November 1, but “don’t fight the Fed.” I am certain of one thing. Times have changed, and they will not revert to the way they were. There was no “normal,” there will be no “new normal,” it’s all about perspective — my favorite word in the entire English language, and personal philosophical word for the evaluation of any situation. So, my advice is this: Strap-in; we are in for a Hell of a Ride into 2021.

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Covid-19: Why the Spike?

Anthony Layman

Anthony LaymanJun 20 · 4 min read

Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

The increase, or strong spike in Covid-19 confirmed hospitalizations looks a lot like the increase in the financial markets. However, for Covid-19, the numbers have an unprecedented range between 50% — 150% — in increases. Yes, you read that correctly.

Coincidence? Let’s dive in.

Since the March low, the financial markets have roared — outside of any measurable, realistic data — a staggering 29.2% (using an approximate 3-month number of DOW 20,500–26,500.)

A few of the hardest hit states for increases in new, Covid-19 confirmed cases includes Arizona, California, Florida and Texas.

Arizona: Now one of the “Big-4” hot-beds; especially Phoenix.

California saw its highest, single day increase on Monday. More than half of the total cases are in Los Angeles county alone.

Florida reported 2,800 hospitalizations.

Texas reported 2,326 hospitalization on Monday, June 16.

On a positive note, the state of Vermont has seen a 50% decrease.

Photo by adrian on Unsplash

Shift, or Drift?

Like the picture above, we were hoping for stabilization, or what the political community has termed, “flattening the curve.” We then hoped for a large decline, or steady decline at least, much like a bell curve. As mentioned in a previous article, we should have followed the model of New Zealand and Australia (i.e. “Let the scientists lead.”) What a novel idea! These two countries didn’t even have to worry about flattening the curve, much less combat a steep decline. It just didn’t happen. So now what?

Photo by Christine Larsen on Unsplash

Just as the blazing sun above, it was once hypothesized that a warmer climate may be helpful in reducing the spread, despite the contraction of the virus being respiratory. Heat will make water dissipate and disappear; I get it. But where are the so called “hot-beds?” How about Arizona, California, Florida and Texas. Do you see a pattern between these four? Hot, Hot, More Hot Still, and Flaming Hot. Have you been to Houston in the summer months? Or even between the months of March to October, for “crying” out loud?

Vermont on the other hand, has recorded a 50% decline. Go figure. Heat is clearly not a variable worth consideration.

Photo by Rob Wingate on Unsplash

The single, most definitive factor in our intentional attack against COVID-19, is the harsh reality that testing is a lagging indicator. How to calculate this particular variable — the nasty, little lagging statistic — is pretty gray on the black-and-white scale. It would be hard to determine a formula unless we could extract some reliable data: 1) Current cases 2) Daily number of new cases 3) Tests conducted 4) Positive results with and without symptoms 5) Hospitalizations (against those tested/not tested) 6) Negative test results 7) Admissions vs. Releases at Hospitals/Medical facilities. 8) Those who are now healthy

These are not easy metrics to calculate and record, or a perfect model as a foundation to begin to solve for optimal results. Does anyone know the best bio-statistician or actuary in the U.S., or the world — or both?

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

And Therein, Lies the Rub

And we have a new variable waiting in the wings: Flu season. Oh, joy. Not I or anyone else on the planet, has the foresight to know how this will affect the overall health outlook as we head into fall. What I will say is this: all signs point to, Not Good!

The corona virus has an almost identical pathology in common with the flu, and that in and of itself, creates the most significant challenge. Only time will tell what it to come, and we won’t know it, until it is here, and then 3–7 days later. All we can continue to do, is make decisions with the best possible information we have at the time. I also [strongly!] recommend, feeling content with the blessings you have, that you may have missed, only three months ago.

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Covid-19: Round II?

Anthony Layman

Anthony LaymanJun 9 · 5 min read

Photo by Kevin Rajaram on Unsplash

Today just may be a monumental day a few months, or a few years from now when we look back into the past during our “pandemic experience.” It will be even more acute for New Yorker’s and NYC. We may remember June 8, 2020 as the singular inflection point of COVID-19, the barometer or thermometer for U.S. and global health.

Photo by Alec Favale on Unsplash

“Economically Speaking”

Those with less than a critical eye will see today as a win. NYC is “open for business.” Others will not. So the question becomes, which side of the scale are you on? It has certainly paid to be a “bull” when it comes to the stock market as of late. As of this mornings open, the largest gain per the major indices was 48% from the March low. It’s been a heck of a run if you remained fully invested, and especially if you bought on the dips, or even better, were dollar-cost averaging (DCA), month-by-month without even giving it a second thought. However, the majority of Americans are not so lucky, and with the highest unemployment rate in over 50 years, who gives a flip about investing if you are at, or close to, your “monthly nut” when comparing wage earnings and expenses?

If you are close to being in the red, I hear ya! So does the other 40M hard-working Americans — especially those without a job — that have yet to see an unemployment check. Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell may be giving the Beige Book report tomorrow, but if yours looks like the color of your lipstick (you know, the bright red kind) it matters not how much money the U.S. Treasury prints. The only certainty about new money in the economy, is that you can bet your last dollar, that your tax money will be the unhappy friend of the IRS…for years to come.

“What Happens in Vegas…”

Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash

Las Vegas — America’s playground — is also open. While there is plenty of money flowing despite the physical distancingmeasures in place, it’s more than likely not you or I who had the first seat at the 21 table. Table limits may be lower for a short period of time, but they won’t stay for long. I also will not be there myself; not by a long-shot and not for a L-O-N-G time. The idea of being on a hot-and-sweaty dance floor in a mask or welder’s helmet just isn’t for me.

If I were placing a bet, I’d lay $100 on red, indicating another next round of stimulus will land squarely on the color that means you are more than broke. But given this scenario, the house wouldn’t win; I would; losing at the same time.

There is a good chance the majority of revenue will come from online gambling. I believe it will be the largest, percentage revenue generator for the “House(s) of Pain” this year. If it does lag, it will only, because sports didn’t make it back this year. NBA basketball will happen, MLB probably will not. Golf will, and the NFL is up in the air. Football franchise owners tend to have an optimistic view of a NFL season happening, just not what the rules of the [physical distancing] game will be.

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

The Race for a Vaccine

Vaccine development is like an arms race; and in a way, it definitely is this time. The revenue generated from the Covid-19 vaccine will undoubtedly be substantial. The American government will certainly fund the delivery to U.S. citizens, and hence, other countries will have the pay our cost, even though that cost is future tax dollars to cover it for doses administered in America. I was always told, “life isn’t fair,” and it certainly will not be if an American drug maker headquartered in NJ mixes the magic potion.

It doesn’t matter to me what method is used to provide care for those infected with Covid-19. My hope is for a better, healthy, global world. Our bodies are deteriorating practically the day we are born, so if Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson or Sanofi finds a vaccine, good for them and “Hip, Hip, Hurray!” for all of us. It would be a nice bonus if I was invested in the correct company, but I don’t currently own any healthcare stocks, and I would more than likely be invested in the one that failed Phase-III trials, anyway…but I digress.

What would be most helpful is to find Aladdin’s lamp in something already available on the market, or in something we already have in supply in large quantities. I for sure do not know what the availability of plasma looks like, but a positive development which could prove effective is transfusion therapy.

Photo by Isaac Quesada on Unsplash

What I am confident about; we will find a solution. We will find an answer. The minds in science can — and will — find a vaccine or a cure. There is definitely an arms race, and thankfully, it is not about corporate profits, but rather the eradication of a virus of economic proportions on a global scale. It has taken lives, it has disrupted healthcare, it has disrupted the global economic viability. There is no better time than now to find a solution, and the solution is closer to home than you may think.

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Covid-19: Too Fast, Too Soon

National Economy

Washington is back in session as the Senate is bringing to the floor a second-round stimulus bill of 3T dollars. That is a ton of money — a 3 with a staggering twelve “ 0’s ” behind it. The Republican party will certainly have plenty of issues to present, as most feel we have not seen the true economic impact of the 2T dollar package. That’s the short answer. The longer answer is I believe it will pass, and we will have flooded the economy with 5T in spending capital, via direct payment to American households.

The question: Where is the money being spent, as much of the economy is not “back to business?” Here are a few observations:

Unemployment reached a staggering 35M Americans without a job. Companies deemed essential remain hard at work, most service companies have been able to adapt via remote work and many small businesses are just out-of-luck; short-term.

One of the Big-4 airlines is retiring their entire fleet of 777 jets. It’s reported there may be 7,000 pilots out of work by the end of 2020. Eunice Yun, CNBC Beijing, reported she flew May 13, 2020 and her temperature was checked five times from entering the airport to boarding; however, physical distancing was not required on public transit train lines. Perhaps the best news for America is in the sports arena.

NASCAR ran it’s first race at Darlington Motor Speedway yesterday, it was televised and distancing measures in place of course. A former driver and analyst felt that NASCAR would gain new viewers and fans, due to the lack of other sports content. One of the most successful restaurateurs is keeping his restaurants closed in New York, but keeping his burger joint, Shake Shack, open.

Local Economy

In my home state of North Carolina, we are beginning Phase I this week. There have been some designated sites where people can drive through — much like a DUI checkpoint — and be tested. Restaurants are opening to the public this weekend. Some stores at malls and outlet malls are open. At the major retailers (Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot, etc.) counting measures and not a requirement, but wearing a mask is strongly suggested. It was deemed unconstitutional for Governor Roy Cooper to restrict and enforce a “gathering limit” with respect to churches — not more than 10 people gathering in one place — as he had mandated in the general public.

The Rub — Too Fast, Too Soon

We are isolated, we are tired, we are frustrated. Our entire routines have changed; they have had to change, but we can’t make things right in the world by opening the economy too fast, too soon. You do not add gasoline to a fire that is “almost” out, when you goal is to extinguish the flames.

Let’s use the State of Minnesota as an example. They reopened 50% of their economy, beyond what was deemed “essential,” on April 27. In less than two weeks, confirmed cases of Covid-19 increased by 279% and hospitalizations by 129%, and they still plan to reopen the Mall of America on June 1st.

These are not the kinds of numbers we are looking for. We have been striving to see reductions (day-to-day; month-to-month) in both confirmed cases and hospitalizations. As much as I haven’t enjoyed seeing Governor Andrew Cuomo on T.V., this is exactly what he was reporting daily. Even New York City was beginning to get to a point where we were close to seeing those numbers flatten and even begin to decrease.

If your state is reopening faster than you feel comfortable, make a way to add an additional “buffer” by enforcing your personal “stay-at-home” order. It goes without saying we as families will protect our own at all costs; I believe we are being pushed — despite being angry, frustrated, tired and isolated — to relax our own good-sense feeling, and I am pushing back the other way, here at home, for myself, my family and the community.

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Covid-19: Proceed with Caution

In the past few weeks, I have noticed more and more people buzzing around town. At the beginning of March, there was a mad dash on grocery stores; a sort of stockpiling rush. Now, as states are beginning to relax their restrictions there is a palpable feel to my city, that there will be a return to “normal” as restrictions are gradually lifted. There was no “normal,” there will be no “new normal; and for that matter, “there is no normal.” Please hear me on this.

I do realize however, every person has their own definition of normal. It feels normal to go to work Monday through Friday. It feels normal to attend church services with family and friends on Sunday. My concern: Are we returning to what we thought was normal, to soon? If you haven’t already, now is a great time to evaluate what normal looks like, as you define it. And maybe that definition needs to be seriously evaluated and refined, if it hasn’t been already.

As of last Friday at 5:00 p.m. my city had a “soft opening” beyond essential businesses. An outlet mall has opened a dozen stores (who needs to go to the beef jerky store?) In a nearby county across the state line, a popular street with many restaurants opened for al fresco dining, streets blocked with tape, as if it were a homicide investigation about to take place across an entire block in downtown. Does that really sound appealing? Is it worth the risk? A friend of mine also noticed a young, Japanese boy (about eleven they thought) eating out, wearing a mask throughout his entire meal. They applauded him for his discipline to remove it just so, for each bite and each drink. As you pause to think about it, does that bring to mind the picture of enjoying a meal?

I do not personally know anyone who gets excited about the traffic jam on their morning commute. A friend mentioned to me this week how much they have enjoyed their drive to work recently. What used to take forty-five minutes now took fifteen. She would not be driving either, if a remote-work option was available. Will she remember this blessing in a few weeks, or join the new-age-of-road-rage? How will her perspective change when the morning commute returns to 5 mph for miles in traffic? I’m betting on the later.

In line with state and county restrictions, my company gave our employees the option to return to the office today on a limited basis. Distancing rules were laid out, masks were encouraged in areas such as the break room, and a limited number of people allowed to return on any given day. We were asked to submit a request if we wanted to return for the next two weeks, and were encouraged to still work from home, as long as we felt we were able to work effectively. For varying reasons in many households, that is a taller order for some than others.

My advice: Move slowly and proceed with caution. I am thankful I was given the option to work from home for a few more weeks. And if it is extended, I would feel gracious and accept that offer as well. My cautionary advice is based on three predictions:

  1. We are a largely independent society — We like to move, we like to shake, we like to buzz around; way too much and way too rushed. While Covid-19 provides time for reflection, time with family and a time to pause and breathe; take advantage.
  2. States and counties are opening too soon, too fast — I completely understand that this country runs on small business, and small businesses need to be open to remain profitable and thrive. I, too, miss being able to buy a pistachio latte at the local shop around the corner. I miss the opportunity to have breakfast with a friend outside of my family, and I know you do as well. Don’t open yourself to risk, too fast.
  3. Better safe than sorry — As mentioned in a previous article, my bet is on the scientists. It feels like we have finally put them in first chair. Sadly, it should not have taken this long. We also should have been able to prioritize and proceed, giving precedence to the professionals with the greatest expertise in virology.

Bottom line; we need time to find a vaccine. Normally it takes an average of five years for a developmental drug to reach FDA approval. As a result of our early mistakes, we do not have the luxury of time. If you are personally given the luxury of time — a few weeks, a few months, etc. — I would push all of my chips in the middle, count it as a win and take the money and run. You’ll thank this humble, “Layman’s” opinion later.

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Covid-19: By the Numbers

As I mentioned in my most recent article, a smile is undoubtedly the best medicine during this time of unprecedented uncertainty. As of this morning, as reported in The Guardian, we are just under 3.5M cases confirmed worldwide, and just under 260,000 deaths worldwide. The U.S. passed the million mark last week and now sits at roughly 1.25M confirmed cases.

Those sound like horrifying numbers — and they are — but let’s put those numbers in perspective. There are roughly 330M people who reside in the U.S. and our global population is just over 7.5B. With those numbers in mind, the U.S. contraction rate is 1:266 people or 1/3 of 1 percent of the entire population. Worldwide, the contraction rate is 1:2142 and .00045 percent of people who have been reported as testing positive for Covid-19, respectively.

Please understand that I am not being flippant, cold at heart or making a case for irrational fear. Fear is a palpable and noticeable response seen on faces across the globe because this is real. The current pandemic is a disruption none of us were prepared for; as a country, as nations and on a global scale.

Going back to a previous article, perspective is necessary as a way to process negative emotions in a rational way, especially those where fear can be debilitating and rumination a vicious accelerant to the inner flame. There are brighter days ahead, and we are starting to see progress.

The best advice so far, and the best results to date, have been shown in governments where scientists have been placed in first chair of the warfare efforts of the orchestra against Covid-19. For an example, look to the numbers in New Zealand and Australia. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Scott Morrison of Australia set out with the same goal and the same strategy; eliminate the virus entirely in their respective countries, and do so by letting the scientists lead and the government follow. The numbers are staggering: In New Zealand; 1,488 confirmed, 1,302 recovered and 21 deaths. In Australia; 6,794 confirmed, 5,980 recovered and 97 deaths. If you were the “top-dog” of any country in the world, whose lead would you be following?

Warren Buffet — better known as the “Oracle of Omaha” — sold his entire position in the airline industry. The total value of the holdings in four major airlines was $4B, and the amount of reported shares sold was 176.4M. How’s that for numbers? Due to travel restrictions alone, it will be a few years (not months) before airline travel returns to levels before the onset of the pandemic. Again, this economic pain is palpable on a global scale.

Disney is another story, with a big black eye and a small glimmer of a dream in the economic engine that is the “House of Mouse.” Tourism on any scale will not return to pre-pandemic levels, perhaps even longer than business and leisure travel. Executives at Disney had predicted they would have to take a $1B charge against earnings in the most recent quarter. They were wrong; a swing-and-a-miss by the entire roster wrong — ESPN was closed for business. The charge reported on their earnings release was $5.5B. Mickey did have one small glimmer of gold stuffed inside his white glove; Disney+. The streaming service added 10M subscribers in the first week of their launch, and added an additional 20M in the past few months. Now over 50M, there is a touch of magic left in those fireworks over the Disney’s economic castle, even if we have to wait for parks to open to see them in all their glory. Shanghai is slated to open soon with multilayered protective measures in place. Let’s see if Minnie joins Mickey, hand-in-hand.

Chicken and meat processing plants have been closed. Wendy’s restaurants have not had burgers available in hundreds of locations in the U.S. So, “Where’s the Beef?” Two companies are having their “day in the sun,” and one is the pure leader. Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are both in the plant-based, meat alternative sector. If you haven’t been paying attention to this movement, you sure should. Shake Shack corporation applied for and received money from the small business loan program and promptly returned the $10M award. Beyond Meat doesn’t need those funds. They reported their first quarterly profit yesterday on $98M of revenue and a .03 (three cent) profit per share. The staggering number is the revenue number. Year-over-year, (compared to the same quarter a year ago) revenue rose by 141 percent. How do you like them apples?

If we stick with the scientists, we have a fighting chance. “Big Pharma” is doing the hundred-meter dash…in record time. The common number heard by drug makers and distributors in collaboration seems to be 1B — that’s the number of doses they want to have ready to be delivered and ready to be administered, upon confirmation of a vaccine that can slay the dragon. There is good cause for this race against the virus. Flu season will be upon us in a few months time, and could cause a double-edged sword effect when diagnosing the flu vs. the virus and vice versa. With the initial symptoms resembling each other closely, a proper test and vaccination at the ready is imperative if we want to thwart any further medical and moral injury. Pfizer has reportedly been testing a promising vaccine, Moderna as well and the initial front-runner was Gilead Sciences. An article to note is one I found today. NIH has partnered with 16 drug companies in a collaborative effort for a rapid, vaccine development effort. This type of response may be three to four months later than it should have been, but now the scientists are being given the proper tip-of-the-cap.

Let’s take the advice of Warren Buffett, who candidly said, “It’s never paid to bet against America.” We may have to report back from the untimely exit to “stage left,” and return to what America does best; prevail, circumstances notwithstanding. Our resolve will get us through this, stronger than ever.

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Covid-19: Mindfulness and Medicine

Over the past ten days, I have been reflecting quite a bit about how the experience of navigating the pandemic has changed people globally, and also how I see the world. I have dug deep inside myself, and also thought how my thoughts, words, and actions affect my family, community and even the greater reach to humanity.

In my first article I wrote about how the pandemic has shaped my perspective. In the second — having peered into my own perspective — I wrote about how my new perspective has shaped my current thinking with respect to “change.”

Today, I want to offer a different view into what we can do, now that we have made time for reflection and given the personal and global aspects a proper definition. So let’s get going.

On a “normal” day — see article one for my new perspective on normal — I begin my day with a cup of coffee a devotional reading and then writing— my “quiet time” to work on my novel. All writers are different, but I find that the creative side of my brain works best before my analytical brain “wakes up,” so to speak. This is the time I use to get myself grounded, and the time spent writing gives me both a sense of personal accomplishment and provides the stepping stone toward a successful day for me. Start with what you love!

In the past week, I have added a book to my reading routine: Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hahn. It is a simple and easy read. It can be read as a devotional; a small dose each day for careful and continuous reflection throughout the day. As an example, I want to share a poem from the book by Marion Tripp.

“The Dandelion Poem”

I have lost my smile

but don’t worry.

The dandelion has it.

Most of you probably know, or have heard, the act of smiling relaxes muscles in the face, reduces stress and elicits a feeling of happiness. The suggestion from this small passage from Peace Is Every Step was to place something near you, so first thing in the morning you have something to smile about. This small exercise, small as it may be, is an exercise in mindfulness. Try it!

Just for a moment now, let’s talk about medicine. While most of the focus has been on the number of new cases to date, the shift has now taken a step forward toward finding a vaccine. As Bill Gates explains in this article from his GatesNotes blog, the average time it takes to develop a vaccine is 5 years. Gates thinks we have a chance to develop a vaccine within the next 18 months, and I am placing my bet on him. My reason: he has committed a large amount of his personal wealth on this very initiative — making a vaccine available to the world in record time.

Here is my question for reflection to you, as we reflect together on the intersection of mindfulness and medicine: Will the successful development of a vaccine for Covid-19 change how you feel about your personal safety? Will knowing that we have one automatically christen you with the feeling of peace?

I’m placing my bet on the medical community for a vaccine in eighteen months, but would not place any wager, of any amount, that a successful vaccine will give you the unwavering gift of peace. Why, you say? Because peace begins from within. Your mind, your body, your soul; your very being. Only you can find it and harness it.

Therefore, my suggestion to you is this: Find a dandelion, or the flower that makes you smile. Find your joy in a child; yours or another you see at the laundromat or grocery store whose mind is not tainted with anxiety and fear, but instead with youthful ignorance, a smile, and therefore; happiness. Take a walk along the road with your brother or sister. Make your mother or grandmother her favorite breakfast — because you can find a positive springboard in the wee-hours of the morning.

Just Smilemeet the day with all the blessings that abound; they are there waiting for you to meet them with your awareness. And that my friend, is the best medicine that is available.

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Covid-19: What’s Changed, What Hasn’t and What Will Remain the Same

Over the past few days, I have had many conversations with a variety of people across the entire spectrum of relationships. Family, friends, colleagues, clients and subject matter experts. Reflecting upon those conversations, I have realized there are some things we haven’t explored — both internally and externally — pre-Covid-19.

What’s Changed

As the rising sun above represents, we have entered a new area. Directives from the government, heightened awareness on personal safety, infiltration by the media in every home in America, a shifting of responsibility to “proceed with caution” at the state level and of course, the question of how we as families and individuals care for ourselves and others. Zoom was not a household name six weeks ago, but the sun is sure shining on this company in Silicon Valley, leaving the other “household” tech names in the [far] background.

What Hasn’t

Responsibilities haven’t changed. We are parents, we are providers, we are mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, teachers and nurses, over-the-road truckers and grocery store employees. Professions notwithstanding, we are households and communities, states and a nation that marches on; just in a different way.

What Remains The Same

Every year has seasons. Every decade has seasons. Every century has seasons. With the passing of time, we may feel how things ebb and flow in different ways, and certainly at different times. Time has a funny way of tricking us — especially as we age — but the numbers remain the same. Sixty seconds in a minute, sixty minutes in an hour, twenty four hours in a day, one hundred and sixty-eight in a week, three hundred and sixty-five days in a year. Time is fluid and forward moving, but it is always consistent.

What’s Different

I wrote last week about what my story might look like in a post-Covid-19 world. Here are some things that are different now, and will (I hope) continue to be different going forward:

SLOW DOWN!

Being at home, day-in-and-day-out has caused us to pause. I pray (yes, I mean pray!) that people will not return to living life as a “race.” Years ago my father shared with me how speeding didn’t get me from one place to another all that much faster. What it did do, was increase the risk of me actually getting there. I challenge you to have an “attitude of gratitude.” Slow down! and be mindful of the little things.

Re-focus and Re-define

Amazing things can happen when we pause to consider our [true] priorities. Have you always wanted to attend “career-day” at your son’s school? How about having a designated and regular father-daughter date? When was the last time you took a walk along the road…do we really have to drive everywhere? Dinner without the TV or movie? You can clearly see where I am going with this.

Take time to make a list — right now, tonight or certainly this week. You will be amazed what has taken a backseat that needs to be shifted to the foreground of your life. Then, make a schedule and stick to it. Be intentional with keeping those plans and not wavering when we come to the other side of this pandemic. Your mother, husband, son or daughter will thank you, and you will feel better for keeping those commitments; those that are truly most important to you, and them.

Don’t expect to be served, Serve!

In my own life, I have used this opportunity to examine what is important to me:

You can’t put a price on time spent with those you love.

You can’t put a price on defining and living with purpose. Only you can find your “why.”

You can’t put a price on the feelings you feel, when you are living in both a mindful and intentional way.

This country and it’s people are beginning to become aware of the reality of the value in others. How important is the janitor at the public school? How important is the farmer and the long-haul driver? The person at the pork or chicken processing plant, and the dairy farmer who processed the milk that we buy. Now is a great time for learning. Now is a great time for personal growth and development. Now is a great time for reflection.

This time is unprecedented, but also presents an unprecedented opportunity.

I heard a great story this morning about a man who bought a piece of land to develop. Residential construction hasn’t stopped in most states, but here is what he did instead. He could have built a house to sell; sure enough. And he might have found a buyer and made a nice profit; global crisis or not. What he decided to do was make a difference in the lives of others. He turned the entire piece of property into vegetable gardens. As he and his wife have harvested their crop, they have made soup in jars and given away every single one.

I would wager if he were in the soup business, he probably would have made more money that the builder. What you also can’t put a price on is generosity; a currency with immeasurable value in the eyes of the recipient. Now that, my friends, is money well spent.

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Covid-19: What Will Your Story Be?

COVID-19 has changed the way we look at the world. Today I am going to challenge you to think differently. The question: “When I look back six months from now, what will my experience during this period in time look like?”

The Micro-view

Despite making a personal attempt to “filter” the amount of news I have ingested in the last six weeks, it has been easy to pay attention to headline after headline. What has been newsworthy? How much should my filter block to be mindful of the important notes of caution, but not unnecessarily consumed? In particular, I have a heavy heart for those who are retired AND quarantined at home. Seniors have experienced anxiety. They have experienced pain, sadness and fear due to uncertainty; the full range of emotions. Some have experienced the death of a family member or loved one. They have, by default, fallen into the proverbial “rabbit-hole,” courtesy of the media. As I have pondered for years, “Where is the good news?” Where are the stories that uplift our spirits, in times of crisis or not?

The Macro-view

Realizing the seriousness of the health, welfare and economic catastrophe of the COVID-19 impact, it’s hard to look beyond the “end of our nose.” However, there will eventually be an [relative] end to the pandemic. I am absolutely not making the claim that we will return to what we thought was normal. There has been action in a time of unprecedented uncertainty. Biotechnology companies are hard at work; let’s not forget to add scientists to the list of essential businesses among healthcare professionals. Corporations and non-profit organizations and the U.S. government have made trillions of dollars available in economic and health related investments and aid. There have been mass casualties (of all kinds) in the wake of COVID-19, but we have collectively risen to the challenge. #alonetogether #wewillmakeitthroughthis

There is light and the end of the tunnel, and most will see the sunshine. The difference lies in what your view will be when we emerge from the darkness. The simple truth is this: the current pandemic is an opportunity. This is a larger global problem with a solution. The relief from this pandemic will take a collective, global initiative for the greater society that is the world; both today, and for what is to come. Remember; where there is crisis, there is opportunity.

The Realistic-view

Bill Gates gave a Ted-talk in 2015 warning about biologic pandemics. How they would have the possibility of bringing both the U.S. and the global economies to its knees. Some have dubbed it, “the prediction video.” It can be found with a simple Google search. The reality: we weren’t equipped, not by a long-shot! Here is another question for serious reflection: Will we be equipped for the next pandemic; nationally or globally? This is, and has been, a serious deal. Some have displayed a “flippant” attitude, increasing the risk to others. Some have followed the directives and taken a cautionary stance, individually and for the benefit of society at large. Some have let anxiety and fear drive their entire decision-making process. We have all tried to buy hand sanitizer, paper towels, toilet paper and our normal purchases from the meat counter. No matter your view, the virus has impacted the lives of everyone, on every corner of the globe.

The Story

Yesterday I attended a Zoom event conducted by Dr. John Evans. He is a subject matter expert in the discipline of Narrative Healthcare, using his unique set of skills, offering expressive writing as healing. The question posed at the beginning of this article was his directive for the session. Approximately fifty people were in attendance.

Here is what I learned:

  1. I am resilient — life has many storms, but I am equipped to weather them
  2. I have resolve — I believe in an end to the current crisis, and I will make it through it
  3. I am persistent — I am able to continue with my normal responsibilities (work, school, home-life, etc.)
  4. I can trust — I am personally close to people who work in grocery stores, the medical community and others who are considered “essential.” I trust they will also not be affected
  5. We are a community — I still had an outdoor picnic with family on Easter. It was different; it was perfect!
  6. I embrace accountability — Others need me as much as I need them
  7. The big one: Perspective— There is no normal, there will be no “new normal.” We will have to adapt and overcome

So, the question at hand is this, “What will be your story?” Will it be a story of pain, or a story of triumph and rebirth? No matter who you are, every story will be different, even though there will be many threads alike. I challenge you to ask the most insightful question I ever learned, “What is the difference between?” My university computer science professor dubbed it the WITDB “wit-db” question. If you have an apple and an orange, you can find the differences between them using this question. What is the difference between WWII and the COVID-19 pandemic? In comparing these crises, the answers are different but have similar threads; as an example, the number of casualties.

I invite you to peer into the future, with the lens of perspective. Think about what your answer might be. Start by making a list of what you have learned about yourself in the last six weeks. Do you only see negatives, or do you see positive characteristics that have allowed you to walk through this, so far? When you sit down to write your story, write furiously for five minutes about anything and everything that comes to mind. Don’t think, don’t edit or scrutinize or be concerned with spelling or grammar. Go!

Now, go back and read it. Does your writing reflect a micro-view, a macro-view or a realistic view as you thought about the idea of looking back? What was the underlying theme in your story?

The jury is out, for sure. My story gave me perspective; both internally and externally. I came to the realization there is no normal and will be no new normal. Life will have changed, plain and simple. The positive words in my list helped me learn about myself and give me hope. And in any situation, big or small, I can harness my strengths and apply those in areas where I can make a difference, in myself and others.

I can, and will remember, to always display an attitude of gratitude. Easter was different and it was perfect!

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