COVID19 in Boston: Reasons to *not* panic

A little mental checklist here.

1) This was from China a few weeks ago. Sounded dire but wasn’t sure if it was real. However now three weeks later appears China has come out from worst of it.

It sounds a lot like italy right now (, and society didn’t collapse in China, and things are improving there for sure (based on my friend who just moved to Shenzhen two weeks ago).

2) Someone pointed out that Wuhan is ~11 million people, roughly like NYC (which is maybe 9 million?), and it had maybe 80k cases.

So that’s 80000 / 11000000 = 0.007 likelihood in Wuhan of being coronavirus positive. And that had maybe 3,000 deaths (though that will increase). Meanwhile, measles killed about 100,000 people in 2019.

3) In terms of panic, I will also say that, on Wed. 4pm at work I got a screenshot sent by a friend of a friend of a friend saying roughly  “positive at csail, i’m in self quarantine, staff grads not allowed back”. And at 9pm the official email went out, and it was just “one person, briefly contacted another positive case not at CSAIL.” And we are not physically locked out of campus or anything.

I am writing this down now, because I’m getting a different kind of panic (more local to Boston) going through my social circle now. And my instinct is to share it, even though I know that emotionally that’s because it’s panicky news and we’re starved for anything useful or relevant, and also rewarded for being in the know and letting our friends know first.


  • Of course, the measles kids dying are mostly poor people in places with bad health infrastructure, so that doesn’t freak us out since we’re so much better off and our situations are not comparable…
  • I guess the news is in English now and less censored so there’s a constant influx of panic that’s hard to fight. It kinda reflects and bounces in everywhere — it’s hard not to panic when my entire family is panicking
  • I feel upset that we have clearly badly hurt Iran’s health infrastructure, and they’ve back militants now that killed a US soldier. Now US is missile striking back. It’s like… virus induced unrest. I wish the lesson from that was recognizing that when we hurt others we hurt ourselves too. But I’m sure the older generation which is in charge will learn a different lesson from this.