I wrote two articles for Mind Matters on China’s censorship and surveillance practices amidst the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak (here and here). After writing these articles, I had several people ask me about the coronavirus and whether I was worried. I said I wasn’t, mainly because most of the cases were concentrated in southeast China. Earlier in 2019 I had written an article for a different periodical on the influenza virus, and as far as I was concerned, we should be more worried about the flu than the coronavirus.
It was the end of January and beginning of February when I was unconcerned about the coronavirus hitting America’s borders. I knew a couple of people who were hoarding supplies out of fear that Dallas would end up like Wuhan. I dismissed this as an over-reaction, especially compared to the flu. Even if someone in the U.S. has the coronavirus, it’s not going spread like it did in China, I reasoned, because the government in Hubei totally mishandled the situation at the beginning of the outbreak.
I specifically remember saying to my husband, “People are just freaking out. Most of the cases are in China. We should be more worried about the flu than the coronavirus. Look, if I’m wrong, I’ll write mea culpa.”
Here is my mea culpa. The virus that started in Wuhan has spread globally. I really didn’t think it would spread as much as it has. I figured it would follow a similar course to SARS. Now sporting events are canceled and schools are closing. The stock market is plummeting. People are buying out hand sanitizer* and toilet paper. And the “preppers” are vindicated.
It turns out this virus is very contagious because 1) respiratory viruses by their nature are very contagious, and 2) it is apparently communicable before symptoms occur. This causes community spread to readily occur.
I said before that there is a time and place to “freak out.” But, I don’t know that freaking out is the right response to a pandemic. Fellow Mind Matters writer Dr. Michael Egnor points out that it is prudent for both scientific and theological reasons to pray during a pandemic. The U.S. conronavirus task force prays together. I am glad that they do, and personally, I will pray too.
*Soap works better than hand sanitizer for cleaning your hands