Here are four things COVID-19 is not.
As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on and the news cycle continues to wind down, the speculation cycle has began to spin up. In the past week alone, I have read articles on major outlets attributing the virus outbreak to the following: nature’s revenge, God or gods, and a secret lab in China. At first, these theories were fanciful speculation to be found in certain dark corners of Twitter but now, facing little resistance, they have began to emerge more publicly to the point where I feel like it needs to be addressed.
While it is fun and exciting to think that this pandemic is something special or supernatural, it is neither of those things. The only thing that is unique about this pandemic is that it is the first highly infectious pandemic to emerge during the 21st century’s information age. The response and handling of the pandemic by the world’s institutions is unique only in that the tools they are wielding are new to human history. Besides that, I am sorry to say, this viral outbreak is pretty run of the mill in terms of science and history.
Disease Path Basics
The emergence of new viruses occurs all the time and they crop up via transmission of a known source to an unknown source. This transmission usually occurs between people and animals and sometimes between two different species of animal. Animal to human transmission is known as zoonosis and it occurs all the time. In the past few decades we have seen the emergence of COVID-19, Zika, and HIV all come from transmission from animals to people.
There are even intra-animal disease transmission which is what can cause massively deadly bird and swine flu that never affect humans but can ravage animal processing sectors. The idea is the same, somehow a new virus jumps from one species to another, the second species shows little to no initial immunity and the illness spreads and wreaks havoc.
Most of the time, these diseases flame out or are caught and stopped before they cause any serious lasting damage or infection numbers but occasionally, usually about once every 100 or so years, one really gets legs and moves its way around the globe.
Even before the age of jet setting businessmen and completely open world travel, infectious disease managed to find a way to circle the globe. Whether it was on horseback or by ship, these things have a way of getting going.
In fact, there are currently thousands, if not millions, of new viruses that we have yet to discover or categorize. We just found thousands of new ones just this year. There are labs dedicated to studying these new viruses and for the most part, people are none the wiser.
Whether it is bats, dogs, pangolins or something else, this story is one as old as time and there is nothing out of the ordinary here.
Here are a few things this virus is absolutely not.
Not Nature’s Revenge
The hashtag WeAreTheVirus has been making its way around on Twitter and I saw an article on a prominent news site that claims that this is a case of Animals Strike Back against the human menace. Perhaps this is a juvenile way for people to admit that there could be room to grow on the environmental front but what it is not is some sort of coordinated effort by nature to harm humans.
This view that the Earth is some sort of conscious being and viruses are its antibody defense system is silly. It could be a way to visualize what is occurring in the world today. Fine, it makes an okay visual but I have seen way too many people giving stock to the idea that humans are the virus and the world has finally come to wipe us out.
Why now though? Why not after all of the atomic testing post World War II? Why not after the widespread and complete deforestation of old growth forests during the industrial revolution? Are continued disease outbreaks continued efforts by our planet to eradicate us?
I will be the first to admit that there are certain places and industries that could really use a boost to environmental ethics and strategy but that doesn’t mean that the Earth coughed coronavirus onto a pangolin who then sneezed it onto a person in order to try and kill a few thousand of us.
I am sure there is going to be that one person who immediately blurts out, to themselves in their empty office that I cannot possibly know the mind of God. I am going to save you the outrage and agree with you right now. I am a Christian but I can confidently say that this is not divine wrath being poured out onto us.
First, this virus is ravaging the entire world. It is not discriminating between nations, continents or ethnicity. Everyone is equally capable of contracting this virus. A worldwide global punishment by the Almighty contradicts the message of the New Testament and of Jesus. I am not well versed enough to speak to the beliefs of Islam or Hindus but in my neck of the woods most of the people pushing this narrative are evangelical Christians.
When Jesus perished on the cross he uttered “It is finished.” From that point on, there was to be no more divine wrath on a large scale. Not until the end. Jesus stands to intercede on our behalves at the right hand of God. In short, there should be no more large scale punishment being meted out by God after the death of Jesus.
There is very little spoken of day to day divine wrath in the New Testament. There is a lot spoken about wrath at the end of days but I do not think this is that time.
End of Days
I am going to keep this one short because discerning the end of time is easy enough. Just wait a little while. Still here? Great, the world hasn’t ended yet.
Media outlets might want you to think this is the end of days so you will tune in live to see it unfold or unscrupulous preachers might bring it up to encourage you to return to their pews for personal gain. No one knows the day or the hour. If the sun rises tomorrow, then the world has not ended yet.
But isn’t that true every day?
This is the one I am probably going to get the most push back on. I cannot say for 100% certainty that this virus did not originate in a lab somewhere. It could have sure. Viral disease labs are everywhere. However, I am going to say that if it did, it doesn’t matter.
On the smallest chance that this virus did indeed escape from some lab it does not change the basic disease path. It would still be a virus taken from another species or something found in nature, brought indoors for some amount of time, then spread to humans.
In this scenario, all you have done is add a step where the virus lives inside a lab for an amount of time before spreading. Yet, this small addition to the normal disease path makes everyone collectively lose their mind.
This was not biological warfare or terrorism. These viruses were not loaded onto missiles and fired into areas for gainful harm. That has happened in history with the infamous smallpox blankets and the Mongols tossing plague infected bodies over besieged city walls. That was biological warfare. This is not.
Even if this virus escaped a lab, which I highly doubt it did, that changes nothing about what happened. From that point on, it has behaved like any other new infectious disease. New virus is discovered, new virus leaps from its original host to a new host, new host displays lack of immunity, virus spreads. The story is the same, lab or no lab, and it is a completely natural occurrence.
The coronavirus is an extremely common family of viruses. If I’m being honest, if this thing was manufactured in a lab I would be disappointed. If you wanted to create a highly infectious disease to ravage global populations, don’t you think nefarious scientists could do better? You are either giving too much stock to evil government shadow organizations or not enough. It’s easier just to look at the pandemic for what it is.
This idea is wholly human-centrist. The people who believe this disease was created or manufactured or let out or whatever they are saying need to talk with their counterparts. The people who believe in the evil government theory need to talk to the nature’s revenge people and decide once and for all what is trying to kill us. Is it Mother Nature or is it other humans? Or are humans all technically part of nature and the whole thing is contained within a cycle of nature on nature violence? *Poof*
Facts > Fiction
I know we are all stuck inside doing a lot of reading and a lot of thinking but I would encourage you to stick to the facts and ignore the tantalizing fiction. Perhaps now is a great time to brush up on your biology lessons from days of yore and relearn the mechanisms of disease. It might take away some of the fun and mystique that some people are desperate to inject this pandemic with but in the end you will be more informed and hopefully less anxious.
Science and history tell us that the next steps will either be herd immunity or a vaccine. Both of which will put an end to this pandemic and send it careening into the annals of the past next to all of the previous global pandemics.