I see a trend that has emerged in the past month or so. It’s a familiar trend: Something new spreads throughout the world. We give it a name. We run the name into the ground.

You would have to have buried yourself in the ground to not know “COVID-19,” “coronavirus,” “social distancing” and “pandemic” – these words appear in almost every written and spoken sentence right about now. It’s the last one I want to focus on.

We never heard the word “pandemic” when I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s. “Epidemic” was the preferred term. I’m sure there’s some politically-correct hack that can tell me how that word has somehow become xenophobic, racist, or some other form of “hate speech” and must never be used.

Definitions

Here are some definitions for words that describe the current pestilence, from dictionary.com:

Epidemic – (of a disease) affecting many persons at the same time and spreading from person to person in a locality where the disease is not permanently prevalent.

Pandemic – (of a disease) prevalent throughout an entire country, continent, or the whole world; epidemic over a large area.

Plague

  1. an epidemic disease that causes high mortality, pestilence.
  2. an infectious, epidemic disease caused by a bacterium, Yersinia pestis, characterized by fever, chills, and prostration, transmitted to humans from rats by means of the bites of fleas.
  3. any widespread affliction, calamity, or evil, especially one regarded as a direct punishment by God

The phrase “The Plague”

People around my age may recall hearing the phrase “the plague” tossed around back in the day. In the most literal sense, that phrase refers to the Bubonic Plague (or Black Death) of 1347 to 1351. The outbreak killed between 100 million and 125 million people or 23%-29% of the world’s population. Europe didn’t reach its 1347 population level for 200 years.

To have the same impact, the current virus would have to kill 2.25 billion people. There’s no evidence that it will do so, nor is there even evidence it will kill the same raw number of 100-125 million. What it has done is lead governments around the world to issue stay-at-home orders. There are probably more than 2.25 billion people who have been ordered to stay at home except for life-essential things like grocery shopping and doctor visits. So it has had some plague-level impact on everyone’s day-to-day life.

You knew this was coming

Also well-known in this space is my disdain for doing or saying what everyone else does and says or keeping up with the latest trend. So I am off of the “pandemic” bandwagon.

This is a plague.

Besides the number of disrupted lives, I see the same hysteria that would be associated with a plague. The mass hoarding of toilet paper, surgical masks, and food staples like canned goods and bottled water are examples. You would only stockpile months and months’ worth of these items if you thought you would be ordered by the military to never step outside unless you want to get shot.

Troubling shortage

Knowing it’s still OK to go grocery shopping, I go every Saturday morning and buy one week’s worth of stuff, just like always. But finding masks has proven impossible.

I know I have almost no chance of getting the virus. My innards are made of cast iron. I get the flu about once every 10 years, and I recover quickly from anything major. For example, it was supposed to take 2 weeks to recover from my gastric sleeve surgery, but I was back to 100% in 3 days.

My wife is another story. She was born 2 months premature, with cerebral palsy from losing oxygen in that process, leaving her with under-developed lungs. Even now, 53 years later, she still has some breathing difficulties. Add in some asthma and horrific seasonal allergies, and she is the textbook definition of “high-risk” for this plague.

This means it’s very possible that I could go out on a needed errand, pick up the virus, bring it home, and give it to her – all while never having a single symptom myself. So a mask is really necessary. But every entity you can imagine is sold out, with the exception of Amazon. But even there, the earliest delivery date is 6 weeks out. Their disclaimer is that these items need to be reserved for medical professionals and people in need. Hello? My house qualifies as “people in need!”

What can I do?

I tried tying a bandana around my nose and mouth. I couldn’t breathe worth squat. How in the Sam Hill did people rob banks like this back in the Wild West? I just can’t do it.

So I do what I can. I stay as far away from people as possible and wash up thoroughly when I get home. We’re doing OK to this point. The Charlotte area has completed its transition from winter to summer – with absolutely no spring whatsoever – so flowers and plants are blooming very fast. Poor Netta is having some of the worst spring allergies she’s had in years. But her inhaler and Flonase spray are keeping things in check.

So no, I won’t be calling this thing a pandemic. It’s a plague. You can @ me all you want and call me whatever filthy names make you feel better. This is a hill I’m willing to die on.

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