How this Seattle Futurist Prepared for Covid-19 and Why it’s Not Too Late for You to Get Ready
Insights·March 6th, 2020
This archive futurist.com article was written by Glen Hiemstra, Futurist Emeritus. Glen Hiemstra founded Futurist.com in the 1990’s and is now Futurist Emeritus in the Think Tank. An internationally respected expert on creating preferred futures, long-range planning and assessing future trends, Glen has advised professional, business, community, and government organizations for three decades. He is available to work with incredible clients on futurist keynotes and foresight consulting projects.
Several weeks ago, it became apparent that the Coronavirus, now called Covid-19, was coming to the U.S. We were hyper-alerted when our son, Seattle Photographer David Ryder, a free-lance photojournalist, got an assignment to photograph the first Covid-19 patient in the U.S. who happened to be north of Seattle and he was told to get a mask, gloves, and full hazard suit. This was the “weak signal” that alerted me, though not so weak a signal really, given all the news we had already heard by that time from Wuhan and from the Diamond Princess.
I have never been anything close to a prepper, but this time, being a futurist who thinks in terms of future scenarios, this is what we did…
1. Financial – a couple of days before the stock market crash began, we converted some stock investments into cash. I think the financial crash now underway may not abate until a Covid-19 vaccine is deployed, which is 18 months or so. I expect the market to fall by a total of 25-30% but it could be more and again the full recovery may not begin until well into 2021 and it could take 2-3 years to regain previous highs.
2. Travel – We canceled all travel in March and April and are prepared to cancel later travel. It was all personal travel and there is no need for the risk.
3. Home – We made a list of groceries, cleaning supplies, masks, gloves, medicines, pet foods and other items sufficient to last at least 4 weeks and went shopping. Ahead of the rush, we were able to obtain all we need. We concentrated on food items that we use, or that would make useful donations to our local food bank later if not needed.
4. Online Accounts – We (my wife and I) made sure that our various online and financial logins and passwords were up to date and known by each other. We discussed our wills. (This step was due for a review anyway, and this is a good spur to do that.)
5. We advised our adult children to make similar preparations, which they largely have. We reminded them of where to find our important documents.
6. We prepared as best we can psychologically to be mostly home-bound for weeks, and discovered that in our 33 years together we may never have gone two consecutive months without one or both of us traveling on a plane somewhere.
7. Now, because we are in the high-risk age group, when we do go out for essential errands, we sometimes wear masks and/or gloves. We use a lot of hand sanitizer and clean surfaces and wash hands constantly. Sometime soon the situation here in Seattle may evolve to one where staying at home is essentially mandated.
If you are in a part of the country that has not been hit yet as Seattle has, there is still time to take similar steps. Yes, the stock market has fallen enough now that if you are an investor you may not want to convert any stock to cash, and to look for alternatives. We are fortunate to be late in our careers (or retired) so that we have enough savings to live on for a while. But whatever you can do to put some cash in the bank would be good. The rest of the preparation steps are within the reach of most everyone, and I’d encourage you to take them.
You might think this is over-reacting. I hope so. We can all hope it turns out to have been merely an exercise in preparation more than it was actually needed. But, one thing that tipped me into action was an article I saw that said doing this kind of prep is our civic duty because in preparing we protect not only ourselves but those around us. You can access that Scientific American article here.
A note on masks:
We had a couple N95 masks from past Seattle summers with intense smoke from forest fires. We bought one package more. We are fully aware of the official advice given that masks are not necessary for Covid-19 or not effective. But we are also aware that this advice is given largely to protect supply for professionals, and recent expert advice has begun to suggest that yes, masks may help as a preventive measure. At the least they help you not to touch your face while you are out. Finally, we wanted some masks on hand should one of us get sick. So, bottom line, if you can obtain a few masks without hoarding large numbers, I would.
Just before posting this we learned that SXSW 2020 and Emerald City Comic Con 2020 have canceled, following in the footsteps of Google I/O and many others. The organizers or cities are to be commended for giving up an awful lot of income in exchange for civic duty. In the long run the world may thank them, as suggested in this Smithsonian Magazine piece about the Philadelphia parade that was not canceled in 1918. On the other hand, this National Academy of Sciences report shows that during the 1918 flu epidemic St.Louis did suspend large public gatherings and thus slowed the epidemic there, as illustrated in this chart.
Be safe out there and let’s work together to get through this historic pandemic.
Nikolas is the Chief Futurist of the Futurist Think Tank. He is world-renowned futurist speaker, a Fellow of The RSA, and has worked with over 300 of the world’s most impactful companies to establish strategic foresight capabilities, identify trends shaping our world, help anticipate unforeseen risks, and design equitable futures for all. In his new book – ‘Facing Our Futures’ – he challenges short-term thinking and provides executives and organizations with the foundations for futures design and the tools to ignite curiosity, create a framework for futures exploration, and shift their mindset from what is to WHAT IF…