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The Legal Genealogist is staying home

Those who follow this writer and this blog, and are Facebook friends, know the view from today’s office window.

On any given Friday in the conference season that begins each spring, it’s almost always a photo of an airport, somewhere, where The Legal Genealogist is arriving to or leaving from.

Not today.

The Delaware Genealogical Society spring workshop next weekend: postponed.

The Harford County, Maryland, Family History Day the weekend after: postponed.

The St. Louis Genealogical Society Family History Conference in April: cancelled.

The Sonoma County Genealogical Society spring conference in April: cancelled.

Such are the times in which we live.

The time of coronavirus.

The time of pandemic.

flatten the curve

We are not the first generation to face the risk of widespread disease. Our distant ancestors lived through plague. Our more recent forebears struggled with the influenza epidemic of 1918.

We are, however, the first to live through such times with both widespread access to information — and widespread exposure to utter nonsense on social media and even some so-called news outlets.

So we are the first to be told by the scientists and medical professionals that we need to flatten the curve — to reduce the number of new cases popping up all at once that could overwhelm the medical system — to give the greatest number of our citizens the highest chance to make it through this pandemic.1 And, at the same time, we are the first to be told by people whose primary concern is their pocketbook that it’s all overblown, we need to go on about our daily lives, and if we just use elderberry and buy more stocks and bonds everything will be coming up roses.2

You see, the reality is that most people won’t get very sick with this (or any other) virus. Most people will just get a little sick and recover. That’s why you hear the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth over what the general shutdown is doing to people’s pocketbooks: “Most of us will be just fine — why should we all have to pay the price for this?”

But the reality also is that some percentage of those who get it will get very very sick. They will need high-level medical care include intensive care beds and even ventilators. As long as the raw numbers of people needing intensive care beds and ventilators at the same time is less than or equal to the number of beds and ventilators, everyone has a chance of making it through. The minute the raw numbers of people needing intensive care beds and ventilators at the same time exceed the number of beds and ventilators, people are going to die.

We are seeing that in Italy today. Italian doctors are having to make the decision between putting this very very sick person on a ventilator and putting that very very sick person on a ventilator. Because there aren’t enough ventilators, or beds, or even doctors, to give the same care to every very very sick person.3

And, because of what today is, I vote with the flatten the curve folks. I vote to do whatever is needed — despite the cost to my own interests4 — to reduce the raw numbers coming into the system at any one time so that everyone has the best chance to make it through. So that hard choices don’t have to be made about who gets the bed and the ventilator — and who doesn’t.

I vote to stay home. To cancel nonessential gatherings. To work to reduce community spread of this disease. I am so proud of these societies and our community for rising to the occasion, accepting the financial hit that cancelling or postponing these events incurs, and doing what we all must do — together — to get through this with as little risk to life as possible. I have added my voice to that by waiving a provision in my contract calling for a penalty if things are cancelled with little notice and by absorbing as many nonrefundable costs as I can.

Because this is what’s needed, for all of us, together.

To flatten the curve.

And because of what today is.

Today, you see, is the 71st birthday of my older sister. Someone in one of the highest risk categories. Someone who, by reason of age and underlying medical issues — I am not happy about the genes she got from our German ancestors — is far more likely than others to need that bed and that ventilator if this disease hits. Someone with a family who loves her. Someone who should have many years left to enjoy puzzles and snuggling with a cat and watching critter cams and sunsets.

Someone who deserves as much chance of getting through this pandemic as those with 401Ks and IRAs.

To protect her life, and mine, and yours — to protect the lives of our parents and grandparents — to protect the lives of our children and young adults with compromised immune systems — for the lives of us all… I vote to flatten the curve.

Because today is my older sister’s 71st birthday.

And because I am damned determined to see that she celebrates her 72nd.

Flatten the curve.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Because of what today is,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 13 Mar 2020).


  1. See, e.g., the excellent explanation here: Tomas Pueyo, “Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now,” posted 10 Mar 2020 ( : accessed 13 Mar 2020). Or the explanation here: Eliza Barclay and Dylan Scott, “How canceled events and self-quarantines save lives, in one chart,” posted 10 Mar 2020, ( : accessed 13 Mar 2020).
  2. Seriously? Elderberry? What in the world are people smoking anyway?
  3. See Yascha Mounk, “The Extraordinary Decisions Facing Italian Doctors,” posted 11 Mar 2020, The Atlantic ( : accessed 13 Mar 2020).
  4. Every penny of income I have right now comes from the speaking gigs that are being cancelled. And every penny of assets that I have towards the retirement I just began is tied up in those same 401Ks and IRAs that the pocketbook crowd wants us to protect over lives. My economic skin absolutely is in this game.
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