Omens of the End? COVID-19 Not the Only Thing You should be Scared of This Spring
A palpable dread has gripped the entire planet as its wired denizens are given a non-stop drip of information on the coronavirus, to the point where there seems to be some truth in the adage ‘ignorance is bliss’.
In the coronavirus-saturated news cycle, you’d be struggling to find news not connected in some way to the pandemic. The media’s feverish coverage – of which RT is not innocent – is understandable: everyone wants to keep tabs on a potentially deadly disease on their doorstep.
But a recent poll by the Pew Research Center has shown most Americans (62 percent) think the media is exaggerating the viral threat, and finding respite from pandemic news is virtually impossible.
Indeed, such is our morbid curiosity about coronavirus that we find ourselves clicking onto an endless string of pearl-clutchers, like those detailing the slow-motion meltdown of Wall Street, a priest offering drive-thru confessions in these last days, even the cancellation of Eurovision – which just might be the disease’s one blessing in disguise. And amid the pandemic pandemonium, Russia is behind the scenes pushing America’s panic button as if it has nothing better to do right now. Never saw that news coming did you?
And let’s not forget the numerous self-help articles, like how to attend funerals during a pandemic (without giving away the plot, let’s just say it puts a new twist on the act of ‘live’-streaming), how to pet other peoples’ dogs during a pandemic (in a word, don’t), even a story on how a gang of penguins took over a closed Chicago zoo for an afternoon (turns out they were taken on a field trip by zoo personnel who apparently had too much free time on their hands).
If nothing else, these types of disease-laced stories make wasting away one’s hours in secluded safe spaces somewhat less of a tedious affair. In fact, it makes one wonder how mankind entertained themselves without the internet during past pandemics, like the Spanish Flu, Bubonic Plague and German measles.
Short of turning into modern-day Boccaccio characters, who kept themselves entertained (and alive) by storytelling in the outskirts of Florence during the days of Black Death, many people will have to be content with stories on the internet that have almost no connection to the coronavirus. Here are some of those gems, in no particular order whatsoever.
While people of the Earth were busy self-isolating and ignoring the sky, three asteroids this week carried out a drive-by of our planet at phenomenal speeds. Fortunately there were no injuries. While under normal conditions this type of news would have made for perfect tabloid fodder, the space rocks seemed to only attract the interest of a few dedicated astronomers. The rest of us were busy following the news on what we believe to be the more worrisome existential threat.
According to Locust Watch – yes, there are people committed to this work – the situation is “extremely alarming” with regards to the ‘Desert Locust’ (Schistocerca gregaria). In the Horn of Africa, specifically Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia there is something of a locust orgy in progress, if you can imagine such a thing, and new dangerous swarms are starting to form. This represents an “unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods at the beginning of the upcoming cropping season” across a wide swath of the Middle East. It should be mentioned here that just because there are stories out there not connected to the coronavirus does not necessarily mean they’re happy stories.
With hundreds of people in self-imposed isolation from the rest of the world, it was only a matter of time before some of them would begin to lose their minds. On Wednesday, a particularly detestable rumor began spreading on Twitter that Oprah Winfrey, the media mogul and talk show host, had been arrested for her involvement in an international sex trafficking ring. After discovering that her name was trending on the social media platform, Winfrey, 66, responded that the claims were “NOT TRUE” and that she was at home “sanitizing and self distancing with the rest of the world.” Clearly, the coronavirus pandemic has brought out the crazies.
In something of a notice to the deadly coronavirus, and not a moment too soon, the medical journal The Lancet reported that a second person has been cured of HIV, the immunodeficiency virus that leads to the onset of AIDS. The patient, whose name has not been released, received a stem cell transplant with cells that did not contain the CCR5 gene, which produces a protein that allows the virus to penetrate cells. “Our findings show that the success of stem cell transplantation as a cure for HIV… can be replicated,” said Prof. Ravindra Kumar Gupta, as quoted by Medical News Today. In 2007, Timothy Ray Brown became the first patient ever whom doctors declared to be cured of HIV.
The Biden & Bernie Show
Deep down in the cookie jar of untouched news is a story – a political tragedy of sorts – that all but guarantees the deadly coronavirus gets far more attention than it otherwise deserved. Yes, I am talking about the political battle of the geriatrics between Joe Biden, 77, and Bernie Sanders, 78 to see which one will still be alive before November 4 to challenge Donald Trump. For those following the painful action, Biden and Sanders are the only standing Democratic nominees in the CNN debates, where the coronavirus has prohibited audience members from witnessing the studio drama.
People desperate for news of a non-viral sort got something of a gift from God on Wednesday morning as a 5.7-magnitude earthquake rumbled through Utah about 10 miles west of Salt Lake City. Fortunately, the trembler did not result in any serious injuries or fatalities, although one particularly striking thing did occur as a result of the event. The earthquake managed to dislodge a symbolic part of Salt Lake City’s Mormon temple: the trumpet that was held aloft by an angel sculpture atop its highest spire. The temple serves as the “spiritual focal point” for the 16 million-strong congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Considering all of the apocalyptic things now happening in the news this may not be the most symbolically reassuring event.
And now, the best news for last. Although it may not mean much for people sitting at home watching Netflix in hazmat suits, Thursday – the day of the vernal equinox when the sun will appear to rise exactly east and set exactly west – marks the earliest Spring to arrive in the United States in the last 124 years. Perhaps if anything else, this is a sign that change – positive change with more uplifting headlines – is somewhere just over the horizon.
By Robert Bridge