Shift the Odds, Win the Game


We Americans are obsessed with sports and numbers. Baseball has 9 innings, 3 strikes and you are out, 9 players on the field. Basketball has 4 quarters and each is typically 12 to 15 minutes. Hockey has 3 quarters. People wager on who will win and who will lose in our national obsession with point spreads, percentage on base, and a bewildering number of ways to “predict” which team wins and loses.


With COVID-19 the numbers are staggering. Everybody loses. No point spread. No odds. And like gladiators in the Roman Colosseum, the tiger eats the loser.


With 50,000 new coronavirus cases a day in the US, some experts are concerned that we may have reached the tipping point with a rate of infection while the rate of hospitalization has outstripped our ability to contain this nightmare.


We now know that the infection has impacted the CEO, the celebrity, the athlete, the national leader of countries, and peoples of color who often labor under very difficult circumstances especially in the meat processing plants.


Hindsight is always 20/20 and everyone is a Monday-morning quarterback. But we do know how to shift the odds in our favor, as a person, as a family, and as a country, and we each can avoid the risk of contamination, long-term disability, and possibly death.


We all know (but do we diligently practice) the “Triple Crown” of advice: social distancing, mask wearing, avoid crowds.


As the pandemic rages and spirals out of control, as the roller coast tick-tick-ticks upward and plunges past the point of no return, as the trickle of water finally spills over the dam—we have reached the tipping point and nobody wants to bet on those odds.


This is not a roll of the dice or a spin of the roulette wheel. We know proven science, and we now see what happens when we don’t play by the rules.


Record numbers of new cases are being diagnosed. ICU beds and ventilators continue to be in short supply. Healthcare providers are acknowledging that these patients are far sicker and far more complex and often younger than the patients who became ill several months ago.


Unless we are living on Mars, we cannot escape this reality. But where do we go from here?


We’ve all heard the responsible recommendations from healthcare professionals. Let me add some daily routines that might help us all cope:


  • Have a plan and a routine for the day. Get up and go to sleep at about the same time. Have regular intervals throughout the day for exercise, work-related activities if working from home, and dress for the day. If we are working at home with professional commitments, this means appropriate attire especially if we are on video platforms.


  • Protect time for personal hobbies. We cannot go 24/7 without the big fade. This might mean gardening, walking, some form of exercise, music, art, and reading. But we need to reboot or we will not go the distance.


  • Get used to a new normal. Recognize that “normal” the way we knew it will never again happen. None of us can predict the future, but from the way things are unfolding, it appears that social distancing and restrictions on meetings will be embedded into our daily routines in some form or another. Accept that wearing a mask will be part of expected attire. Remember, no shoes, no shirt, no service? Now it’s no mask, no service. Respect these protections. Don’t shop in stores where employees are not wearing masks too.


  • We humans are not comfortable with uncertainty. We are especially reassured by numbers and percentages, but the current situation defies any clarity. We are in this for the long haul. Be fit, be flexible, be engaged, or we will be irrelevant.


Battling a virus is not a game. Do you want to play the numbers and bet your life on that?



Photo courtesy Tom Liggett, author of Mozart in the Garden (www.printersdevilpress.com).

© 2020  Edward T. Creagan, MD, and Write On Ink Publishing