First off, can we all agree that they have found a really insipid name for a horrible disease? Nobody even knows how to spell it correctly -- some people write Covid-19, others write COVID-19, some eliminate the capital C, others omit the "19." It was named by a committee, and who could possibly think otherwise? The only mystery is why it took the World Health Organization so long to come up with the name. (Imagine weeks upon weeks of meetings in which they debated endlessly between covid-19 and cordis-20 or maybe even virudi-1...)
In the past, diseases had evocative, easy-to-remember names -- Ebola, Zika, Alzheimer's, legionnaires' disease, Spanish flu -- but now such names are politically incorrect because they might bring stigma on a place, person or occupation. (Read more about this here; it's fascinating.) And don't forget, if you name your disease covid-19 maybe people will be so bored that they forget it's a plague and think it's just an acronym for Consolidated Occupational and Vocational Instruction Division or shorthand for Columbia Video.
On the bright side, I am glad that Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, is in intensive care. Not that I want him to be sick, but I am so tired of all the famous people who test positive, put themselves into self-quarantine in their nice houses and announce that they have no symptoms, they feel fine, they are continuing to work as if nothing has changed. Tom Hanks and Prince Charles, I'm talking about you. Rand Paul, whom I'm embarrassed to identify as my own senator, I'm talking about you -- and you weren't even responsible enough to stay out of the Senate dining room and gym while you were waiting for your test results to come back. (And Rand is even a physician, shame on him thrice.) Every one of these cheery episodes makes us think that this virus is no big deal
I am glad that Chris Cuomo revealed yesterday that he chipped a tooth from gnashing and flailing, because the pain was so bad one night while he was suffering from coronavirus at home. Not that Chris Cuomo deserves to suffer any more than anyone else, but it has been too easy to not think very hard about the agonies of the people who are indeed sick, those faceless people on ventilators who die in faraway places like New York City and Detroit, aka Sodom and Gomorrah, not at all like my nice safe red-state home town.
I am glad that at least 30 people who so recklessly attended a revival meeting 160 miles down the road from my home, in defiance of the governor's orders prohibiting large gatherings, have fallen sick so far, and three of them have died. I am glad that at least one of the 20-somethings who went to a coronavirus party in my own city has come down with it. Not that I want people to get sick, but I want people to realize that their bad behavior has consequences, that this pandemic is worth taking seriously.
And that brings me to my lecture. PEOPLE, WEAR YOUR DAMN MASKS!!!
In the past I wrote that I wasn't sure masks were all that effective, but now I have changed my tune. Current research shows that masks are extremely effective in slowing the transmission of coronavirus. If every person in the US were to wear a mask in public, we could lick this pandemic. So why are the clerks in the grocery store not wearing masks? Why are the shoppers not wearing masks? Why are the dog walkers and frisbee players and runners in the crowded park not wearing masks? Why are the people riding on the bus not wearing masks? Why are the guys delivering pizza not wearing masks? Why are the mail carriers not wearing masks?
And of course, why are the people standing behind the president at the daily dog and pony show not wearing masks, even as they're telling us to do so? And why is the president telling us that he isn't going to wear a mask, because it wouldn't feel right meeting kings and queens and dictators in the Oval Office wearing a mask? (No, I'm not making that quote up.)
People, wear your masks. If you don't want to take 45 minutes to make a mask, or don't have a sewing machine, watch the Surgeon General explain how to make a mask from a T-shirt in three minutes.