How to talk to your boomer about COVID-19

Why should I try?

Because they’re your grandparents, your parents, your co-workers, your neighbors, and your friends. In several ways I’ll go into below, they likely under-appreciate the problems they face. Furthermore, they’re dramatically more at-risk than people under the age of 60. Anyone who is older than 60, and/or who has severe health concerns such as obesity or diabetes, will likely fare poorly if infected by COVID-19.

Explaining exponential growth

Over the past few days I’ve talked to five different people, all 60+, two with diabetes. Despite their elevated risk levels none of them have been taking even low-impact commonsense steps to lower their exposure to the new Coronavirus.

It blows peoples’ minds that an exponential growth function that covers a whole lake on day 20 is still covering less than 1/100th of the lake on day 13.

Fortunately COVID-19 isn’t doubling every day. If it were, then it would only take about 30 days after Patient Zero to infect the entire population of the United States. (Drastically oversimplified, I know. Bear with me).

Objection 1: “There’s no cases where I live”

The lack of testing conducted by the CDC has been addressed at this point, but apparently some people haven’t gotten the message. People infected with COVID-19 are frequently contagious before they display any symptoms.

Any reasonable risk assessment should assume that there are plenty of cases which haven’t been detected yet, due to a combination of lack of symptoms and poor testing accomplishment rates. Some of those cases are almost certainly where you live.

People arrive in hospitals with flu-like and pneumonia-like symptoms every day. Currently they’re not being tested for COVID-19 outside of large cities with outbreaks already underway. Tests are finally being distributed and we should have a better idea of how widespread COVID-19 is within the next week or two. However, that week or two we lost is a critical time on the exponential growth chart, and will likely ultimately cause the infection of many more people.

Objection 2: “Scares like this happen all the time, and they always fizzle out”

Most of the boomers in my life are Californians. Californians don’t have natural disasters. They have scares, but nothing ever comes of them. After 60 or 70 years of being alive and never having an anticipated disaster actually cause any serious problems, I’m sympathetic to how easy it is to think that one never will.

Objection 3: “But Trump _____!”

I found it darkly humorous that both the red tribe boomers and the blue tribe boomers I’ve talked to had reasons why “But Trump ____!” meant that they didn’t have to prepare.

What Trump does or doesn’t do, or should or shouldn’t do, doesn’t matter one bit when it comes to what YOU need to do.

Whatever tribe’s propaganda your boomer prefers, the assumed presence of the virus in your community demands certain actions. Governmental response is important for coordinating effective supply sharing between states. It’s important for controlling the rate of spread of the virus in a large scale. It’s important for coordinating knowledge and containment.

What to recommend

Begin by following the advice from the CDC as far as disinfecting, social distancing, and food storage. Errands should be avoided if possible, and saved up and grouped together if necessary. Following a set of errands, your boomer should carefully clean and disinfect themselves and their clothes, and try to do the same to any acquired items.

Help the people who are most likely to be hurt.

Do what you can where you are.

This is your call to action, stop waiting for politicians to tell you to do the things you already know you need to do.

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