The World Is a Giant Cruise Ship Called the COVID-19
Virginia Postrel 弗吉尼婭·波斯特蕾爾
Fear of disease can change everyday habits. Sometimes that's a good thing.
We were sailing from Los Angeles to Hawaii on the same line， Princess Cruises，that had a different ship quarantined in Yokohama，Japan， with an outbreak of the coronavirus known as COVID-19. As we set sail in mid-February， a ship was either one of the safest places， isolated from potential contagion， or the riskiest. But even without the threat of a potential pandemic， we had reason to be cautious.
Like college dormitories and military barracks，ships crowded with tourists are great incubators of disease， particularly the highly contagious norovirus， which causes vomiting and diarrhea. Come down with it， and your vacation is ruined. If enough people get sick， the whole cruise can come to an abrupt stop. Over the weekend， a norovirus outbreak forced a Princess cruise in the Caribbean to end a day early. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires ships to report sick passengers or crew. Last year， 10 cruises reported that more than 3 percent of their crew and passengers suffered gastrointestinal illnesses; eight were positively identified as norovirus.
On a cruise， you start paying attention to washing your hands properly. Signs in all the bathrooms， including your cabin's， remind you to wash with soap for at least 20 seconds before rinsing thoroughly. Hand-washing stations and sanitizer dispensers greet you on entering the buffet.
With all those nudges， and the sight of other passengers conscientiously washing their hands， I developed better habits. Rather than a perfunctory soap and rinse， I really did count out 20 seconds， and made sure to get the backs of my hands and between my fingers. I washed my hands after blowing my nose and when I used the bathroom in the middle of the night. Never mind the coronavirus， I didn't want to spend my vacation throwing up.
Why don't we act this way all the time？ Taking a half minute to wash your hands with soap is a trivial act that costs next to nothing， yet almost no one does it. We'd all be better off if it became a habit. “People who perform proper hand-washing have lower rates of diarrhea， viral infections （like the common cold） and foodborne illnesses，” notes the Cleveland Clinic. “The CDC says proper hand-washing also reduces kids' absenteeism at school from gastrointestinal illnesses by at least 29%.” That was before COVID-19.
Washing your hands carefully is a minor shift in behavior. The coronavirus is a reminder that the world is a cruise ship， where we're all trapped with each other. We need to start acting like it.