Health Care

The Great Coronavirus War Is upon Us

Health care workers test people at a drive-thru testing station run by the state health department for people who suspect they have coronavirus in Denver, Colo., March 11, 2020. (Jim Urquhart/Reuters)
If we stay calm and rational, we can defeat the enemy.

Try this thought experiment. Envision the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, as a living, breathing enemy — which, of course, is exactly what it is.

But imagine for a moment that we are in real war with a cognizant, thinking, and clever enemy whose sole reason to live is to hurt, maim, or kill as many of us as it can.

COVID-19 may not have jets, tanks, or nukes, like our past enemies. But its arsenal, numbers, cunning, and willpower are said to be formidable.

To win its war against Americans, COVID-19 must infect and sicken lots of Americans each day. If it cannot infect enough victims to multiply and sustain a hungry army of viruses, COVID-19 will soon sputter and die. It will get trapped in just a few hosts among an otherwise victorious and healthy nation of about 330 million.

Nature has given COVID-19 some weapons that its defeated cousins — the H1N1 swine flu and the MERS and SARS viruses — lacked.

It is more clever by being less lethal — and a little tougher in its ability to live outside a host. Viral resiliency ensures that it rarely turns into a suicide bomber by dying with a terminally sick host, and that it does not perish so quickly when orphaned in the air and on surfaces.

The coronavirus has allies. It infiltrates our defenses by using our own weapons against us — our dirty hands, the habitual touching of the face, and indiscreet sneezing and coughing.

Poor personal and public hygiene gives the virus some sustenance and camouflage. To win — defined as sickening or killing thousands of us — COVID-19 counts on our laxity. It hates careful individuals who block its invasion into the eyes, nose, and mouth.

Remember, unlike our past human enemies, COVID-19 is invisible to the naked eye, even more so than the most stealthy terrorists or underground enemy agents. It does not leave a smell. It cannot be heard. It certainly cannot be touched. We know COVID-19 only by the damage it does to us, even after it has left, leaving its trail of fever, fatigue, congestion, and labored breathing.

COVID-19 also relies on ignorance of its complexity and sophistication. It assumes that our experts will not learn how this new virus originated, how it spreads, and how it sickens or kills.

So the virus hopes that we cannot effectively quarantine the sick, or at least not before a pandemic spreads.

In desperation, the enemy virus hopes that even if our researchers can quickly infiltrate the COVID-19 master borg and learn its deepest secrets, we will still be unable to treat it with medicines or prevent it with vaccines — or at least not before it becomes a plague of biblical proportions.

To a popular culture that laps up creepy zombie movies, the virus certainly knows how to use its greatest weapons: fright and panic. As of early this week, the relatively lightweight bug had killed fewer than 30 Americans. But we seem to be acting as if it has already killed 200,000 of us.

If COVID-19 can create fear that we will end up like the grotesque monsters on television, perhaps we, its enemy, will go on hoarding binges that result in shortages of masks, gloves, and supplies for the health providers who need them most.

Or, if the virus can scare us enough that we cease working and interacting, our canceled-out economy will grind to a halt.

Or maybe the coronavirus can cleverly keep hopping on jets between countries and states, sowing dissension as nations blame one other for its creation and contagion, and politicians seek to destroy each other rather than band together to kill the virus.

COVID-19 counts on globalization as it sneaks onto jets and ships. In a few hours, it can find a new home and new hosts to terrify — even thousands of miles away.

It is a vengeful enemy. It knows we have killed off or rendered impotent most of its fellow viruses. Its cousin, the flu, has not since 1918 translated its annual tactical wins into a strategic pandemic victory.

Viruses and anti-human microbes have not had a major win in America in decades, perhaps not since polio used to terrorize, cripple, and kill thousands of Americans annually.

COVID-19 believes our progress, confidence, and sophistication are not our strengths but rather our greatest weakness, as our vanity and assumed invulnerability render us ripe for panic.

The battle is upon us. But if we stay calm and rational, we can easily defeat the enemy, whose reputation is likely far scarier than its reality.

© 2020 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Case for Trump.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

The World’s Worst Idea

Almost a decade ago, I wrote a little book called The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism. When Regnery asked me to write the book, I was happy to do it but wondered whether a book on socialism, a brief conspectus of its grotesque failures, would be necessary or useful. I wondered why anybody would be ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The World’s Worst Idea

Almost a decade ago, I wrote a little book called The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism. When Regnery asked me to write the book, I was happy to do it but wondered whether a book on socialism, a brief conspectus of its grotesque failures, would be necessary or useful. I wondered why anybody would be ... Read More
Film & TV

Laughing at Beyoncé’s Absolute Monarchy

Back in the Nineties, when hip-hop zealots questioned the intelligence of Beyoncé songs like Destiny’s Child’s careerist anthem “Survivor” and the sex-as-junk-food hit “Bootylicious,” there was little regard for the female agency that she now channels into an intersectional act, trading on gender and ... Read More
Film & TV

Laughing at Beyoncé’s Absolute Monarchy

Back in the Nineties, when hip-hop zealots questioned the intelligence of Beyoncé songs like Destiny’s Child’s careerist anthem “Survivor” and the sex-as-junk-food hit “Bootylicious,” there was little regard for the female agency that she now channels into an intersectional act, trading on gender and ... Read More
U.S.

A Stay-at-Home Mom on Her Reasons for Leaving Portland

While covering events (see here and here) in Portland, Ore., National Review writer Luther Abel sat down with Joanna -- a college-educated, stay-at-home mom and now Trump voter -- who feels it is no longer safe or healthy to live there. They discussed the change that has happened in the city politically, the ... Read More
U.S.

A Stay-at-Home Mom on Her Reasons for Leaving Portland

While covering events (see here and here) in Portland, Ore., National Review writer Luther Abel sat down with Joanna -- a college-educated, stay-at-home mom and now Trump voter -- who feels it is no longer safe or healthy to live there. They discussed the change that has happened in the city politically, the ... Read More

Why Trump’s Losing

President Trump pulled an inside straight to win in 2016, and now he needs another one. The good news for Trump is that his approval rating has stopped falling recently. The bad news is that it has stabilized in the low 40s. Election-watcher Harry Enten points out that no president since Harry Truman has won ... Read More

Why Trump’s Losing

President Trump pulled an inside straight to win in 2016, and now he needs another one. The good news for Trump is that his approval rating has stopped falling recently. The bad news is that it has stabilized in the low 40s. Election-watcher Harry Enten points out that no president since Harry Truman has won ... Read More