This is the first of a two-part series looking at fear. We will dive into the hot topics of 2020. In the first post, we will take a look at why fear of COVID-19 continues. In the second post, we look at fear associated with the tense political climate surrounding the death of George Floyd, the protests, and the riots.
Let’s start by talking about the famous phrase “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Franklin D. Roosevelt uttered the phrase during his first inaugural address in the midst of the Great Depression. There is great wisdom in this statement because fear limits us. And, it makes us more vulnerable to those who desire harm.
As meaningful as that statement is, far more can be gleaned by reading the statement in context.
This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.
In this more complete statement, it becomes evident that the reference was that fear was a major contributor holding the country back. Conquering fear was necessary in order to end the Great Depression.
Fear In America
These words are very relevant today as we seemingly deal with crisis after crisis.
COVID-19 and the recent political events have both induced or surfaced fear in America. Each of these issues is an important one to be addressed. Still, the fear that is being created does not serve us and does not solve any of these issues.
It is important to review the facts. Then, one must consider “why” fear is encouraged.
Taking a Look At COVID-19
Back in February (which seems like a lifetime ago) COVID-19 was first becoming known in America. Horrific stories were making their way here from Europe. The predictions were also dire. Therefore, it made sense to take extreme measures to protect the American population.
Flash forward four months. The medical community is now vastly more knowledgeable about the virus and its effects. The dire predictions have been realized and the curve has flattened. Still, panic of the coronavirus permeates society.
I thought it might help to look at some of the numbers from Colorado. This puts them in a slightly different perspective than they are presented in daily counts. Let’s start with the most vulnerable – those over age 70. A lower percentage of total cases are in the 70-79 and 80+ age groups. However, the number of cases in these age groups is higher proportionately than the population of this age group.
Additionally, the fatality rates in these groups are higher. Still, to give some perspective the fatalities to date have been .1% of the 70-79 population. It is slightly higher with a fatality rate of .4% of the people over 80. It is also important to remember that these death rates include all people that had COVID-19 at the time of death. Some of these people died of something entirely different, but simply were positive for COVID-19.
In contrast, there are approximately 4.6 million people under 60 and there have only been approximately 400 deaths (less than 100th of a percent of the population) in that age range associated with COVID-19.
Each of these lives is important. Concern and precautions are clearly warranted. If you are in a higher risk group, you may wish to take additional precautions. Likewise, if you are visiting an elderly relative or live with person with a deficient immune system, you may want to be more careful than the general public needs to be.
Still, you must consider whether it warrants continuing some of the extreme measures that have been undertaken and continuing the panic. Is telling people they should stay home still warranted when the reason given for the move originally was to flatten the curve? The curve is now flat, so why are we still strongly encouraged to stay home?
Somehow flattening the curve has turned into anxiety about going out of the house, a panic that everyone will die, and heightened fear in general. However, fear can lead to depression, cause people to avoid other needed medical care, and keep them from their families who they so desperately need. So, why embrace the fear? Instead, say, “No.” Then ask yourself, “Who is it that wants you to feel fear and why?”