Narrator: Imagine a swimming pool country. Now, fill it with people. This is a big pool, OK? Yuge pool.
Still, Narrator: Floating pool noodles divide the surface into smaller districts. Let’s call these pool noodles states.
Now, the pool-nation faces a test because urine is spreading. The pool-noodle states’ elected officials (pool-noodle faces) and elected lifeguard must confront the crisis.
Urine is spreading everywhere —you might say it’s a pee-demic.
Pool-people health expert: We need a filter! The designated spots won’t work. It’s annoying, but if we don’t hurry, there will be more and more pee!
Lifeguard: It’s fine. Stop being dramatic. We won’t let it spread. This is an enormous pool, and there isn’t that much pee in it. We don’t need filters. There are borders around the pee-in-the-pool spots.
*Gestures to sections divided by pool noodles*
Narrator & Pool-people health expert: *Side glance at each other; unsure if the lifeguard is serious*
Pool-people health expert: If we wait, the pool-people will have to stop swimming for a lot longer. We need to coordina—
Lifeguard: Enough of this fear-mongering! It’s just pee. I will double up the pool-noodle borders. You may not like it, but I must look out for my pool-country first!
In the not-so-distant future…
Pool-people health expert: It’s spreading. Yellow everywhere.
Narrator: What’s that, you say? It didn’t stay inside the pee-in-the-pool area?
Elected noodle faces: What do we do? This isn’t working. How did it get here?
Pool-people health experts: We’ve lost a lot of time, but if everyone stops swimming and we work togeth —
Lifeguard: I got this. Pool-noodle faces, I endow you with the power to choose whatever you like. Handle it. You know your section best.
Pool-people health expert: We shouldn’t do that. They were in charge when this problem started. People will have to stop swimming for much longer and it will cost much more. Please, we need to act now.
Narrator: Plus, the different pool-noodle states contain one of two diametrically opposed groups: dogfish people or catfish people.
Lifeguard: You want to make me look bad. I’m not telling the pool-noodle faces what to do. We’re not kicking swimmers out of the pool. They know their sections and their pool-people elected them.
Pool-people health expert: If only some of them get it right, the pee will just spread from the places that don’t. This will cost more and take a lot longer. You will look like a prophet if you act early. How could that make you look bad?
Pool-noodle health expert from the WHO (Watering-hole organization): The public will not trust experts if you ignore them and they won’t trust you when this doesn’t work. Plus, 90% of economic losses in an outbreak come from uncoordinated, irrational efforts.
Narrator: We don’t have time for chicken fights. Lifeguard, can you just call a meeting for us all to discuss our individual plans?
Lifeguard: It’s up to the elected pool-noodle faces. I will not take their liberty!
The pool-noodle states failed to agree and aren’t cooperating. It’s strange because they have never agreed on anything before, but we thought they would this time. Who could have foreseen this?
Reporter: Someone is throwing around the term “pool noodle nation-state.”
Lifeguard: Everyone freeze!
Raft full of pool-people health experts: We need to plan, organize, and unite. It’s bad, but we can build that outhouse and get filters. It will be hard, but we can do this. Then, when we un-pause, we won’t have the same problem.
Reporter: Lifeguard, do you take responsibility?
Lifeguard: I can’t get involved with that. That’s not part of my job description. They can do whatever they want.
One minute later…
Lifeguard: OK, actually, I don’t like what the elected pool-noodle faces are doing now. They are doing the wrong things.
Elected noodle faces (Catfish states): Everyone should just be responsible and stop the horseplay!
Toddlers from kiddie pool wearing diapers and pretending pee isn’t real, while we all know they’re swimming in it: Pee is a hoax. You could drink the water.
Narrator: Do not drink those.
Pool-people health experts: Fellow pool-people, can we please focus? We really need to be working on the outhouse and the filter.
It’s not about dogfish people or catfish people. It’s about preserving the pool so we may all go on being those things. The pause will end either way.
If we don’t band together, we will pave the streets with the wrong gold.
Lifeguard: You’re asking the impossible of my pool-people. This is an attack on their ability to swim and on me. We just have to learn to live in the pee because fixing the problem would cost too much!
Narrator: I think the pool-people health experts told you that would happen.
Lifeguard: *Pops raft with pen; pushes narrator into the pool.* Drain the pool!
What have we learned, kids?
- Choosing not to act early had serious consequences that experts warned elected officials about early in the outbreak.
- Cooperation is more effective, costs less, and works faster. Choosing autonomy had a price, but this doesn’t have to be our reality.
- Infectious diseases don’t observe borders any more than pee in a pool.
- Distancing cannot go on forever. The only thing we can control is whether we are ready. We need contact tracers; we need guidance. We need leadership.
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