COVID-19, East Village, New York
Pedestrians sporting masks in the East Village of New York City on October 17, 2020. Photo credit: Eden, Janine and Jim / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Welcome to WhoWhatWhy’s weekly COVID-19 roundup. There’s a lot of virus coverage out there, so this feature will give you a dose of the latest news.

Have you imagined that cities could die out because of the pandemic? Well, I did, but apparently they are stronger than one might think. Despite the great work-at-home shift, cities still hold significant economic value in ways more abstract than financial and technological assets. The “downfall of the city” is an alarm regularly sounded throughout history — and has never happened. Cities will remain relevant, even necessary, because more densely populated areas mean more information is spread through “chance encounters” with other people living and working nearby. This kind of learning is crucial to creative innovation, which results in more successful companies and more jobs.

Cities will survive the pandemic, but in-person office work may not. And as we face global chip shortages — something especially necessary for the manufacturing of laptops and smartphones — there is a higher incentive for people to purchase desktop computers. Yes, the days of buying the latest iPhone for the slightly better camera quality and larger storage space may finally be over, as the benefits of “stationary tech” increasingly outweigh the drawbacks. Maybe smart watches will become the new smartphone, and smartphones will become the new landline, and landlines will become the new postcard… you get the picture. 

Tech comes and goes, scammers and flimflammers are eternal, present more so than ever during the pandemic. Studies have shown that online scams spike after breaking news events, making a year of coronavirus media coverage a perfect storm. Victims of fraud are often older people, and the scams usually happen through phone calls, texts, and emails — not social media as one might expect.

TikTok has come to the rescue again, this time for people who have lost their sense of smell. About 10 percent of people who lost some sense of smell from COVID-19 have recurring symptoms, and there is generally no easy fix. Many people have to train their noses by regularly sniffing a set of strong natural scents. It’s not an exact science, and some have tried other methods such as the one shown in this TikTok video, where the account @toosmxll details how to prepare a cooked orange as a home remedy when you cannot taste anything.

A single wild mink found in Utah has tested positive for COVID-19, sending shock waves through the scientific community. This is a bad sign, because it leaves potential for the virus to remain longer in the wild, mutate, and return with a vengeance to human populations. 

This is not the only reason we must remain diligent about the pandemic. Vaccines have been found to be less effective against certain coronavirus variants, and there is concern that relaxed restrictions could lead to a fourth wave. Yes, Texas, we’re looking at you.

If this or anything else gives you pandemic panic, there’s probably a better German word for how you’re feeling. There are now over 1,000 German words specific to the pandemic experience. Take a look, and remember: Don’t let the maskenarschlocher get you down!

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Eden, Janine and Jim / Flickr (CC BY 2.0).


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