I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impel. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.
FDR’s first inaugural addres
Our situation now, is no less dire than it was then, but neither are the words of FDR no less true now as then.
I’m not particularly worried about catching the coronavirus. Many people will. Most people will survive the disease. I’m more worried that panic and terror will worsen the situation exponentially: some will die of an existing condition because some others felt entitled to go to a hospital and use resources when a home stay would have sufficed, or they horde needed medicine; many will go hungry and some may die of starvation because others horde food; some will die of despair as a long lonely quarantine cuts them off from needed human contact; some may turn to violence as our infrastructure starts to buckle under the burden. None of that NEEDS to happen in the same way the virus needs to run its course.
And I am most worried that panic and terror will be exacerbated, rather than lessened, by that particular form of dissembling and dis-honest leadership that is the very opposite of what FDR stated is vital and necessary.
Do your part: Accept the reality of the disease and the probability that you will catch it, as well as the likelihood that you will survive it. Do your best to prevent passing it on to others. For the vast majority of people, it will merely be an uncomfortable few weeks in enforced isolation. Look it straight in the eye and don’t blink. Reach out to friends, family and even minor acquaintances periodically to see that they are all right and do your best to re-assure them. They’ll be as scared as you.