This was written in March of 2020, one week into the stay at home order in Washington State. It is an interesting look back on my feelings at the time.
I’m not sure that reading “Station Eleven,” by Emily St. John Mandel is the best thing I could be doing right now. “Station Eleven” is a novel about a dystopian society living after a world-wide virus pandemic has killed 99% of Earth’s population. The novel explores what a post-apocalyptic world would look like. It’s a wholly believable tale of how people cope, and how some people don’t cope, with the pressures of living in a collapsed society. The novel also explores the state of mind of people trapped in an apocalyptic world.
One of characters, Miranda, is constantly feeling like she has contracted the virus. When you are living through a pandemic yourself and trying to make the best of things under a stay at home order (this is the end of week one and it looks like we could be facing four more weeks) occasionally thoughts like Miranda’s will creep into your head. It’s hard not to worry. Most of the time I find the novel to be consoling rather than depressing. The scary part of the novel is of course the 99% mortality rate. Today we are looking at possibly a 1% mortality rate in the worst projections, no one really has any idea if that will be the case or not. Frankly I suspect not. What I do suspect is that this will be a defining event in my lifetime, like the Vietnam War, and the crash of 2008. Once this event has passed, I have a feeling we will look at public spaces differently. There could be fewer tables per square foot in restaurants, we may even be more reserved in our public gestures towards one-another. I hope that does not become the new normal. I also believe that science needs a better understanding of viruses in general. As a nation and as a world, we need to dedicate more resources, a lot more, to understanding viruses and learning to combat them. Our health care system also needs to be able to respond to a pandemic effectively and in a humane fashion. It really is rather sad that we live in a time when so many people are so willing to listen and follow others that have such little regard for science.
We now know, as of April 2021, that the U.S. mortality rate is 1.8 percent, almost double what was initially projected by health experts. We have lost over 500 thousand souls, and the number continues to climb. There are countries that have higher mortality rates but the U.S. is currently the fourth highest in deaths per 100,000 population. That fact alone is hard to fathom considering this is the richest country in the world.