What are you doing to prepare for the potential consequences of COVID-19? Some people are stocking up on toilet paper from Costco, while others are taking advantage of cheap flights.
Around the world, fear and speculation are spreading faster than the contagion is. COVID-19, as Kevin Patterson writes in “Anatomy of a Pandemic,” is transmitted by close contact between people. Even though the virus has physical consequences, one of the worst things it can do is “prompt us to recoil from one another.” Withdrawing would be “much the greater injury: to our health, to our communities, to whatever it is that stands in the way of this slouching beast.”
Since December, in Wuhan, China, and now across the globe, an astonishing number of people have developed symptoms of viral pneumonia. The number of ill grew quickly, along with the number of medical researchers paying attention to the virus. When Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang alerted his former classmates about the growing spread, the Chinese government warned him that he was disturbing “social order.” Wenliang was eventually killed by the virus himself. As Patterson writes, the doctor’s death angered the public and potentially contributed to its mistrust of how the government was handling the nascent pandemic.
“Frightened people behave badly,” Patterson notes, and this endangers the most vulnerable among us.