We’re All “Carriers”

by Gregg A. Masters, MPH

At one of the 100s if not thousands (perhaps millions?) of virtual gatherings sprouting up across the nation due to mandatory ‘shelter in place‘ or ‘stay at home‘ orders issued by clearer thinking state, county, city or municipal authorities I participated in this morning, someone shared the notion that: ‘we’re all carriers’. I immediately resonated with the idea thinking yes we are. Upon further consideration I asked myself, carriers of what?

The context in which this observational insight was made was during a virtual 12 step based but principally spiritually oriented meeting of men (immersed in what Fr. Richard Rohr describes in ‘Falling Upward‘ as the second half of life) committed to sharing and supporting each others journey into deeper dives of what it means to be an enlightened man living a meaningful life.

So while my interpretation of the offerror’s intent and meaning in the moment may not align with his actual intent, here’s why the comment landed so deeply with me.

We’re all captives if not outright ‘prisoners’ of our thoughts – if only at times such as those ‘dark nights’ of the soul when all the defending against who we really are dissolves into a cheesy B rated movie at best. During this COVID19 pandemic essential public health measures to mitigate (ie, flatten the curve) via social isolation (in some cases quarantine) and social distancing are exacerbating the separation, acute loneliness and for some, ‘personal reflection‘ afforded in this moment.

I emphasize reflection as this is the potential ‘upside’ of the obvious pandemic downside (ill health, deaths and the potential for a global recession if not depression).

Now back to the title of this post, ‘we’re all carriers‘ and an attempt to answer the question: ‘of what?’.

Some will spend their time numbing out on food, alcohol, drugs, porn, Netflix, Prime or other ‘distractions’ while focusing on and often complaining about, you fill in the blank (Trump, Obama, Pelosi, the WHO, CDC, China, the media, ‘fake news’, or the more toxic versions and false claims of blatantly ignorant conspiracy theories).

While, others – perhaps a minority (I hope I am wrong), will take this opportunity to look in the mirror and ask oneself ‘what do ‘I’ do?

In ‘The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life sociologist Erving Goffman frames our routine (pre-COVID19) daily face-to-face interactions as ‘theatrical performances’. He argues that a principal driver of these ‘performances‘ is the need ‘to avoid being embarrassed or embarrassing others‘.

Since living a ‘wakeless life‘ is impossible, ie, if you’re breathing you will effect others (remember the ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us‘ admonition). And as ‘social creatures‘ we’re genetically programmed to show up and be part of the herd in order to survive – those on the periphery (the outcasts, mentally ill or just plain contrarians on the bleeding edge) tend to get ‘picked off‘. Thus, a premium is placed on the ‘self awareness‘ (to not get ‘thrown off the island‘ by the tribe) of how our behavior impacts or influences others. In some cases this self awareness obsession (often a compulsive monitoring of an ego driven self) becomes a hyper-vigilant if not bordering on ‘pathology‘ exercise of ‘doing things right‘ (conforming to the herd) vs. ‘doing the right things‘ (a much riskier proposition of exercising judgement and discretion) and thus potentially going against the herd.

So the assertion we’re all carriersis correct. Yes we are. The question is what are we ‘carrying’? Are we part of the problem or instrumental to the remedy?

The answer will inevitably come down to how we show up and what are we performing? Is it the authentic self, rooted in unconditional love, empathy and compassion (independent of one’s politics, religion, ideology, race, tribe, etc.), or is it the ‘false self‘ fear based and rooted in the ego of judgement, separation with often ‘circling the wagons and shooting in’ solutions?

I know where I stand, and how I intend to show up. I’m one of many who’ve recently joined California Governor Newsom’s call to support the California HealthCorps.

As someone trained in public health and one who’s operated in the acute care ecosystem for several decades, I want to be part of the massive army to enable testing ‘at scale’ (it’s estimated that in the U.S. we’ve tested less than 1% of the population) and the required ‘contact tracing’ that will enable California and the U.S. to safely return to and begin to ‘re-open’ our economy. I hope to see some of you on the front lines as well.

I’ve also registered the hashtag #CAHealthCorps to easily pool, track, mine and report on real time and asynchronous conversations including the many credible resources shared on twitter.

We’ll get through this folks. Don’t buy the fear mongering, pointing of the finger BS. This is a ‘novel‘ coronavirus. There is NO immunity, treatment or vaccines (yet). The disease COVID19 is exponentially making its was through the now global epicenter of the pandemic aka the U.S., with tragic losses of life and major trauma to our front line clinicians and support staffs.

Just when does an epidemic end? With a 1 to 2 or 1 to 3 replication rate (the definition of ‘exponential‘) sadly, only once it’s exhausted the community of ‘eligibles‘ – that be you and me until we see ‘herd immunity‘ – which isn’t anytime soon.

Bottom-line? Stay home. Wash those hands. But show up and stay connected virtually – there are many tools. You matter and you matter to others. Don’t medicate the ‘dis-ease’. Be part of the answer!


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