The Path of Coronavirus

There's No Telling What May Be Left in Its Wake

I had wondered why Italy has been so hard hit by the coronavirus. It has an elderly, at-risk population, but that would not explain why the epidemic started in the north, in Lombardy.

Then I remembered a New Yorker article of a few years ago. "Made in Italy" is a coveted label, but the Italians have long stopped having children and the native workforce is thin. Luxury good makers kept their workshops in Lombardy, but staffed them with Chinese workers.

There are thousands of Chinese workers in Lombardy, and the writer remarked upon their longevity: over the course of years, not a single worker died! What was happening? Visas and passports were traded or passed on; the Italian government had no idea who was really in Italy from China.

I suspect this contributed to Italy's early entrance into the pandemic. Italy, like everyone else, would have been hit eventually, but this may be why they were hit first in Europe.

What will happen the day the hospitals have twice the number of critical patients they can handle? How will they decide whom to treat? If hospitals decide to concentrate on the patients that they have the greatest likelihood of saving, that means that the groups in chronic poor health will not receive treatment. And those groups in Baltimore are poor and black, especially drug addicts, diabetics, and the obese. Already there is a 20-year gap between the neighborhoods that have the greatest and lowest longevity – far northwest Baltimore (Jewish and indeed heavily Orthodox Jewish) and west Baltimore's Sandtown (100% poor and black). How many drug addicts are going to survive? Would ICUs be more devoted to them than say, to a 40-year-old mother of children who is otherwise in good health? And that mother would almost always be white or Asian.

I foresee a proliferation of conspiracy theories (e.g., current ones are that the virus escaped from a bioweapons lab or that the US planted it in Wuha or that it's just being hyped for political agendas). I also fear much bitterness in the aftermath of the epidemic; I hope I am wrong.

Leon J. Podles is a senior editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity. His latest book is Losing the Good Portion: Why Men Are Alienated from Christianity (St. Augustine's Press, 2019). He and his wife Mary (author of the Touchstone column A Thousand Words) are the parents of six children. He resides in Baltimore, Maryland.

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