Using Virtual Reality to help with cabin fever and anxiety. Some general thoughts on COVID-19

Published on March 20 2020

Hello everyone.

We are in a time of unrest and uncertainty. As I write this the United States has over 14,000 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus. Our State and Federal government appears to be doing the right thing. We're bringing in the military's floating hospitals. Plans are underway to convert Cruise ships to hospitals if necessary. In spite of the run on TP, Grocery stores across the country were prepared weeks in advance to trigger supply chain increases and I read this morning that Ford motor company is now using their assembly line to build respirators. United States citizens take pride in freedom and individual liberties. Capitalism is often criticized for upholding the desires of Corporate stakeholders and political lobbyist over the common good. But here we are in a time of epidemic and I think we're proving the naysayers wrong.  The lockdown efforts across the country are proving that, as a country we can and will pivot as needed to take care of our sick even if it means short term suffering of the economy as a whole. By learning from the mistakes made in Italy and the approaches that have worked in other countries, we have shown to not be arrogant but aware and calculating. We know that the confirmed cases double about every four days (around 1.225 per day). With this, projections have been made. What does the data tell us? Some timelines we can anticipate from the projections. Bear in mind, these are projections! I'm not pretending to be Nostradamus. This is just what the models are showing given growth rate trends. 

  • Sometime today or tomorrow the United States will move up in the ranks (not in a good way) to outpace Germany in the number of active cases
  • Sometime between 3/22 and 3/23 we're going to see the US move up again past Iran and Spain.
  • Sometime between 3/25 and 3/26 we'll see the US move up again past Italy to be only second to China in confirmed cases 
  • Around 3/30 the United States will overtake China's 81,000+ cases to become not only the new epicenter for COVID-19 but also the country with the most cases. 
  • Around 4/4 we'll begin to see the impact of the lock-down measures. By that time United States cases will have surpassed 500,000. But hopefully the lock-down will have been effective  and we'll begin to see the curve flatten around this time. But "begin to flatten" doesn't the mean the end. Based on data for incubation time, we'll be looking at a 15-20 day slow walk down the peek. During that time we can expect total number of cases to continue exponential growth, landing somewhere between 1-2 million. What I'm describing in these bullet points would be a best-case scenario, assuming the lockdown efforts are effective 

If you're the type who enjoys playing with numbers, up to date global cases/deaths/recovery data can be downloaded here

Some people are making claims about the death rate (3.5%) being too high or the total number of cases being much higher. Or that "the data we have isn't reliable". No, we can't be certain how many actual cases that there are. No, we don't know the real death rate and perhaps it is much, much lower. But there are the reliable numbers in the data; the patterns have emerged. We can look at Confirmed cases in a region, look at the death rate in a region and estimate the resources that will be needed in the days and weeks to come.

Keeping our mortality rate low is linked to our ability to have resources to care for the sick. For confirmed cases, we're seeing 15-20% hospitalization rate (not a quick trip, think ventilators, ICU, staff in protective bio hazard suits). When we cross 500,000 cases in a few weeks that will be over 100,000 needing hospital care. A load that our current system can not handle. Our Hospitals operate at 65-75% capacity at all times. What's more, over 50% of cases in the US exist in three states Washington, New York and California. Largely confined to 1-2 cities in those States. New York has emerged as the main cluster in the US and will soon be the epicenter of the virus for the world.  We could be looking at 15,000+ people needing hospital care for COVID-19 in New York city in three weeks. Every State will be impacted differently as the growth continues and some will be able to handle their resource load, but many will need the aid of the government. This is why all the ramp-up effort we see in the news is absolutely necessary. It may not be in your city, but it will in main clusters.

I think if there is any failure, it's on the part of the media and government to not be clear with people what is to come. Instead of talking practically about how projections will play out, they say things like "it's going to get worse before it gets better... I have hope". That doesn't do anything to really inform the public.  It doesn't really do anything except provide media outlets a good news story for when the projection comes to pass. I believe they should be showing more respect for the population, showing us graphs of projected best and worse case scenarios. That way when we pass some of these milestones the public will understand that these things were anticipated even with the lock down. As it stands now, I expect there to be more public panic and irrational response as the numbers continue to climb and as unemployment continues to grow. I realize sharing all of this is far off topic of a XR blog, but I wanted to share this because for most of us I think knowing what's coming helps mitigate the fear. If the projected numbers seem high, bear in mind that in the United States we are a population of 327 million. If we managing to get the outbreak under control with only 2-million of our population infected that would be an amazing achievement with less than 1% of the population becoming infected and if we go past that number up to say 4 or 5 million, keep in mind that's still doing far better than projections, which prior to lock down were somewhere between 40-70% of the entire US population injected.

Using Virtual Reality to be social while distancing


With that out of the way, I'll transition into something on-topic, using VR as a tool for helping with "cabin fever" and copping with anxiety.  Although we're all on lock-down and have limited ability to interact with others in the physical world, Virtual Reality provides a few great tools and several of these apps support cross-platform multi-play, meaning if your family member or friend has a different brand VR headset you can still meet up. Here are some of my favorites

Watch a movie with family and friends with Big Screen


Attend a gathering in Altspace VR


Compete in a poker tournament


Do multi-player adventure or some bowling in Rec Room


Visit locations around the world with family and friends in Wander VR



Using Virtual Reality to help reduce stress and anxiety


Since my teenage years I have suffered from bouts of Insomnia. I am always thinking about many things and sometimes find it very, very challenging to find a channel switch for my brain. In recent days this has been the case and I have been using VR to assist. There are many apps out there in this category. I will share the ones I have found most effective including some unorthodox use cases.


Guided Meditation VR

Get a workout with BOX VR

Take a nap in Ocean Rift 

This is sort of "off label" use case for Ocean Rift, but I've found that if I launch Ocean Rift while laying down, my breathing will sync with the sounds from the virtual oxygen mask (use comfy earbuds for best result) and as I stair up and the tranquil, somewhat hypnotic ocean surface from below I'm usually dozing off within about five minutes.


Fall asleep to one of the many "oddly satisfying" videos on YouTube 

With the YouTube VR app you can watch videos while laying down. Although you may have to deal with the occasional ad interruption, you can find many great videos designed to take your mind off of things.

Written by jdeats76

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