Amy Roberts: Wiping out the coronavirus without a square to spare
I think my favorite thing about social media is how quickly everyone earns a PhD in the topic du jour. The constitutional and impeachment experts from a few weeks ago are now infectious disease specialists, medical professionals, and/or doomsday survivalists. I never thought I’d see the day when toilet paper was a currency, but here we are.
Personally, I’m not especially worried about the coronavirus. I grew up in a house that had carpet in the bathrooms, drank Boone’s wine in college, and was once bit by a baboon during a tug-of-war over a loaf of bread, which I later ate. I’m pretty sure my immune system is next-level.
It is an odd feeling though to be professionally removed from all the hype. This is the first time in my career there’s been a global pandemic I haven’t been paid to talk about in some fashion. I started out as a journalist and covered a number of health-related stories, including the avian flu and SARS. Less than a month after I switched professions and began working in media relations for a hospital, the swine flu nabbed all the headlines. In that role, I fed information to reporters hungry for a local angle.
These were all big stories at the time, but I don’t recall hoarding toilet paper ever being part of the conversation. I still can’t quite figure out how sneezing, coughing, and a shortness of breath has resulted in this now worldwide shortage of Charmin.
The panic surrounding the coronavirus has likely been escalated due to social media, which was still a relatively new form of communication at the time of the swine flu outbreak. Of course, it doesn’t help that we have a president who is, at best, a recklessly impulsive, science-denying, incompetent fool utterly incapable of managing a hangnail, much less a pandemic. I’m not sure about you, but I’m not prone to getting my health facts from a man who just a few days ago admitted he did not know people die from the flu.
“I never heard those numbers. I would’ve been shocked. I would’ve said, ‘Does anybody die from the flu?’ I didn’t know people died from the flu,” Trump said to press last Friday after he toured the Centers for Disease Control.
I want to be shocked, I really do. But the bar is just so low anymore. What do you expect from a guy whose strategy to combat a potentially fatal disease is to encourage people to go to work, because, well, he’s got a hunch it’s not really as deadly as experts from the World Health Organization say it is?
“Now, this is just my hunch,” he said in an interview on Fox News. “Based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this, because a lot of people will have this, and it’s very mild, they’ll get better very rapidly, they don’t even see a doctor, they don’t even call a doctor, you never hear about those people, so you can’t put them down in the category of the overall population, in terms of this corona flu, and/or virus. So you just can’t do that. So, if you know, we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work. Some of them go to work, but they get better.”
And if that isn’t enough to reassure you, there’s this: Trump seems to believe he has a genetic predisposition to intelligence because his uncle taught at MIT. “He was a great super genius,” the president said before furthering his case with this gem, “I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it. Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability.”
While I am sure the doctors at the CDC were indeed dumbfounded, I’m equally as sure it had nothing to do with the president’s scientific acumen, especially considering just moments prior he admitted he had no idea people died from the flu. Or, who knows, maybe they just have uncles who are also prone to being dumbfounded.
Like all good outbreaks, the headlines and the hysteria will eventually move on. But in the meantime, I’m not shaking anyone’s hand. Not because of the coronavirus, but because people are out of toilet paper.
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 writes that other states forcing people who’ve been in Utah to quarantine could complicate ski season: “Come and enjoy a long holiday weekend in Utah, and, as an added bonus, you get to take an additional two weeks off work.”