These are crazy, unusual times. My 87-year-old mother, who has lived through outbreaks of polio, various strains of influenza, whooping cough, and measles says she has never seen anything such as the current pandemic through which we are living.
Fortunately, as a teacher, I’m still being paid, despite the fact that my classes are not currently being held. I sympathize with other workers and business owners whose paychecks are suffering due to the social distancing that this pandemic requires.
I think we need to be careful about spreading false or inaccurate information during a time such as this one. It doesn’t serve anyone well, and, in fact, some of the messages could be damaging or prohibitive to moving forward. What we need now more than ever is unity – only from a distance, of course. And before we spread any information, we need to duly check the sources of that information – as we always should, even in absence of any state of emergency.
We ought to be cautious about the medically-related messages we share on social media. Most of us are not medical professionals, and even the medical professionals of late sometimes waver about matters connected to this “novel” virus of COVID-19, which, even by its nomenclature, is new to the world. It is apparently now one of seven coronaviruses in existence, the remainder of which haven’t plagued us in quite this severity.
Within the past week, for instance, I witnessed several people posting a meme on Facebook, suggesting that drinking copious amounts of water and/or gargling with warm water and salt or vinegar would kill the novel coronavirus before it reaches the lungs. While this activity may be soothing a sore throat, there is no evidence that it can ward off or drive away this virus.
Complicating the matter, some armchair conspiracy theorists, lacking credibility and rationality, are promulgating the idea that the new virus is some sort of political ploy against the President – with the support, of course, of China, where the virus supposedly originated.
I don’t understand the legitimacy of positing such a claim, considering that the ratios and exponential growth connected with the virus are staggering – especially when one assesses the numbers in China or Italy. It doesn’t take a mathematician to realize that. There are some assertions by credible authorities that the probable source of the virus might have originated in one of the wet markets in China, creating a spread via species-jumping.
Further, as a friend pointed out, does that mean that Italy, too, is in on such a conspiracy?
While I’ve not been to mainland China, I’ve visited the Yau Ma Tei wet market in Hong Kong while working there the past two summers, and I’ve also seen the availability of fresh meat in numerous open-air markets along the streets. Sometimes the meat has already been cut and is hanging up, exposed, ready to be sold and sliced, and in other cases (e.g., in the wet markets), animals are in cages or swimming in water or are placed on ice, ready to be slaughtered and/or butchered. I have watched vendors prepare animals in this way in the market.
I’m not criticizing: it’s simply a staple of the local culture there, so they’re long accustomed to such a practice. I understand, however, questioning the sanitary nature of such a practice, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it originated in this way. I highly doubt, though, that the origin of this virus is some “deep state” conspiracy or political ploy.
I also have seen where some have called COVID-19 the “Chinese” virus. While the virus may have originated in China, I’m just afraid in our current world that labeling it in such a way could lead to racial profiling against those of Asian descent in the U.S. – some of whom have never lived in China and none of whom certainly have anything to do with the spread of the virus. As evangelical leader Eugene Cho, who hails from Seoul, South Korea and is president of Bread for the World, a non-partisan Christian movement in the U.S. to halt world hunger, says, using such language in naming the virus “instigates blame, racism, and hatred against Asians” and can create a backlash. Miles Ryan, the executive director of the World Health Organization (WHO) underscores that notion by discouraging xenophobic behavior, urging that “viruses know no borders and they don’t care about your ethnicity, the color of your skin or how much money you have in the bank.”
In fact, I do have a Tennessee friend who now lives in California who posted on social media that his girlfriend, who is Asian, has already encountered some of those negative attitudes. Personally, I would be opposed to calling it the “Chinese” virus anywhere but particularly on social media because I have several friends with whom I’ve worked in Hong Kong (who are natives) – and I am hoping to see them and work with them again during the coming month of July if this malady ever subsides. After all, we didn’t call the 2009 H1N1 pandemic the “North American” virus or the “United States” virus – despite the fact that it was first detected in the U.S. and then spread across the world.
In times such as these, more than ever, we need to be mindful of the information we disseminate, being careful to check sources, and being thoughtful about how we think of others and present ourselves to others in the remote communication of social distancing – which is imperative for the time being. After all, there are many people in the world who could use not only rationality but kindness right now.