Last Sunday, I wrote an op-ed on the COVID-19 crisis for the local newspaper in my childhood hometown, the Hazleton Standard-Speaker:
I’m writing from Los Angeles, where a Navy hospital ship is docked in the port, helping to treat the overwhelming surge of coronavirus patients flooding our health care system. I never thought I’d see such a day, but it’s here. And it’s a warning that we ignore at our peril.
The crisis is real. As of today, over 15,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. That’s five times the death toll on 9/11. In the coming weeks, millions will get the virus. We will lose more Americans than we did in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Vietnam combined.
But there is good news. Here in LA, the growth rate is starting to slow. In Italy where it was the worst, it is slowing significantly. In east Asia where it all began, the peak is far behind them, and the economy is starting to bounce back. If we can slow the growth rate across the United States, we can save hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of lives.
I believe we can do it. But it’s going to require an unexpected weapon: compassion.
In a recent Forbes article, columnist Rob Asghar interviews me on leadership in the era of coronavirus:
Why do leaders, and their organizations, tend to be blind to future threats? Orlando says it has in part to do with a simple cognitive issue. “I spend a lot of time promoting financial literacy—basic understanding of important concepts like compound interest,” he says. “Human beings have a hard time getting their mind to accept that small growth rates lead to big numbers in a hurry. When the virus first appeared in the US, a lot of people said things like, ‘It’s only a thousand cases, what’s the big deal?;’ That was a basic lack of numeric literacy. They couldn’t project how fast 1,000 could grow to 100,000. It’s hard to comprehend, intuitively, especially if you’ve never seen it happen before.”
“Growing distrust between the United States and China has slowed the once steady flow of Chinese cash into America,” declares today’s New York Times, “with Chinese investment plummeting by nearly 90 percent since President Trump took office.”
If you live in a major American city, you’ve probably seen a lot of that investment flowing into neighborhoods around your home. So, what’s going to happen to your home value now that all those investors are sitting on the sidelines? In recent research, I tackled this question for the Dialogue of Civilisations Research Institute: