Ladies and gentlemen, this is not a drill. Over 160,000 people have been infected worldwide with COVID-19, and more than 6000 people have lost their lives. The total number has doubled in 11 days, and is doing so quicker in the United States. We are in the midst of a pandemic with the worst ahead of us.
Two weeks ago, when there were around 50 cases in the United States, Br. Tito and I thought it might be interesting and relevant to talk about one of our favorite movies, the pandemic thriller Contagion. Yesterday, when we finally recorded the episode, our tone was completely different: the movie was an eery reflection of reality.
As you will see when you listen to the episode, there are many things that the creators got absolutely right about such a situation—where a virus comes form, how it spreads, the process for trying to contain it, the fear that surrounds it. In many ways, it is quite prophetic. And yet, there is one glaring difference between what we see on the screen and what we are seeing in our world today: many people still are not taking the situation seriously. Until yesterday, the President of the United States was shaking hands, saying the situation was under control and refusing to take responsibility his administration’s lack of preparedness; major news network were calling the virus a “hoax.” Many see the measures taken by local government and business leaders as an overreaction and inconvenience. Some are going about their normal lives with a sense of invincibility. While the CDC is stressing social distancing and avoiding crowds of more than 10, it was reported that Florida beaches are packed with tourists and spring break visitors. Right now, this virus is spreading at the same rate right in the United States as it is in Italy, a country, I should point out, that is at the point of collapse.
This is not a drill.
Br. Tito and I offer this podcast today to exhort everyone, especially young people, to take this seriously. Stop acting so selfishly and remember that, as Catholics, we have a responsibility to uphold the common good. We who are under the age of 60 may not have a serious risk of dying from this virus, but we do pose a serious risk to those who are over that age, and we most certainly can push the system over its breaking point by causing a spike in cases.
Wash your hands. Avoid crowds. Stay home.
If you’re looking for something to do, how about prayer? We always say that we don’t have enough for it, so here you go. What about reading a book, studying scripture, or learning more about your faith? (I know a guy on YouTube that has some great videos explaining things…) Maybe spend some time with your family, connect with old friends on the phone, or just catch up on some sleep. What we have before is a tremendous opportunity to take a step back and ground ourselves in what truly matters.
The specific virus in Contagion may be a bit different from what we’re experiencing, but the potential reality is the same: fear and misinformation could lead to a collapse of society. It is a cautionary tale. I suggest we take it seriously.