By Jaime Faustino
With the COVID-19 pandemic, the burning question of the day is, “When will this end?”
We may not know when, but we have a sense of how it will end. According to a Scientific American article, “the end game will most likely involve a mix of everything that checked past pandemics,” and could include 1) measures to mitigate the spread like social distancing; 2) masks and handwashing; 3) new antiviral medications to ease symptoms, and; 4) a vaccine to prevent widespread infection.
Despite the lockdown since mid-march 2020, we are only at the stage of implementing measures to mitigate the spread. There are promising ongoing efforts for treatments and vaccines, but it seems we are not there yet.
While stuck in phase 1, it has dawned on me that there are similarities to living in a COVID-19 world and motorcycle riding, one of the great passions of my life.
Both motorcycle riding and COVID-19 can be deadly. For motorcycles, the risk of a fatal crash is 35 times greater than a passenger car, according to international motorcycle awareness group Dying to Ride. For COVID-19, it is fatal for some unlucky ones. However, the actual “infection fatality rate” is unclear as health officials and researchers still lack accurate and reliable data.
Given the risks of injury or death, motorcycle riders take a risk mitigation approach. In the words of Rick Baltz, an internal auditor and motorcycle rider: “It’s about taking a balanced approach to risk. If a person or organization manages all risks completely, they’ll find themselves stuck without any possibility of reward or growth. Of course there are risks associated with riding a motorcycle, but understanding those risks and knowing how to operate the motorcycle in a safe manner bring great rewards.”
Despite the risks, motorcycle riders take specific actions to mitigate risks. Let’s take a closer look at those practices and see how they apply to living in this COVID-19 world.
1) Practice ATGATT or All the Gear All the Time, where the rider has a full-face helmet, jacket, riding pants, boots, and gloves every time he or she mounts up on a motorcycle. The Arrive Alive website even calls all that gear PPE or personal protective equipment. For COVID-19, meanwhile, this means wearing a face mask, eyewear, and/or face visor.
2) Pay attention: Experts recommend that riders should always look 14 seconds ahead, scan for possible hazards as well as paths around them, and minimize distractions. Specifically, they should maneuver away from a car weaving its way through traffic, be on alert when approaching a junction where people cut across lanes, and slow down when the road gets gravelly and full of ruts.
For COVID-19, on the other hand, the major culprit is close person-to-person interactions for extended periods. The conditions that maximize the risk include crowded events, and poorly ventilated areas and places where people are talking loudly or singing. So, in practical terms this means one should wash hands regularly, avoid touching MEN (mouth, eyes, and nose), practice physical distancing, and avoid crowds and poorly ventilated places. Various articles have highlighted that droplets are ejected from the mouth or the nose when people cough, sneeze, laugh, sing, breathe and talk; and that one gets infected when the droplets enter through the eyes, the nose, or the mouth.
3) Take extra care as one gets older. My father taught me to ride on a Honda CB100 when I was 11 years old. A lot has changed since then. Most things have improved, and we now have ABS brakes, bluetooth, tire pressure sensors that have made bikes easier and safer. Unfortunately, some things have also deteriorated, like my reflexes, eyesight, etc. And there is evidence that the risk of injury increases as people get older. According to Mark Gestring, associate professor of surgery, emergency medicine, and pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center, “[w]e made the clinical observation that older patients—people in their 50s, 60s, and even 70s—were being injured on motorcycles with increasing frequency.”
The risks for older people to get COVID-19 seem similar. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “[a]mong adults, the risk for severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age, with older adults at highest risk.”
Given those findings, I wear ATGATT, pay attention, and take extra care. With these risk-mitigating practices, I am getting back to living life, responsibly and safely. And that includes long rides on my Yamaha Tracer 900. Live and ride safe!
This article appeared in the July 28, 2020 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer