Explaining 2019-nCoV to the kids

2020.02.01, by Ansel

The kids are at that age when they intensely question everything about the world. It’s been a challenge to digest all the news in a manner that they can grasp. Most adults in this society share more intense emotions than objective information. Not useful for kids.

I could be a hysterical jackass and get them to be intensely fearful of catching 2019-nCoV because it’s new and killed people. Or I could explain to them that it’s a new virus that causes pneumonia, so we don’t have a specific antiviral medicine for it yet. I could tell them to be terrified of anyone from China. Or I could tell them that because the world is so connected now, it’s in many different countries, not just China.

“What should we do?” the kids ask. Same as usual—wash your hands, wear a face mask. Eat healthy. Exercise.

I tell them that the world’s governments should work seriously together to treat people who are already sick, and to help stop the spread of the virus. But they aren’t. I tell them that a bunch of companies are racing to make medicine for money, instead of working together for a cure.

I tell them that our government already does a bad job at handling the flu, or making sure that all the children in this country are well-fed. I tell them bosses expect workers to come in even when they’re sick.

I tell them not to be mad at the people who are already sick.

Yesterday, I was acquainted with a family whose father died of a heart attack because he had no health insurance. He had been having lung problems for three days, didn’t go to the hospital fearing the cost. That overtaxed his heart, and it was too late when he did go. Now he’s dead.

I’m not afraid of nCoV, or people who’ve been to China. I am afraid of the lack of basic infrastructure we have for diseases that are even completely preventable and well-known.

I wish we had better for our kids.

Xenophobia absolves the government of responsibility.