I am home from a great weekend at the Saga Professional Development Conference in Charlotte. Terrific people, great workshops and panels, and good humor all around when it came to dealing with the looming threat of the coronavirus. Containers of hand sanitizer were everywhere, including in the swag bags we were given at the start of the weekend. Handshakes and hugs – fixtures during most con weekends – were replaced with fist bumps, elbow bumps, and knowing, slightly nervous smiles. People wiped down everything in sight, hoping that would be enough to stave off a disease that we had no reason to believe was any threat to any of us in that particular place at this particular time.
To say that it was weird, is to vastly understate the matter.
But weirdest of all were the farewells at the end of the conference. “What’s next for you? Where will I see you next?” These are normally questions my friends/colleagues and I ask one another during such goodbyes. This time, our answers were tinged with an ominous uncertainty. We made light of the situation; there was lots of gallows humor.
The fact is, though, we know nothing. Clearly the financial markets expect this to get much, much worse. Major universities, from Stanford in California to Columbia in New York, are cancelling in-person classes and moving to online interactions. School systems are shutting down schools in Washington State and Westchester County, New York. In other countries – Italy, South Korea, Iran – where the outbreak is already far more advanced, remedial measures are even more severe. They could very well foretell our near future.
I’m not trying to be alarmist. These Monday posts are called “Musings” for a reason. This is where my mind is this morning. We are dealing with a situation that could go off the rails pretty quickly. And at the risk of veering into politics, I have to tell you that I have no confidence in our government’s ability to deal with. Or, to be more precise, I believe the CDC and other agencies could deal with it if we had a President who was capable of confronting the truth and allowing the experts to do their jobs. Unsurprisingly, he has shown through the early days of this crisis that he doesn’t have those arrows in his proverbial quiver. He can lie, he can blame others, he can deny and deflect and then double-down. He cannot lead.
I hope that his shortcomings won’t cost lives and won’t deepen the already-serious crisis before us. I’m not confident.