The smallest of things

I’d be lying if I told you I weren’t panicked about the spread of COVID-19. True, I have anxiety over many insignificant things — like flying or rollercoasters — cause immense and irrational fear. But there is something serious and menacing about a common but distinctly unique virus that spreads easily and rapidly, which has unknown causes and cures.

By now it’s a pandemic. Many events have been cancelled or postponed or altered, like SXSW, Coachella, the NCAA Basketball Tournament, and the remainder of the NBA season. And our first case of someone well-known and well-liked with it — Tom Hanks. All within a week.

That to me, doesn’t seem like something to take lightly.

People, as usual, react in extremes. It’s either nothing or it’s everything. The best and worst. It’s certainly not nothing, and it’s certainly not as bad as other viruses. But it’s not ignorable. It’s not insignificant. It’s not a Chinese effort to control its citizens. And it’s certainly not a conspiracy uncovered in 1981 by Dean Koontz.

What scares me the most is how utterly selfish so many of our responses seem to be. How myopic and foolish. Now ignorant and harmful. Anyone could be a carrier. And they could either get very sick and die. Very sick and not die. Somewhat sick and get better. Or not get sick at all. In every case, the likelihood that you come in contact with another person or a surface (where the virus can live) is almost 100%. Meaning you, every time you come in contact with a person or a surface, are spreading it another person; with the same variety of outcomes. And some of those people will die.

This is why the minor and temporary inconveniences of missing events, or working from home, or cancelling a party, or not shaking a hand, or staying at home for dinner, is not only wise, but life-savingly good.

A virus doesn’t care about our borders. It doesn’t know where one country ends and another begins. It doesn’t respect our boundaries or fences or walls. It doesn’t care if you’re an American. It doesn’t care if think it’s no big deal. It’s time to suck it up and stop just thinking about yourself and start knowing you’re hubris is idiocy.

If this turns out to be not as large as experts (yes experts, not Facebook posts, or opinion writers, not your friend’s friend mom who is a doctor), than thank God we took every precaution to make sure it wasn’t. Otherwise by the time we take it seriously, we’ll have been too late. That’s what I’m afraid of.