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COVID-19 Outbreak: Thoughts From the Stay-at-Home Front

Like a lot of you, I’m stuck at home experiencing the fun and excitement of social distancing. One of the hobbies I seem to have picked up is finding the most radical conspiracy theories. My current favorite is out of the UK. It suggests my old acquaintance Bill Gates is using the virus to eliminate overpopulation and advises that when the antivirus shows up, you should avoid it because it will be poison.

The anti-vaxxers, who are already on thin ice thanks to single-handedly bringing back the measles, seem to love a variant of this and are spreading it like crazy — because, I guess, they just love this virus and want to make sure we all get it.

Now Bill did start warning about a pandemic back in 2015, and he warned again in 2019. Given that we didn’t listen to the warnings, it is kind of fascinating that some now are blaming him for the virus.

What is particularly intriguing is that he accurately predicted where the virus was likely to originate. Bill apparently has become this age’s Cassandra, and he is hardly alone because there is some screwy war on the truth, and now that war is killing us.

I’ve been taking several calls on COVID-19 preparedness, which has resulted in some random thoughts. For instance, we aren’t focusing on one of the possible ways this virus will spread between folks who are sheltering at home. Also, we should be shifting manufacturing capacity to medical equipment. Another thing: We should be exploring more workable solutions than putting the country out of business.

I’ll share my thoughts on those topics and then close with my product of the week: a cool new gaming laptop from Asus that uses the latest AMD mobile gaming platform. It could be just what the doctor ordered for those of us climbing walls at home.

By the way, if you need a reliable COVID-19 resource Consumer Reports has a pretty impressive hub.

Delivery Drivers

I get a lot of deliveries, and I’ve noticed that regardless of who delivers, the drivers don’t seem to have any protection, and if you have to sign for something, you are either touching a stylus or a screen that has been used by others. No one seems to be thinking through what would happen if anyone on that driver’s route had COVID-19.

The drivers should be practicing social distancing, but they’ve been happy to hand me my packages. Generally I appreciate that, but now they should be setting them down at least six feet away from me. Signing is a real issue. That could be handled with an app tied to the driver seeing me. Signing is necessary if there is an age restriction, for example, and my wife buys a lot of wine.

Amazon, which is carrying a lot of the load, is being pounded for bad practices in its warehouses. Still, much of its order fulfillment processes are automated, suggesting at least some social distancing is possible.

However, if delivery drivers start to spread the virus to those who think they are safe at home, Amazon could find itself not only unable to deliver but also liable for spreading the virus with its packages. (Note: As I was writing this, FedEx discontinued signatures to prevent the spread of the virus. Nice job FedEx!)

Perfect Litigation Storm

When this event is over, and the courts open back up, I’m expecting a massive amount of litigation — from going after news services for spreading false and dangerous information to going after individuals for doing the same thing. There are limits to free speech, and if what you share causes someone to die, you could be held liable for it.

With people losing their incomes and their lives, there is going to be a tremendous amount of anger directed at politicians who didn’t do their jobs, companies that brought out fake cures and spread false information, and individuals who weren’t prudent with their social messaging and opinions.

We’ll also have a lot of attorneys who have been without income and would like to recover some of their wealth. This set of conditions likely will form a perfect litigation storm, suggesting you might want to double-check that rumor, conspiracy theory, or advice note before you share it.

I expect it will be open season on people who price gouged, who took advantage of people’s fear to sell them stuff that didn’t work or that they didn’t need, or otherwise misbehaved during this pandemic. Just a reminder that if you are preying on others, you might make money for a while, but you may not keep what you illicitly acquired — or your freedom — when this is over.

We Need Individual Protection

The latest trusted advice I’ve seen is to behave as if you have the virus because there are excellent odds that you do. We didn’t contain this virus, and mitigation mostly is not working because testing is inadequate, and we don’t yet have any legitimate medications that can fight it.

It’s likely that someone in the home you are isolated in has or will get the virus — the question is more likely when than if. We need a way to protect ourselves better individually. This suggests a need for an attractive solution to preventing the illness from getting into our mouths, nose, or eyes — the likely points of access.

The reason I’m saying “attractive” is that we tend to avoid things that make us look unattractive, and we want people to use the protection aggressively. If we can build a spacesuit, a deep dive suite, and an anti-radiation suit, we should be able to create an ensemble that protects us from a virus and doesn’t look like we’ve escaped from an Ebola outbreak.

At the very least, gloves that have an inherent ability to kill viruses would be timely right now, and it might be as simple as just heating them.

Leadership at the Top

I think we’ll be looking at the backlash to end all backlashes once the president leaves office. The fact is that he played down this virus aggressively when the nation should have been preparing for it. First he suggested it was trivial. When it became inescapable that it wasn’t, he made the pronouncement that he “always knew it was going to be a pandemic.”

The suspicions that his actions were designed to protect his reelection chances aren’t going to sit well with people who lost loved ones.

Ironically, the people who are most likely to be harmed are his loyal followers, as they likely took what he said as gospel. An excessive number of them may pay a high price for believing his early statements trivializing the threat.

Many of those who survive likely will remain loyal, but the backlash from the family and friends of those who die also is likely to be impressive. If current projections hold, the death toll in the U.S. eventually will reach millions. The latest forecast from Imperial College London (which triggered the massive response in the U.S. and UK) suggests the spike will come very close to the general election.

That suggests not only that Joe Biden will win the election (assuming he survives the virus) but that he’ll have a lot of backing to go after President Trump once he leaves office. One motivator may be that Trump went after Biden’s son, and Biden historically has been very protective of his kids. As a side note, I think it is wildly inappropriate, and pretty stupid, to go after anyone’s kids.

Online Voting

There have been a lot of concerns surrounding online voting, even though we do most of our secure business online these days. Online voting may be the only way to get a critical number of people to vote during this time.

With the likelihood of the administration delaying the vote for any reason, let alone keeping people safe, it is time to reconsider online voting if only to ensure that those who are isolating can vote for their favorite politicians.

Without the ability to vote, you can’t guarantee any democracy, and we need people to vote. We are, for now, the technology world leader. Rather than being afraid of the technology, let’s show the world how to do it right and help ensure our democracy at the same time.

Wrapping Up

Being homebound is giving many of us a lot of extra time to think about some things, and these are just a few of my random thoughts. The more people who are thinking and sharing their ideas, rather than just complaining, the better chance we’ll have of digging out of this mess.

Here’s one interesting final thought that I picked up on a forum I participate in: Those of us who are stuck at home should treat this virus as an opportunity to get in touch with people we haven’t spoken to in a while. We should get in touch with our kids, our parents, and our significant others. We spend much of our lives apart and usually don’t have enough time to connect with the people who matter to us.

For those of us who now have a lot of unexpected free time, let’s use it to rethink what is important to us, to reconnect with those who matter to us, and to revisit our life goals. Some of the people we care about may not be around if projections hold up, and we have the rare opportunity to touch bases one last time — not only with others but with ourselves.

The world is forcing many of us to hit pause, and we can take the opportunity to rethink our priorities and begin to design a better future. If you’re not one of the many people on the front lines battling the pandemic and keeping critical services going, use this time to build a foundation for the life you want once the virus is gone. It is likely you won’t ever get another chance like this to make a life change.

Oh, and if you need a smile, here are some funny celebrity tweets (thanks Richard) that brought a smile to my face.

Rob Enderle's Product of the Week

I get to see a lot of laptops in this job, and most are pretty uninspiring. Every once in a while, though, I see one that not only showcases the platform it is built from but also hits me where I live. I like to play video games, which is good, because right now playing regular sports is problematic.

Last week AMD brought out its Ryzen 9 4000H platform for gaming notebooks, and several vendors have announced products using this technology. Typically AMD notebooks aren’t that exciting, although they represent some of the best bargains in the segment. This time these are all gaming notebooks that are also thin, light, and impressively powerful.

The one that caught my attention is the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 gaming laptop, thanks to the dot matrix display on the lid.

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 gaming laptop

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14

You see, I believe a gaming notebook should look cool, much like I think a high-end sports car should look cool.

Now the problem with a balls-to-the-wall gaming notebook is that if you bring it to work, people are going to look at you funny, so the ideal laptop should be one that can look normal but transform into something cool.

That is what this Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 does. With the dot matrix display off, it seems like a regular notebook. Turn the dot matrix display on, and it effectively creates an “Oh wow” effect that is hard to ignore.

It’s kind of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or Clark Kent/Superman thing, and I love the idea. I think all gaming notebooks should not only have a dual technology personality but a visual one as well.

As a result, given the Asus ROG Zephyrus has this feature, it is my product of the week. (Oh, and I got a chance to play on it, and it is an impressive performer).

Please stay safe out there.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.

Rob Enderle

Rob Enderle has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2003. His areas of interest include AI, autonomous driving, drones, personal technology, emerging technology, regulation, litigation, M&E, and technology in politics. He has an MBA in human resources, marketing and computer science. He is also a certified management accountant. Enderle currently is president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group, a consultancy that serves the technology industry. He formerly served as a senior research fellow at Giga Information Group and Forrester. Email Rob.

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