Op-Ed: Please Respect the Coronavirus

While some of us are enjoying social distancing more than others, we need to understand something.

It’s possible that COVID-19 could grow to become responsible for the highest amount of death in American history. Greater than both World Wars. Greater than the Spanish Flu. Greater than the Civil War.

This isn’t something we can shrug off or out-muscle. Our prayers and thoughts are well-intentioned, but we have to look at this disease practically and respectfully.

Today I listened to Andy Slavitt, the former head of Medicare and Medicaid, on Adrian Wojnarowski’s Woj Pod. He told ESPN’s senior NBA writer that 500,000-4,000,000 people could end up dying from the Coronavirus.

About 500,000 people died in the Civil War. Cedar City’s population is less than 35,000. If we don’t take precautions to protect the elderly or with compromised immune systems, we could lose four million people. Think about that. That’s the entire population of Los Angeles dying, and all in a span of maybe two years.

“We aren’t even close to the apex of this thing,” Wojnarowski reported. “The health care system is overwhelmed already.”

Wojnarowski also reported that we have to face a “grim reality” where the healthcare system is calling retired doctors back to the hospital, graduating students early to get them in the field and hoping that somehow this gets better. Colorado recently asked all licensed and un-licensed nurses to consider coming back to work.

Slavitt said there is hope, but the only hope is through the aggressive practice of social distancing.

That means sacrificing normalcy. That means a shelter in place order in California. That means spring breakers still partying in Florida. 

How can people be so selfish? This thing can spread by using an ATM. Can you imagine the damage it can do when cultivated in partying Petri dishes?

“Are we giving people false hope about the sports leagues returning as soon as June?” Woj asked Slavitt. “Are doing a disservice to the seriousness of this by talking about games returning that soon?”

“I think so,” Slavitt responded. “There’s going to be a lot of political and social pressure to get the NBA stood up as soon as possible… If [the NBA does return] it will not be because it’s in our best health care interest.”

The scary thing about this virus is its potential to disrupt our sense of normalcy, but in a dark and foreboding way. If we aren’t careful, a lot of people are going to die. 

That’s a lot of responsibility for each and every one of us, even if there’s only been one confirmed case of COVID-19 in southern Utah. Wojnarowski called the need for social distancing a “civic duty.”

This haunting invitation made on The Woj Pod was like an echo in my ear of a similar warning I heard on another podcast, The Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz, the day before.

Dan Le Batard, the show’s host, had to abandon the radio studio ESPN had built for him to host the show from home. He had Dr. Celine Gounder on the show to discuss the seriousness of the Coronavirus.

Gounder, a clinical professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases at New York University, related the terrifying implications of being on a ventilator and the damage the disease can do to all kinds of people.

No one, not even young people, is immune to the virus. You may not die if you’re infected, but you may get PTSD and permanent lung damage from being on a ventilator.

There is so much that is worth being scared of regarding this virus. The United States of America, according to Gounder, is far behind countries like China and South Korea in terms of preparing for the disease.

“Have you ever been this scared?” Le Batard asked Gounder.


Gounderr didn’t even skip a beat in her response.

I urge you to listen to both podcasts. The truth around this thing is shocking. Woj’s podcast is more somber. Le Batard’s is more practical and jarring. Both point to how crucial strict social distancing will be.

If we don’t slow the disease down now, then we will live through one of the darkest, deadliest times in American history. There are vast implications for how this will affect the economy, politics and our healthcare system, but before we can worry about all that, we need to embrace our civic duty.

According to Gounder, young children and people in their 20s are also at risk. This is going to be a massive moment in history, and we’re barely getting started.

It’s about to feel like war-time in America. Everyone is going to have to sacrifice, and it might be for a really long time. Slavitt said we could be cooped up inside for the next 18 months while we wait for a proven vaccine to be distributed to the public.

Do not panic, but take Gounder’s recommendation and limit contact with people outside of your immediate family very severely. Don’t get too close to people at the grocery store or out in the community. It is not a recommendation; it’s your duty.

It’s been reported that pandemic experts saw the damage a virus like this could do and showed the White House in a presentation, but they were ignored. Now, nothing will be the same.

For college students, this may be the crisis that defines our generation. Many of us are too young to remember 9/11, but we will never forget COVID-19.

You can save lives by staying away from other people. Use some of that life-saving time to create and reflect on this unprecedented era. Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso rose from the ashes of World War I to bring some of the most influential art and shift in ethics the world has ever seen.

We can be a part of something similar, but first, we need to cancel everything, wash our hands every time we leave and return to our homes and wait this thing out. Take your civic duty seriously, and you’ll save some lives.

Here are some links to the podcasts on Spotify, as well as links to relevant articles about COVID-19.

Andy Slavitt on the Woj Pod:


The Dan Le Batard show (the conversation with Dr. Celine Gounder is about 48 minutes in):


Coronavirus simulations and how social distancing slows them:


Story by: Connor Sanders