COVID-19 cases have started surging again, in places like Brazil, India, Indonesia, and the U.S.. Reports blame the rise on anti-vaccine movements, distrust of authorities, misinformation, and government incompetence.
If I were a coronavirus, I’d be celebrating all of those.
As a virus, I have only one goal — to get inside the cells of as many humans as possible, so that I can take over their cell mechanisms to make more copies of me, so that I can get inside more cells of more humans.
We viruses run the ultimate assembly line. All we need is victims.
There is one big difference, though, between our assembly lines and, say, Henry Ford’s. We don’t want identical copies. Perfect copies enable my hosts — people, like you — to learn how to deal with us. You develop “herd immunities,” although they take time. And lots of deaths, weeding out the crop, as it were.
Or you develop vaccines — which, in my case, you have managed to do very successfully, and in an astonishingly short time.
But when the assembly line makes mistakes, we can produce variants faster than you can learn how to control them.
As a coronavirus, every hour that you stall on banishing me forever gives me precious time to develop variants that you haven’t even imagined yet.
In Wuhan, my assembly line produced one kind of virus, now called the Alpha variant. But by the time I had spread to Britain, Brazil, and India, my variants were running rings around Wuhan.
India was like a petri dish for incubating variants. One-and-a-half billion people. If you required a two-metre bubble around each one, there wouldn’t be enough India to contain them. India is crowds. Lots of people breathing the same air. A Happy Hunting Ground for infectious diseases.
So, not only the Delta variant. But then the Delta-plus variant.
And now the Lambda variant, originally from Peru, but now found in 29 other countries.
As a coronavirus, I wonder why you think we’re limited to the Greek alphabet. Every generation of every virus potentially carries a genetic mutation, which could become a wildly successful new variant.
The failures die off. That’s the downside of infinite mutations. The upside is that as long as we’re allowed to multiply, we’ll stay ahead of you.
You’re so committed to linear progression that you think one variant logically leads to another.
Viruses don’t work that way. We’re more like quantum physics. We try every option, all at once. Every new coronavirus particle that deviates in any way from our basic model is a possible variant.
Millions of us, billions of us, will die because we’re less infectious than our ancestors. But any virus particle that proves fractionally more infectious moves our overall mission forward.
That’s why we coronaviruses are delighted by deniers, right-wing governments, and protest movements. Especially anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers.
The more of them, the more opportunities we have to develop new and more virulent diseases. When I make that claim, I’m not speaking only for COVID-19 coronaviruses. Also for chickenpox, SARS, flu, hepatitis A and B, and measles viruses.
Also, I suppose, for the bacteria that cause diphtheria, because they too are spread by aerosols.
Not only do anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers leave themselves without protection, they get together in groups to protest. We viruses love groups. Especially groups that shout and cheer in unison.
U.S. health authorities now state that 99% of new COVID-19 cases occur among unvaccinated people. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
When we do infect an anti-vaxxer, who refuses to wear a mask, we get turned loose in air that family members and children breathe.
Whoopee! It’s like winning the lottery.
All coronaviruses support the Republican party. Especially Trump disciples. They oppose vaccinations, masks, and lockdowns. They believe that the economy matters more than people’s health.
They make our job so much easier.
Infectious disease expert Dr. William Schaffner, of Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, makes our point: “There are two Americas: the better vaccinated states and the less well-vaccinated states.”
Our survival demands close contact among breathing humans. In shops and cafes. In sports stadiums. Or at the Calgary Stampede.
Our heroes are Bolsonaro in Brazil. Modi in India. Kenney in Alberta. And for a brief glorious period, Trump in the U.S. Without them, we’d never have had enough time to develop the Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Delta-plus variants that have relegated good old Wuhan Alpha to medical history.
If I were a coronavirus, that’s how I’d see it.
Jim Taylor is an Okanagan Centre author and freelance journalist. He can be reached: at email@example.com