Covid's Risky Business

Risk is a human function with both logical and physical factors, qualitative and quantitative . In life we tend to process risk emotionally, often confusing risk with a lack of control. Not having control of your emotions when assesing risk factors can impact the way you make decisions.

Right now the whole world is facing the same risk, and in each of our respective zones and thoughts we each have differing perspectives about it all, this has caused an effect that has seen our world leader's and officials scramble to make decisions that have both positive and negative solutions and outcomes

So how do we bridge the gap between perspectives on COVID-19?

Risk is crucial to reach a healthy societal compromise and we can often overestimate or underestimate risks. The pandemic has certainly bought this into a stark reality. Let's create a risk example, imagine someone wearing a mask while walking their dog through a deserted park. Now contrast that with someone entering a crowded mall, maskless, and in an area with high coronavirus transmission rates.

Both circumstances pose the same risk of catching the virus because it's invisible to the eye and most carriers don't even know they are sick yet the person walking their dog through a park would come across as being low risk as opppsed to the person entering the mall maskless. The effect of compromising a solution came from the emotional pit of fear.

We are prone to assess risk emotionally. This tendency explains why many view flying as riskier than driving, even though the reverse is true. Media and Governments have played a huge part in fear mongering and if majority shows anything it is that people are most afraid of the unknown so have become receptive to the new conditions in place to solve the risk factor.

What people often confuse with risk is lack of control and it can be one of many reasons people have concerns. When we think about self-driving vehicles, where artificial intelligence meets algorithms that control the steering and brakes, we need to be able to assess the risks with control of our emotions.

When risks favorably weigh the perceived or potential benefits against the associated costs that trade-off explains why people gamble, even though their expected return is usually negative. The potential of winning trumps the perception and so we gamble on the emotions of hope and desire.

A huge focus around a solution to this pandemic has been to pour billions of funds into research and development. In record times weve seen the creation of a vaccine that is being advertised as "the only cure" and "best measure" against Covid 19 but is it really the cure all? I don't believe so in fact my gut tells me this choice is not for me. I already know the power of using my own moral compass and as long as the grass is green and the sun shines earth and it's realness is all my body needs.

Under uncertainty, I’ve been watching how people have been reacting to coronavirus risks since the beginning of the pandemic. Choosing to be vaccinated, for instance, involves numerous factors, personal and public that must be weighed to inform decisions. For some, this decision is obvious. For others, it is shrouded in misappropriated fear.

At the heart of all such decisions is how you as an individual assess risk and make decisions based on your assessments. Different perspectives lead to different ways to assess risk so when building bridges between such perspectives it is crucial to reach a healthy compromise.

Although there is only one pandemic we have different perspectives to simplify the two general Covid perspectives let’s call them "receptive" and "skeptical". A wide schism of risk beliefs about the virus and the vaccines separate these two groups.

As a whole, the receptive faction views the pandemic scientifically. In general, they are emotionally charged when considering its impact and the path forward, viewing it as a major public health crisis. They know that many lives have been lost and support the societal responses taken so far actions like stay-at-home orders, businesses and schools closing the world at a standstill while the economy shuts down. The receptive lot view the delta variant as the most recent emerging threat. They accept the value of wearing face coverings in public and feel everyone should be vaccinated.

In contrast, the skeptical faction generally view the virus to be on the same level of concern as seasonal influenza or the common cold. They recognize that many have died, but believe that these people likely already had other health problems, so the virus just hastened their demise. They question the benefits of the societal responses taken so far. Many believe a previous infection will protect them against the delta variant and that face coverings are ineffective for stopping the spread of the virus. They are wary of vaccines preferring natural immunity as their best defense.

Both perceptions contain a mix of valid observations, flawed beliefs and misinformation.

The receptive perception reflects an aversion to risk. Those in this group overestimate the risk of the virus at the personal level. As such, they treat worst-case scenarios as expected outcomes. For this group, the benefits of responses outweigh their costs.

The skeptical perception reflects a high tolerance for risk. Their actions suggest that they underestimate the risk of the virus at the population level. As such, they treat best-case scenarios as expected outcomes. This group believes that the benefits of responses in the past did not warrant their costs.

Then how can we find a compromise?

The middle ground is where the truth lies, and risk can be assessed. Let's look at some fact-based information and find a middle ground compromise.

To date, it is recorded that millions of people have died globally with 95% of them over 60 years old. This is very much some unfortunate data but in comparison to past years and other sicknesses we really need to reconsider the truth of these numbers as age and underlying health issues would have been more than likely the cause of death in 95% of these Covid cases

Face coverings and social distancing have become almost mandatory but are they effective in reducing virus transmission. Anecdotally, if they were, other infectious diseases like influenza and the common cold would have virtually disappeared. Masks are effective for the right reasons but it does not stop the spread of covid and social distancing is un-natural human behaviour please stop.

Every person infected presents a new opportunity for the virus to mutate.

Every person injected presents a new opportunity for virus to mutate.

Every person infected presents a new opportunity for the virus to mutate.

Every person injected presents a new opportunity for the virus to mutate.

Because this is how the variants come about.

With so many factors contributing to the vaccine costs nexus, informed decision-making requires risk assessment that at best is challenging and at worst is simply overwhelming. This pushes people to simplify their decision process down to a single factor, effectively narrowing their risk assessment.

Even with all the data available, both receptive and skeptical factions base their assessment of risk on emotion. Receptive people are fearful of the virus’s impact on themselves and the population, and are willing to accept interventions recommended by public health officials to improve any such outcomes. The end result are behaviors that help reduce, but not stop, the spread of the virus.

Skeptical people are distrustful of interventions espoused by government agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, believing they are unnecessary and threaten livelihoods, personal well-being and personal choice. The end result are behaviors that do not help reduce the spread of the virus, since they believe the need to stop it is exaggerated.

People with receptive and skeptical perceptions of the virus have not been able to find much common ground. The same conflicts exist around solutions to climate change and other political policies of the world related to things like economic growth and job creation.

Overcoming philosophical divides requires each faction to feel safe in it's position and be provided with the opportunity to be heard with multiple criteria weighted differently by each faction, everyone can be a decision analyst to help reach common ground for compromise.

Steps like these would help bridge the coronavirus response, divide and possibly even help end the social chaos that erupted in response to the pandemic. It’s hard to imagine enough people setting aside the emotion at this point, though, to dispassionately calculate costs and benefits around vaccination, masking and all the other public health interventions.

I believe there is a path forward and the key to ending the pandemic is getting both factions to walk and work together.

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