Culture Feature

The "Contagion" Stars' Guide to Surviving the COVID-19 Pandemic

The stars of Soderbergh's prescient film Contagion have teamed up with Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health to offer a bit of science to help you get through this real-life pandemic.

Spy Culture / "Contagion"

If there's one thing to learn from the current coronavirus pandemic, it's that Steven Soderbergh is an underrated director.

Just kidding: Steven Soderbergh is a beautiful gift from the movie gods, and everyone knows it. The real lesson of today's upside down world is: Learn how to properly wash your damn hands. If you've yet to amass an entire playlist of excellent 20-second song clips to wash your hands to (we recommend the Friends theme song up until the chorus), then you've got plenty of time to learn while you play with your cats, count your cans of beans, and stare yearningly out the window like you're in a Baroque portrait.

But to help things along, the stars of Soderbergh's prescient film Contagion have teamed up with Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health to offer a bit of science to help you get through this real-life pandemic.

Contagion resonates for many reasons, from the film's chief medical consultant contracting the virus himself to the film's stark depiction of loss of life: Empty shelves in the grocery store develop into violent looting; bleary scenes of empty, trash-filled streets turn into scenes of mass graves. But then, through the miraculous work of the CDC and one female doctor's daring risk, a vaccine is developed within a year. Slowly, order returns to the world. Shopping malls resume the march of capitalism. Teens go to prom (sort of).

But the overarching theme of Contagion is that people need each other, and in times of crisis it's possible to honor our interconnectedness more than our distance (cultural, social, and economic, as well as physical). With that in mind, four of the actors who play the film's most poignant roles have these home-made messages for you (with all science coming directly from the scientists on the frontlines of this pandemic).

MATT DAMON: On Listening to Experts

"We can all do this together...just by staying apart."

#ControltheContagion - Matt Damon and the Contagion cast talk about COVID-19 youtu.be


LAURENCE FISHBURNE: On What We Can Do Right Now

"A pandemic means that the virus is everywhere, but it won't be every place at the same time. So, if it's not where you live today, you can bet that that's going to change. If you don't know anyone who's sick yet, you can also bet that that will change."

COVID-19 PSAs from the cast of CONTAGION: Laurence Fishburne youtu.be


KATE WINSLET: On How Stopping the Spread Is in Your Hands

"We all want a cure. But until we have one, we need to be that for each other. Starting now."

YouTube youtu.be


JENNIFER EHLE: On Vaccines

"Paranoia is a kind of virus, as well. It requires fear and misinformation to spread, and we don't need scientists to cure that–just compassion and common sense."

COVID-19 PSAs from the cast of CONTAGION: Jennifer Ehle youtu.be

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The Doctor Behind "Contagion" Has the Coronavirus–and He Has a Warning

"The very best tool we have is isolation and confinement. We need to protect ourselves," he emphasized.

Gizmodo Australia / "Contagion"

No one understands the horror behind Steven Soderbergh's eerily prescient film Contagion better than Dr. W. Ian Lipkin.

Dr. Lipkin was the lead medical advisor for the 2011 film, which tracks the global outbreak and devastation due to a novel virus that mutates from first infecting bats to pigs to humans. The film resonates with loss of life: Empty shelves in the grocery store develop into violent looting; bleary scenes of empty, trash-filled streets turn into scenes of mass graves. But then, through the miraculous work of the CDC and one female doctor's daring risk, a vaccine is developed within a year. Slowly, order returns to the world. Shopping malls resume the march of capitalism. Teens go to prom (sort of).

Amidst all the disturbing coincidences between Contagion and the real-world coronavirus pandemic, there is one that's dangerously missing. Dr. Lipkin, the director of Columbia University's Center for Infection and Immunity, appeared on Lou Dobbs Tonight to announce that he, himself, has contracted the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

"I have COVID as of yesterday," Dr. W. Ian Lipkin told Fox's David Asman. "And it is miserable, it is miserable." He added, "If it can hit me, it can hit anybody. That's the message I want to convey."

Lipkin urged Americans to continue to practice social distancing in order to curb the spread of the virus. "It's extraordinarily important that we harmonize whatever restrictions we have across the country," Lipkin said. "We have porous borders between states and cities and unless we're consistent, we're not gonna get ahead of this thing…What New York, Chicago and Washington have done has been very, very helpful and I would like to see that implemented broadly across the United States."

"The very best tool we have is isolation and confinement. We need to protect ourselves," he emphasized.

Globally, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have risen above 400,000, causing more than 18,000 deaths. Unless social distancing is practiced on a wider scale, those numbers will continue to escalate.

But one of Contagion's most glaring themes, aside from the ease of infectious transmission, is our human need for social contact. While we have tools to support that need without physical contact, too many people are ignoring the severity of the matter.

Another doctor who consulted on Contagion, Dr. Mark Smolinksi, warns that the message of social distancing is not being received. Smolinksi told ABCNews that he's disturbed by how many people who are still socializing and carrying on with business as usual. "It should look like it did in Contagion," he said, referring to the eerie scenes where "the streets are empty. People are sheltering at home."

When shown videos of young college students celebrating spring break in Florida, he said, "It was disheartening to watch," and I thought, 'Wow. How did the messaging fail to get out there?'"

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Culture News

It's Time to Close GameStop Permanently

A company that refuses to ensure the safety of their employees and customers does not deserve to exist.

GameStop has been coughing up blood since long before the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Over the past few years, video games—like most other forms of media—have largely transitioned from physical to digital. Considering GameStop's whole "buy-sell-trade" shtick only applies to physical discs and cartridges, it's easy to see why their business model is falling apart. Moreover, even people who still prefer to buy physical copies of games tend to avoid GameStop due to their corporate insistence on annoying upsell pushes for preorders and membership subscriptions.

In short, GameStop is dying, and the lost profits from an indefinite shutdown of brick and mortar locations during the coronavirus outbreak will almost certainly lead to them going bankrupt. But maybe that's for the best.

Gamestop coronavirus https://nichegamer.com/2020/03/18/camelot-gamestop-is-attempting-to-remain-open-during-coronavirus-outbreak-lied-about-s

GameStop has always been notorious for treating their employees poorly, but in trying to salvage their already failing company in the midst of COVID-19, they've shown utter disregard for the actual safety of their employees and their customers.

Like most companies, GameStop recently launched a COVID-19 e-mail marketing campaign informing their customers about all the ways in which they're monitoring, prepping, and cleaning their stores for maximum safety. Precautions, guided by GameStop's "internal COVID-19 taskforce dedicated solely to this issue," include encouraging sick employees to stay home and "providing all our stores with the necessary supply of disinfectant materials and hand sanitizer to frequently clean high-touch surfaces."

One would think that not forcing knowingly sick employees to come into work and providing hand sanitizer would be the bare minimum for a non-essential store choosing to stay open during a pandemic that requires intensive social distancing, but as it turns out, GameStop has been lying about even that.

In a recent Reddit thread on r/GameStop titled "To those concerned," an employee aired major concerns over GameStop's handling of the situation, most notably the fact that corporate offices never even sent the majority of stores any disinfectants or hand sanitizers:

gamestop coronavirus u/NotSoFuncoLand

The top-rated response in the thread is from a GameStop district manager who blows the whistle even harder: "Our regional call today was about taking more tech trades and 'taking advantage' of the situation. This phrase was sincerely said on our call."

From there, more and more accounts have emerged highlighting GameStop's abhorrent disregard for the lives of their employees.

In an internal GameStop memo obtained by Kotaku, GameStop management explains to employees that they are classified as "essential retail," putting themselves in the same category as pharmacies and grocery stores that need to stay open no matter what. They also urge employees to keep stores open even if police attempt to enforce mandatory shutdowns:

"Due to the products we carry that enable and enhance our customers' experience in working from home, we believe GameStop is classified as essential retail and therefore is able to remain open during this time...We have received reports of local authorities visiting stores in an attempt to enforce closure despite our classification. Store Managers are approved to provide the document linked below to law enforcement as needed."

Up until a few days prior, GameStop was even still planning to hold massive midnight release events for Animal Crossing: New Horizons and DOOM Eternal, only shutting those down last-minute after receiving significant backlash. In another concession to safety, GameStop agreed to take down game demo stations, which are high-traffic in-store areas for physical contact. Of course, multiple employees reported that GameStop was only paying lip-service and that they were instructed to keep the demo-stations active after all.

Some employees were also told that if anyone actually did come into work with coronavirus, they would simply need to quarantine themselves and bring in a replacement staff to run the store.

All of this goes to show that GameStop is unfit to be in business anymore. A company that refuses to ensure the safety of their employees and customers and, more egregiously, actively values profits over their employees' very lives, does not deserve to exist. This is doubly true for a store that sells entertainment media, as opposed to literally anything essential to human survival. This is quadruply true during a global pandemic.

The owners of GameStop aren't just failing as business people. They're failing as human beings. Employees' lives are more valuable than profits, and no gamer should ever support GameStop again after this debacle.

It's time for GameStop to hurry up and die.