A virus that could spread some goodwill


Tom Kirvan
Legal News, Editor-in-Chief

By the time this column reaches print, COVID-19 may have taken an altogether different numerical form, a kind that can deliver a crushing blow to our normal way of life.

All around the globe daily routines have been disrupted, schools and universities closed, financial markets battered, sporting events cancelled, and – heaven forbid – St. Patrick’s Day beer-drinking binges curbed.

All that should allow for more time to raid the shelves at the local grocery store, elbowing fellow hoarders for the precious last rolls of toilet paper.

All in the name of making a certain country “Great Again.”

Perhaps in this time of uncertainty we could choose to go a different route, shutting down Twitter and a “News” network in favor of a collaborative approach to beating back a mysterious viral menace.

Over the weekend, some political observers said the “world declared war on the coronavirus,” noting that “it’s hard to imagine what the next few months will be like,” but “what’s comforting is knowing that in this battle, we’re all fighting on the same side.”

If only it was true.

Some blowhards, with microphones to the millions, prefer to look at the spread of the coronavirus in a different light, framed in the context of a politically-motivated “hoax” designed to derail an incumbent’s re-election hopes.

Even more preposterous was a well-known man of the cloth theorizing that the virus was the “Christmas present ” that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un promised “America back in December” for failing to reach an agreement on nuclear disarmament during talks last year.

Such unhinged conspiracy theories are trotted out almost daily by the radical right, all in feeble attempts to shift blame from an administration’s half-baked efforts to deal with an ever-growing health crisis.

On the flip side was a note from PBS anchor Judy Woodruff last Friday as she closed the NewsHour, the network’s 60-minute program that airs each weekday evening. Hers was a message worth hearing – and heeding.

“This invisible new virus is frightening and spreading rapidly,” Woodruff said in a personal note to viewers March 13. “We all want to be as prepared as we can be, to avoid it if we possibly can, and if not, to recover and be healthy again, which most of us will.

“Already there have been overwhelming acts of generosity. But in the meantime, some of us are acting in a way that could end up unintentionally hurting others,” she noted, pointing to the panic buying that has cleaned out grocery store and pharmacy shelves.

“It is understandable, we want to keep our families and ourselves safe. But it’s also worth remembering that this is time for the lucky, healthy ones to think of others.

“Maybe there is an elderly couple who didn’t get to the store as early as they wanted. Perhaps someone with a disability or weakened immune system couldn’t get there at all.

"This is a moment for Americans to show our best qualities," Woodruff said in fervent hope. "We're going to work our way through this. Let's keep others who may not be as strong and resilient as we are in mind too."