Humans are notoriously poor at estimating risk. I mention this first thing because some of you may be considering going over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house this Thanksgiving. Please – I beg of you — JUST STAY HOME! Don’t risk exposing yourself, your family, your grandmother, or even folks in your “bubble” to your mistaken belief that you are safe because you always wear a mask and so pose no risk to them.
We are all at risk right now. Thanksgiving poses a higher risk of death or injury than other holidays (even before COVID) from any number of sources – heart attacks, severe burns from deep-frying a turkey outside, being in close proximity to your in-laws, over eating, over drinking, choking on turkey bones, driving without wearing a seat belt, over spending, and watching way too much football. Please don’t put extra stress on your local hospital right now – they’re too busy with COVID.
For some odd reason, there is a high incidence of memory loss during Thanksgiving. People seem to forget that they shouldn’t be drinking gallons of beer, wine, or hard liquor, stuffing themselves with bacon, lard, and butter-filled goodies, and eating handfuls of black olives all the while stressing because they haven’t put out the best linen, silver, or china (just like mother always did!). We are all trying to live up to some fantasy concocted by Norman Rockwell and R. H. Macy. We are wallowing in resentment that we can’t have things the way we want them.
BE LIKE A PILGRIM!
Well, that is just too damn bad! We all need a time out! We need to go sit in the corner until we can keep our hands to ourselves, keep a decent tongue in our heads, and pay attention to manners. No more excuses! We need to take charge and be responsible for ourselves rather than indulge. Be more like a Pilgrim!
Here is a little quiz. Only people with brains the size of breadfruit can get the answers right the first time! (Answers found at the end of this post)
Who is more at risk in a kitchen this Thanksgiving?
- A professionally trained chef in a restaurant
- A 3-year old in your kitchen
- A person texting while they cook
- The first-time cook who is on their own and can’t follow a recipe but who didn’t have DoorDash deliver their meal?
Who is more at risk for getting COVID (rank in order)?
- An older person with co-morbid conditions who never goes out of the house.
- A medical provider who works in ICU with COVID patients
- Your teenage son or daughter
Extra credit: Do you assess risk by how you “feel” or by researching the data?
CAUTION: SCIENTIFIC REASONING AHEAD
Risk assessment is a very precise methodology that results in improved decision-making, but does not (and this is important) reduce the likelihood of death. The methodology itself follows similar protocols whether you are Evel Knievel or investing in the stock market.
- Identify the risks
- Analyze probabilities and outcomes
- Evaluate strategies to manage the risk
- Remember what you learned and don’t repeat it if you screwed up
Sometimes doing these things involves running numbers (probabilities). Sometimes it involves taking stock of your own prejudices (cognitive bias). Most of the time (sadly) the information is minimized or ignored all-together until it is too late (viz, the U.S. and how it is managing the COVID response) and you (or I) succumb to the wildly improbable belief that it “won’t happen to me!”
According to the American Society of Safety Professionals, “Risk analysis involves a detailed consideration of uncertainties, hazards, consequences, likelihood, events, scenarios, controls and their effectiveness. An event can have multiple causes and consequences and can affect multiple objectives.” Now if that doesn’t help you sleep better, I don’t know what will!
Of course it comes down to one thing, and one thing alone. How much are you willing to ignore evidence to the contrary to just do what you want for that all-too brief experience of satisfaction vs. how much strength, stamina, and sheer will power will it take for you to just wait it out in order to receive the bigger payoff? Turns out psychologists have studied this very thing! Click on the link to see the “Marshmallow Test”. Now you may laugh, but I put it to you that this is exactly what we are dealing with right now. Delayed gratification on steroids – literally, if you just stay home this Thanksgiving, you will LIVE!
According to the World Health Organization, “Globally in the past week (11/17/2020), rates of new COVID-19 cases and deaths continued to increase, with almost 4 million new cases and 60,000 new deaths recorded. Cumulatively as of 15 November 2020, 53.7 million confirmed cases and 1.3 million deaths have been reported to WHO.” The odds of you testing positive for COVID are increasing, since more and more people are exposed. However, we don’t yet have enough information to understand long-term consequences, so we really can’t estimate how testing positive may impact you in the long run. Good news! The odds of you DYING from COVID are going down.
I am pleading with you now, as someone who tested positive for COVID back in March and who has survived to tell her tale, STAY HOME FOR THANKSGIVING THIS YEAR!
STAY HOME FOR THANKSGIVING THIS YEAR!
I realize it is folly to attempt to persuade those of you who would throw caution to the wind or who are choosing to ignore the evidence. I have a hard time withholding judgment, especially since there will be some of you who will not be around next year, or your selfishness will be responsible directly or indirectly for causing suffering in others.
For those of you who are perhaps wondering whether it is really okay to go, especially since it is just your family or your pod, or whatever magical thinking grouping you have, please JUST STAY HOME
and find different a way to express your love and gratitude.
For those of you who are in withdrawal from not having human contact or enough social interaction, I do have sympathy, but please JUST STAY HOME and reach out to professionals, warm-lines, or watch videos of babies laughing and animal friends.
For those of you who have known someone who died from COVID, has COVID now, or is particularly vulnerable, you already know how important it is, regardless of whether it is a holiday or not, to say “I love you! Thank you for being in my life!”
All are at risk, but not equal risk. The chef is at risk because of exposure to others in the kitchen, suppliers, or guests. The 3-year old is at risk for getting burned or cut. The person texting is at risk for being distracted screwing up ingredients or getting injured, and the first time cook is at risk for going hungry.
Rank = 3, 4, 2, 1. Older adults with co-morbid conditions are at higher risk for DYING, but not catching COVID (except when they are exposed to it by caregivers or relatives). This is an important distinction and reflects our lack of understanding the full implications of COVID. The medical professionals are at risk of burn-out, depression, substance abuse, and suicide, which all can be traced back to their stress at having to care for so many people who didn’t bother to wear a mask, wash their hands and maintain physical distancing. Your teenager is probably at high risk of having been exposed because it isn’t cool to wear a mask or just because their frontal cortex hasn’t come online fully and they are unable to evaluate or assess risk to themselves or others. And you are at risk because of unresolved guilt issues from childhood, peer pressure or sheer exhaustion from having to manage this pandemic without a break.
Extra Credit: People who assess their risk by “feel” tend to over-estimate their ability to manage the risk or need to avoid it all together (over-confident vs. too frightened). People who “think” about risk tend to be more accurate, although they may miss out on some things. For more on this, check out Darwin Awards.