Gail Collins: Hey Bret, how are you feeling? I’ve never had so many people politely inquire about my health, with a slight undertone of suspicion.
Seems like all anybody’s talking about is the coronavirus. What’s your take? Are we overreacting? Underreacting? Or doesn’t it matter since the end is imminent?
Bret Stephens: Fine so far, Gail, and thanks for asking, though I’m worried about my elderly relatives and friends. This is one of those topics where those of us in the punditocracy really need to listen closely to epidemiologists, virologists and other experts in the field, and pretty much adopt their views as our own. In other words, let’s not follow the Rush Limbaugh model and just mouth off on the hunch that it won’t amount to much and the prejudice that it’s a tool to bring down Donald Trump.
On a level of ordinary social observation, I have to say this is starting to have an end-times feeling to it. I walked into a Duane Reade pharmacy the other day and entire shelves had been emptied, as if I were in a Soviet grocery store. At another pharmacy, on Lexington Avenue, a midsize bottle of Purell was being sold behind the counter for $50, which almost turned me into a raging Sandersnista. I was supposed to have been traveling abroad last week, but that trip was canceled, as was a forthcoming conference in Georgia.”