I recently read a 2013 BBC article titled, “What if a Pandemic Strikes?” that helped me understand the idea of contagion in a new way. 

The one thing every human being on the planet shares is genetic makeup. We fight with each other about religious, political, economic, and ethnic differences—but one thing we can’t fight about is that every human being on earth is exactly the same in terms of core genetics. We all have the same circulatory system. The same digestive system. The same respiratory and reproductive systems. We all have a brain. We all have a heart. And so on. To put this another way, we all have the exact same Operating System. 

For the sake of this post, let’s pretend we are all PCs with the same OS. 

The emergence of COVID-19 is due to the fact that human beings have encroached on places where we have never stepped foot before. As such, we are encountering species that have kept their distance from us for all of time. But when we go to where they are, and start engaging them directly (capturing them for “medicinal” purposes, for example), we run the risk of engaging foreign viruses too. 

COVID-19 is one of these viruses. Never before seen or studied, this microscopic virus (a billion on a pinhead) is highly contagious and has the ability to shut down our Operating Systems. COVID-19 primarily attacks our respiratory system, which, as we know, is essential to all other systems in our body. 

Ok, so what’s the first thing that would happen if a malicious virus emerged that infected the Operating System of all PCs? Well, the OS manufacturer would drop everything to assess. Right? Then they would get to work on a patch. Something even temporary that could slow the spread of the virus. They’d also dispatch clear communications to help users protect themselves from becoming infected. In time, they’d identify, isolate, and defeat the virus with a permanent solution. 

And they’d remain vigilant until the next virus popped up.  Because there’s always a next one. And this is true in the biological world, too.

Right now we’re in the “patch” phase of our battle with COVID-19—and social distancing was our first line of defense. That’s because scientists conducted tests to determine that six feet was the optimal minimum distance we should keep from each other to ensure the virus doesn’t pass between us. The next thing was the masks. Again, scientists conducted tests to determine that even though we can’t all have the very best masks available to prevent the spread of COVID19 (which should be reserved for frontline workers), any mask that covers the face and nose does help a little. And a little matters when it comes to stopping the spread of any virus. Especially one that spreads as aggressively as COVID-19. 

Look, this virus doesn’t care whether we agree that it exists. Or what color we are. Or where we live. Or what kind of job we have. Or that we’re losing money because we’re taking precautions. It just wants to replicate—something it can only do through us. Which is also to say that the only way to stop it from spreading is by committing to not aiding it.

  • Remain socially distant.
  • Wear a mask in public.
  • Stay home as much as possible.

It’s so simple, it’s dumb. And yet, the US watched this virus march across the planet to land on its shores, infect hundreds of thousands of people, and kill (as of this post) about 90,000 Americans. All because we lacked the leadership and foresight necessary to help stop the spread. The fact it continues to spread, however, is on us for not taking the right precautions.

You might be a PC, or you might be a MAC, or maybe you run Linux OS. I don’t know. But I promise you that we all have the same guts. And right now we need to rely on our guts to get through this. We all need to do our small part to ensure that doctors and scientists (the IT department who are charged with looking after and protecting our fragile OS) have the time and resources necessary to discover a permanent fix–a vaccine. Because nothing goes back to normal until that happens. 

These are trying times for all of us. But at some point we have to see this as a universal problem. Something that affects us all.

And we are only as strong as our weakest link.

Since this thing began, people have beaten the phrase “we’re all in this together” to a pulp. We don’t even notice it anymore. But the thing is, it’s absolutely true. We might all have different politics, religions, and skin color, but our Operating Systems are identical. And to win this fight, we have to accept this fact.

Do what’s right. Gut up.



Stay Home or Be Eaten
The Batter's Box

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.