If you’ve got the antibodies,
If you’ve got the antibodies,
we’ve got the card.
Immunity is about to become a marketable asset.
It’s about to sort us, seemingly at random, into one of two new social strata: the “immunies” and the “cardless.” And which class you end up in might just determine much about your future.
There is no CoronaCard as yet, but I should probably trademark the name. Because several countries, including ours, are thinking about requiring citizens to demonstrate their immunity before they’re allowed back to work. All you have to do to qualify is survive Covid-19.
The immunies will be looking at a lot of opportunity. Restaurants will compete for their business. Merchants will shower them with deals. Airlines will upgrade them to first class on near-empty planes. They’ll be the darlings of the new economy.
The cardless, on the other hand, could be the have-nots of the next few years — and the civil liberties debate is sure to be brisk. Think about the “No Card, No Work” signs we’ll see at factory gates. Think about cardless people being evicted from apartments, banned from theaters and arenas, turned away from airline flights, or kept out of school. For people without the right antibodies, second-class citizenship looms.
But it’s the job market that will truly define the new class structure. And it could be harsh. Simply put, the immunies will be in demand. The cardless won’t.
If you’ve got the card, we’ve got the job. No skills? We’ll teach you. No experience? We’ll trust you. Pay? Name your price. If it’s a people-facing job you can perform without fear of infection — grocery clerk, bus driver, hospital worker, etc. — you’ll be hired on the spot, though you’d be crazy to take the first offer. If you’re a nurse or a doctor, you might even hold out for a signing bonus.
But if you’re cardless, you’d better hope you can work from home.
For some immunies — those who did time on a ventilator and beat the reaper — their card will be hard-won. And who among us would begrudge them?
For others, though, the ethics get murkier. Some of them, in effect, will have won the lottery. They walked around with no symptoms and now they’re in the club.
Is it fair that these asymptomatics — some of them unwitting super-spreaders — should now emerge as a privileged class? This is not an idle question, because odds are some of those super-spreaders are out in public right now, without masks, protesting stay-at-home orders. After which they’ll head back to their hometowns. Which is how hot spots get hot.
But for immunies in general, life could be quite good for some time. The rest of the population should catch up eventually, though it will take a while to develop the kind of “herd immunity” we’re all banking on. Meanwhile, a lot of people — deserved or not — will get a head start on the new economy, whatever that ends up looking like.
So CoronaCards will be coveted, and some people will take unreasonable risks to get one. We’ve already heard talk of young people considering “immunity parties,” deliberately exposing themselves in hopes of contracting a mild case. Call it Virus Roulette.
Am I being fanciful here? Perhaps. It might not play out this way at all. With a decent vaccine the curve might go totally flat. But keep in mind, the virus gets a say in this. The virus will determine how these new antibodies get produced. Or if a vaccine is even feasible. We just don’t know.
But we’re not talking about some vague future. Viable antibody tests could start arriving in the next few months. The cards could be issued soon thereafter. If not here, then in Germany. Or Italy. Or wherever.
I’m not even saying it’s a bad idea — it absolutely makes sense on many levels. The more immunies we have — both as workers and consumers — the more options we’ll have for rebooting the economy.
As for the cardless, they won’t be completely powerless. They will vastly outnumber the immunies — at least in the short term — so their voices will surely be heard.
My point is only that the consequences of immunity — both intended and unintended — won't be apparent for some time. Even so, the blurry outline of a CoronaCard society is now visible. We need to start thinking about it.