I thought I’d have more time before I had to address the coronavirus (COVID-19) in my column. I planned on writing a re-cap after things settled down. I thought the spread of the virus would be slower. I thought we wouldn’t face a crisis in the USA since the problem was on the other side of the world.
When news of the virus first broke, the disease was confined to Wuhan, the capital city of China’s Hubei province. Details were sketchy about the death toll. No one was sure how the disease was contracted. The virus was brand new, appearing out of nowhere. Rumors spread faster than the virus itself. Early reports traced its origin to a Wuhan restaurant specializing in “bat soup”, “pangolin meat” and other delicacies not meant for human consumption. Speculation had the virus making the leap from animals to human beings through exotic appetizer platters. Another report spoke of a bio-chemical laboratory in Wuhan conducting viral research. Was the coronavirus manufactured in a military lab to be weaponized for germ warfare? Conspiracy theorists who voice their opinion on all-night radio talk shows say yes. There aren’t enough facts yet for me to believe anything I hear about the crisis. I do know the virus didn’t exist six months ago, and now it’s here. As the world searches for answers, the number of cases climbs.
I’m a science-fiction fan. I’ve seen this movie before. The Andromeda Strain. Outbreak. Contagion. Take your pick. Even watching The Walking Dead on television can be viewed as an analogy, just substitute Virus for Zombie. I’ve lost my taste for this genre of horror. It’s become all too real.
The coronavirus has affected every aspect of our lives. Many things we use on a daily basis are made in China – from sneakers to cell phones and everything in between. A healthy US economy is closely linked to China (as witnessed in the recent plunge of prices on the New York Stock Exchange).
I’ve been directly affected by fallout from the virus. Months ago, I planned a trip to Tokyo to celebrate my son’s wedding. That trip is now on permanent hold. My family didn’t think it was a good idea for me to fly close to the epicenter of the disease. I was smart enough to purchase trip insurance although I’m still waiting for my refund. I have a letter from my primary care physician to help me recoup the cost of my trip even if it puts me on a do-not-fly list for the rest of my life. I can live with that.
I’m concerned for my son living in Tokyo. The Japanese government is taking precautions to keep citizens safe, however my son told me hand-sanitizer and medical masks are unobtainable. School has been suspended for the rest of the year in an effort to stop the virus from spreading. My son is bicycling to work instead of taking a chance riding the crowded subway system. The world waits to learn the fate of the 2020 Summer Olympics scheduled for Tokyo in June. Athletes, don’t hold your breath. On second thought, maybe you should.
In the United States, contradictory reports abound. One moment everything is under control, with only a small number of virus cases documented. The next moment, California reports the disease appearing out of nowhere with unknown origins and Washington state has declared a state of emergency.
The president’s address to the nation did little to calm my nerves. The severity of the virus outbreak seemed to be downplayed to boost the falling stock market. The good news: the regular flu has killed many more people this year than the coronavirus has. That’s comforting. Mass panic isn’t going to help anyone so we should all just Netflix and chill until we get things figured out.
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is an old saying that may not necessarily be true. A quotation like that is called a “bromide”. According to Webster’s Dictionary a bromide is “a trite and unoriginal idea or remark, typically intended to soothe or placate”. Right now we all need more soothing and placating while we teeter on the edge of this apocalyptic coronavirus pandemic. Until there’s a vaccine that offers a defense, pass me the bromide. I’m feeling a little flush.