My COVID-19 crystal ball

Like you, I’ve been consumed with the challenges in front of me: sheltering in place, caring for my child, keeping the grandparents from going out as if things are normal.  I’ve also been reading the news and talking with my network, and I’ve got some resources and predictions to share with you.

This has nothing to do with talking with your kids about sex.  I don’t think most people have the bandwidth for that right now.  I’m a science geek, and I care about you and your family, so I’m offering what I’ve come to understand in the last few weeks.


My Top Sources

In case you haven’t read these already, and are interested in understanding more, here are my top sources.  If you enjoy detail and nerdiness as much as I do, you’ll love all the data and models.

  1. For a dashboard of what’s going on where, click here. This site compiles all the data we have, which is pretty cool (when you’re not feeling deeply about by what it means).  Although, let it be said that any region which isn’t testing (ah-hem, like the US) or reporting will have lower numbers, so be a bit skeptical.
  2. Beyond numbers, let’s understand what the public health urgency is all about. Here’s a detailed article, published on March 10th, about what we learned from China, and why so many regions have gone into lockdown.  If you’re not already sheltering in place, here’s a compelling read on why you should be.
  3. On March 16th, the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team published this report. It details their modeling efforts, what they believe will happen with various public health responses.  You’ll see why so many places are in lockdown.  Anything less just doesn’t do enough.
  4. Here’s the follow up article to #2 above, published March 19th, predicting what the next 18 months will look like. This was the first place I heard the phrase hammer and dance.
  5. This source is perpetually updated, adding information on testing methods, doubling rates, mortality risk by age, mortality risk of underlying conditions, and so on.

There you go!  Enough reading to keep you busy for a while.  If you’d like me to distill what I think this all means, read on.


I’m going to be frank about what I foresee and why:

This epidemic is seriously culling the human race.  The old and sick are truly at risk of dying.  On the one hand, that’s pretty democratizing, because no one is unaffected.  On the other hand, those in first world countries or who live with a lot of privilege are faring much better than the other 99%.  We all understand how vulnerable it feels to worry about a loved one; we all understand the grief of losing someone.

We all feel the need to be prepared and in control, to understand what’s coming next.  To that end, I have some predictions to share with you.  Here’s what the data and models show:


Expect our health care systems to be utterly overwhelmed.

It’s not going to be like what we were used to.  We won’t be able to take our kids to the doctor for an earache or a checkup.  Expect a LOT less help and many more roadblocks to being seen by, or even speaking to, a physician.  As time goes on and more of our health care personnel fall ill and/or are quarantined, there will be a serious shortage of qualified humans to help us with medical problems.

That means we need to do everything we can NOW to not need them.  If anyone in your family is not current with their shots, see if you can go get them.  The last thing you need is grandma getting shingles!  Anyone going to the hospital for any reason is risking real trouble, as hospitals will be thick with coronavirus.  We’ve simply got to stay healthy and out of their way.

It’s time to make that change to a healthier diet.  It’s time to start exercising more.  It’s time to install handrails around grandpa’s apartment to prevent a fall.  It’s time to start wearing a mask out in public.  Now is the time to do anything you can to make sure you and your loved ones are healthy and stay healthy, without medical intervention.  Consider medical help to be unavailable.


Expect to Shelter In Place for months…like the rest of 2020.

I know Trump hoped we’d be done by Easter, but that’s a pipe dream.  The pandemic timeline is certainly not on the level of weeks.  It’s on the level of months, many months. It could be on the level of years.  Just one or two years, but still, years.

No one’s saying this in the news, are they?  I think they’re afraid it will freak people out.  But, if you read the sources above, there’s really no escaping this conclusion.

If we make choices based on our medical capabilities and if we value those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, we won’t be able to open up gathering spaces like restaurants and schools again.  Because if we do, the infection rate and the death rate will simply skyrocket once more.  If we let up on Shelter In Place, there will be exponential growth of infections and deaths until we have herd immunity or a vaccine, neither of which will happen for quite some time.

It’s possible we could do everything right and get lucky – then we might see the end of this pandemic more quickly.  To “shoot the moon” like that, we’d need to be utterly on top of testing, knowing exactly where the virus is, contact tracing, effectively quarantining everyone who’s got it, symptomatic or not.  And, we’d need a full staff of healthy medical professionals, able to treat those who fall ill.  And, we’d need to develop some medicines that help more than just a little.  And, we’d need some extra help from nature, like if COVID-19 turns out to be seasonal and slow to mutate.  All in the next few months.  It’s something to hope for.

I’m sorry to say, it’s also quite unlikely.  We’re not going back to normal anytime soon.


Expect that your kids won’t be in school this year.

There won’t be summer camp, and there won’t be school in the fall.  At least, not drop-your-kid-off-for-the-day kind of school.  Probably a much more organized distance-learning program, and no program at all for the littlest ones.

Fall might include pulsing, where we get a week of normal life, then a month of sheltering in place, a week of freedom followed by a month of lockdown…repeat.  We could go that direction, and the kids might get a little more in the way of organized education.  That strategy allows the infection rate to grow to our medical capacity then hammers it back, again and again, preventing our systems from being overwhelmed.  Governors might choose that option until a vaccine is developed…which will take at least 18 months.


Expect a slow economic recovery.

It’s not just us, it’s the world.  We’ll be out of work or working from home, and so will they.  Some countries will be so on top of testing and treatment that they’ll be functioning pretty normally, pretty quickly, but many won’t.  Our manufacturing centers around the world will lag.  There will be fewer finished goods and fewer raw materials with which to make those goods – especially all that’s made in third world countries.  There will also be fewer people with money to buy those goods.



Expect more than the pandemic.

There will be a hurricane, an earthquake, a wildfire, a riot.  There are locusts in Africa, eating the crops.  We’re going to be dealing with coronavirus and something more will happen, and we’ll have to be prepared for how those interact.   Our normal support structures might be at capacity, so be able to care for your loved ones more independently.  The time to plan ahead is now.  Invest in what will make you resilient.  Ration your reserves; you may need them in the days ahead.



Expect us to get through it.

Of course we will!  It’s going to be a hell of a ride.  We’re going to be shocked.  We’re going to cry at the pain of it.  We’re also going to get to the other side.  We’re going to reconnect with old friends and make new friends and rely on our networks.  There will be joy and despair, small parties and much to celebrate.

Most of us will come through just fine.  This is NOT the apocalypse.  Life really will return to normal, hopefully with some pragmatic upgrades.  But it’s going to take some time.

There are lots of silver linings: Pollution is down.  Global warming emissions are at an all-time low.  Animals are reappearing in our national parks.  There are fewer car accidents.  Families are spending more time together.

Our governments will learn best practices, how to deal with these disasters, and we’ll be better prepared next time around.  Perhaps we’ll get a work program that will upgrade our infrastructure and make environmental improvements.  A lot of good will be done.

It’s a dark forecast for the coming weeks and months, though.  First we have to get through the surge, which includes a lot of sickness and death, grief and loneliness.


I’m sorry if this feels heavy.

It’s a lot to hold, a lot to adjust to.  When your done reading this, take a break.  Have some water.  Stretch.  Close your eyes for a moment.  Take care of yourself.

Find that peaceful place inside yourself that accepts what’s coming.  Resisting it will spend huge amounts of energy.  This is where we are, and this is what we’re in for.  We’re going to support each other through it.

Since my blog is Not An Ostrich, I felt I should share.  I thought, like me, you’d want to know.  Not have your head in the sand.  I figured, if you’re interested in doing something tough like talking with your kids about sex, then you’re adult enough to handle this.

It’s totally ok if you disagree with me.  Read my sources and come to your own conclusions!  You’re smart and capable and now you’re forewarned.  I’ve done what I can with the platform I have.   Feel free to ignore me if you think I’m wrong.

My hope is only to plant the seed, to set your expectations, so that you can begin to discuss and think through these possibilities.  So that you can begin to plan how to cope with them in whatever way is best for your family.


In support of you,





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11 Comments. Leave new

  • Nigel Pizzini
    April 2, 2020 6:09 pm

    Thanks for your time in researching and reading all your sources. This point of view is really important to hear, to consider, and yes, to prepare ourselves for. May it be “wrong” (may we come through this more quickly) but I suspect this view may be pragmatic and more realistic than we want.

  • Gillian Needs
    April 2, 2020 7:42 pm

    Excellent article, thank you for sharing! I feel better now with your confirmation of what I have been thinking.

  • Elena Bonel
    April 3, 2020 1:31 am

    Thank you Anya! I wish everyone in the world would read this. “Not an ostrich” is such a great standpoint to be able to practice resilience, perhaps our most important human characteristic right now.
    I only think there is one more VERY important point to add to the ones you already made. This is a moment of change. It is in terms of politics and spheres of influence and democracy levels too. It is the moment when citizens must be democracy advocates and watchdogs in the face of their own governments: pushing for international cooperation and yes, generosity. Pushing for measures that ensure that democracy will be preserved or restored where personal freedom has to temporarily be curtailed. It is crucial that the changes that ensue from this Worldwide crises will be not negative ones. We can all do something to push for this!

    • Elena, I do agree with you. I’ve been reading about how important it is to trust our leaders, whether they are benevolent dictators or democratic. There are times when a government takes over for the good of the populous, and that’s necessary in the short term. In the long term, that same government must give back the freedoms it took. Some nations have this kind of leadership and structure. I’m hoping the US does too.

  • Thank you for sharing all that you have learned about this and more.
    Although it is difficult to hear and hard to imagine this seems the most likely of scenarios.
    I am still foolishly hopeful this will end well sooner than later and will prepare for the longterm lockdown.
    I am trying to focus on all the positive, the concentrated time with my family, the clear skies, the quiet and stillness.
    Thank you again for sharing this.

  • This is a great review and helps with preparing mindset and expectations. Thank you so much for all you do!

  • I would love the next article to be about how exactly to plan for this. How you are planning with your family and recommendations and ideas and thoughts and more resources on how to plan and what we need. Thanks Anya.

    • oh, gosh, Harriet, each family’s situation is so different!

      Personally, I expect to move close to my in laws. My folks are older with underlying conditions and also more sciency; they are in complete lock down. We won’t be visiting them for quite some time, just FaceTime calls. My in laws, though, don’t want to give up time with their granddaughter. If I don’t travel to them, they’ll travel to San Francisco. It’s safer, I think, if we’re all in Southern California, sheltering in place as a group.

      That means leaving San Francisco (my home, also expensive) and moving to the suburbs in Southern California. That’s lower cost of living for me, plus childcare. Actually, I’m expecting my daughter won’t have a kindergarten to attend, at least not for fall. Grandma is a retired kindergarten teacher, so I’ll be relying on her to help me home school. And since my in laws are more squirrely, not completely isolating the way my folks are, it seems to me that they’re actually the ones more at risk. I’d like my daughter to have as much time with her grandparents as possible, just in case the worst happens.

      If I didn’t expect this to last so long, I might try to stick it out in SF, in my rent-controlled apartment. When I realized this perspective was changing my trajectory for the next year or more, I thought others would benefit from at least considering being locked down long term, and how that could go best for their families.

  • I love the honesty, although I am not an optimist, I believe good things will come out of this for the human lifestyle and the health of the planet. It won’t come without tears. What hurts me the most is that this is cheating my kids from well needed freedom, independence and exploration outside of the home.

    • I agree with you, Martine! I believe good things will come of this. I am sorry for all the hardship everyone is going through, kids, adults, elderly, the businesses that won’t survive, the plans that have been cancelled – all of it. None of us will float through easily, but we’ll get though it and there will be changes for the better.


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