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What was your behavioral response to covid-19 ?

by George1 min read8th Oct 20206 comments

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Coronavirus
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Maybe this question was asked before, but I couldn't really find it. So I hope it might generate some interesting discussion, if it was asked before and the topic is consumed, let me know and I'll delete it.

There's obviously an "opinion" that everyone holds about how themselves and other people should act in the epidemic, but I'm a strong proponent of the stance:

You can't trust thoughts, thoughts are the PR team of your actions, actions are the things that signify one's true beliefs 

Which I'd wager most people here agree with to a large extent.

To pin point two very relevant trends regrading travel, flights and hotel revenue:

https://www.oag.com/coronavirus-airline-schedules-data

https://www.statista.com/statistics/206515/us-hotel-revenue-per-available-room-by-month/ (PNG https://cdn.statcdn.com/Statistic/205000/206515-blank-754.png | first data point is for January, min y value 70 max 140)

It seems to me that in Europe and the US I can observe a tiny drop in February (maybe even incidental?) followed by a sharp one starting in March and ending in May-June, when an increase starts being obvious.

As someone that travels a lot this is surprisingly of aligned with my own behavior:

  •  I didn't care much about the epidemic until early March, when the spread was obvious (mid March) 
  • I settled down and was basically on lockdown (contact only with close friends and delivery guys) until early May 
  • I started going to public places (climbing gym, eating on terraces, swimming) early-mid May, by the time mid July was around I started traveling again (but somewhat more cautious than I'd usually be, using a respirator, doing weekly antibody tests and changing places less)
  • Now that it's October I've pretty much decided to go back to my old schedule with the same measure I took before (antibody tests on a weekly basis, PPP2 no-valve respirator, stick to mid-sized cities and stay in one place for longer to avoid too many flights)

In my mind this is correlated to my usual biases and a "sane" processing of information:

  • Until early March, my assumption was that, as with most other potential pandemics, nothing will happen. And if it will, chance I'll be among the first to fall would be small.
  • March to May, once I realized the risk is very pertinent based on real data, rather than just models, I settled down, waiting to see how bad the whole thing is.
  • Since the end of May I've cautiously started dipping my feet back into "normal" life as evidence seemed to pop up supporting an intuition that I'm not at risk for short or long term symptoms (being very young and having no comorbidities). I was avoiding the riskiest of things (e.g. planes, inside dining, parties) initially, but as most evidence pilled up I started not to care about anything besides the possibility of infecting others.

Personally I thought this was mainly "rational" behavior, but seeing how closely I am  matched by global behavior I'm actually really curios if I wasn't just monkeying those around me (potentially unlikely, since I don't follow news and don't have many friends that travel a lot) or how much my behavior was simply guided by restrictions alone and rationalized my behavior around those restrictions as a "rational choice".

So I'm really curios, how has your behavior in terms of infection-risk activities evolved since late December / early January ? What trends would you point to as being significant to this topic ?

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I started changing my behavior already at the beginning of March. First step was cancelling my birthday celebration.

Then I asked at my job about possibility of working from home. I was probably seen as too paranoid, but my boss agreed, temporarily. A few weeks later, working from home became an official company policy. During summer it became optional, but I stayed at home. Now working from home is mandatory again. As a consequence of working from home we had no business trips and almost no teambuilding activities, and I ignored the few that happened.

As a consequence of working from home, I stopped eating in restaurants. Most of the days I cook a meal for my family. My cooking skills improved.

I almost completely stopped using mass transit. Now when I want to get somewhere, the first step is looking up on the map how much time it takes by foot. If it is less than 30 minutes, I go by foot. I was surprised to learn (in near-mode) how many places are within this distance. It helps that I live near the center of the city.

Our vacation choices also changed a bit; now we only accept a subset of choices we would have accepted in the past. No big hotel; preferably a separate house. No eating inside.

During the spring the kindergarten was closed. During the summer it was open. Now in the autumn it is still open but we stopped sending our children there.

During the spring we experimented with having food delivered to home. We also rubbed everything we bought with alcohol to disinfect. But after a few months I stopped doing this, because it was too inconvenient.

I am generally introverted, but now I meet people outside my family less frequently than usual, because I don't have lunch outside, I don't visit other people at their homes nor invite them to our home, and I don't attend Less Wrong meetups.

In March-May I didn't interact with anyone in-person outside of my housemates, who were doing the same. One of us went shopping, about once a month, and we made an effort to get most things delivered. We quarantined the mail for 3 days before opening it, etc. We were pretty intense.

Now, we don't quarantine the mail at all (not really worried about surface transmission in general), and we do "go into work" but in our case it's a huge building and 90% of the time we're only in the same room as people in our germ pod. We also frequently host some small gatherings now but it's always outdoors, with some rare exceptions for like a 10-minute tour of our building for just a few people. We shop every 10 days or so, and have added a few "frivolous" trips to the hardware store.

We get burritos several times a week from our favorite food cart, but otherwise prepare all of our own meals now - we used to eat at restaurants 6 or 7 times a week, but indoor and patio dining are still a no-go for us.

I don't expect we'll revert to normal-ish behavior until we have a widespread vaccine, treatment improves significantly, or some other unforeseen turn of events...

Covid has turned out to be something like 5x less severe IFR than many of us were worried about in March, but it still seems bad enough to take a lot of precaution. My personal risk of dying is super low - I'm healthy and 31. However, I'm still being really cautious because of the not-well-understood long-term effects. SARS was really nasty on that front. What evidence convinced you that's not a big deal? If you don't already have evidence for that, then rationality isn't the reason you changed your behavior.

A third explanation for your behavior (besides monkeying and being rational) is that you and others grew tired of bearing the costs of lockdown at similar times. Lockdown got significantly harder for us, psychologically, after about 4 months - it wouldn't surprise me if there's a bell curve in the population for "lockdown tolerance".

However, I'm still being really cautious because of the not-well-understood long-term effects. SARS was really nasty on that front. What evidence convinced you that's not a big deal? If you don't already have evidence for that, then rationality isn't the reason you changed your behavior.

Not sure this is directed at me or just a question for poetic reasons, but I'm going to answer it anyway:

  1. The "bradykinin hypothesis" is the only one that has a reasonable model of long term damage, basically attributing it to ACE2 expression in tissues where it would be nor
... (read more)
1Mary Chernyshenko5mo(I can't say more because the study is still being done, but recovered covid patients which have relevant medical complaints having to do with the blood clotting regulation cascade might probably want to keep track of soluble fibrin in their plasma. I do promise to make a note here if the study doesn't find an effect and to add a link to the publication, whenever it is out, regardless of the findings.)

I behave similarly to Viliam, with a few exceptions. Never really frequented restaurants before, so can't say my cooking skills have improved)) but my buying-things-online skills did. I don't like spraying things with a disinfectant, but OTOH I now wash all foodstuffs that can be washed when I bring them home. My kid went to school, but only for 3 days out of 5 (it paid off, he hadn't fallen ill until the fall vacation); many parents here do something like that. Bought myself overalls for when I leave home, I had wanted to for ages and it's really comfy.


Going to the city (I live in a suburb/village) is much more exhausting now that I almost don't do it. Calling my parents is harder because "things are as usual". (I went to my dad's birthday in July.) Had problems sending in work assignments on time but autumn seems to mobilize people, including me.


Husband has had problems due to many international conferences being cancelled, the not-insignificant money for visas and tickets not refundable, networking not... working... as good without in-person communication. My department had a very hard spring getting our people back from Antarctica (luckily it wasn't my responsibility). I missed seeing a sister for the first time in years. These things all required some adjustments which by now are invisible, like regularly setting up Skype calls etc., but at that time they were a Big Deal and cost us some unnecessary worry.

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Tyler Cowen, the economist, wrote something that might shed some light on how to look at this.

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2020-10-06/trump-s-covid-irresponsibility-isn-t-the-main-problem?utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&cmpid%3D=socialflow-twitter-view&utm_campaign=socialflow-organic&utm_content=view&sref=htOHjx5Y