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An Open Letter To The Madridista Community: Preparing For The Long Run With COVID-19

We need to accept that our lives will be quite different for a lengthy period of time.

Real Madrid CF v FC Barcelona - La Liga Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional. All medical advice and data in this article relating to COVID-19 are sourced directly from published medical documents or from those qualified to give advice about pandemics.

Dear Madridistas,

The progression of the coronavirus has been surreal; from a mysterious outbreak that appeared as if it only threatened one country to a pandemic that has drastically altered our lives no matter where we are. By now, I am sure that you are familiar with the term “social distancing,” even if some of you don’t appear to be paying heed.

I understand the cavalier attitude. The threat to healthy, young people seems minimal and it’s frustrating to put our lives on total hold for several weeks. And, even if you could handle being cooped up at home, some of you are not afforded basic social protections by your government; others hold critical jobs that require you to decide between your health and the survival of yourself and/or those you’re responsible for.

Nevertheless, the instructions couldn’t be clearer for the healthy who are able to self-quarantine — stay put. Even if you are at a marginal risk of being seriously affected by COVID-19, it requires healthy people to practice quarantining, social distancing, and basic hygiene (i.e. washing your hands) in order to protect the most vulnerable (old people and/or the immunocompromised).

It’s also worth noting that there is still a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the effects of COVID-19, and you can experience major decreases in lung function after your body kills the virus. Don’t make assumptions about a lack of risk given the amount we still don’t know.

However, even for those who have fully internalized this need, I worry that we are, as a global society, mentally unprepared for the long haul.

The “idea … that if you close schools and shut restaurants for a couple of weeks, you solve the problem and get back to normal life — that’s not what’s going to happen.” — epidemiologist Adam Kucharski

The Imperial College London recently released a report modeling the impact of certain public health measures. They assessed a “mitigation” strategy, which is a relatively less invasive attempt to “flatten the curve,” by trying to keep the most vulnerable safe in order to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.

Only relying on mitigation, though, it is estimated that around 45 million people would die globally and that hospitals would still be overwhelmed (including the demand for ventilators), meaning that something akin to a more aggressive “suppression” strategy is absolutely necessary to save lives.

“Suppression” is what many of us are enduring right now — extensive social distancing for the whole population and all schools and universities closed. The good news is that vaccines are already under development.

The bad news is that it takes a very long time to make sure the vaccine is safe before producing it at scale and preparing it for distribution. Test subjects usually have to be monitored for 14 months to ensure that the vaccine is not dangerous, prompting the Imperial College team to estimate that it will take 18 months before a vaccine is available.

The U.S. federal government just released a 100-page report that, essentially, says the same thing — the pandemic could potentially last for approximately 18 months.

It’s important that we wrap our minds around this so that we can adequately prepare ourselves for the days ahead. It is one thing to mentally accept that you must self-quarantine, isolate yourself from friends, and lose out on football for a couple of weeks or even a month. It is another thing, entirely, to accept that we must all take strong precautions for much longer and understand that COVID-19 is not going anywhere, soon. Whether that will be for 18 full months or not is tough to tell.

There will be no football in the summer (or there shouldn’t be). There may even be no football in the fall. Our lives will be drastically altered for the foreseeable future and we should be under no illusions that this will vanish quickly.

I do not write this to cause panic or to put more stress on you — only to spread awareness of the facts cited by public health experts and institutions. In times like these, it is important that we offer support and extreme kindness to our fellow Madridistas and community at large. The point of a fandom is not just to support a team as a collective, but to be more than that. We came together to create a space where everyone is safe, accepted, and treated like family. That is what is supposed to make sports special. We haven’t always lived up to that ideal, but now is a great time to start.

Be more understanding than you have ever been. Be more empathetic than you ever thought necessary. The only way we get through this is by thinking of strangers and by cooperating with each other.

Talk to your friends and family. Help them understand the gravity of the situation and try to make sure that those most at risk (your grandparents are a big one) are provided with assistance (buying their groceries, etc.) so they can self-quarantine. I understand if it is simply not possible for you to do all of these things. Do what you can.

Make sure you wash your hands all the time, wear disposable gloves when going out, and avoid touching your face.

If your anxiety and stress is, understandably, through the roof, consider talking to someone or calling a mental health professional. Here are some basic tips on how to deal with these problems and help others cope, as published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Avoid needless speculation and engaging in conspiracy theories — they help no one and create mistrust, suspicion, and xenophobia.

Finally, be aware that successful measures will make it look like the situation is not serious (suppression will bring infection rates and mortality figures way down). That does not mean that we are to recommence our lives as if everything is normal. Listen to medical institutions and health professionals on when it is OK resume certain activities.

There is no doubt that the next several months will be extremely tough on all of us. But we will get through this if we take the right steps and keep the wellbeing of others in our hearts.

Much love,

Om Arvind — Managing Editor of Managing Madrid.

List of resources on COVID-19:

COVID-19 tracker from John’s Hopkins

Imperial College Report

U.S. Government COVID-19 Response Plan

Rolling updates from the World Health Organization on COVID-19

Safety tips from the World Health Organization

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