Coronavirus: The Good News (Yes, There Is Some)

London, January 26, 2020. People wearing a face masks to protecting themself because of epidemic in China. Selective Focus. Concept of coronavirus quarantine. MERS-Cov, middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, Novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV.

By Dwight Longenecker Published on March 6, 2020

What we know about the coronavirus is that we don’t know much about the coronavirus. That’s bad news for the world population but it’s good news for the grinders of the news mill.

Every journalist, blogger, commentator and media pundit knows that bad news sells papers and uncertainty produces bad news. Controversy and conflict drive a story and a shocking headline grabs the readers attention. That’s why you started reading this article right?

Shaky Data

To be matter of fact, we don’t have many facts in this matter. For all sorts of complicated reasons, the data on the coronavirus is incomplete. For example, different countries are testing their people at different rates. If a country tests large numbers of their people they are likely to report higher numbers of coronavirus sufferers. If a country tests fewer or the test kits are faulty they will report far fewer number.

The data is shaky for other reasons: many people who have the virus may not exhibit symptoms. They will not show up on the charts. Many have mild symptoms — a few sniffles and coughs. They are unlikely to show up in the statistics. Because of global travel and increased mobility people may have the virus but be away from home and miss out on any chance of being tested.

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Furthermore, scientists are struggling to understand just how the virus is transmitted, how long it is dangerous and what the possible projections in time and severity might be. All of this, and much more means we really don’t know enough about the virus to make firm predictions and have peace of mind.

This is good news for the news grinders. If you are a journalist, uncertainty means you can create a cycle of news. One day write optimistic articles about the coronavirus and sell papers. The next day write pessimistic articles about the coronavirus and sell more papers. If you can find a political or economic angle to heighten the conflict and fuel a controversy all the better. That will sell more papers and motivate more hits on your news website — driving up your viewer numbers.

The Good News

Hang on. Here’s the good news. What we do know about the virus is that the vast majority of people who get the virus will suffer only minor symptoms. Furthermore, 98% of people who contract the virus will survive it. Most fatalities are among people with underlying health issues, and the authorities have had time to put containment and treatment programs in place. Countries with good infrastructure and health care systems will cope.

The second bit of good news we should remember in this potential catastrophe is that when things are bad, good people rise up.

There is more good news for people with faith and common sense. First, the uncertainty should be a reminder to all of us that despite our super-controlled, technologically amazing, highly accomplished and efficient society, things can go wrong. In fact the more controlled, efficient and smooth we make our world, the more one little thing can throw a monkey wrench in the works and cause our ordered and efficient world to collapse. In other words, we’re not totally in charge.

Did I say that is good news? Yes it is, because it reminds us that we are mortal after all. We have weaknesses and a dose of humility is a good medicine.

The second bit of good news we should remember in this potential catastrophe is that when things are bad, good people rise up. We’ve seen this time and again in human history. The Brits call it “the Blitz Spirit.” They remember how the people of London rose up to defend their nation and care for one another in the midst of terrible Nazi bombardment of their capital city. In times of trouble churches open their doors. Neighbors get to know one another, people rally around and support the sick, the weak and the vulnerable. If our world were subject to a devastating plague the valiant human spirit would shine.

A Good Reminder

The best bit of good news to remember is that if we are not totally in charge of every last details, there is someone who is. That’s the one of whom the Lord Jesus said, “Not one sparrow falls but your heavenly father knows.” He also said that every hair on our head is numbered — so for us bald people he has to keep the records updated every day!

People of faith should do everything possible to keep well and contain the virus, but we also remember that God is in charge. If the human race is subject to a killer virus or some other terrible catastrophe, the one who made all things is in control. He may not protect us from bad things happening, but He will support us through them.

When faced with the constant bad news about the coronavirus, remember the good news. Finally, when checking the news about the virus you’ll feel much better if you monitor your obsession with reading news articles about it. Gather the facts as much as you can, then get on with your daily life taking whatever precautions are recommended and move forward knowing that if things turn very bad, good people will rise up, put their trust in God and work together to survive the gathering storm.

 

Fr. Longenecker is a Catholic priest working in South Carolina. Read his blog, follow his podcasts and browse his books at dwightlongenecker.com.

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