Each country reveals so much about itself by its approach to coronavirus. China pretended nothing was happening—the country with the best disinformation system applied it to the virus. South Korea figured out a way to test 400 people a day using a drive-through system—the country with the strongest video game teams applied their team gaming skills to the virus. And the US had trouble sticking to reality—the country with the most fragile sense of identity elected a President who imagined himself as a savior saying, like a miracle, coronavirus will disappear.
The truth is, the US is now the country most likely to infect everyone else. Maggie McDow traveled for work from Feb. 23 to Mar. 1 with a route that was basically Dulles, South Korea, Thailand, South Korea, London, Dulles. Here’s an excerpt from her summary:
Every other country I had flown through they made announcements on the plane as we were landing. In Thailand there were public health officials randomly testing people coming off of my flight and in all other countries, there were clear signs of what to do if you don’t feel well directing you to people to talk to. In London, public health people even boarded the plane before we could disembark. When I got to Dulles, there was nothing. I didn’t see a single sign, there were no announcements, and I didn’t see anyone checking anyone’s health or a place where people could ask someone a question.
A few days later, Maggie felt sick, so she went to the hospital to get tested. The hospital ran every test but the test for coronavirus. The hospital could not get permission to get a test for coronavirus. The DC Department of Health said that Maggie had not been in South Korea long enough to warrant testing for coronavirus.
The hospital chief of staff got on the phone. No luck. There would be no testing for coronavirus. The doctor told her she should assume she has coronavirus even though they are not allowed to test her. And she should come back if she has worse symptoms because they can treat her even though they can’t test her.
Who knows how many people in the US have coronavirus? But it’s safe to say the number is much higher than our official number. And we are short on tests.
Three weeks ago I went to the ER for my son’s stitches. Twice. Two weeks ago I had trouble breathing and developed a cough. One week ago I went to the ER and said I was worried about coronavirus because the hospital I had been to also treated people who were now in self-isolation.
Everyone at the hospital was nice. They did an x-ray, an EKG. Tested for pneumonia. Everything was negative. I asked why they didn’t test for coronavirus since it thrives in hospitals. The doctor said I’m not in a high-risk category. But there seems to be widespread agreement that when it comes to coronavirus, being in an ER is high risk. The doctor sent me home with an inhaler. Now I know why: There are no coronavirus tests.
I probably don’t have it. But I can tell you that if I were supposed to be going to an office right now, I wouldn’t be going. Because people would think I’m crazy. I have a really bad cough. And I’ve been really tired for days. No one wants to take chances. Because most of us are living too close to the edge—just trying to hold things together.
The hospital bill for me not getting tested for coronavirus was more than $2000. So maybe it makes sense that the Department of Health won’t let anyone get tested for coronavirus—most people can’t afford it anyway. California announced that no individual can be charged to get tested for coronavirus. That might have something to do with Trump not letting anyone get tested. He’ll show California! No one can push around the healthcare industry!
Maybe no one will get tested because no one can agree who will pay for it. Then the US will face being the weak link in the world’s fight for human health. Then, finally, we’ll get healthcare for all. Maybe that’s what it’ll take to create the healthcare reform we really need.
Maybe coronavirus will be the impetus for reform in all sorts of arenas:
The tech industry has been draconian about the refusal to let people work from home. Silicon Valley’s attitude has been Give everything to your job or don’t work here! Of course, that’s the attitude that has been making people think twice before sinking into the hell of startup life. Coronavirus might set a new precedent for the idea that companies can make room for an employee’s home life, and even, god forbid, their family.
The travel industry has continued the absurd practice of booking unsustainable plane travel to sustainable vacation destinations. We are about to see spring break with no plane travel, and coronavirus might have the timing to transform even the most stubborn travelers: If scientists can study climate without plane travel and vogue can put together a whole print issue without plane travel, then maybe you can do stuff you’ve never done before with people you’ll never see again without getting on a plane.
The esports industry will hit a tipping point. Right now eSports are more popular than conventional sports but advertisers have cognitive dissonance. Parents, too. While advertisers need to spend more money on esports, parents need to let kids start training earlier for esports. That might well happen, though, because coronavirus has meant many teams are playing to empty stadiums, which is a lot like esports, but without the awesome visuals.
Finally, schools will close. And kids will join their just-started-working-from-home parents who thought there would be peace and quiet. I know because I’ve been homeschooling and working for home for ten years. I’ve asked myself many times, what the hell am I doing? Now I know: I’ve been preparing for coronavirus.