‘Quality,’ not ‘Quantity’ of Infections is How I Judge my Work, Says Kevin the Coronavirus
By Larry Kahaner
This article first appeared in The Haven.
Me: I am honored that you chose me among all other journalists to be your first interview. Why me?
Virus: You’re not wearing a mask. I find them offensive. Can we move a little closer?
Me: Umm, okay. Mr. or is it Ms. Coronavirus, tell me a bit about yourself.
Virus: Please, call me Kevin. We are asexual, by the way, and Kevin is a nickname that I prefer instead of Coronavirus which sounds pompous to me. I’m not anything special. I work hard, I evolve. I like to think that I’m giving a 110% when I’m out there in the field.
Me: But you’re a novel virus. That means you’re new and never seen before.
Virus: I’m not out there alone. It’s a team effort. All of us viruses — and a shout-out to my bacteria colleagues — we’re all out there just doing the best that we can. Working together to infect mankind. Wait, is that offensive? Do you say humankind now?
Me: Either is fine. Did you always want to be a virus?
Virus: Yes, ever since I began replicating. It’s in my RNA, so to speak. My great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great-grandfather, was responsible for the 1918 Spanish Flu. As a youngster, I would sit and listen to his stories about how he spread chaos and death. It inspired me to be the best parasite that I can.
Me: He was responsible for 25 million deaths. Is that your goal?
Virus: If only. (Laughs) I sit on the shoulders of giants. If it weren’t for those who came before, none of us viruses would be here. Lookit, my second cousin, once removed, H1N1, my half-sister Ebola, and HIV — I think he’s like a distant relative through my mother’s side but I haven’t done the genealogy — they’re all winners in their own right. They paved the way for microbes like me. You asked me about infection rates, so I’ll be honest with you. I don’t look at the numbers. Sure, they’re a measure of success. I know that humans are obsessed with the count. I get that. Hell, CNN has a daily tally, but I’m more interested in the quality of my work.
Virus: Sure. You want to display some verve, some joie de vivre, you know, something special. I’m proud of how my viral spike peplomers enter the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 receptor. I’m also particularly delighted at how I can spread even when my host is asymptomatic. Truth be told, it’s my best feature, and I don’t mind saying so.
Me: Can you give our audience an example of viruses that don’t quite meet your obviously high standards?
Virus: Let’s be clear. I don’t set the standards. It’s you humans. If it weren’t for you, we’d be stuck inside bats or pangolins. But since you asked… I know that I’m not going to make any friends here… but take Norovirus. Her husband and I have been pals since we were kids. I was best man at their wedding. She has since cheated on him, but that’s another story. What do you have with Norovirus, some diarrhea, vomiting, and that’s all well and good but how many deaths? A few hundred, and it’s cruise ship people for heaven’s sake. I don’t like to brag but I’ve infected heads of state. That Boris Johnson fellow, for instance. I turned that guy around. Nobody with Noro was singing from their balconies in Italy.
Me: Sounds like you don’t like Norovirus.
Virus: Look, she should live and be well. We all have our jobs to do but she gives a bad name to the rest of us with high R-naughts who are causing worldwide chaos. That’s all I want to say on that. I’d like to keep personalities out of it. Do you think you can move a little closer?
Me: What’s next for you?
Virus: I’m just going to keep on doing what I’m doing. I show up every day and do what’s expected of me. Things may slow down a bit for me during the summer but I’ll be back in the autumn. I got a call the other day from seasonal Influenza and we’re working on a… I don’t know exactly what you call it, kind of a partnership you might say. We’ve got some routines to work out but I think it’s gonna be a real showstopper. Team work make the dream work.
Me: Our time is up. Thanks for coming into the studio.
Virus: My pleasure. I hope we’ll talk again. Let’s shake on it.
Larry Kahaner has been a serious writer and journalist for decades. Now, he’s not — serious, that is.