A lighthearted open letter from COVID-19
I am the virus.
You don’t know me. I am not what you think I am. The World Health Organization speculated that I was a virus hawked by a bat in Wuhan, China. Maybe. They called me by different names: SARS, MERS, coronavirus. Virologists gave me longer names. Finally, in February 2020, I got a name: COVID-19. That made me very angry. Who wants to have COVID for a first name and a number for a last name? It sounds like I am a convict!
I became a victim of conjectures. I must be this, I should be that. Only much later could the WHO say what I could be or do. I became a victim of fake news. By April, Facebook had flagged down 50 million posts as disinformation about me. Twitter had challenged 1.5 million chismosas for spreading false information. Google had blocked 18 million scam emails in Gmail. Check it out on Google. On top of all this, I was relentlessly ridiculed. People said I was produced on a petri dish in a lab. I am not a product; a product can be smashed into smithereens. Not me. I am a virus. I cannot be killed.
They formed task forces that needed to know WHAT from WHICH. They enforced a broad-spectrum quarantine which they called ECQ. Jobs were lost. Transportation was grounded. In no time, the economy suffered. Life stood still except for Grab delivery.
The first mandate of the ECQ was to wear a face mask, which made everyone look like bandits or convicts on the lam. It’s tough to break through some of them. I need to work like an acrobat, turning sideways and downways to get to noses and mouths. Some wear goggles to cover their eyes or they use face shields. But some of you leave your noses out for me to pick. Others mask their chins as if they’ve got holes in them, leaving all the holes on their faces open for me to sneak in. Many don’t wear masks at all, some for valid reasons. But oftentimes it’s their arrogance, vanity, hubris, their “pasaway” attitude, or just plain negligence. They leave themselves unprotected as if I can’t touch them. Then five days or so, they realize I’ve got them under my skin.
You were advised to keep your distance from each other. Some say three feet, others say six or more. I wonder how this works in slums. But I have second thoughts going there. It’s too crowded. I just wait for the humans outside. Whichever, I ride the air, which does not observe social distancing, and I find you. You find me. We find each other. Let me tell you a secret. I, the virus, observe social distancing. When one of my cohorts finds a host, I don’t get in there anymore. If the host’s receptor cells have been had, there are no more receptor cells there for me to hook my spikes onto. So I just move on.
If I were to make a litany of vexations I cope with as a virus, here it is:
The phrase “new normal” vexes me. I know it reads “with COVID-19” normal. Might as well, since I think I will be around next to forever. But why not say improved or hygienic normal?
I get badmouthed for anything that goes wrong with the world. Why blame me for somebody else’s incompetence, ignorance, shortsightedness? Greed, too.
Why is it so easy and quick to overwhelm your health system? Really vexing for a virus because I am not able to play fair and square. The health workers are overworked, their PPE are overused and worn out, their morale is busted. I commiserate with them. Infecting them is no challenge at all.
The race for a vaccine is exasperating. There’s China, Russia, India, the United States. What drives them? It’s as if they don’t know I can mutate into different nonlifetimes here on earth.
Believe me, it’s not easy to be a virus, to be both the victimizer and the victim. It’s very exhausting to walk the line between them. So please, for your sake and mine, protect yourselves. Let us keep apart.
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Bibbet Palo, 75, is a retired teacher.
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