Our Return to Normal Shows Risk is Mostly Psychological


Much of the country is done with Covid. At least for this Omicron phase of it.

New York and California are removing mask mandates, and the south and many other regions got to this point many weeks ago.

I think three things have happened simultaneously:

  1. The vaccines have made getting it much less scary.

  2. We’ve become accustomed to the risk so it’s not as scary anymore.

  3. We’re just tired of behaving like we’re scared.

The result is that we’re starting to act like things are normal, which is so interesting to me given the fact that 2,300 people died yesterday. We’ve been at like a 9/11 per day for weeks now, but people are out at bars and restaurants like nothing is happening.

This is not a post where I talk about what people should be doing. People will decide that for themselves. What I find fascinating is how our relationship with risk changes so drastically based on our exposure to it over time.

When this started, a few people dying was headline news and caused panic throughout the country. Today we have 2,300 people die a day and we’re like, “Let’s get drinks.”

This reminds me a lot of stoicism, where the primary tenet is that there is—or should be—a major separation between what happens to you vs. how you react to it. And that’s the muscle we’ve unconsciously grown over time with this thing.

The virus has become less deadly for most people, and people have grown accustomed to the risk. There’s a 1 in 107 chance that you’ll die in a car accident, evidently. That’s really damn high.

How many people are afraid of driving? Not many.

Covid is still killing over 2,000 people a day, and we’re packing into bars and restaurants like it’s 2019.

The point here is that the perception of risk is a very dynamic thing, with lots of factors in play. And one of the most important factors is familiarity. If you live in Beirut, you get used to it. If you live in a society where people die of Covid, you get used to it.

Humans are peculiar.