1/ As a reporter, I try not to question people’s motives. Best not to try to see into anyone’s head. But when I write novels, motive is sort of my job. And I’d like to put my novelist hat on for a minute and tell a story. Remember, it’s a story – the character is *fictional.*
2/ Suppose you’re a public health epidemiologist in a big city. Your colleagues know you. Your city is pricey, and you make a professor’s salary, so your house isn't that nice, but you have the joy of doing God’s work (not that you believe in God, religion is the opiate, etc).
3/ And sure, it's annoying that a couple of your friends who definitely aren’t as smart as you went to work for biotechs and now have big houses, but so be it. They're still your friends. They take you to nice restaurants; you cook dinners for them.
4/ You’re liberal, of course – you read the New Yorker, you hate Trump, everyone you know hates Trump, and if they don’t they stay quiet. You drive a Subaru. It’s practical and fuel-efficient! (You wanted a Prius, but it just didn’t make sense, and you couldn't afford a Tesla.)
5/ Then this virus shows up. It’s scary, it’s Chinese, nobody knows much. You’re legit worried. You post on Twitter. Turns out the worse your predictions, the more people want to know! It’s crazy. Like magic. The local paper calls. Then the national papers. Then the cable net
6/ Suddenly you’re a celebrity. Really. And all you have to do is keep upping the ante. Which is easy. The models you see – or even work on – they’re terrifying. And northern Italy, Jeez. And sure, the flu wrecks Italy most years (look at 2016/17!), but that’s not relevant here.
7/ So you keep making more and *more* and MORE terrifying predictions. Turns out fear has no upper bound.
8/ Except, suddenly, the hospital beds aren't filling. The models are wrong. Not in a month or a year, but within days. Just flat wrong. The tide is rolling out now, faster than you could have imagined. You don't even understand what's happened, what's happening.
9/ And the hospitals are empty, but the economic devastation from the lockdowns you’ve helped cause, the unemployment, it’s real. (Not that it touches you, not directly, your job is tenured.)
10/ You’re a public health epidemiologist in a big city. What do you do now?