Amy Roberts: Something to chew on amid the coronavirus crisis
Well, that escalated quickly.
It feels like we went from casual acknowledgment to hitting the DEFCON-1 button in little more than a blink. One day it was toilet paper hoarding, the next it was a total meltdown of the global economy, entire countries on lockdown, sports and vacations canceled, schools suspended, resorts and restaurants closed, and life as we know it coming to a screeching halt.
What a year this last week has been.
The COVID-19 related news coverage is relentless. So are the emails. Every company I have ever done business with has flooded my inbox to let me know how they’re handling this pandemic. It never crossed my mind Best Buy had a plan to ensure my health and safety, but now I know. Anyone with a social media account is posting whatever article or chart or meme they can in an effort to inform, assist, and sometimes entertain. Things are changing so rapidly that any coronavirus detail considered valid when you began reading this column might already warrant an update.
On top of the anxiety, it’s still cold and flu season and also time for spring allergies in many parts of the country. So there’s a concerted effort to help people differentiate the symptoms and keep them from flooding the healthcare system when all they really need is a nasal spray. A lot of the indicators — dripping nose, sore throat, fever, and cough — overlap, which makes it difficult. Though it’s fair to say COVID-19 is the only illness that also comes with a rapidly disappearing retirement portfolio, job uncertainty, travel bans, potential recession, and a mad scramble to find childcare while school is out.
Given the fallout, I think it makes sense to assess how we got here. And to do that, we need to go back — way back — before the failed politics and policies and beyond the delusion and rapid-fire response.
The nixed trips to Europe, the crashing financial markets, and the fistfights over the last bottle of hand sanitizer are not because someone didn’t cover their cough or because they didn’t wash their hands before getting on a plane. This unprecedented collapse of normalcy is the result of man’s unrelenting and unsustainable appetite for animals in some form.
Scientists believe the coronavirus started in a wet market in Wuhan, China, where it was passed to humans from bats via pangolins. These markets, brimming with animals — dead and alive — make it easy for zoonotic diseases to spill from animal hosts to humans. Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world and are considered a delicacy in China, where their scales are often used in traditional remedies that have no medicinal value. SARS was spread in much the same way, but civets were the carrier. Civets are sold as exotic pets around the world.
And while in this country, we aren’t known for eating pangolins or for our collection of pet civets; we’re in no way off the hook. The swine flu of 2009, which the World Health Organization estimates killed up to 395,900 people worldwide, and the avian flu, which claimed six out of every ten humans known to have contracted it, were also caused by man’s casual disregard for an animal’s life. In fact, diseases passed from animals to people are responsible for 2.2 million human deaths every year. Few of us think about any of this while grilling a pork chop, marinating a chicken breast, or posing for a souvenir photo with an exotic animal while on vacation, but the next coronavirus crisis is always just one meal, fashion trend, perceived status symbol, or tacky trinket away.
If being quarantined in our homes as we watch the pandemic panic unfold isn’t enough, perhaps it would behoove us to consider that what is often on our plate was once a sentient being, capable of experiencing pain, fear, and despair — the same emotions many are feeling right now over the coronavirus and its impacts. Indeed, karma can be pretty tasteless.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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Columnist Tom Clyde received his mail-in ballot this week. Unfortunately, he writes, filling it out won’t turn off the noise surrounding this election.