I’m one of those people who insists on learning bad news right away. If you’re not like me in that respect this article may not be for you. The real shame is that I and people like me are the ones who have to tell you these things because the president of the United States is too busy preening over his newly grey hair, abusing reporters who refuse to ask softball questions and endlessly telling everyone what a great job he’s doing in front of the cameras.
So here’s the thing. Most of you reading these words are going to get COVID-19. I’m probably going to get COVID-19. All the lockdowns in the world won’t change that. The lockdowns exist principally to keep too many people from getting sick all at once and in too short a time so as to avoid overwhelming the healthcare system. In other words, if you only have one ventilator and one bed you can’t handle ten sick people all at once, but you can handle ten people one after the other over, say, ten weeks. That’s primarily what staying at home means. It means waiting your turn to get sick in a civil and orderly manner that will keep the patients dribbling in instead of flooding in. But staying at home is most emphatically not about avoiding getting sick ever. That is just an unrealistic fantasy.
Here’s another bit of bad news. Global warming is going to make it far more likely that another pandemic will hit us. Global warming creates havoc in animal habitats and brings wild animals closer to each other, including closer to human beings. This will cause viruses to jump more readily between species until it makes a final deadly jump to humans. This is one of the many unintended consequences I warned about in my previous articles on climate change. In any case, the Chinese government is permitting the reopening of the Wuhan wet market, the one that stacks exotic animals one atop the other in cages, so we may not even need global warming. But global warming is standing by just in case we want an additional chance for another pandemic.
Right now we are dealing with a “moderately successful” virus in transmission. That is, it’s fairly infectious. In other words, we are lucky it’s contagious by way of droplets and is not airborne, but is still fairly easy to catch, unlike, say, HIV/AIDS, which is virtually impossible to catch except through direct sexual contact, and is therefore highly unsuccessful in transmission.
COVID-19 is also moderately successful in that it tends not to kill its host, and when it does, it rarely does so quickly. A virus has a much harder time spreading itself if its host is dead, and since the mortality rate of COVID-19 is “only” around 4%, it won’t kill most of its hosts. Its transmission success is also due in part to its long incubation period. Ten days is a long time for a host to carry a virus without symptoms.
But imagine a virus that’s highly successful in transmission, highly successful in incubation, but highly unsuccessful in mortality. That is, something that’s robust and survives a long time on surfaces, is easy to catch because it’s airborne and has an incubation period of two or three weeks. Now imagine it’s got a mortality rate of, say, 88%.
If you think no pathogen could do that, think again. German measles (Rubella) has an incubation period of 14 to 21 days. The Common Cold is airborne and very easy to catch. The Nurse Mayinga strain of Ebola Zaire has an 88% mortality rate. There is absolutely no rule that states that a pathogen cannot have all three traits at once. Global warming will ensure that, given enough time, sooner or later it probably will.
That is why we have to get smart as a species sooner rather than later. We need to start making global warming denialism against the law, and we need to provide stiff penalties for breaking that law. As a world community we need to start pouring money and resources into pandemic preparedness with the same zeal and energy we have spent in manufacturing weapons of mass destruction in the past. We also need to make terrorist organizations like Fox News and the Republican Party illegal as well, because they are hotbeds of bad information and we cannot survive any more bad information. We need to take radical and immediate steps to slow down the progress of global warming. Half measures aren’t going to cut it any longer.
We therefore absolutely must begin by getting rid of Donald Trump as soon as possible. November is our last hope. We need to put aside our differences and vote that child-raping murderer out of office with a single united voice, one that proclaims with loud and unrestrained unity that we refuse to go quietly into the night. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.