A Word In Edgewise: COVID-19, Honey Badger, and William of Ockham

Photo Courtesy of Bigstock/Wladimir.B


Like disease pathogens before it, SARS-CoV-2 has one objective: finding a host within which to replicate and to continue into the future. If a virus is a difficult adversary to imagine, consider the Honey Badger: both seek sustenance, neither gives a flip about your concerns or convictions. Consider also the good Franciscan friar, William of Ockham, who figured some 700 years ago that the simplest solution to a problem is the best choice. 

COVID-19 is a new disease, with no cure or vaccine. The simplest solutions we have to avoid infection are to 1) Self-isolate, 2) Wear a face mask outside the home and keep at least six feet distance from others, and 3) Avoid time, even masked, with large groups in closed spaces. 

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, is just one of several human coronaviruses. When SARS-CoV-1 appeared in humans in 2003, it proved to be lethal, but not highly contagious. HCoV-HKU1 was highly transmissible, but relatively benign. Today’s microaggressor is both highly transmissible and potentially lethal. Being totally new to humanity, no one is known to be immune, nor are we familiar with its etiology. We’re learning that it can affect people in different and unpredictable ways. Age? Race? Gender? Blood type? Pre-existing conditions? Too many factors for anyone to assume they are personally exempt from contagion, or that even if they test asymptomatic that they cannot go on to infect family, friends, or strangers. 

Why, then, is there a growing resistance to masks, the subsequent gendering and politicizing of a piece of fabric designed to protect lives? How does wearing a mask indicate weakness, a threat to manhood, or loss of personal freedom? It is simply a readily available protection, shielding others from your exhalations, and you from theirs. Used in conjunction with social distancing guidelines, they’re undeniably effective. 

Respect the viruses. They inhabited the rainforests and savannahs long before hairless bipeds. Their generations are markedly shorter than ours, giving the them the advantage of mutating rapidly and allowing adaptation to a variety of hosts. Once they have sunk their tiny spikes into your cells, they care no more than does the Honey Badger about your politics, gender, or manhood. A meal is a meal, wearing red or blue. 

At this moment in time, we—and the rest of the world—have no solid handle on COVID-19; where it came from, how long it will persevere, how to cure it or when—if—a vaccine will be developed to overcome it. It’s over thirty years now, and none yet exists for AIDS. Until such time, as a cure is found, all will remain vulnerable, to some degree, and anyone infected, symptomatic or not, can infect others. 

What we can say with some certainty now, is that if individuals will isolate, mask in company, keep social distancing,  and observe personal cleanliness (hand-washing), they should remain COVID-19-free. It’s simple and not negotiable. Ask the virus; ask Honey Badger. Trust the good Friar. Stay alive.

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