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Corona Journal #6: The Many-Faced Virus

Published on 16th April 2020

WARNING: The following is not a piece of fact-based journalism, but a real-time dystopic documentation inspired by the surreality we live in. Reader discretion is advised.

Location: The Netherlands

Confirmed cases: 29.214 (+1.061 /24hrs)

Deaths: 3.315 (+181 /24hrs)

Days in self isolation: 34 

Symptoms: clear

Body temperature: 37.0C

Blood oxygen levels: 98%

We know so much, yet so little.

My work as a journalist takes me close to the frontlines of the war against the virus. Granted, I do this everyday from the same corner of my couch and my weapons are my laptop and smartphone. But I'm working upwards of 12 hours a day, and I've probably made more calls in the past weeks, than I ever have in my whole adult life.

The other day an emergency room doctor told me that people were showing up looking perfectly fine, walking into the ER with slight shortness of breath. But when checked more thoroughly, they had blood oxygen levels of 60 percent. Normally, with those values people should be knocked out cold in the ICU with a tube down their throats pumping oxygen into their lungs 24/7.

Then yesterday an intensive care nurse was talking about two patients who lost their lives because of extensive blood-clotting in the lungs, something they had never seen before with an acute respiratory disease. They were dumbstruck, now looking at blood thinners as a possible treatment.

In severe cases patients develop an obscure condition called – I kid you not – a 'cytokine storm'. The immune system overreacts, causing runaway inflammation, often leading to death.

This virus can attack the kidneys, the digestive system, and your heart. It can attack your nervous system and lead to a loss in your sense of taste and smell. It can attack the testes, leading to infertility. It can even attack the immune system directly by infecting T-cells, which makes experts in China compare it to HIV.

This beast can turn your own body against you.

Scientists all across the globe are scrambling to understand this virus. Never before has a virus genome been sequenced at this speed, and knowledge been shared this far and wide.

And our non-pharmaceutical interventions like sheltering in place, and closing our borders are finally starting to bear fruit: the pressure on hospitals is decreasing. People are clamoring to get life 'back to normal'.

But in the far East we now hear reports of a second wave. Singapore flattened the curve early, but is now taking more serious measures than it did during the first wave. They let their guard down. 

I hate to break it to you: this is our new normal. 

And we are in for a rough couple of years. Because make no mistake, we still find ourselves fully at the mercy of this mysterious foe. 

This is just the end of the beginning.