The Georgetown professor was groggy, still under his duvet when his research started. Robin Dillon-Merrill picked up his phone at 7 a.m., flicked through the screen and updated the death toll again. She checked the news on Monday morning, where government officials were chatting and protesters were calling for the “reopening” of the country.
Her job is to study the choices people make in times of uncertainty, and there has been another week in the most uncertain period of all, where everyone, every day, asks the question she has passed on his whole career: how many risks are we ready to take?
In the six weeks that have passed since covid-19 turned a nation into a national emergency, Americans have become accustomed to calculating the level of risk for each choice. Who to see, what protection to wear, what time to go to the grocery store. But for the most part, the most important decisions were made for them: companies, open or closed; workers, essential or not. Now, with the pantries and patience short, our attention has turned to the future. Envy, dread or something in between. Wondering, when the restrictions start to lift, will we limit ourselves again?
“You are the one who has to compromise between risks,” says Dillon-Merrill, who teaches business in Georgetown. “What are the benefits, what are the risks, what is the probability, what are the consequences?” How could it be bad? ”
This was the deliberation that took place in the White House and in governor’s hotels, during corporate conference calls and at kitchen tables. A new day in a new week brought new calculations, new decisions to be made.