So how are you feeling? Do you have a fever? Are you coughing? Experiencing shortness of breath?
Welcome to the pollen season in Houston. Or, worst-case scenario, you might have coronavirus.
It’s hard to get through a conversation these days without someone mentioning the word coronavirus. We’ve all heard the jokes: “I think I have just a touch of the coronavirus. Maybe Corona Light.” And then there’s, “What’s worse than getting coronavirus? Getting Lyme disease, too.”
Thank goodness we have a chief executive here in the United States who has enough presence of mind to realize that he does not possess the intellectual prowess to steer our country through this kind of crisis. No, in a speech to calm a frightened nation, President Trump turned over the coronavirus managerial stethoscope to his Vice President and Chief Toady, Mike Pence.
Because who knows more about science and medicine than Mike Pence, the guy who is so distrustful of his own biological impulses that he refuses to be in a room alone with any woman other than his wife, who he calls Mommy? The same guy who, in 2000, wrote an op-ed insisting that “Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill.” OK then.
Trump himself said that his vice president “has a certain talent for this.” But as far as we can tell, Mike Pence’s sole experience in dealing with a health crisis hearkens back to 2014 when, as governor of Indiana, Pence shepherded his state through the largest outbreak of HIV and hep C in Hoosier history. His slow response in ameliorating the crisis, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, contributed to a marked rise in infection there.
Nonetheless, Trump praised his new coronavirus guru for establishing “great health care” in Indiana.
“President Trump has no higher priority than the health, safety, and well-being of Americans,” Pence oozed while accepting his new responsibilities, adding that Trump had taken “unprecedented action” since the outbreak of the virus by shutting down travel from affected areas.
Pence said Trump had directed him to “lead a whole-of-government approach” to the infectious disease.
“This is not the time for partisanship. The American people expect us to work together and I promise you this president, this administration, is going to meet with leaders of both parties,” he cooed in a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Pence failed to mention that the night before this bold announcement, Trump had misspelled the name of the virus in a Tweet, calling it the “coronavirus.” And don’t forget, Trump slashed funding to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
I feel healthier already, don’t you?
To his credit, Trump responded to the threat of the coronavirus relatively quickly, compared to his Republican presidential predecessors’ response to another critical health crisis. I’m referring, of course, to the early 1980s when HIV and AIDS were decimating the world’s gay male population. Though HIV was first identified in 1981, U.S. President Ronald Reagan failed to so much as utter the word AIDS until 1985. By that time, more than 13,000 Americans had died of HIV/AIDS.
As this issue of MONTROSE STAR went to press, the New York Times reported approximately 81,000 known cases of coronavirus globally, with nearly 3,000 deaths. The “vast majority” of those infected experienced only mild symptoms and are making full recoveries.
So don’t be so quick to cancel your Chinatown dinner reservations. Many of Houston’s Chinese-owned businesses are suffering not from the virus itself, but from the fear of the virus. HoustonPublicMedia.org reports that Ming Hsu, owner of Tainan Bistro, a restaurant in Chinatown, has lost more than 60 percent of his business to ethnic paranoia.
Still nervous? The World Health Organization says the best way to avoid coronavirus is relatively simple. When your hands are visibly dirty, wash them with soap and running water. If your hands are not visibly dirty, frequently clean them by using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. It’s also wise to avoid close contact with people who have a fever and are coughing.
In other words, do what reasonable adults do every day.
Threatening as the coronavirus is, it sure ain’t no HIV/AIDS. UNAIDS estimates that as many as 43.8 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since 1981.
The CDC’s most recent data (2018) indicates that male-to-male sexual contact still leads the pack in terms of “new HIV diagnoses among adults and adolescents in the United States and dependent areas by transmission.”
That’s right — for almost 40 years gay men have been the undisputed champions when it comes to new HIV diagnoses. It’s a shame that in all those years nobody has figured out how gay men might avoid sharing the HIV virus with each other while having sex. Maybe we should try putting a surgical mask on a penis.