Mike Gerwitz

Activist for User Freedom

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authorMike Gerwitz <mtg@gnu.org>2020-03-16 00:58:08 -0400
committerMike Gerwitz <mtg@gnu.org>2020-03-16 01:06:33 -0400
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Social Responsibility Amid COVID-19 Outbreak
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+# Social Responsibility Amid COVID-19 Outbreak
+Most of my posts here relate somehow to software freedom,
+ user privacy,
+ or some other issue driven by technology.
+As an activist for user freedom,
+ my goal is usually to figure out ways in which to empower people using
+ technology---to
+ put them on equal footing with those that are in a position to exhert
+ control.
+ To make the vulnerable less vulnerable.
+But all of that is a focused fight as part of broader goal for social
+ freedom and equality.
+If we take a moment to look up from out focus on technology to see the
+ bigger picture,
+ we can see that our activism and advocacy follow a moral framework that
+ necessitates certain responsibility during this outbreak of COVID-19
+ caused by the novel coronavirus.
+<!-- more -->
+The purpose of this post is not to give a history on the disease
+ (you [can read about that elsewhere][wikipedia-covid-19])---it
+ is meant to appeal to people _during the ongoing crisis_ to help save
+ lives.
+[wikipedia-covid-19]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covid-19
+I live in the United States.
+ Buffalo, New York, specially, which is on the edge of Lake Erie in
+ Western NY.
+ we received word of our first confirmed COVID-19 cases in the region,
+ one of them in a neighboring town where I grew up and where my mother
+ lives.
+ our County executive [closed down schools until at least
+ April 20th][school-close],
+ and we learned of more cases.
+I have two young school-aged children,
+ but fortunately I have the option to work from home.
+The company I work for announced today that all of its offices nationally
+ will be closed at least through the end of March.
+[school-close]: https://news.wbfo.org/post/erie-county-covid-19-state-emergency-schools-closed-until-april-20
+But this isn't at all unexpected.
+And I don't think the response is at all disproportionate.
+The problem is:
+ the United States has done a very poor job in making enough tests
+ available to meet demand;
+ consequently,
+ we have no idea how many actual cases exist in most communities.
+Even though we just received word of a handful of confirmed cases in my
+ community,
+ I suspect that (in my fairly large county) that actual number is in the
+ hundreds or thousands.
+I'm young---I just turned 30 this past October.
+Children seem to experience extremely mild symptoms of the illness,
+ so I'm not too worried about them.
+My wife is pregnant and due at the end of April,
+ but [the risk may not be high there either][pregnancy].
+So why am I writing this post if the most I have to worry about personally
+ is that I'm having trouble finding groceries and toiletries because people
+ are panic-buying and hoarding?
+[pregnancy]: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/pregnancy-breastfeeding.html?
+![Graph of COVID-19 Fatality Rate By Age
+ [^age-graph]](/images/tp/covid-19-fatality-rate.png)
+[^age-graph]: [Source](https://www.scientificanimations.com/wiki-images/).
+ Copyright © 2020 www.scientificanimations.com. CC BY-SA 4.0.
+ [Wikimedia Commons](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Illustration_of_SARS-COV-2_Case_Fatality_Rate_200228_01-1.png).
+It's not uncommon for young people to feel impervious.
+If you know that your symptoms from COVID-19 will resemble a cold or flu,
+ why bother worrying at all?
+As you can see from the above graph,
+ the mortality rate of the disease increases drastically in populations
+ 60 years of age and older.
+So while me and my children may not be at high risk,
+ what happens if they go visit and hug their great grandmother?
+Or what of someone out shopping that may be showing no symptoms but then
+ touches a surface,
+ and then an elderly person touches that same surface later that day?
+Or what if you _are_ actually healthy,
+ and have not contracted the disease?
+You may still be able to pass it from surface to surface just by being out
+ and about.
+!["Flatten the Curve" Graph and Animation [^flatten-curve]](/images/tp/covid-19-flatten-curve.gif)
+ [Source](https://thespinoff.co.nz/society/09-03-2020/the-three-phases-of-covid-19-and-how-we-can-make-it-manageable/).
+ Copyright © 2020 Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris. CC BY-SA 4.0.
+ [Wikimedia Commons](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Covid-19-curves-graphic-social-v3.gif)
+Our actions have real consequences.
+Much of the talk is now about "flattening the curve" through social
+ distancing.
+Events and [mass gatherings][] are being canceled.
+People are being asked to work from home,
+ and quarantine themselves at home when sick.
+Elective surgeries are being canceled to make room in hospitals for patients
+ that really need to be there.
+[mass gatherings]: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/large-events/mass-gatherings-ready-for-covid-19.html
+If too many people contract COVID-19 at once,
+ our healthcare system will not be able to keep up.
+If we can throttle the spread of the disease over a long enough period of
+ time,
+ patients will be more likely to get the life-saving care that they need
+ and may end up recovering.
+So when I think of myself as an activist for user freedom---to
+ level the playing field---I
+ now think of the above graphs.
+If I want to be a positive change for society,
+ what is the most important and most effective thing I can do right now?
+It has nothing to do with software.
+The best thing I can do is _stay at home_ unless it's necessary that I go
+ out,
+ in the hope that I can do my part to keep this disease from spreading
+ ever more rapidly.
+If you do go out,
+ _wash your hands_ with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
+Don't touch your face without washing your hands.
+Use hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol.
+Keep your distance from other people.
+Avoid social gatherings.
+Stop hoarding supplies that others need,
+ and may even need more than you.
+_Consider others._
+I hope that you will do the same.
+But at the same time,
+ I also recognize that I'm in a fortunate situation,
+ being able to work from home and continue receiving a paycheck.
+Others may not have that option.
+They may not be able to stay home with kids,
+ or pay for child care.
+They may miss paychecks.
+They may miss payments on rent or student loans or other debts.
+They may be without healthcare.
+And if you are one of those people reading this,
+ I hope that the federal government and your State government are able to
+ provide you with relief soon.
+This is going to get worse before it gets better.
+For more information,
+ see the [CDC's COVID-19 Resources](https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html).