Scarlet Letter Virus
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne is the central character in the novel The Scarlet Letter. For those of you less-familiar with this story, Prynne is accused of committing the sin of adultery and required to wear a scarlet letter “A” on her outer clothing as a mark of shame. Dr. Seuss employed a similar labelling scheme in his book The Sneetches. Some sneetches were required to wear stars on their bellies to label them as different and separate from the others. In the case of Dr. Seuss, the referent event that spurred him was the wearing by Jews of symbols. For Hawthorne, it was a reference to the commission of sin which leveled people as lesser in the eyes of God.
Soon, humanity will be able to antibody test for antibodies created by exposure to the COVID19 virus. In many cases, antibodies offer immunity to infection by that particular pathogen. It remains to be seen whether immunity will be had. What I’m picturing is a series of symbols doled out to people to represent their infection status. What lovely labels these would be!
I assume a letter “A” would be given to those who possess antibodies (known through scientific antibody testing). If immune as a result of antibodies, these people could roam the earth without supposed fear. They’d be useful as healthcare workers, teachers, or others who interact closely with the public at all times. You have to admit: that “A” for antibodies would truly be a source of pride.
However, what if you tested and found that you had no antibodies? Then I assume if you became ill and exhibited symptoms, you’d test for COVID19. If you had it, would you get another letter (maybe “I” for ill)? After all, would that be what is fair to the rest of us? If you are ill, shouldn’t we be able to see your letter “I” from at least six feet away? I guess that would really mark you though. If you had the letter “I”, you really shouldn’t be out and about. We should shun you, take you to the wall for stoning, anything to punish you for exposing us to your viral illness.
What happens if one hasn’t been COVID tested or antibody tested? Does that person get a letter “N” for “nothing known yet”? When one wears the letter “N”, how does that change how others perceive them when shopping, eating out, etc.? Those “N” wearers are unknowns; they might be ill and they might not. I assume six feet or more from these people is definitely necessary.
Therefore, we’ll have both the sneetches scenario and Hester Prynne scenario simultaneously. Prynne’s will wear an “I” since they’re infected and if we see them, they’ll be shunned. Sneetches will be of two types: the haves (lucky humans wearing an “A”) and have-nots (those with an “N”). The in-crowd will be the ones with “A’s” and out crowd will also be shunned with their “N” since no one knows their infective status.
What a wonderful world this could be.