Information Is What Stops Diseases, Including COVID19
It is perverse! To start a play made up of Kings and Cardinals in speaking costumes and intellectuals with embroidered mouths, with me. -- Robert Bolt, "A Man for All Seasons"
It is indeed perverse for a Voice and Data Network Engineer to post voluminously about the coronavirus epidemic sweeping across China (and threatening the rest of the world with a new pandemic). Network Engineers are not doctors, nor biologists, nor chemists, nor even epidemiologists. To say that I am venturing far rather far afield from what my CV says is my area of expertise is an understatement!
However, because I am a Voice and Data Network Engineer, because I have done considerable analysis and troubleshooting of complex systems, because I have dealt with a variety of disaster recovery and business continuity scenarios, even as a lay person I have a special appreciation for the complexities and challenges posed by a public health crisis such as this. A viral epidemic is not the same as a computer virus outbreak, any more than a hurricane is the same as a fiber cut or other network outage, yet there are similarities to all these types of crises are managed.
Most Businesses Are Not Prepared For A Disaster. Government Is Not Prepared For A Pandemic
Across 25 years of being a technologist, there has always been distressing statistic that seemingly never changes much: the vast majority of businesses do not have a disaster recovery plan of any kind. A fair number of individuals and households are in similar circumstances, given the high numbers of American workers living paycheck to paycheck.
Yet we know that disasters will strike, and we know that jobs will be lost. We know businesses will fail.
We know these things will happen, and we still are not prepared.
Neither is the government. Not for pandemics, certainly and especially not for COVID19. That, too, has been a fairly constant assessment of the situation.
We know these things will happen, and we still are not prepared.
Lack Of Preparation Means Lack Of Planning And Lack Of Knowledge
Lack of preparation inevitably means two things: people do not have a plan for what to do in a crisis, and people do not have essential knowledge about what to do in a crisis.
How many people think to check the CDC website on a regular basis for updates about COVID19? Or the WHO? Both organizations have summary pages and other resources:
Additionally, there are number of other informational sites that provide data on where the disease is being reported and with how many cases. The two that seem to be the most timely are Johns Hopkins and BNO News.
There is also the vast panopoly of legacy media and alternative media sites -- although these come with a couple of caveats: The legacy media has been decidedly two steps behind the curve throughout the course of the disease thus far, and both legacy and alternative media sites may or may not be rigorous in their fact checking.
There Is No "Accurate" Information
This points to another challenge this disease crisis presents: the sheer impossibility of "accurate" information. By the time we know about the latest disease counts, the counts are already outdated--assuming they were ever right at all. We have seen the Chinese government fiddle with its disease counts, and even Japan quibbles over whether foreign nationals within Japan who contract the virus should be counted as cases of the disease "in" Japan (using the peculiar logic known only to government bureaucrats). The CDC still touts the Wuhan Seafood Market as the origin of the disease, even though there is substantial evidence discrediting that hypothesis. Both the WHO and the CDC focus on respiratory droplets as the primary transmission vector, despite having reports from China supporting the potential for fecal-oral transmission and airborne transmission.
"Accurate" information is not going to be had during this outbreak.
That does not mean the information is useless and should be ignored. While the CDC is ignoring some transmission vectors, the guidance it puts out about dealing with droplet transmission is useful. While the notion of the Wuhan Seafood Market being the origin of the disease is mostly a load of hooey at this point, such discussion of person-to-person transmission as both the WHO and the CDC provide is helpful insofar as it goes. The WHO and CDC summaries are, if anything, incomplete rather than erroneous.
Even the disease statistics from China are worth watching, even though they are by now largely discredited as being the "best face" that Beijing wishes to put on the disease. While not highly accurate or even timely, they still give some picture of the spread of the disease, and the severity with China--and that sheds some light on possible economic impacts and fallouts from this disease (and there will be significant economic impact, that much is certain).
We Must Not Turn Away
Even though COVID19 is an epidemic primarily in China--but for China this disease likely would not warrant mention anywhere else, so few and spread out the cases are--we must still pay attention to its progress. Not only is there a very high probability the disease will appear in your city eventually, even if it remains within China it will still have ripple effects around the world as travel is disrupted, airlines cancel flights, shipping is suspended, and the entire global supply chain is thrown into chaos. Everyone is impacted by this disease.
People need to know what is going on. People need to know if the disease is contained in Wuhan, or in Guangzhou, or in Singapore (unfortunately, the answer in all three for the moment appears to be "no"). People need to know what effect disease control efforts have--are the sprayers and foggers nightly patrolling the streets of Wuhan having any impact, or are they largely for show?
The more information people have, the better they can assess this disease' impact in their own lives, and how best to respond. One online alt-media commentator, who goes by the handle "Styxhexenhammer666", puts out daily vlog updates discussing the outbreak, and consistently advises people to stock up on nonperishable food items and purified drinking water--noting that if people in a community panic, the first thing they will do is empty the stores. As preparation recommendations go, it is not a bad idea: it is a simple recommendation, relatively low cost, and provides a person with a possibility of avoiding crowded (i.e., disease-ridden) areas should the virus pay their community a visit.
Censorship: It's A Thing
While it may be perverse for an IT professional to discourse on medical topics, nothing can compare to the perversity of censoring information at a time when maximum information is most needed. Yet that is exactly what is happening during this disease outbreak, and not just in China (where, to be blunt, it is expected).
During a press briefing in Houston, Texas, those in attendance were threatened and told they would be liable if they spread "misinformation"
Alternative Media news aggregator ZeroHedge was summarily banned from Twitter after sharing accurate (and verified) information that lends some substance to the possibility of a lab release in Wuhan as the origin of the disease. They were literally silenced for telling the truth.
Facebook is promising to summarily delete "misinformation" about the coronavirus from Facebook pages. They will be the sole arbiters of what constitutes "misinformation".
Not only are we facing information suppression in China, the ultimate source of essential facts, we are facing active suppression of information here in the United States.
This is wrong. This is unacceptable. No one is so trustworthy as to warrant allowing him or her to act as gatekeeper of information. The government is not that trustworthy. The legacy media is not that trustworthy. Big Tech is not that trustworthy. No one is so saintly as to be trusted to censor information. No one.
The Solution: Broadcast Everything
The way to counter censorship is to keep publishing. The way to counter misinformation is to put out accurate information. The way to mobilize a society to combat disease is to publish as much information as is available.
That is what I do. Perhaps to the annoyance of some, hopefully to the delight of at least a few, what bits of information I come across I share. I share here, and on Minds, as well as MeWe, AllSocial, and Parler.
What I disseminate is not going to make a vaccine any easier to produce, and it is not going to make the disease any less contagious. I have no illusions--I am not going to save the world. The hope and the plan is that some of what I share is useful to at least one other person. The hope and the plan is that others will pass along that which they find valuable. The hope and the plan is that at least a few more people will be better informed than before.
This much is certain: if everyone shares what they know, what they have read, what they have seen, with just one other person, in short order the whole of society would very quickly be very well informed. This is always the power and potential of social media--to quickly distribute information.
If people do share what they know, then overall people will be better equipped to avoid this disease and better equipped to survive this disease. In every fight against epidemic disease, information is always the best and most valuable weapon. Information does more to contain contagion than all the medicines imaginable.
It is perverse that a Voice and Data Network Engineer would discourse upon medical topics. It would be a greater perversity to remain silent.