As a boy, I read Sax Rohmer’s “Fu Manchu” novels. The evil doctor came out of China to try to dominate the world, using what he described as “fungi and my tiny allies, the bacilli” and leaving conventional weapons to his minions. His opponent was the doughty Englishman Sir Denis Nayland Smith, armed with a Browning pistol and occasionally a Colt. The stuff was racist as hell with a lot of “yellow peril” overtones.
Meet “Flu Manchu.” A lot of parallels there with the COVID-19 virus, ya think? My Brownings and Colts won’t help with this stuff. We’re seeing a bell curve of predictions. One side points out that most of us don’t (yet) know anyone who’s died from it or even been exposed to it, while at the other end of that bell curve well-credentialed people are predicting as many as half a million deaths from the Corona virus by summer. We are in any case seeing a panic unparalleled in living memory by anyone but centenarians.
Broadway theatres have gone dark. In Seattle, at least fifty restaurants closed in a mere two-week span. Sports events of even the largest scope are being shut down. In Chicago, one cancelled convention alone cost the hotel industry some 47,000 room-nights of occupancy. Airplane flights are being cancelled for lack of passengers, with jetliners sidelined in mothballs. Store shelves are bare of hand sanitizer, isopropyl alcohol, and bleach (understandable). The toilet paper shelves are almost empty, which has caused some pundits to scoff, “What’s wrong with people? It’s killer flu, not dysentery!” The skeptics need to look a little deeper. Shutdowns of international transportation of product are going to have a profound ripple effect on domestic product transportation. Stocking up on TP actually makes sense. Look at how many people will be working from home in the interim, using their own toilets another eight hours a day instead of workplace restrooms. And, uh, food, and all that…
I hope the skeptics are right and it’s all a relative tempest in a teapot. After all, regular flu(s) kill up to 60,000 Americans a year, and all our society does is have drugstores post signs reminding us to get our flu shots. In 2009, it was estimated that 12,000 Americans died in the Swine Flu epidemic (and I don’t recall Republicans blaming Democrat President Obama for that, but things seem to be different in that regard now…)
But even if Flu Manchu turns out to be a paper tiger, the damage will be measurable more in dollar signs than in the sign of the caduceus. Witness the plunge of the stock market. My own investments have taken a brutal hit, and I’m sure yours have too. Optimists say it will bounce back, and opportunists see the “buy low” side of “buy low, sell high” beckoning. It may indeed be a good time to buy stock in cruise lines and airlines and such…if they survive the long shutdown. Service industry staff laid off are looking at time in the unemployment compensation lines. Schools are shutting down all over the place. It’s hitting adult education, too, and that’s what this writer does, so a heavy hit there is a fait accompli. A few days from now I was scheduled to be running my Panel of Experts on Deadly Force/Firearms Training for the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association. It has been postponed to August because of the pandemic. (Good news there: folks with the best input from government agencies are indicating that the nightmare should be fading by then.) The Rangemaster Tactical conference has been canceled too.
But, hey, enough of my gloom and doom. Let’s hear from you readers. What’s happening where you are, and how are you and yours and your employers and workmates coping with it?