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  • Writer's pictureJose Arrieta

The Hotstove Effect in the COVID Forest

COVID is a tree. Not a big tree. More like a bush. But a bush on fire. And just like Moses were are attracted to it's shimmer. It's existence somehow gives us meaning. Its mermaid call leads us to approach it and caress it. An unimaginable hoard carries the scarlet mark of it's touch. The burning bush marvels us. Our media surrounds it. Our touch nurtures it's fire. The bush is now a burning forest. And a burning forest is everything but a marvel it needs annihilation. But to extinguish it we all need to touch it once. Once, but when?

Let's think of what psychology tells us of this problem. First of all, we know humans are curious beings. But risk averse ones. Daniel Kahneman's prospect theory shows how we need a reward to engage in risky activities. What's more, as Jerker Denrell found, even a first negative experience will deter us from engaging our curiosity. This is known as the Hotstove effect and it is a powerful tool to understand our past and future responses to COVID.

COVID is indeed hot. Many of us have lost loved ones. Many of us carry it's long embrace. Many of us lived through it. Many have not and hope not to feel its touch. But as new bushes sprawl in the disease forest. We start to lose hope and ideas of how to control the COVID fire.

An important fact can be of help. As the forest grows, the bush changes. New variants have been more deadly, or easier to spread Delta took us by surprise in 2021. Omicron is the strand of choice nowadays. Each new variant, just as ice cream in a parlor brings with it new risks and new opportunities.

The first variants changed slowly enough for us to create vaccines. The new variant seems soft enough to be accepted as an acceptable risk to society. Yet, it is hard to see why.

Denmark just uncovered it's plan to stop regulations and allow the fire to consume itself. That sounds crazy when we remember the first hot embrace of the COVID Hotstove. But Omicron is colder and weaker than the prior varieties. It can make sense.

We do not know which new varieties will come around. It might well be that in the stronger fires will come in the future and touching omicron might help us gain protection. It takes guts to go back and touch the stove that hurt so many. But little is accomplished without bravery. Long live the Danes.

The COVID Forest

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