“In World War II, Americans didn’t gripe when ordered to leave their jobs and produce fighter planes!”
Coronavirus (or COVID-19, or just COVID or Corona) is the latest illness scheduled to wipe out humanity ... and then some. It is regarded as an immediate danger by medical updates on the authoritative Twitter resource.
Coronavirus is not a mere epidemic but a pandemic. Like when Meijer's Thrifty Acres surpassed supermarkets to open "hypermarkets", when Walmart got beyond shopping centres and opened "supercentres", and when Cap'n Crunch became "new and improved" — "pandemic" means that all the old rules are now out the window, because: pandemic. You might have merely voted for a mayor, but in the era of pandemics, you might get a dictator. As George W. Bush said about terrorism, "this is an enemy like no other." Donald Trump refers to the Coronavirus as "the invisible enemy". Thus, all we know about fighting it is that "everything you know is wrong."
Like German Measles (Stalag-17), the Mexican Runs (Montezuma's Revenge), and Spanish Flu (Cowards' Sniffles), Coronavirus has been given a nationality and a passport under the name of Chinese Flu; it is also called the "Wuhan Whuzzup?" Coronavirus has made everyone wish he hadn't skipped biology class. The little blighters now span the world; on all the (cruise) ships at sea, they have bagged all the best cabins and are splashing around in the swimming pools.
Coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China's centre of unsanitary meat markets and Bubonic Plague research. The official theory is that the illness was passed by Chinese bat soup, or maybe the cutesy pangolin pie, and entered the human food chain. Another theory is that it is a viral weapon that will destroy the enemy faster than fifth-generation telephones. Whether launched by China, America, or Russia is open to debate and litigation.
It was identified as a member of the not-so-cutesy Corona virus family, a bunch of guests you would invite to a party thrown for your mortal enemies. People think there are 18 other coronavirus strains, just like Heinz with its pointless 57 varieties of baked beans. In fact, the number 19 just refers to the year 2019, when this little bastard was first identified, tagged, photographed, and then caged for deportation. It works like other viruses, by lying on a surface until picked up by a passing ape pushing a trolley full of toilet paper rolls. The infected person then either lives (about 95% do) or dies (3% draw the short straw) or isn't sure if they are alive or dead to accept the consequences (2% pointed-fence-sitters). Handsies and smoochers are most at risk to catch the virus, though the data from Iran (where the most smoochable always walk ten paces behind you but the entire Politburo is wheezing) suggests something else.
Coronavirus behaves like a boa constrictor. It wraps its invisible coils around you, making it very difficult to breathe. You will also feel both flushed and elated at the same time, before sinking to the ground in exhaustion. Then coronavirus will let its many bacterial and viral friends finish you off. Normally, you should be able to survive if you have gym-ready antibodies. If you don't, then make sure you have your credit card ready at the pearly gates.
Coronavirus sufferers report that in the fevered state, all they can hear is Paul Hardcastle's song "19". While the hit was a life-saver for that perennial stutterer, the experience is profoundly unpleasant for the patient. Some have fictional flashbacks to Sylvester Stallone's winning the Vietnam War. Older sufferers may prefer the Rolling Stones' "19th Nervous Breakdown" pounding inside their heads.
The virus acts like any other pathological pathogen: it doesn't care who you are and whether you can do a favour in the future. It laughs at verbal threats, bribes, or attempts at blackmail. Coronavirus is a nihilist; it can cross mountains and oceans and strike without mercy. Like Dirty Harry, it loudly whispers: "You've gotta ask yourself one question. Do you feel lucky, punk?"
No sooner had the virus emerged than Public Health mobilised to predict its spread. Scientists started feeding Garbage Into their computer models to get the requisite Garbage Out. The chief model was that of the London Imperial Margarine College. It predicted 2.2 million Coronavirus deaths in the United States, 800,000 in not-so-merrie Olde England, and over 100% of the population of China itself. It did not help that the study was published in the London parody magazine Lampooncet, though nobody reads it anyway. Critics said the author was untrustworthy, having made other preposterous predictions, such as that a mulatto would enter the British royalty and a conservative PM would embrace yet another high-speed rail project just as Britons suddenly stopped wanting to travel anywhere. However, as televangelists always say, "Can you afford it if it turns out you're wrong?" So the world's government got started to protect their people.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) (I said the World Health Organisation. What are you, deaf?) insisted that originator Red China had assured it that person-to-person contagion was flatly impossible; for the Coronavirus to spread, you virtually had to own a rare pangolin, groom it for hours, and then let your neighbour groom it for hours more, then grind it up and both eat it. Health authorities on Taiwan emailed the WHO that they did have a case of human-to-human transmission. However, the WHO deals with facts, one of which is that Taiwan is merely a fantasy land dreamt up by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Coronavirus has a unique attribute that is baffling the medical community. A great many of its victims are in their eighties and nineties, some already suffering acute respiratory failure and exhaustion from carrying around an iron lung. Internists have never encountered such a case of sudden-onset ageing (outside of Star Trek) and still do not know how the virus achieves this effect — nor how to reverse it, outside of watching reruns of the show.
- Bloody kids
- Nursing homes
- Churches 
- New York because of the Italians
- San Francisco because of the Chinese
- Cities with international airports because of travellers who have visited as many countries as possible.
- Nice relaxing cruises, where you quietly spend all your time inside a room with no windows (because you could not afford the quarters with windows or porches).
- Golf clubs owned by Donald Trump
- Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden
- Rand Paul's heart 
- Prince Philip 
- Call centres
- Private tax offices
- Public transit
- Firearm shops
- South Pole
The world's first response was indifference ("What can you expect from a socialised country?"). This was followed by curiosity ("They can build a hospital in a week??"), with a sceptical minority asking why the "hospital" had bars on the windows. Then, when the first Europeans started to catch it, absolute panic. What looked no bigger than a gnat's fart in December 2019 was closing down the world three months later. Countries adopted different methods of dealing with the virus, but typically a full hose-down and scrub.
An early hot spot was in the Vince Lombardi region of Italy. The region, with its many spas and Assisted Living Centres, is a holiday paradise for a virus that attacks oldsters' lungs. To boot, the region has many comings and goings with China, as it participates in the country's Belt and Road project designed to shuttle malcontents in one place to re-education camps in another. As the Coronavirus struck the Lombardi region, anti-Chinese sentiment flared up so badly that Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte suggested that all Italians should take the time to "hug a Chinaman" (a reprise of his ill-fated 2005 "Lick a Leper" campaign). The effects on public health were so disappointing that the rest of the world resolved to do the exact opposite, a reaction now called "social distancing".
In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson premiered his Winston Churchill impersonation. He talked of coronavirus as if it were 1940 and the hun was just across the English Channel. His experts said that, if sixty per cent of Britons fell ill, then "herd immunity" would protect all. Sixty per cent of experts, on the other hand, diagnosed this as "bollocks". By March, Johnson reversed track and followed other countries, albeit very slowly.
However, shortly after declaring war against the virus, Johnson ingested it. Donald Trump offered to write a prescription of his favourite folk remedy, but Johnson protested that it was for malaria. After years of criticising the British National Health Service (NHS), Johnson now had to enter it. Beyond coughing and wheezing, moreover, he had to come face-to-face with foreigners, as the British don't train their own surgeons. While insisting he was in full control, he delegated his authority to various doctors, "experts", and ministers like Michael Gove and Dominic Raab, which sounds suspiciously foreign in its own right. To everyone's surprise, Johnson pulled through, with grudging new respect for Her Majesty's bureaucracy.
Sweden was a notorious outlier, refusing to mandate social distancing nor that everyone walk away from his job — this being the traditional responsibility of labour unions. It was business-as-usual in Sweden, and the Coronavirus ravaged the country, resulting in statistics that were indistinguishable from any other country. One positive development was that activist Greta Thunberg did walk away from her job; the world was not in the mood for her message that we save the planet by staying home and staring at the wall, as most were already doing just that.
- North Korea
In North Korea, another outlier, dictator Kim Jong-un mysteriously dropped out of public view in April. The international community speculated that he had contracted the Coronavirus to bravely lead his hermit nation by example. Reports of early Coronavirus infections stunned observers by numbering in the single digits, and experts suspected the patients had been snuffed out and dumped in shallow graves faster than Down's Syndrome fetuses in Denmark. But it was unlikely Kim had ordered that same treatment for himself. North Korea remains the world's only opaque dictatorship offering world-class free health care where the strongman, on the first onset of the sniffles, doesn't take a Lear Jet straight to the Mayo Clinic, so Kim's prognosis is unknown.
In the United States, President Donald Trump concluded that the Coronavirus was just another plot to wreck his Presidency, a conspiracy of the Democratic Party, George Soros, and Greta Thunberg. Trump, widely viewed as tyrannical and racist, delivered in spades by instituting a ban on flights from China, later extended to Europe (except the UK), later extended to the UK. Eventually the only people allowed in were Saudi Arabian suicide bombers. The fact that the ban took place two weeks before his own health officials dismissed concerns over the virus, and four weeks before Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited the nation to saunter down to Chinatown for dinner, did not keep them from accusing Trump of being late-to-the-table and too distracted to govern. After all, a Bill of Impeachment and trial in the Senate should have been no distraction at all. However, that tough water hazard on the 14th hole at MAGA Lago may have been.
In mid-February 2020, a world traveller visited a nursing home in Washington state, whose residents began to die. Although that's just what nursing home residents do, their relatives insisted on autopsies, and the corpses had Coronavirus. And so did the relatives, some of whom began dropping off too. Eventually, even government could see a pattern, and it began cancelling things to limit the contagion, from sporting events to solitary car trips to the ocean. Seattle residents traded their obsession with coffee for Purell. The virus had truly gone viral. The President's posture was "just act normally" but the governor's was "don't go anywhere or do anything". The only positive development was that the sleazy Finance Manager at the car dealership didn't insist on shaking your hand.
Coronavirus eventually stowed away on a plane to the East Coast and infected a celebrity patient: the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Now even Trump, who had been approving party favours for the day it hit 30,000, had to take notice, as it was now going quickly in the wrong direction. He appointed Vice-President Mike Pence to run a Coronavirus task force. Pence was a trusted member of the Administration — mostly by televangelists — and changed his style to lead the nation in prayer without laying-on-of-hands.
The health agencies insisted that the American people must all tread water until the government could guarantee no one would ever again catch the Coronavirus. The goal was to flatten the curve — not to not die, but to die slowly enough that the hospitals wouldn't have to pay overtime and we wouldn't have to dig up the Capitol Mall to dump corpses.
Trump avoided more charges of being dictatorial by responding that a lockdown could be achieved only state-by-state. This outsider could not realise how much the fifty governors — normally fighting over a petty state budget and how late taverns could stay open — would relish their new role as emergency schoolmarms. They proclaimed Executive Orders and emceed a crisis press conference every afternoon. Citizens did not have to cease eating and breathing entirely, just stop doing what their governor deemed "non-essential", such as home improvement, gardening, and knitting. Most got either a notice that their job was "essential" or a pink slip. Home Depot distributed masks to health care workers, which was not only good publicity but got it declared essential. Consumers remained free to buy whiskey, lottery tickets, smokes, and anything else either run or surtaxed by the state. Whether procuring guns, abortions, or Easter services was "essential" depended on the governor's party; his citizens were to weather the crisis by all agreeing with him.
The lockdown deftly ruined
- Trump's record of light regulation
- The low unemployment rate
- Everything else Trump was going to say to win re-election in 2020
- The U.S. economy, also its military preparedness
Trump's only error was the conspiracy theory, as he did it all himself.
- Virtual campaign
It also ruined in-person campaigning for the 2020 election, in which Joe Biden emerged as Trump's likely opponent. Biden, who survived the fight against "N1H1", was not fazed by "Covid-9", nor even the news that the Democratic Convention would be conducted by Skype. He campaigned over YouTube from his basement, mostly proving he could not tell where the camera was nor what was on the teleprompter.
Trump's own TV show was in the White House Briefing Room (every other chair removed), with daily jousting with reporters over whether it would have been racist if an aide whose name no one knew had referred to the disease as the Kung Flu. The faithful saw the President's remarks on Fox News, as the other networks cut away to instead broadcast expert analysis of what he was probably saying.
Both telecasts turned therapeutic. Biden featured wife "Dr. Jill", while Dr. Trump dispensed therapy to the masses, from touting an old malaria drug to speculating about directing therapy into the lungs. Backers huffed fish-tank cleaner, bleach, and ultraviolet light bulbs to try to kill the virus in place.
Phase Two of the response to the Coronavirus was Congress's printing money to compensate Americans for Phase One. This bill, costing $2,200,000 million, was delayed a week by jockeying to insert favours into it, delayed another week so that Congress's finest minds could invent a title for the bill that spelled out C.A.R.E.S., and delayed a bit longer to make sure every check included Trump's name. Lest we forget. Trump deftly turned from giving lip service to "fiscal restraint" to his new role as Santa Claus. The Cares Act sought to keep America from locking up when first-of-the-month bills came due on April 1 — with a $1,200 payment to everyone around April 15. Most Americans not on direct deposit eventually got a check over the next five months.
Small businesses got a "Paycheck Protection Act" to try to keep them intact even though it was too risky to receive customers, and too risky to call in Production to make anything to sell. This was a rare case where government grants an "entitlement" but puts an upper limit on it. Businesses got in if their bank could both get at the money and decide quickly it wanted to lend it. The rest had to wait for a reload, which had to wait for something never with an upper limit, Congressional squabbling. Finally, big business got what big business always gets: neat earmarks of billions.
Phase Two involved precise measurement of the outbreak. Every drive-by shooting and cocaine overdose where the corpse had Coronavirus was counted as a "death from Coronavirus". The Cares Act paid hospitals a bonus for treating Coronavirus patients, and strangely, everyone was one. And newspaper websites knew you wouldn't read an obit for a silent-movie star, unless he dies of "Coronavirus complications".
Phase Three is more instructive than a year of Political Science. Nothing happened, no decisions were made, discussions and hashtags simply turned from "staying safe" to "reopening the country". Debate was merely about how to reopen it. The answer: With tons of new rules proving the bureaucracy had been right all along, and nothing so messy as the right "to peaceably assemble for redress of grievances", e.g. being cooped up for six weeks. America's freedom was to be restored slowly enough that nothing could go wrong.
What the U.S. needed now was a "V-shaped recession", economic results that surged forward as mightily as emergency regulations had torpedoed them. Larry Kudlow, Chair of the White House Optimism Council, guaranteed that, with "the right policy", a gifted entrepreneur like Trump could easily snap all the pieces back into place even though:
- The Cares Act paid a bonus for being out of work, whereas returning to work did not
- Millions who had worked for companies with no customers had found something else to do
- No one will want to buy anything until they work through all that food they panic-bought.
The astute reader has grasped that there is a final phase, that of finger-pointing, recrimination, and lawsuits. This because, despite the scary computer forecasts, the Coronavirus was essentially just a pesky chest cold except if you are a ninety-something with diabetes. In fact, as tests emerged not just for Coronavirus but for antibodies to it, it emerged that huge numbers had gotten it, and gotten over it, without ever even seeing a doctor; half the "patients" never know it. This virus is a pussy. Nothing like Ebola. Those were the days!
The influenza and common-cold season in Spring 2020 was mild mostly because when you trash your entire life with the single goal of not catching the Coronavirus, you don't catch anything else either. This is the only reason the Coronavirus even out-killed the 'flu. Thus, in Summer (given that a Presidential election was on tap and vibrant economic activity was not) the nation anticipated robust debate over whose fault this entire screw-up was. Happily, each citizen will have that check for $1,200 to buy popcorn to watch the debate. (A single cup of popcorn, as the amount will be N$1.20 after they call in and redenominate the money.)
No, wait, not so fast
The end of the Coronavirus crisis occurred too fast for the average American. Recall, these are the folks who hope to save all the puppies (Does everyone know how much I love puppies?) if they can do so by simply eating a certain type of greasy chips. Americans do not so much want to stay healthy but take easy action to show all the neighbours they are on the right side. Coronavirus changed the rules suddenly. For example, it used to prove your bona fides to bring your own fabric bags to the supermarket. However, when officials decided the bottom of the bag might harbour not just E. Coli in the weeks-old beef blood but N. Corona, what was right instantly became wrong. Some places mandated single-use plastic bags, the ones that impelled people in India to toss look-alikes into the ocean. Later in the crisis, this reversed; confusing.
Americans needed a simpler way to prove their valor. Masks filled this void. Masks defeated the coronavirus — including masks that would not trap a virus, masks that would not trap a droplet allowing a virus to hitch along, fabric masks with a Donald Trump logo, or even crocheted masks. The effort to dress everyone alike began in July 2020, a month after coronavirus ceased to be a pandemic. When neither the state nor the city would issue a mandate, the Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable worked the phones. In businesses not belonging to either organisation (yes, Sahib, that means you), the threat of lawsuits claiming "I got coronavirus and it's your fault" was persuasive. Before long, America got in touch with its Inner Nag, and masks were no longer the mark of the burglar but the badge of responsibility, de rigeur from voting to banking.
Again, the 2020 Presidential campaign was unfolding at the same time. The Democratic Party nominated Joe Biden, who became The Mask. This kept voters from seeing his nose and mouth, which had not been a problem, though it did not keep them from hearing his voice, which remained one. Trump eschewed masks (though also espousing them) and held mask-less rallies, like the cannibals in Lucifer's Hammer who carried a community cookpot. Herman Cain succumbed to the virus, virtually days after being seen in public without his mask. What more proof do you need?
Trump gets it
A month before the election, Trump got the coronavirus. This happened a week after he announced 150 million instant tests to be parachuted across America, enough that the test's pretty-good 4% false positives would overwhelm the 2% who were actually sick. Trump was surely a goner, and the opposition, which had spent three years trying to get him declared unfit to serve, thought it was a lock now. Then again, Trump had been a goner for colluding with Russia, then for telephoning Ukraine. He was on his sixth or seventh life.
Trump's positive test came a week after the First Presidential Debate, in which Republicans thought Biden (whose performance was less than stellar) would fake a case of Corona so as to not have to debate again. Imagine their surprise when Trump (whose performance was less than stellar) went down first. Either way, Americans would have to look elsewhere for a good shouting match.
Walter Reed Hospital gave Trump oxygen. The sceptical press merely got denials and a cock-'n'-bull timetable. After several mysterious treatments not ready for retail sale, Trump emerged and diagnosed himself cured, better-than-normal, non-contagious, and completely immune — the only politician anywhere who could actually shake hands. He resumed his daily rallies, promising throngs that they could take what he took and he would get it for them for free.
Trump may have been cleared for face-to-face politics, but the rest of the nation wasn't. You didn't have to be there to vote in Congress and, in most states, you didn't have to be there to vote for the next President. And unexplained millions elected Biden without being there, on the strength of his promise to mobilise against the tiny Hun, and not just the big, orange-haired one.
Declare victory and go home
Cynical Republicans expected the Coronavirus crisis to evaporate once it had done its job of electing Biden. Instantly, the nationwide tests were dialled back to only detect disease, the W.H.O. reminded doctors not to test people who didn't seem to be sick (or at least, test twice, ka-ching!), and Fauci declared the outbreak had "plateaued".
The only fly in this ointment was ... Biden. Though he declared numerous other existential crises, including money inequality and being nasty to African Americans, Biden the Covid Killer doubled down on masks — but only when taking mass transit, visiting the Post Office, or crossing a state line. Not, say, when celebrating Inauguration.
Two days into his term, Biden said, "There isn't much we can do." This about-face was still science-based, as the states shut tightest were not moving the needle except on suicides. America had a pretty normal 2021, except for inflation, the Afghanistan thing, and the fact that hospital workers and police were losing their jobs for refusing to get the vaccine, in the six months it took the courts to start striking down the mandates. The CDC clarified that a "vaccine" didn't have to actually protect you against getting the disease, and a "booster" didn't have to actually be a booster but could be a third and fourth dose of the same thing, hoping it would work. But it mostly didn't; Covid itself evolved into Omicron, frighteningly contagious, frighteningly mild, and missing that key protein against which the vaccine trained people's immune systems. In the winter, the masks went back on.
In 2022, America's wisest schemers woke up. The mid-term election was in November, Biden's polls were all underwater, and the country needed a different
distraction direction. One year late, Congress doubled the CDC's budget again and the CDC returned the favour by making itself scarce. Russia cooperated by invading Ukraine, everyone was re-distracted, and Biden was given an entirely different arena in which to underperform.
For coronavirus, the outlook couldn't be better. No one loves it, but everyone knows its name, giving it a status comparable to David Hasselhoff. It cannot be bombed, bullied, or starved into submission.
Nor the makers of Corona beer. They have a massive stock of unsold beer, as it is widely thought to be the cause of coronavirus and 38% of Americans say they wouldn't buy Corona "under any circumstances" because of the outbreak, but the cases could be stacked to form a wall between the USA and Mexico, where the beer is brewed. Trump always said the Mexicans were going to pay for the wall.
- Nomenclature hasn't been agreed upon. Using the wrong term can incite fisticuffs faster than trying to snag the last roll of toilet paper at the supermarket.
- Bacteria are booking right now.
- This fact officially killed off romance faster than California's written contract before wet kisses.
- God has a dark sense of humour.
- Evidence required.
- He's dead.
- Can I say that?
- Both of them.
- Remnants of the Tea Party movement did assemble in Washington, D.C., conveniently both protesting the emergency measures and exchanging microbes.