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The spread of COVID-19 around the world has made us realize several things: We are far less prepared for a pandemic than we thought, celebrities will waste no opportunity for a dramatic selfie, and cruises are always bad news. What we have also realized is that the way we lived before was frankly disgusting. Yes, we are all now diligently washing our hands for a full 20 seconds, refraining from touching our faces, and disinfecting every surface we come in contact with. But why didn’t we do this before? What kind of filth were we encountering on a daily basis? And will we go back to being so gross? The Cut staff gathered together to discuss (from afar).
Stella Bugbee, editor-in-chief: With all the steps we’re taking to keep clean, it keeps dawning on me how casually gross everybody’s hands must have been. But it’s more than just hands. Last night on the 1 train, two women got on and sprayed the whole seat down with Lysol. Which was fine, but then we were all choking and eating the Lysol particles. It was hilarious and insane, and yet at the same time I was thinking, “Why haven’t I ever thought of doing that before?”
Allison Davis, features writer: Meanwhile, on the B train I watched someone eat a whole sandwich.
Emilia Petrarca, writer: Desus and Mero made a joke the other night that if you’ve been riding the subway your whole life, you’re probably immune to coronavirus. That we should all just lick a pole.
Irin Carmon, senior correspondent: This tweet made me laugh:
Callie Beusman, news editor: Irin, that is so gross! Stella, I’ve been thinking about this so much.
Stella Bugbee: Here’s my conspiracy theory that no one asked for: The world exists for microbes and bacteria, and we are the best evolutionary result for their transfer. When I learned that during vaginal birth we pass precious microbiomes from generation to generation, I was like, “Ah, we are just very efficient hosts for the bacteria.” They will outlive us, but they need us for now. They keep being smarter than our best efforts to kill them all.
Callie Beusman: Hahahah. I agree with your theory … I’m converted.
Bridget Read, writer: I feel really enlightened to know I am a bacteria host. I feel special.
Stella Bugbee: The more you learn about bacteria, the less insane I sound.
Melissa Dahl, deputy editor: Wait I’ve been thinking the same thing about pre-corona grossness! How did I not even really know how to wash my hands the right way? It’s been very cute seeing everyone in our bathrooms here take the time to properly wash their hands and go through all the steps (fingertips and whatnot), but it’s also like, oh my God! What were we doing before this?
Amanda Arnold, writer: I knew I was gross before, but I didn’t realize it was this bad. I should’ve been quarantined long ago.
Stella Bugbee: But at the same time, paradoxically, our immune systems need exposure to germs, and by killing too many bacteria, we’re handicapping our body’s natural ability to fight infections. One theory on the rise of autoimmune diseases in industrialized nations is that in our overly clean world, our bodies have nothing to fight, so they attack healthy cells.
Erica Schwiegershausen, editor: Yeah, I’ve been thinking about that, too, Stella. I think before COVID-19 I took some solace in the idea that it was actually kind of good and healthy to be dirty. I had a vague sense that it was good for immunity.
Callie Beusman: Here’s a question: Will you go back to the slovenly style of handwashing when this is over? I’m busy!! 20 seconds is a lot.
Allison Davis: My hands are so dry. I will, however, wipe down my phone screen with Lysol wipes. I can’t unsee what I’ve seen with the blacklight photos my dad sent me. Having a doctor in the family has been sort of the worst — a lot of, “Don’t worry, but you’re filthy, so here are a million forwards about how dirty everything you touch is and instructions on how to make your own Purell.”
Kelly Conaboy, writer-at-large: I think after COVID-19, you can maybe take along some handwashing tips but shorten it to 10 seconds.
Allison Davis: Here’s an article on how rich people are preparing for this differently. “Concierge doctors, yachts, chartered planes, and germ-free hideaways.”
Kelly Conaboy: It would be a really interesting story if the whole Cut team went out onto a yacht and died together people would be like … ??? We would definitely get a movie.
Stella Bugbee: Good content. But some man would profit off of it.
Kerensa Cadenas, senior editor: It would be directed by Todd Phillips.
Stella Bugbee: We cannot die on a cruise ship while blogging, simply because we can’t give money to Todd Phillips.
Rachel Bashein, managing editor: Wow, I go get breakfast, come back, and it’s Jonestown in here.
Callie Beusman: I’m imagining an experimental film that chronicles both our suicide cult and Todd Phillips’ efforts to obtain the rights to it. It culminates with us deciding to live to prevent him from telling our story. A victory for women filmmakers. We obviously direct it, and then in a plot twist everybody saw coming, we are snubbed at the Oscars.
Stella Bugbee: Well, this was a plot twist for this chat that I didn’t see coming, that’s for sure. Let’s all go wash our hands now.