Coronavirus Side Stories That Prove This Entire Crisis Is Weird AF

You may have noticed that the coronavirus, aka COVID-19, aka C-Veronica, has been in the news a bit. But while death counts and scary predictions dominate the headlines, stranger stories can slip beneath our notice. Worldwide affairs can bring out the best, worst, and weirdest of humanity, so put aside your concern for a moment to consider the fact that...

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9
Over Half Of South Korea's Cases Have Come From An Apocalyptic Religious Sect

Shincheonji, Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony has as dubious of a theological stance as its short story of a name implies. Its founder, Lee Man-hee, claims to be the second coming of Christ and the only man capable of understanding the Bible's hidden messages, two assertions that will make even the most laid back Pope slap you. Oh, and The Church Of Lee Man-hee Is The Messiah Who Sports A Mighty Penis has been linked to about 60% of South Korea's 4,800 coronavirus cases.

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The Korean government and mainstream Korean Christianity both view Lee as a cult leader, maybe because his Church uses its own calendar that counts up from when Lee founded it, but probably because he stages mass rallies where he tells his followers that only he, an immortal man, can save them from an imminent apocalypse. Their packed church services became a viral breeding ground, but a general stigma against Shincheonji members kept them from reporting their condition. They instead went into hiding, the stigma only grew worse as blame for the spreading virus fell on them, and police detectives raced against time to track them down. Lee has since agreed to help the government test his 200,000ish followers, but rhetoric both from the Church and against it remains nasty. The whole affair is long, sad, and should make for one hell of a TV show a few years down the line.

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8
China's Carbon Emissions Have Plummeted

The thing about being a ruthless communist dictatorship is that there aren't many barriers to putting entire cities on lockdown at a moment's notice. China's response to the coronavirus was aggressive and well-organised, and keeping millions of people indoors had an interesting side-effect: the country's carbon emissions dropped by 25% in just three weeks, an "unprecedented" change.

With data like this we can all breathe a little easier...er, so to speak.CREA, via CBCWith data like this we can all breathe a little easier...er, so to speak.

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The largest factor was a reduced demand for coal power, although massive declines in air travel, construction, and oil and steel production also contributed. And no, we're not saying that all this human misery is secretly good, but this data offers some insight into what the future of combating climate change might look like. Lots of quarantined people are working from home, and some jobs might do well to encourage that even when the medical necessity ends. On a broader scale, the logistical ability to assemble a hospital in 10 days may be needed to rapidly convert to green power. But the real trick will be in separating carbon emissions from economic growth, a challenge that you're welcome to try tackling in the comments so that a Nobel Prize can finally go to someone named FurP0rnLuver.

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7
Americans Are Getting Billed For Their Own Quarantines

Part of what made China's response so effective was that no one who reported for testing had to worry about getting slapped with a hospital bill afterwards. The same lesson has not been learned in the Land of the Free to Die of a Treatable Disease, and so we have stories like that of Frank Wucinski. Wucinski and his daughter were evacuated from Wuhan and spent two weeks in mandatory quarantine, which included time at a children's hospital isolation unit. Then he was billed for $3,918 by the hospital, the ambulance service that drove them there, and their radiologist. Wucinski said that answers to questions raised about payment during quarantine "weren't clear."

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The hospital eventually waived their charges, while the other fees were covered with what passes for America's public healthcare system, GoFundMe. But if having to pay for your own legally mandated isolation wasn't alarming enough, there was also the case of Osmel Martinez Azcue. He was feeling sick after returning from a work trip to China, so he felt it was his civic duty to report to a hospital. He only had the flu but, as a reward for doing his job, he was billed for $3,270. At least his insurance promised to cover some of it once he provided three years of medical documentation proving that the flu wasn't caused by a pre-existing condition. Anyway, the biggest obstacle America faces in battling the coronavirus is people with no insurance or paid time off not getting tested out of the fear that the bill would just be a slower death.

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6
Construction Vehicles Became China's New Celebrities

Can you imagine being quarantined before the internet? The wackier medieval almshouses probably had "If the plague doesn't kill you, the boredom will!" signs. Even with Wi-Fi, thinking "At least now I have time to catch up on Netflix" can become a monkey's paw curse as you enter the ninth day since you felt sunlight. When you're isolated you crave novelty, and over 40 million people found it in the form of Chinese construction vehicles.

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Chinese state broadcasters hosted livestreams of two hospitals being built, and very bored people developed a fandom around the equipment. Cement mixers were dubbed Big White Rabbit and The Cement King, a flatbed truck was declared Brother Red Bull, and the biggest stars of the show were Folkchan, "the cutest and most hard working little forklifts." Fan art was created, viewers could vote on their favorite vehicles, and little mythologies sprung up in live chats as the construction efforts were cheered on. So please enjoy this lighter side of the coronavirus saga before someone inevitably makes hardcore forklift porn.

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5
Chinese Restaurants Are Struggling Thanks To Dumbass Paranoia

The first coronavirus cases were in China, and seeing as how all Chinese food is imported directly from China, surely a respiratory illness that spreads through direct contact could also be spread through delicious lemon chicken, yeah? This is the twisted logic that has seen Chinese restaurants across Canada and the United States lose as much as 70% of their business. Some of this can be attributed to a general decline in people going out, and at least one nasty rumor in San Francisco was apparently an attempt at sabotage by a competitor, but ignorance and racism are the biggest factors.

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Racism against Asians has increased in general, whether it's street harassment or online trolling. But paranoia, misinformation and outright lies (one Asian supermarket discovered, ahem, viral claims that their employees were all infected) are hurting business owners. This is despite public health officials repeatedly pointing out that "Chinese" being in the name of a cuisine does not give it evil powers, and that stuffing yourself full of ginger beef will not change your odds of getting sick. So if you want to help in the battle against the coronavirus, order delivery. You're not being too lazy to cook, you're being patriotic.

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4
We Somehow Got A Coronavirus Meth Scandal

Some police departments use social media to share important news, and some use them to share pictures of Minions saying "We have to be careful with these donuts, or else the thin blue line is going to get thick!" And examples of the latter in Texas, Florida, and several of the unimportant states shared a "hilarious" warning that recent batches of meth were found to be contaminated with coronavirus. But don't worry, drug users, you can bring your meth to the police to be tested!

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This was amusing to the sort of people who are boycotting their local paper for removing Ziggy, but it irritated health officials for reasons that are hopefully obvious to everyone capable of comprehending this sentence. We don't look to the police to deliver a tight five on contemporary dating: we look to them to be a trusted source of information. If they have to deliver actual news on the coronavirus a month from now, how many people are going to say "Yeah right, I'm not falling for that again"? Conversely, several local news sites saw the announcements and ran straight-faced "Yup, coronavirus is in our community now" announcements, because modern local news is funded by robbing the tip jar at Subway. So if the virus makes it to your community, just hope that your police department isn't the type to post "EVERYONE HERE IS SICK... of seeing jaywalkers!"

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3
There Are Plenty Of Sleazy Profiteering Stories

One of the less comfortable circles of hell is reserved for people who look at human tragedy and see dollar signs. These are great days for shitheads around the world, whether they're charging 50 bucks for a mini-bottle of hand sanitizer or offering three "boxes" of face masks for $62 while hiding the fact that each box has one mask. Even general survival products, like butane fuel and oat milk, have seen their prices soar to exploit people who think they're going to be living out The Last Of Us.

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Amazon, in a rare act of heroism, is doing its best to fight back, but they're struggling to contain the sheer amount of overpriced crap. Search up "coronavirus" and you can find $27 elderberry extract supplements to inoculate you and several books to read while you bask in their eldritch berry power. These titles range from "Wuhan Coronavirus Survival Manual: Ultimate Guide for Staying Alive" to "Holistic Help for the Coronavirus," because all the best books are written over an hour of Googling "how to not die???" while watching CNN.

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Governments are also moving to prevent gouging, but regardless of the cost you don't need to rush out and stock up on face masks (you should wear one if you think you're sick, but as a preventative measure it's like practicing safe sex by putting a condom on your foot) or hand sanitizer, aka Coward's Whiskey (just wash your damn hands*). It's tempting to buy 400 cans of SpaghettiOs just so you feel like you're doing something, but giving in to your sense of panic only screws over the people who really need these products. Dentists, for example, might be forced to go on hiatus because of a facial mask shortage. Although there would be a sense of karma if the gougers all got cavities.

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*But seriously, do not rely on Cracked as your primary source of medical information. We only learned last week that rubella isn't a Pokemon.

2
The Entertainment Industry Is In Chaos

You may have heard that coronavirus concerns pushed the release of No Time To Die back to November, prompting everyone to make the exact same "Looks like Bond has plenty of time to die after all!" joke. But No Time To Die isn't the only film that, wait for it, has plenty of time to die after all. Mission Impossible 7: Another Reminder That Tom Cruise Is In Better Shape At 57 Than You Are At 25 has delayed production, as has the latest season of The Amazing Race if for some reason you care about that. Movies ranging from 1917 to Dolittle have had their Chinese releases delayed or cancelled, although with Dolittle that might be a gesture of mercy to a suffering nation. Meanwhile, major Chinese releases are being forced to make their debuts online as their paralysed film industry bleeds away over a billion dollars.

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In gaming, the indefinite delay of the Game Developers Conference could put indie developers in financial peril, as instead of striking a crucial funding deal they're suddenly trying to claw back their hotel and flight costs. Nintendo is struggling to meet demand for the Switch thanks to component shortages, and Sony and Microsoft might have to push back the release dates for their new consoles. Developers who outsource some of their work to China will probably face delays too, because while the gaming industry will happily work people to death they draw the line at making it that literal. And yes, there are certainly worse fates in an outbreak than having to wait for your new video game console, but why even dodge death if you can't play Halo Infinite?

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1
There's Been Endless Toilet Paper Drama

Australians are hoarding toilet paper even though they absolutely don't need to, as Australia makes most of its own toilet paper and the Red Cross is already on emergency TP standby. This information did not prevent a 50-year-old man from assaulting a department store employee, a customer, and a cop during a "stoush," which we think is Australian for a bout of toilet paper madness. A different argument over toilet paper led to a knife being pulled, although that's pretty much how most Australian arguments end. Some stores have had to enact quotas or hire security guards, manufacturers are working 24/7, and the country's health minister has appealed for calm. But perhaps a little concern is understandable given that a semi-truck carrying toilet paper caught fire in the middle of the road like a harbinger of the bathroom apocalypse.

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"Everybody get under something sturdy; we're gonna start airdropping bidets."

America is also seeing runs on toilet paper, Japanese shops and restaurants have secured their toilet paper with bike locks to prevent rampant theft, and in Hong Kong three men robbed a delivery truck at knifepoint for just $130 worth of toilet paper. But all this news is bumming us out, so let's end on an upbeat note. Back in Japan, a woman offered to split her local store's last pack of toilet paper with another customer. They got to talking, and they soon agreed to go out on a date, because the greatest virus of all is love.

Mark is on Twitter and wrote a book.


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