You all remember Nostradamus, the 16th-century French astrologer, physician and seer into the future. Among his many prophesies, he is credited with predicting the French Revolution, the Great Fire of London, the UK floods, and the collapse of the World Trade Centre. Of course, he also foretold the coming of the Antichrist and warned the world that the future blonde bombshell, Madonna, was actually the whore of Babylon, but the jury is still out on those last two predictions. He definitely blew it on his prognostications on “the Great War of 2002” and the capture of Rome by the Albanians, but let’s give him a couple of mulligans (“takeovers” in golfing parlance) on those.
The genius of Nostradamus lies in his brilliant tactic of making sure that his predictions could either be verified or debunked only centuries after he no longer walked the earth. The same, I’m afraid, cannot be said about any prediction one can make regarding today’s virus epidemic threat to the planet.
By the time you read this blog, the future may already be upon us. Or maybe not. At this point, nobody really knows.
What’s fuelling this global uncertainty is the novel Coronavirus pandemic (aka COVID-19). It’s quite possible that within the next few days or weeks we will discover whether it’s a whole bunch of hooey that will blow over like so many other “scares” that have come before (remember Y2K?), or it is indeed marking the beginning of the end.
The resulting mass hysteria is manifesting itself by consumer frenzy-buying across the nation and probably throughout the globe. Big-box stores are seeing their stock wiped out as shoppers load up their mammoth carts with supplies they hope will see them through the oncoming crisis.
The top three products being stockpiled by gluttonous hoarders are hand sanitizers, face masks and toilet paper. The run on hand sanitizers stems from the belief that the virus is being passed to a new host through surface to surface contact to the hand and then from the hand to the face where it can easily penetrate the body’s defences. The face masks, even the preferred N95 models, apparently do little to protect the wearer from picking up the virus (except that it probably keeps one from touching the lower part of the face), but it does stop someone who is already infected from spreading it through sneezing or coughing. As for the toilet paper, well . . . I suppose it keeps doing what it’s supposed to do, COVID-19 or not.
It’s possible that I might be missing something when it comes to the stockpiling of toilet paper. Perhaps people are loading up on 48-roll cartons of the commodity at their local Costco or Walmart for a completely different reason. Imagine glue-gunning the rolls together to create a “Michelin Man” suit of cellulose armour, which would be instrumental in keeping others from penetrating your safe zone of an acceptable three to six social distancing feet away. This could even bring back jousting.
What is it with all this hand-washing business? Health expert will have you believe that you can beat the virus if you wash your hands with soap and water as many times as you possibly can throughout the day. Assuming you don’t develop a Lady Macbeth complex as a result, you are also advised to make each hand wash last for at least 20 seconds, or the time it takes to sing “happy birthday” twice (unless you are singing it to Esteban Julio Ricardo Montoya de la Rosa Ramirez, in which case once may suffice).
Nobody seems to be advising exactly how many times you should be washing your hands in a day. Is it every hour? Every 10 minutes? Every time you touch something (other than your face)? At this rate, probably the things you should be touching the least are the taps and faucets of any bathroom sink. Perhaps the ultimate form of self-isolation and social distancing is restricting your living space to your own shower stall and/or bathtub.
And then there’s the issue of not touching your face. Have you ever counted how many times you bring your hand up to an itchy nose or eye or how often you rub your lips and mouth? How are you supposed to control these subconscious actions? I suppose you could try wearing those plastic cone-shaped collars that vets put on dogs to keep them from licking and scratching at stitches or mangy skin, but you would probably do more harm to yourself from violent eruptions of laughter every time you saw yourself in a mirror.
There’s nothing like a world in crisis to bring out the irony in our lives. You may have heard that the French shrine at Lourdes, famed for providing its alleged curative and healing waters to thousands of sick and crippled visitors every year, has shut down as a result of the pandemic. As a viable alternative to the usual medicinal properties at Lourdes, the sanctuary is advising sick pilgrims “to pray more.” Even in North America, Catholic churches are restricting the manner in which bread and wine (representing the body and blood of Jesus Christ) are being administered during Holy Communion. It seems that the risk of spreading the viral infection is crossing over from the material to the spiritual world.
So get a grip! Stop wringing your hands in desperation and keep washing them (if you haven’t washed all the skin off by now). Ignore the picture in your mind of those tiny COVID-19 viruses doubling over in laughter at your attempts to fight off the plague with soap and water. It seems so benign an action, but it just might work.
Nobody asked me, but how about trying not to think about the reeling global economy and your impending “near-debt experience.” Keep your social distance and self-isolate as much as possible. If we all pull together, we can lick this pandemic and get back to what we were doing before all this came down the tube. Dealing with climate change.
I’m sure Nostradamus probably saw this coming.