2275: Coronavirus Name

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Coronavirus Name
It's important to keep the spider from touching your face.
Title text: It's important to keep the spider from touching your face.


This comic is the first comic in a long series of comics about the COVID-19 pandemic. For several weeks in a row, all comics were related to this pandemic.

This is thus Randall's first take on the COVID-19 pandemic. As of the publication date (March 2, 2020), the pandemic had infected more than 90,000 people, and had caused more than 3,000 deaths.

Coronavirus is a category of viruses named for their appearance, which is similar to a halo or crown, and includes four different viruses which can cause the common cold in humans. However, the virus itself is not called COVID-19, but is called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). So calling the virus or disease "coronavirus" is like calling a specific strain of flu The Influenza virus. However, since the new coronavirus is so hyped in the media it has attracted so much attention, so the name "coronavirus" has become associated with COVID-19, making it difficult to discuss other types of coronaviruses later on.

As of March 2, 2020, COVID-19 in China has a 20% hospitalization rate and a 2% death rate by current estimates, compared to a typical rate of around 0.1% for the flu in the US.

In this comic, researchers Ponytail, Megan and Cueball are discussing that it is by now too late to try calling the disease its official name COVID-19, as the name coronavirus has stuck. Cueball reacts with dismay, since there are many other types of coronaviruses.

To illustrate that Cueball's complaint is excessively pedantic and inconsequential, Ponytail — rather than using a more real-world analogy — compares the coronavirus naming to a giant car-eating spider living on top of the skyscrapers of the town, which people similarly refer to generically as simply "The Spider," even though that is not the most technically-accurate name (it is technically a mutated Tigrosa annexa wolf spider). Everyone knows what you mean when you say "Coronavirus", as they do when you mention "The Spider".

The comic then goes on to poke fun at itself by treating Ponytail's example as a real concern, as Megan then asks if they should not also do something about the spider. But Ponytail and Cueball agree that they can only tackle one problem at a time, and coronavirus takes up all their time. Ponytail further notes that she simply began altering her route to circumvent the location where The Spider has taken up residence, as evidence that the Spider issue can be easily avoided, and is therefore not an immediate concern.

The title text references the health advice that people avoid touching their face with unwashed hands, in order to prevent infections that they picked up by touching things from entering their mucous membranes. (It's a lot easier for an infection to enter the body through the inside of your nose than your hands.) It is likewise quite important to keep the giant spider from touching your face, but for the dissimilar reason that it might bite and eat you.

Notably, the rename to COVID-19 did eventually catch on as the default description of the disease caused by "The Coronavirus" SARS-CoV2.


[Megan is carrying a box with biohazard symbols on it towards a desk where Ponytail (wearing safety glasses) is working on a laptop, across from Cueball (also wearing safety glasses) who is putting a test tube into a PCR machine. There's also a flask on the desk.]
Ponytail: Feels like we missed the window for the "COVID-19" renaming. "Coronavirus" is just too catchy.
Cueball: But it's not specific! There are a lot of coronaviruses.
[In a frameless panel, Ponytail (still wearing safety glasses) is pointing at a screen or picture showing a modern city skyline with a large spider crawling across three of the high-rise buildings.]
Ponytail: I think it's fine. It's like, you know the giant spider downtown that sits on the buildings and sometimes eats cars? I think technically it's a mutant T. annexa wolf spider, but everyone is just calling it "the spider" and we all know what they mean.
[Back to the setting from the first panel. Megan is standing and Ponytail had turned towards her and Cueball has stepped back from the machine.]
Megan: I've been meaning to ask, what's with that spider? Should we...do something?
Ponytail: Honestly I've been too busy with the virus stuff to look into it-I just changed my commute to avoid Main St.
Cueball: Yeah, that's fair. One thing at a time.

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Covid-19 is more dangerous than the flu and has already killed more people. And any death rate that starts with 0.00 and then has a number other than zero can only be called "basically zero" if you value human life very little. 21:49, 2 March 2020 (UTC)

addendum: this seems to depend on what source you use for the chinese yearly flu death rate. number of deaths is either much higher or somewhat lower. 21:53, 2 March 2020 (UTC)
It's Trump taking point that the coronavirus is a hoax and no worse than the flu. 22:14, 2 March 2020 (UTC)
At the very least, the fact the virus has over 90,000 confirmed cases makes it a significant disease. 22:28, 2 March 2020 (UTC)
It doesn't seem like the point of the comic is to comment on the severity of the virus. Seems more on-topic to say things that are objectively true, like "Many people are concerned about the virus" rather than discussing disputed stats. 22:58, 2 March 2020 (UTC) Patb
I agree, and suggest we remove the line with stats entirely. It isn't relevant to the comic, and having it refer to "current estimates" means someone will have to keep updating it when new estimates are made. 08:17, 3 March 2020 (UTC)
A running total here wouldn't be necessary, there is at least one web site especially for that (or a page for Covid-19 on a general disease outbreak tracking site). To me it looks like this virus is about equally dangerous as flu, except that this virus is only in about 70 countries and counting, so if it isn't in yours yet (as far as you know) then you are not yet in danger (as far as you know). Also, flu kills a lot of people, numerically, every year, and if this virus kills an equal number of people, every year, there are twice as many people dead, total. (ish) So it's worth trying to stop this virus from existing, while we might still do that. Robert Carnegie [email protected] 13:40, 3 March 2020 (UTC)
Let's inject a little sanity here: Trump's "talking point" about it being no on par with the flu is, for once, correct. Most people who are infected have mild symptoms, or none at all. In fact, that's how it's suddenly turned out that the spread is so much greater than previously reported: Because most people never even know they have it. Given this, the mortality rate is a tiny fraction of what was previously reported, perhaps 0.3% instead of 3%. And it was only ostensibly 3% in a primitive region where some people still have dirt floors, and almost nobody is willing to deal with their socialized health care system except in an emergency. Therefore most of the infected were not showing up for treatment, only those in serious trouble. In fact, the vast majority of those who have died are elderly or immunocompromised, exactly the same group who are killed in the tens of thousands each year by the flu, in the US. So no, this has been a tempest in a teapot, stirred up by the unscientific CDC in order to pad their budget, the way they do periodically with a new fake pandemic threat. SARS, West Nile, bird flu, h1n1, and ebola...no competent epidemiologist would ever seriously have expected those to become a threat in the US, or anywhere else outside of primitive regions. But the CDC has continued to redouble their unearned budget on this fraudulent fearmongering. As I learned when consulting for such ilk in DC, "Fear Equals Funding". Oh, and no, 90,000 cases only make it a "significant disease" in the way that another coronavirus, the common cold, is significant. It's not significantly dangerous. In fact, it really is just a strong kind of common cold. « Kazvorpal (talk) 21:32, 3 March 2020 (UTC)
While it doesn't seem to be more lethal than flu (or in general having more severe symptoms), either it's more contagious or the fact it's contagious for weeks before symptoms makes it spread easier. In this sense it's more serious threat - imagine for example if ALL employees of nuclear power plant would be infected leaving noone capable of caring of the reactor. That said, it seems that panic is currently more dangerous than the virus itself. -- Hkmaly (talk) 23:14, 3 March 2020 (UTC)
Wait, look carefully at the two separate segments of logic you presented. You need to unify them to be cross-consistent: Since the coronavirus mostly is no worse than the common cold or flu, even if ALL employees of a nuclear power plant catch it they can continue working. Most of them are not immunocompromised. Those few should stay home, and everyone else should keep working, just like they would with a cold. Remember, the majority of people who are infected with the novel coronavirus never even have symptoms. It is in that sense less harmful than the flu or the other famous coronavirus, the common cold. The only reason the nuclear plant may end up without anyone to man it is the insane panic causing people to stay home en masse. Remember, the actual reason the authorities are saying to stay home isn't that it's a danger to the normal people who are infected, and not to keep you from catching it...but just to slow its spread. That's all. They want it to spread slowly enough that they can deal with it more easily. That is what they're explicitly stating. —Kazvorpal (talk)
Sooooo can we ban Kazvorpal (talk) please? I would appreciate it. And maybe Hkmaly too
The 2% death rate in the explantion is outdated. Here (in Chinese) is the compiled data for all China. As of March 3rd, the death rate calculated by (death toll)/(confirmed infected patients) is 3.7% for all China and 4.6% for Wuhan city (the epicenter). The number for Wuhan is likely to grow in the following days, too. 20:11, 3 March 2020 (UTC)
The mortality rate in China is only relevant if one lives in an area with a primitive socialized health care system. As with SARS, it won't turn out to have a significant death rate among people infected in the US who are not elderly or immunocompromised. Perhaps, in fact, a zero death rate outside of that high risk group. « Kazvorpal (talk) 21:32, 3 March 2020 (UTC)
@kazvorpal your comment is inappropriate for several reasons, including "primitive" and deprecating socialized medicine. Since there've already been deaths among the small group of known cases in the USA, it's way too early to calculate mortality rates here. Cellocgw (talk) 16:24, 4 March 2020 (UTC)
There is nothing inappropriate about pointing out the primitive nature of the poorest provinces of China, nor the very factual failures of socialized medicine. As for the US, there have been no cases of someone dying here who was actually infected here. And there's no reason to believe that when they do occur, the mortality rate will turn out to be much worse than the flu. « Kazvorpal (talk) 04:31, 8 March 2020 (UTC)
Can someone ban this fucking racist Trumpbot? Kazvorpal even wrote some sort of article for blaming the failures of the current system on socialism. And then he calls China primitive and says some of the hospitals have dirt floors. Just ban Kazvorpal already.
Can you be a grownup who signs his posts, instead of a little coward who spews childish nonsense and then runs away to hide? I never said their hospitals had dirt floors, but the cold hard fact is that many of the houses in the poorest provinces do, because socialism is indeed such a failure. And those poor provinces are indeed primitive, no actual grownup disputes that fact, either. « Kazvorpal (talk) 04:31, 8 March 2020 (UTC)
Though you're right in that there is sophistication in the system (potentially), while the US famously has a situation so broken that "almost nobody is willing to deal with their non-socialized health care system except in an emergency" either. I think if the meaning was "a health system which is primitively socialised(/ist)" I could accept the utterer's original intent, though I don't actually know enough about the the practicalities of the Chinese system to know how it actually transpires in individual off-the-street transactions. I live within the somewhat social UK one, and directly see its problems, but I've been done well by it myself despite it being notably sabotaged by various politicians on the scene by forcing some changes or refusing to implement others. I haven't myself experienced the strange US one, even during my visits there, but I've had such info as a live online chat (early 1990s, via IRC, for reference) with someone who daren't go to a doctor/A&E for a clearly in-progress medical issue - if it wasn't even a real thing (as cynics might suggest may have happened in the text-only pre-Eternal September entirely pseudonymical medium) it must have had a grounding on experience and yet it totally blew my mind that something that would cost a few GBP (in medical supplies) and literally a few minutes of a doctor's time (underpaid, arguably) could instead potentially end up as billed for USDthousands either directly or as private insurance overheads. Still, this is an old (and perpetual) politically-biased discussion that has had few actual new arguments added to any side for years, and will doubtless rumble on as long as it can - I think we should all realise that all the systems are bad, we just fundementally disagree about which particular ones are least bad. 19:53, 4 March 2020 (UTC)

If the Godzilla movies have taught me anything, it's that giant insects aren't a problem biologists can solve anyways. That's more of a "nuclear paleontology" sort of job. GreatWyrmGold (talk) 01:43, 3 March 2020 (UTC)

It is legitimately difficult to tell if Ponytail's use of the word 'catchy' as a descriptor for 'coronavirus' is an intentional or unintentional pun. Either way, it's very opportune. 03:55, 3 March 2020 (UTC)

The current chapter of Wilde Life (a totally unrelated webcomic) as a giant spider interacting with two of the main characters, starting here. Nutster (talk) 05:05, 3 March 2020 (UTC)

I think they missed a trick with the naming. CORVID-19 would have reminded everyone of H5N1 'bird flu', and we could just blame the crows. Kill a magpie to avoid infection! 10:53, 3 March 2020 (UTC)

What? How is CORVID-19 supposed to remind anyone of H5N1 or bird flu? --Lupo (talk) 13:20, 3 March 2020 (UTC)
Corvidae is the family including crows, ravens, jays, magpies; so, CORVID~=bird. Not sure how many people would make that connection, but I think that's what the previous poster was getting at. 13:13, 4 March 2020 (UTC)
I think "SARS-CoV-2: Electric Boogaloo" has a nice ring to it although a little wordy for everyday use. 08:16, 4 March 2020 (UTC)
I was thinking "SARS 2: The Attack of Pneumonia" 08:38, 11 March 2020 (UTC)

Yeah really dodged a bullet on those rhinoviri. 11:36, 3 March 2020 (UTC)

AKK! NO! It's rhinoviruses, not rhinoviri! Only monoglot English speakers pretending that they have heard of Latin and showing that they don't know any, use viri in this way. Viri is NOT the plural of virus, it's the plural of vir, which means man. 13:01, 8 July 2020 (UTC)

Is it relevant to mention that some spiders grow larger in cities? https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0105480 ProphetZarquon (talk) 15:39, 3 March 2020 (UTC)

I'm not really wanting to catch COVID-19. I'm holding out for COVID-19b, which is going to be better beta-tested. (But by the time COVID-19c comes out, it's just going to be a bandwagon of planned obsolescence by then - I'd rather stick with what I've got until the next significent release version and keep a close eye on the advanced reviews and what other vendors are innovating.) 16:15, 3 March 2020 (UTC)

This is only 3 years too early to be a reference to the spiders in Colorado https://xkcd.com/1688/ especially with Megan holding bio-hazardous material.

Assorted catchier names: a)Corona-chan (works for every disease with a girl name, Ebola, Zika, Lassa, Malaria, Cholera, Yersinia...Ask 4chan), b) My Corona (OK, a bit 1970-ish), c) Coronjob (for conspiracy buffs). (Personally, I'm less afraid of getting infected than getting, showing no symptoms as always and killing half of my environment...) 09:36, 4 March 2020 (UTC)

Yeah, "My Corona" got largely superceded by the fad for "e-Corona", except for some niches, and then along came "iCorona" and changed everything. Though there was also the short-lived Corona Millenium Edition. (It didn't stay bad. Corona XP became the highpoint. And if you did't like that, you might as well just go back to Corona Bob.) 16:59, 4 March 2020 (UTC)

I think that it's worth noting that this comic came out the day after the American Super Tuesday primaries.-- 15:42, 4 March 2020 (UTC)

But it didn't. This comic came out the day before the primaries, and is completely unrelated to them. 02:28, 5 March 2020 (UTC)

Shoulda called it Coronavirus-2019. 22:51, 4 March 2020 (UTC)

Looking forward to seeing if there is an uptick in children named Corona later this year. I wouldn't bet against it. These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 01:22, 9 March 2020 (UTC)

I have to agree with the speculation that in the end this will end up being much ado about nothing just like swine flu and bird flu. 08:38, 11 March 2020 (UTC)

It did not end up being much ado about nothing.
A very quick googleskim showed 616 worldwide deaths from the avian flu ... and 575,400 (12,469 USA) from pandemic swine flu. These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 23:13, 11 March 2020 (UTC)

One American of my acquaintance, living in New Zealand, has quoted (with approval) a recent suggestion he's heard of calling it "Trump's disease". What a great way to commemorate his presidency!