By Claude Budin-Juteau
This little bug called COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on planet Earth. A small invisible-to-the-human-eye microbe that in just a few weeks has traveled around the globe. An uninvited guest that has mighty powers. COVID-19. A code name associated with fear, apprehension, gloom and doom. Corona means “crown”, because the virus particle exhibits a crown of spike proteins around its lipid envelope. Hence its royal name, Coronavirus, like some Roman emperor. Nobody knows exactly how it came, some suspect a vampire-like origin, since horseshoe bats have been associated with the little bugger. A royal highness with vampire ancestors.
The fact is that HRH COVID-19 is very powerful. In a couple of months, it has been able to make changes on the entire planet that would normally take years or might have never even been accomplished. The earthlings learned how to work from home, saving time and gas. What was before a wish for the planet and the wellbeing of our modern society became all of a sudden, the norm across the planet. The pollution started to diminish, the skies cleared, people began using bicycles on empty streets, airplanes stayed in hangars and cruise ships stopped cruising. At home, families rediscovered meals around the table, conversations to learn about each other, and creative ways to stay busy. An experiment that was happening for real as opposed to theoretical changes thought to be implemented in an abstract society.
COVID-19 also leveled the playing field. Nobody was spared. Rich and poor, celebrities and unknowns, political leaders and average citizens, everybody was affected, for the virus could strike at any moment. Whether you were the CEO of a big company or a janitor, you could both be infected and end up at the ICU in beds next to each other, sharing the same ventilator. Whether you had an expensive car or a cheap jalopy, you were stuck anyway, at least in big cities, since you were asked to stay home. The big equalizer had arrived in town and was changing all the social rules and economic norms we were used to.
Fears and doubts also spread like wildfire. We were entering a world of uncertainty. Human beings were realizing they were vulnerable. An evidence caused by a microscopic particle that they couldn’t even see. They had been pandemics before, but they hadn’t spread as fast and killed so many victims or, if they had, we had forgotten about them, in a modern world where everything was supposed to be taken care of. This sense of vulnerability translated in an increase in gun sales, cannabis, alcohol and toilet paper. When lots of businesses were collapsing, others were booming. A resurgence of humor also started flooding social media, to cope with the anxiety and powerlessness that people were going through. Parodies, mini comedies shot at home, creative way of using ordinary utensils became a staple on the Internet.
Perhaps, the most positive aspect of COVID-19 devastating progress was the new sense of solidarity that everyone was experiencing. From families stuck at home that had to get along to first responders, nurses, doctors and hospital personnel that risked their lives every day, human beings had to depend on each other to survive. Political skirmishes, race divisions and ethnic disagreements had to be put aside, even if it was temporarily. Volunteers delivered food to senior citizens, artists gave free online concerts, billionaires made donations to charity organizations fighting against the pandemic, the best of people has come out in the face of this still mysterious invader.
Meanwhile life on planet Earth will continue and the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020 will join the list of world catastrophic events that have punctuated the history of the planet. Our grandchildren will talk about 2020 like we talk about the 1920 Spanish flu pandemic. Another jolt of the planet to show humans that, despite our technological advances and our constant improvements in the field of medicine, we are still at the mercy of a little bug like the one named COVID-19, for the better and the worse.