Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Acceptable Risk

     I think life is dominated by making decisions about acceptable risks.  And as a society our government, economists, engineers, physicians and on and on are all engaged in managing risks that they deem acceptable.   We have an opportunity at the individual level to make our own assessment of an activity's risk and act accordingly.  However, at the greater society level, risk management can be beyond our control.
   Here is an example of my thinking about acceptable risk in this pandemic.    This thinking  was triggered today by a New York Times article  about a 80 year old man and his 74 year old wife struggling with whether  it would be safe to gather the family at Lake Placid, New York for an 80th birthday party.   They would have to travel from Maryland and some of the family would have to fly to the event.    The elders are vulnerable folks and would likely suffer mightily from a Corona virus infection.  After struggling with this dilemma they finally concluded it wasn't worth the risk.    Note that their decision included both their personal risk assessment and the environmental risk factors that are controlled by the society around them.  It is a challenge to navigate a society where the high level of risk acceptable many of the population has drastic consequences for others that are trying to mitigate their vulnerability.   
     I am not averse to taking risks.  However, I like to think I make a careful assessment of the rewards of that risk as well work hard to engage any safeguards that will reduce my risk.   As a geezer skier, I wear my helmet, assess the difficulty of the slope and conditions and tamp down my more adventurous nature when it seems appropriate.    Applying that approach to dealing with a potentially deadly virus,  I have decided to practice maximum social distancing, mask wearing, hand washing and only hobnobbing with  groups a few minutes at a time.   I hope that I will have the patience minimize my risk until a vaccine is available.
     In conclusion we all have the freedom to make our individual decisions about acceptable risk.  However, we are at the mercy of risks generated by leaders and society.

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