Have you heard? The coronavirus is coming. It hasn’t really hit the U.S. yet, what with just a few cases across the country. But all the experts seem to agree: there’s a pandemic coming, the only questions left pertain to velocity, timing, and the efficacy and cruelty of the response to it.
With the coronavirus has come a new set of imperatives. We must wash our hands more. We shouldn’t put our hands on our faces. Stay away from people who seem symptomatic. And, most importantly, if you believe yourself to be sick, get yourself to a doctor right away. In the last week, these instructions have taken on an increasingly urgent tone. More than 80,000 people across 56 countries have been infected with COVID-19, and footage of a symptomatic Iranian health minister certainly made vivid what the disease can do.
Iran's deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi wipes sweat from his brow at a news conference, before testing positive for the coronavirus— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) February 25, 2020
The virus has killed 15 people in the country https://t.co/stcRag2FQ0pic.twitter.com/Tsuf9jwAgE
But here’s the thing: those instructions about what we should be doing? A lot of it is stuff that we should be doing anyway, but that we don’t. COVID-19 is a new virus for which there is not yet a vaccine, which means that it can do a significant harm to all the traditionally medically vulnerable types of people (the biggest vulnerability being advanced age). This virus is not, however, an altogether new form of human experience. It’s a new variety of a thing with which we are already experienced; other coronaviruses were likely the reason for the last cold that you had.
Though the Centers for Disease Control are now telling you that it’s a good idea to wash your hands regularly and to keep your greasy mitts off your punim, they have always told you that. And that’s because washing your hands helps keep germs and nasty crap away from the people who would actually suffer the most from being sick.
Reminder: WASH 👏 YOUR 👏 HANDS 👏— Vox (@voxdotcom) February 28, 2020
• Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.
• Wash your fingertips and under your nails.
• Wash your hands after every trip to the bathroom, coughing, or sneezing, dealing with sick people, and before eating. https://t.co/IEFrOOxEkE
The coronavirus outbreak has already cost a few thousand lives, and there is every indication that it will continue to cause pain and suffering throughout the world in ways that we cannot yet know. It’s as good a wake-up call as any to start being less gross around one another.