“Viruses gonna virus.” It’s a phrase I’ve seen on Twitter and have often repeated myself in one form or another. These days, it’s typically used by we COVID-realists to communicate the reality of the situation we face - that of a highly transmissible but relatively mild (for most) virus that long ago broke any sort of realistic containment. Thus, draconian efforts to do so have resulted, in most cases and probably every case by the time this is over, of the virus defeating man’s efforts and succeeding in doing what it’s extremely good at - virusing! Consequently, by kicking against the proverbial pricks, we humans have managed to do far greater damage to ourselves than we ever have to COVID-19, as ongoing reality continues to make clear.
Googling the term, the first reference I could find related to COVID-19 was from Texas State University’s Dr. Rodney Rohde in early March. Described as a “coronavirus expert” by UK Metro in an article on the then-emerging threat, Rohde was remarkably accurate even then.
“‘Viruses are going to virus – microbes are going to microbe,” he said. “Once it kind of burns through the population, which is what viruses do, it will meet a collective human immune response. Most of us will live through it with flu-like, mild flu-like or mild cold-like symptoms and recover.”
This is pretty much how everyone understood things, even at the beginning when many feared the death rate could be much higher than it turned out to be. The goal was to flatten the curve so hospitals wouldn’t be overwhelmed, not to stop cases. Then, what seems like a lifetime ago, it was understood that there was no “stopping” a highly transmissible virus. Now, I have no idea how Rohde would assess things today, but just looking at the data it sure seems like his early words were accurate, prophetic even. This virus is indeed virusing, burning through populations at a rapid rate. And while efforts to flatten the initial curve and not overwhelm hospitals were probably a good idea, ongoing draconian attempts to not just protect the vulnerable but quash the epidemic entirely seem futile and self-destructive. Here are a few examples that bolster my assessment:
Even CNN, which hasn’t yet seen a lockdown or assault on liberty they didn’t support whole-heartedly when it comes to “keeping people safe” from the only thing that apparently causes death these days, called the draconian virus outbreak response in the Philippines the “world's toughest coronavirus restrictions.” From mid-March to the end of May, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte put areas of his county under a lockdown so tight that violaters were threatened with literally getting shot. Businesses were shuttered. Curfews were imposed. 60-year-olds and above were required to stay home. Mask-wearing and temperature checks were mandatory countrywide. Having completely wrecked their economy and caused untold suffering among its already extremely poor population, the restrictions were somewhat eased in June, with mandatory mask-wearing and softer measures still intact.
What happened? Did the lockdowns stop the virus? Did universal masking prevent the spread? Of course not, because viruses gonna virus. Instead of going away, the country’s 18,000 confirmed cases at the end of May has since jumped to more than 160,000 and are currently growing so fast that health officials, having learned nothing, are demanding another series of punishing lockdowns.
India has become one of the top three global coronavirus hot spots, but it wasn’t always so. Back in March, their lockdown was so severe that police were literally caning people who refused to comply. Sure, they managed to keep the virus at bay for a few months, but viruses doing what they do (virusing and all that), cases began to rise as soon as they peeked their noses out. Now, India is experiencing well over 60,000 cases per day, even with a face mask requirement mostly in place since April.
Don’t look now, but the virus is surging again in France, Spain, the U.K., and even Germany after what were considered “strong” initial responses. For months, the media credited Japan’s near-universal mask-wearing for crushing the virus in that country after a small early wave. Now Japan is facing a new case outbreak significantly larger than before. In the U.S., it’s hard to imagine any state having stricter lockdown and masking restrictions than California, yet that state has been at or near the top of the nation in cases for weeks. But weren’t we all told by our all-knowing “health officials” that if we wore masks for a few weeks it would all be over?
Then there are the cases where the virus just virused and now seems to be for the most part finished virusing. Everyone knows about Sweden, of course, by-and-large finished with COVID after it rampaged through Stockholm early in the pandemic. Had they protected nursing homes better, their deaths per million would likely rival ours, but they are done and back to some semblance of normal life while we continue to wage a winless war. The virus raged through New York and New Jersey for weeks undetected, but were it not for powerful Democrats’ decisions to stuff nursing homes with infected patients even those death rates may have been manageable. Even so, some degree of herd immunity has likely been achieved. And we can’t forget the Sun Belt. On June 20, right as cases were on the good end of the Farr's Law curve in Arizona, Newsweek published a headline that read, "Arizona, Most Anti-Mask State, Sees Coronavirus Cases Fall." Arizona is almost done, folks, and Florida is on the downward spiral as well.
Finally, New Zealand’s “decisive” coronavirus response was celebrated worldwide as a model for all, even though comparing a small island nation in the middle of the South Pacific to interconnected continental countries is so absurd that the idiom “apples and oranges” doesn’t come close to applying. It’s more like “apples and meatloaf.” New Zealand had gone 100 days without any spread of the virus and had gone almost entirely back to “normal,” sans global travel. Then, four mysterious cases arose in Auckland, which quickly became 56 active cases. Where the virus came from is a mystery, but that country’s government is determined to find out and stamp it out.
“A mystery and a few cases — that’s all it took for New Zealand to say goodbye to normalcy,” wrote the New York Times. “Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern immediately announced a new lockdown for Auckland, a city of 1.7 million people, along with a huge testing, contact tracing and quarantine blitz that aims to quash Covid-19 for the second time.”
Ardern still considers “going hard and early” the “best course of action,” and maybe she will indeed be able to stamp out this second outbreak. But what happens, not if, but when a third outbreak occurs? How about the fourth? We know the answer, of course, because the Chicken Little approach that has so-far carried the day only knows one way to respond. As New Zealanders face another round of indefinite lockdowns and shutdowns over this second small resurgence, 28-year-old financial worker Jeremy Hutton was quoted by the Times as asking what the outlet characterized as a question that “seemed to be on the minds of many,” “Are we just going to keep doing this every couple of months?”
Yes, Jeremy, because viruses gonna virus, and most of our leaders are fools.
Follow Scott on Twitter @SKMorefield