If I were to categorize my state of health, I would argue that it’s relatively good. Yes, I weigh more than I should but the blood work always seems to come back fine. It’s a blessing that I’m glad to have considering how many others suffer.
In the last few weeks, we’ve been reminded what suffering is thanks to the spread of the coronavirus, or, more appropriately, Wuhan virus. It took a few weeks to learn what virulent effects it was having on the people around the Chinese city of Wuhan, but as it spreads around the world we hear fears of a pandemic on the scale of the Spanish flu a century ago, where millions in a war-ravaged global population perished. (Reports suggest its effects casualty-wise were worse than the First World War, which was coming to an end just as the influenza was beginning to spread.)
Because of that fear, we are treated to breathless accounts of rapidly dwindling supplies of surgical masks, disinfectant, and toilet paper. The Dow Jones and other markets have plunged, major events cancelled, entire countries are being placed into lockdown over the Wuhan virus, and even our church has played into this paranoia as shaking hands has been discouraged at the greeting time built into the service.
If you know me well enough, you know I’m something of a born skeptic about certain things, and Wuhan virus is quickly falling into that category. There are just too many reasons to believe that there’s much more sizzle than steak when it comes to our seemingly biannual dread disease that’s going to wipe us all out. (If we survived SARS, which is more easily spread, we can handle Wuhan virus.)
Now the conspiracy buffs among us could speculate that the whole thing is a Chinese plot to try and crash our economy, paving the way for a President more to their liking than Donald Trump, who has been a difficult adversary when it comes to trade. It is interesting to note, though, how the federal reaction once thought to be too strict is now being portrayed as an albatross around Trump’s neck worse than Hurricane Katrina was for President George W. Bush. And as I noted above, the media has been complicit in stoking up fear.
After the topic came up for discussion at our small group tonight, I had another thought on the way home. Now it’s nothing completely out of the ordinary for schools to close because of the flu, as it happens from time to time when a school finds a significant percentage of its kids are sick. But the measures being taken such as cancelling in-person classes in favor of online lessons for the foreseeable future or keeping workers at home, as well as the talk of scrubbing pro sports games (as of about 30 minutes after I posted this, it’s no longer talk) or, more likely, holding them in closed stadiums – go beyond the pale into uncharted territory.
What this all reminds me of was the time period immediately after 9/11, and we have some eerie parallels. You may recall that both MLB and the NFL postponed an entire week’s worth of games (which, by the way, was how we got November baseball for the first time. I remember seeing the “Welcome to November Baseball” sign at old Yankee Stadium as the October 31 World Series Game 4 dragged past midnight into November.) But it’s also worth pointing out schools remained closed for several days after the terrorist attack, and life wasn’t really something close to normal for weeks – or months, in the case of the New York and D.C. regions. (Or so I presume since I was still in Ohio back then.)
And it could be much the same type of situation here, except the impacts are in different areas, such as the global supply chain, financial markets, and perhaps oil industry – has the sudden, unexpected drop in demand from a moribund China led to a schism in the market as Russia and Saudi Arabia could not agree to supply cuts to re-establish $60 a barrel oil? Tonight I even saw the “r” word being mentioned in the same story that noted the latest decline in the Dow Jones makes it official: the post-Great Recession bull market is officially over after 11 years. Stocks have fallen 20 percent off their peak of just a few weeks ago.
Long story short: Wuhan virus is a reality and chances are it will spread to a point where some areas are hard hit, just like any flu season. But there’s a lot more hype on this one because there’s a larger agenda being held by some people. Right now the news deserves a little larger grain of salt.