INDIANAPOLIS — Fear.

That was the name of Bob Woodward’s first book on the Trump presidency. It’s been a theme of Michael Moore documentaries and a proven Madison Avenue marketing device. And fear has become an invasive pandemic element that has seeped into every family, every business, every school, and every circle of friends this spring.

Fear has planted itself in our collective psyche.

My explicit fear is the Intensive Care Unit. After suffering a subdural hematoma last November, I ended up in the St. Vincent ICU – then one of about 1,400 in the state – for about five days. I was on one of the state’s 1,100 ventilators for about 36 hours. When I came to, I couldn’t talk with the tube going down my gullet. I remember thinking, “How in the hell did I get here?” I had no idea. And the sounds of that ICU – the chimes and what seemed like an animated woodpecker working on a hollow log – haunt me to this day. I never want to go back to the ICU.

When this pandemic began, with Gov. Eric Holcomb and President Trump issuing stay-at-home orders early last month, I needed little convincing to remain holed up at our condo. Time in the ICU will do that to you. As Holcomb said on Monday, “It took a month for the United States to record its first 1,000 deaths, and then it took just two days to record the next 1,000. In Indiana we went from one COVID-19 case on March 6 to 1,786 today. Those are the ones we know of. Our first COVID-19 death in Indiana was two weeks ago today and we’re now at 35 Hoosiers who have passed.” By Tuesday, it was 49. By Wednesday it was 65. By Friday it had topped 100.

The statistics are troubling. In a nation of 331 million, 2,000 deaths seem miniscule. Out of 6.85 million Hoosiers, the 65 fatalities reported on Tuesday seem the same. But this is before the wave hits us. The critical question now seems to be whether it will be a microbe tsunami.

On Tuesday, Dr. Kristina Box said, “The numbers represent a very big increase in the total number of cases reported and also the number of deaths that have occurred.” The daily death toll, the health commissioner explained, reflects verified mortality going back days if not weeks. So the death toll is actually a delayed and lagging indicator. 

“It’s a very sad reality that with this pandemic, the number of cases and numbers of deaths are going to continue to increase,” Dr. Box said. “I don’t want to minimize a single one of those losses. They are all someone’s spouse, grandparent, child or friend. I do not want Hoosiers to see these  rising numbers (and think)  the peak has arrived. We have a very long way to go before we reach the peak and I cannot say enough how important it is to continue to stay home.”

Fear now emanates from every facet of life. I went to Lowe’s to buy some quarter round for a flooring project and had to touch a keypad. I drove home holding my finger aloft until I could get hand sanitizer applied. A trip to the bank and interaction with the teller tube produced similar heebie-geebies. When I go Krogering, I look at every other person and the cashier as a potential vector. It’s classic social paranoia.

This pandemic possesses the hallmark of Shirley Jackson’s famed 1948 short story, “The Lottery,” where a town of 300 gathers on June 27 to sacrifice one citizen to ensure the well-being of the community. Poor Tessie ends up getting stoned, and not by a bong or cannabis-infused chocolate. COVID-19 acts with a strange randomness. Some end up with sniffles; others have no symptoms but spread COVID-19’s cruel fate; and yet others are isolated in ICUs and die alone. My wife Susan was with me in ICU daily last November. I cannot fathom what it would be like to end up there again ... alone.

Dr. Tony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx warned that 100,000 to 200,000 Americans will die of coronavirus even in “perfect” social distancing scenarios. A University of Washington model of Indiana puts our death toll at 2,400 by August. IU’s Dr. Aaron Carroll warns that COVID-19 could storm back next fall and winter just like the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.

What has ensued has been a jarring social disruption, with 75% of us in America in a shelter-in-place mode. Some 36% of us used to eat at a fast-food restaurant on any given day, and lockdown has created a run at our grocery stores, making them look like a Moscow market in 1999. Krogering is different during a pandemic surge.

CNBC reported that St. Louis Federal Reserve projections have 47 million jobs vanishing and a potential jobless rate of 32%. Another 67 million Americans are facing layoffs. The Department of Labor reported 6.6 million unemployment claims in its monthly report released this morning. “The speed and magnitude of the labor market’s decline is unprecedented,” Constance Hunter, chief economist at KPMG LLP, told the Wall Street Journal. She expected that millions more claims will be filed in the coming weeks and projects 20 million jobs will be lost.We’ve gone from record employment to 1929 in a matter of weeks. Goldman Sachs is forecasting a 34% plunge in GDP. The Dow just went through its worst quarter ... ever. These are Great Depression style stats. The news media is teetering, with scores of newspapers facing demise. Gannett announced a one-week-a-month payless furlough for newsroom employees. BuzzFeed dubbed the pandemic a “media extinction event.”

We’ve watched the USNS Comfort moor in New York harbor, hospital tents springing up in Central Park, and President Trump turning the daily briefing into his own “Coronavirus Reality Show.”

Holcomb was asked Tuesday when businesses could expect to reopen. “As I said yesterday, there’s a beginning, a middle and an end to this all,” Holcomb began. “We understand and are equally concerned about the pain that is being put upon all of us. What we’re trying to do is make sure our health care system doesn’t collapse under the weight of all the new cases. And to do that, we’ve had to change our behavior. We’ve had to socially distance ourselves. We know that’s how it negatively compounds itself on us all, our businesses and our family members. We’re trying to push through this keeping in mind there’s another phase to this. If you look at the numbers locally ... we’re going up. We’ve got to get to that peak and then find our way down, and then not react too quickly.

“We could have a whiplash, or a double whammy,” Holcomb said. “I spoke with a number of governors yesterday and we all concurred, 100%, that it may be the fact that it will be harder to de-escalate than escalate. We will keep in mind, of course, the humanitarian effect this is having, the adverse economical impact this is having on ... 512,000 other small business owners.”

That peak, according to Dr. Box, won’t happen until later this month, making for the grimmest April Indiana has endured since the Super Tornado Outbreak of 1974. 

Dr. Box described the surge that Holcomb and health officials forecast on Monday. “I really do think the surge is starting, but are we at the peak of that surge?” Box asked. “Knowing when that peak is will be kind of an after-effect. We see the numbers go up ... and then one day we see actually see the numbers go down. We don’t celebrate that too much. We kind of say we’ll see what happens the next day. So we start to see that trend and eventually know we reached the peak. I will say that other states and other countries have seen little peaks that come and go. We’ll have to be on the lookout for that as we go forward.”

So this our new, collective reality. It’s with us every day, every minute.

“We’re doing what Americans do in times of crisis,” Sen. Todd Young explained to Howey Politics Indiana last Monday, “identifying ways to adapt, improvise and overcome.