2282: Coronavirus Worries

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Coronavirus Worries
Offscreen, bottom left: Whether the custom :coronavirus: Slack react emoji you just added was public domain or whether you should have put a Creative Commons credit somewhere
Title text: Offscreen, bottom left: Whether the custom :coronavirus: Slack react emoji you just added was public domain or whether you should have put a Creative Commons credit somewhere


This comic is the eighth comic in a row in a series of comics about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Randall has created a scatter plot graph showing "more common" worries versus the "more healthy" worries. Presumably, "more healthy" refers to more important things to worry about concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. From this graph, Randall notes that the "more healthy" concerns are not necessarily the ones that are the most common.

On the left side of the graph, signifying "less common" worries/concerns are concerns relating to the drinking of water, and resting. Drinking water (staying hydrated) and getting enough sleep each night are important ways to fight off disease, and they're things that almost everyone can take direct action on, so this is marked as one of the most healthy things to worry about. In 2281: Coronavirus Research, Megan shows signs that she (like many) has not been taking care to get enough sleep. However, not drinking enough water and not sleeping enough are not likely to cause coronavirus specifically, so that particular worry is marked as one of the least healthy.

In the middle of the graph are "medium common" worries/concerns. The "most healthy" or vital concerns are being able to stay home and the ability for friends and family to stay home. Across much of the world, public gatherings have been discouraged, including requiring many workers to telecommute. This is following the principle of social distancing, to slow the spread of COVID-19. These are considered very healthy concerns to be having.

Below these two concerns is concerns about the government response, specifically if the government is "reacting wrong". Many world governments have been criticized for inadequate responses to the pandemic. However, even if the government's response (or lack of response) is incorrect, it is not something that most people can control directly, nor should it prevent people from taking care of the more healthy concerns about staying home and staying well-hydrated and well-rested, which is why this worry is marked as being only moderately healthy. Even less important than the government response is worrying about the reactions of random people featured in news stories (who are most likely featured specifically because their behavior is extreme or aberrant) or Internet trolls or people who have different opinions to you in the story's comments section.

A more common concern listed is "whether you are getting enough work done". Telecommuting (working from home) may be less productive than working at the normal office, so Randall or others may be concerned about their work productivity. For people working in industries that directly affect the health and well-being of others, such as medicine, this is a fair concern (and many of the event cancellations and other responses are intended to make their jobs easier), but in general, this is a much less healthy concern than staying home and well-rested.

The most common and least important concern according to Randall is "whether you have the virus just because you just coughed and last week you touched a doorknob". Though it is an important to be concerned about catching the coronavirus, simply coughing a few times or "touching a doorknob" are unlikely reasons to suspect having COVID-19. Most cases of COVID-19 do include a cough, and the disease can be latent for over a week before showing symptoms, but also include other symptoms, including fever and difficulty breathing.

The title text lists an uncommon, unimportant concern: the copyright status of a "coronavirus emoji" on Slack (a business instant messaging software). The Creative Commons license is a license allowing for fair use of published work (and presumably emojis) that are otherwise copyrighted. Something that is in public domain has no copyright protection on it, and can be used freely. Presumably, this is a concern that only Randall has, making it uncommon. It is also relatively unimportant in the greater scheme of the COVID-19 pandemic.


[A scatter-plot, with 8 labeled dots. Both axis are labeled with text beneath the X-axis and to the left of the Y-axis. Arrows are pointing to the right from the X- axis and up from the Y-xis. The dots are scattered from left to right and top to bottom, but there are some grouping of the labels with two to the left, four in the middle and two to the right. But the dots they belong to are more scattered than this. Here below all labels are given, first for the axis, and then for each dot in approximately normal reading order from the left column to the right column:]
Y-axis: More healthy
X-axis: More common
[Top left]: Whether you're remembering to drink water and rest
[Very bottom, near left]: Whether forgetting to drink water or rest will make you get the coronavirus
[Very top, near right]: Whether you're able to stay home
[Top leaning, right]: Whether your friends and family are able to stay home
[Middle, leaning right]: Whether your government is reacting wrong
[Very bottom center]: Whether random people in a news story are reacting wrong
[Toward bottom right]: Whether you're getting enough work done
[Very bottom right]: Whether you have the virus because you just coughed and last week you touched a doorknob

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Props to Randall for not mentioning toilet paper ONCE 21:08, 18 March 2020 (UTC)

He couldn't. There aren't any more toilet paper jokes left! 11:17, 19 March 2020 (UTC)
I heard there are plenty of toilet paper jokes, but people are hoarding them ...Boatster (talk) 13:43, 19 March 2020 (UTC)

The transcript states that the axis lines do not have arrows on them. It should describe the arrows on labels, i.e. More common with arrow pointing to the right. Rtanenbaum (talk) 23:52, 18 March 2020 (UTC)

My initial take on the More Healthy axis reflected on the person doing the worrying, that is some worries would be more or less common depending on the health of the person. The explanation interprets More Healthy to refer to the worry itself, that is some worries are intrinsically more healthy than others. I am at a loss to determine which of these interpretations more closely fits the worries that are listed. Rtanenbaum (talk) 23:52, 18 March 2020 (UTC)

While there are some data points that could fit the "health of the worrier" interpretation (eg a sick person would worry more about how they got a cough, while a healthy person might not even have a cough), I think all of them can fit the "health of the worry" and some of them explicitly do not fit the former. For example a sick person is not less likely to worry that "random people in a news story" are reacting wrong compared to "your government"; and a healthy person is more likely to worry that a lack of rest/hydration will cause them to *get* the virus yet that dot is both low on the "healthy" axis and higher on the "commonality" axis than general concern about rest/hydration. Finally if it was how common the worry was depending on the health of the person then I would expect lines or curves rather than points, since that would better show whether a healthy person is more or less likely to have a worry than a sick person; as it stands they indicate a single value per worry, suggesting that each worry has a definite commonality and health value rather than a dependent relationship. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
I'm pretty sure this is not about how healthy the worrier is, but about how healthy it is to have that worry. For example, it is healthy to think about drinking enough and getting rest, because that may make you actually do that. However, it is probably not a good idea to worry whether not doing so might increase your risk to get infected, because, while the topic is the same as the first worry, this phrasing suggests a much more panicking kind of worry that might ultimately make you lose your sleep, contradicting your worry in the first place and being detrimental to your health, both physical and mental. The second bunch of worries is similar: Worrying about your own staying at home may make you do so, which is healthy, similar to worrying about your friends and family. Worrying about the government might at least increase the pressure on them to do the necessary action. Worrying about random people reacting wrongly won't get you anywhere but into panic. And finally, for the last two, worrying about your work may not be particularly healthy, but it is not exactly a panic reaction, either. Panicking about every door knob and cough however may be very detrimental to your mental health and even risk your physical health if you leave home in order to get tested which might bring you into contact with people that really are infected. Still not sure whether it is more about the potential threat to your future physical health if you panic or whether it is about what it says about your current mental health if you do. Well, just my two cents. 10:24, 20 March 2020 (UTC)

"with at least eight in a row" -- this is getting hecka tiresome. Surely he can think of _something_ other than the flu 2.0. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Wouldn't it be interesting if your dismissive "flu 2.0" led you be infected by the Coronavirus.... 01:32, 19 March 2020 (UTC)
The hole world is only talking about Corona. Any other subject would be dismissed. This was already the topic of the first Coronavirus Name. --Kynde (talk) 18:54, 19 March 2020 (UTC)
Is this the largest run on a single topic in xkcd history?Seebert (talk) 14:51, 19 March 2020 (UTC)
Yes for sure. He has had five comics in a week series, but they never continued later. It is also by now the longest "series", but since this is more a topic than a series, I guess this cannot be called a series. Guess we will have to wait making any final conclusions regarding this until the topic or the virus dies out. --Kynde (talk) 18:54, 19 March 2020 (UTC)
...or we do? 15:03, 20 March 2020 (UTC)

For most people in not-at-risk groupings (meaning not elderly, infants, or immuno-compromised), it really isn't that big of a hit to their health. The risk is not that a young/middle-aged person gets sick, the risk is that they spread it to someone who is in an at-risk segment. Nevertheless, people die all the time from the regular flu, and not in trivial numbers. This isn't that much different. More people are going to be hurt much worse from losing their jobs (hospitality, entertainment, service ... and the industries that support them), incomes, and probably homes than would have been from this. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The thing is: Covid-19 is currently not a big health risk for most people, because there are strong measures to fight it. Without of those measures it would me much more people affected. Also if you look at Italy: Most people dying there are elderly. Because they do not get sufficient treatment. Why? Because they give the lung machines to younger people instead. --Lupo (talk) 08:56, 19 March 2020 (UTC)
Latest numbers from an estimate done in London is that the United States will lose 4 million people if we do nothing, 2 million if standard social distancing measures work, and if we all go into Wuhan style lockdown once every few weeks for the next 18 months, we'll lose a few tens of thousands per wave. It now appears that getting this thing does NOT spur your immune system to create antibodies against it, so you can potentially get it every wave.Seebert (talk) 14:51, 19 March 2020 (UTC)
Wow[citation needed] for that last statement. --Kynde (talk) 18:54, 19 March 2020 (UTC)
Can I remember how to do a link in this system? I'll do it both ways. [1]

plain text of URL I have attempted to insert above: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/medicine/sph/ide/gida-fellowships/Imperial-College-COVID19-NPI-modelling-16-03-2020.pdf

hopefully one of those will workSeebert (talk) 19:06, 19 March 2020 (UTC)