UPDATED: A game to help combat the coronavirus epidemic

UPDATE 2020/03/11: Since I posted this, many workplaces have asked asked employees to work from home when possible. Updated the game to reflect that.

We interrupt your (ir)regularly scheduled posts to bring you something that YOU can do to combat the coronavirus epidemic (COVID-19). If you’re anything like me, you probably feel helpless watching the COVID-19 epidemic unfold because there isn’t much you can do to contribute to the fight. Unfortunately, that helplessness combined with the intense desire to do something leads to bad results — all that energy has to go somewhere (see: brawls over toilet paper, stock market drops, and $350 hand sanitizer)

So here’s a game you can play that will do good, effective things to fight the coronavirus:

+5 points each time you wash your hands with soap and water while singing/narrating to yourself the intro to your favorite show. No, hand sanitizer does not count, because it turns out to be less effective against the virus.

+1 point each time you call/text your friends and family who are most at risk (over 70, already have an illness like diabetes or cancer), remind them that you love them and that they should stay home, and see if they need anything sent to them while you’re at it. Each person only counts once a week, because you don’t want to be annoying.

+1 point each time you cough or sneeze into your elbow.

+1 point each time you redirect a person with misinformation to more accurate information while being nice about it (so you don’t get to call them a dumbass). Try the following, ordered from least to most technical:

+50 points if you’re feeling sick and stay home.

+50 points for the day if you work from home.

-1 point each time you touch your face (without having washed your hands with soap and water immediately before). This is overwhelmingly where your points will disappear so try hard!

-1 point each time you cough or sneeze and it’s not into your elbow.

-10 points every time you panic buy something.

At the end of every day, tally up your points to see how well you did. Try to do better each day. Share this with friends and compete with them to get the highest score! And feel confident that you’re doing something that actually works to fight the coronavirus and stop a pandemic.

P.S. For those of you who are thinking “everyone can and should do all of these things not during an epidemic,” I hear what you are saying and you’re technically correct. But it’s also good to remind people of what they can do to actually help. And anything we can do to slow the spread of COVID-19 matters in not overloading our healthcare system.

2 thoughts on “UPDATED: A game to help combat the coronavirus epidemic

  1. I like your game! Followed the link from STAT. As a relatively healthy 69 year old, I appreciate that you mention 70 as a cutoff point for more conservative preventative measures as opposed to the standard 60 & 65. Since you’re a biologist and I have a nephew and two nieces-in-law your age who are also in the biosciences, I’ll accept your authority to do what I already decided to do 😉 which was go to the gym super-early, practice social distancing while working out and increasing my ability to fight this virus. (Then, after the gym, I went to Target and bought a set of hand-weights for my home gym, for what’s coming up.)

    For readers, you **can** develop these habits: I’ve been doing several of them for years in order to avoid getting sick while traveling.

    This link has charts from most key localities showing the growth of confirmed cases over time:

    View at Medium.com

    Data based on numbers like “doubling time” is important to me because I want to anticipate correctly when I should quit going to the gym. Currently my county has only one case. Unfortunately slow rate of testing makes the proportion of the population stealthily shedding virus unknown.


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