I have this strange feeling of being saturated in news, from all over the world, while at the same time, feeling like I really don't know what's going on overall.
I can tell you some things about some aspects of public policy responses to coronavirus in some parts of the world. I think one area of China reported no new cases today, which is very good. I know things are already really bad in a lot of places in the US, and going to get much worse in many other places. I know that Seattle is a place in the US where things are already bad, and Italy is a country where things are very bad indeed. I know a lot of Europe is going into lockdown, and so is California. I know that Donald Trump promised on live TV that evictions would stop temporarily, and that later in the day it was clarified that this would only be for some very specific housing situations. I know where to get a 30 day free trial of ebooks or workout videos to use while you're stuck at home. I know with certainty that the movie version of the CATS musical has been released for home consumption, but Animal Crossing on Switch has not.
Some of my lack of information, and uncertainty in what I do know, are reporting issues - on a few occasions where I've read a longform news report on a topic I've seen on Twitter already, the published piece has failed to mention major critiques and complications. (The coverage of university housing policies in response to coronavirus was especially jarring: on Twitter, there was much talk about how students might not have a safe home to return to, or might not have Internet there, or might not have money to buy food when their prepaid meal plan is no longer available, or might lose visas resulting in lifelong consequences. The piece I read in a major media outlet gave an overview of what policies some schools had announced, and left it at that.) Of course, one could argue that the fact that a lot of my news & perspective on the news comes from Twitter threads by people I've never heard of is itself a cause for uncertainty.
In other cases, it's the raw data that is suspect. Public servants appear at press conferences and say "there have been two community spread cases in Omaha, and none in Lincoln" but I know that both Lincoln and Omaha (like most places in the US) are undertesting, denying people with symptoms a test if they can't say definitively where they might have contracted the illness. So, though I can cite the official numbers for my own state at least, I have no confidence at all that those numbers represent the situation accurately.
The biggest issue, though, is that there is just so much to know. Every household, every small town, city, state, and country in the world is handling this differently in ways big and small. People's lives, which were already quite different to start, are all being disrupted in so many different ways. The disruptions fall into broad categories, sure, and yet are endlessly unique. Every single journalist who has ever lived could work day and night to tell the stories of this pandemic faithfully, and we'd probably still never hear all that could be told. As it is, so many people have access to tell the stories of their life and their place, via social media. While I am grateful for the expressive power we each wield in the digital era, I am also overwhelmed, struggling to make sense of the flood.
The future, even more so than the present, is extremely uncertain. The measures we are taking now are being taken until April 1 in some cases, "until further notice" in others. One report from a well-respected institution said it's likely only sustained, society-wide social distancing can keep us from huge death tolls until a vaccine is developed and administered to everyone on the planet. After reading about it last night (on Twitter first, of course), I had so many questions. Could we, as a society, shut down our economy in such drastic ways for so long? Could I, as an individual, endure when just these first few days have been so hard? My lack of answers makes me feel I just don't understand yet, but surely the next thread of tweets or retweeted bit of reporting will clear everything right up. So I keep scrolling and scrolling, but answers are not to be found. Be wary of anyone, at this point, who claims otherwise.
Social icon by Icons8