“Mistress, do you have time to explain some things to us?” Cleric stood at the door of my office, furrowing her brow and fidgeting with her cincture.
“I guess so.” I looked at my watch and sighed. “I was going to work on my blog, but I got sidetracked into a discussion on social media and lost track of time. I guess I’ll work on my blog tomorrow.”
I put my computer into sleep mode, stood up, and stretched. “Now, who is us, and what do you need me to explain?”
“Well, us is all of us – me and all my companions, all your characters.” Cleric beckoned, and I followed her upstairs to the living room, where the rest of my characters sat waiting. “We have been watching your magic box, the one you call a television, and we have some questions.”
I settled into an empty chair and nodded. “Okay. What’s bothering all of you?”
My Old Dwarf spoke up, talking around a mouthful of food. “Wale, we been watchin’ a bunch o what ye be callin’ news alerts, what been breakin’ inta tha programs we been watchin’. There be some kind o malady thet be scarin’ everybody.”
My Young Hero nodded. “But the reports were confusing. Not everyone seems worried. Some people are complaining about the inconvenience and questioning the necessity of the restrictions that governments are placing on people. Many people are apparently ignoring the directions to avoid contact with others.”
“Yes, the danger of this disease seems to be questioned by a number of people.” My Gypsy leaned forward in his chair. “Many are saying that only a relative few people have succumbed to this, compared to the flu that emerges each year in your world and kills many more people than this disease has.”
“Can you explain everything to us, Mistress?” Sorceress looked pale, and she was fidgeting as badly as Cleric. “What is this sickness, where and when did it start, and it is really dangerous?”
I sighed. “This is very hard to explain to anyone who has not followed it from the beginning, but I will try. The disease, which is now known as COVID-19 or the Coronavirus, first emerged late last year in a country called China. That’s a long way from here.”
I paused, trying to decide how much detail they really needed. I decided on the short version. “From China, it rapidly spread to other parts of the world. Right now, there is no known cure, and no vaccination.”
“What be a vak-see-nay-shun?” The dwarf was listening so intently, he had stopped munching on his sandwich.
I raked my hand through my hair. How do you explain modern medicine to a bunch of medieval characters? “Well, a vaccination is an injection that is given to a person to help prevent them getting a specific illness. You remember that Miles and I get a flu shot each year? That is a vaccination to prevent us catching the flu.”
“The flu is the illness that many people are citing as more dangerous than this Coronavirus.” My Foreman shifted in his chair. “Is it?”
I sighed. “That is the topic of some debate. There is an agency in this country known as the Center for Disease Control. They track information like this.” I got up and grabbed my laptop. “I was just reading some figures on this the other day.”
My characters waited patiently as I brought up the web site with the information. “Ah, here it is on the CDC’s website. The Center for Disease Control (the CDC) estimates that influenza – what we commonly call the flu – has resulted in up to 45 million illnesses and up to 61,000 deaths annually for the past ten years in the United States.”
I brought up another website, a site that provides live updates on Coronavirus numbers. “Now, according to this website, the Coronavirus has resulted in fewer than 500 deaths in this country so far. So, it would seem as if the flu is far more dangerous, right?”
My characters all nodded.
I shook my head. “That’s what a lot of people believe, but it’s not necessarily true. The flu has resulted in more than 60,000 deaths a year in this country, despite many people being vaccinated. There is no vaccination yet against the Coronavirus, and if it goes unchecked, it could be far worse than the flu. We have no way of knowing yet. That’s why other methods are being used to prevent the spread of this disease. That’s why the government is limiting large gatherings and closing nonessential businesses where people tend to congregate in large numbers, like libraries, museums, bars, nightclubs, and restaurants. Even schools have been closed, and services have been canceled at places of worship. Everyone is supposed to avoid crowds and stay at home as much as possible, away from other people who might infect them, or who might be infected by them.”
My Foreman furrowed his brow. “So, while waiting for a vaccine to be developed, these other measures are being used to keep the disease from spreading?”
I nodded. “If COVID 19 was left to spread, unchecked, it could result in a catastrophic number of cases. Hospitals would not have enough room or equipment to treat everyone. This disease affects the respiratory system. There are only a finite number of respirators available for treating the sick. If the disease was allowed to spread unchecked, hospitals wouldn’t be able to treat all those who become sick. Many more deaths would occur.”
“So, the regulations that the governments are putting in place are to prevent the spread of the disease, for the safety of everyone.” Dragon nodded her approval.
My Bounty Hunter cleared his throat. “But according to some reports we have seen, many people who have contracted the disease have recovered with little or no treatment.”
I nodded. “That’s true. Many people catch the flu each year, too, and recover with little to no treatment. But they are the lucky ones. COVID 19 has already caused more than 13,000 deaths worldwide, and that number continues to rise despite the extraordinary efforts to control the spread of the virus. It has increased by more than2,000 deaths in just the last 48 hours. Think what that number might be if we all just went about our business as usual.”
My Cleric spoke again. “Mistress, is it possible for us to get this disease?” She gestured to herself and her fellow characters.
I shrugged. “I wish I could give you an answer, but I have no way of knowing that. You have all remained fairly healthy in the years you have been residing in this world, so I’m not sure how many of the diseases of this world can affect you.”
“Yes . . . fairly healthy. Except for that incident two years ago, when seven of the nine of us lie comatose from an unknown ailment.” Dragon turned pale blue and smoke bubbles dripped from her snout.
My Arrogant One shuddered. “I remember. We almost died.”
I nodded. “When my Foreman, my Young Hero, and my Gypsy brought you and your cohort in from where they found you in the shed, I feared you were dead!”
“And no one knew if you and I were in danger.” Miles, who had been standing to the side near the dining room, joined the conversation.
I nodded again. “It was dark times for sure.”
“Indeed. It spread so rapidly. First there were just two victims – the elf and his cohort. Then the Foreman and Sorceress succumbed. Then the dwarf.” Dragon’s voice cracked and she shivered uncontrollably.
Cleric placed her hand on Dragon’s arm. “Yes. You and I were the only ones spared, along with Mistress Writer and Master Miles, of course.”
My Old Dwarf chuckled. “An’ ye be tha one what been savin’ us, beastie. Although ye almos’ be kiltin’ me whilst ye be doin’ it.”
My characters sat there, reminiscing, until my Old Dwarf decided it was lunchtime. As we walked to the kitchen, my Foreman spoke to me. “Thank you for explaining things to us, Mistress. I do hope that all of our friends, and all of our readers, are safe from this malady.”
“So do I, my friend, so do I.”
Stay safe and healthy, dear readers, and join me and my little band of displaced characters again next week to see what mischief unfolds. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.