USA Today op-ed argues COVID 'turned breathing into a deadly event'; made anyone 'potential serial killer'

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The Detroit Free Press was criticized as "fear porn" Tuesday after the paper republished an opinion piece declaring that the coronavirus pandemic has "turned breathing into a deadly event." 

The piece by opinion columnist Michael J. Stern was initially published on Monday by USA Today. The backlash came after the Free Press ran it Tuesday. Both newspapers are owned by Gannett.

"If I hold my breath when I hug my parents, will that spare me the Greek tragedy of killing them?" Stern asked at the start of the piece. "This mental toll will last long after the threat fades."

"As coronavirus burns an exponential path of destruction across the American terrain, an insidious blanket of shadow damage is quietly unfurling in its name," Stern told readers. "It’s not just the death and scarred lungs. COVID-19 has turned every man, woman and child into a potential serial killer.

"So far, I’ve been fortunate. But not a day goes by that I don’t wonder whether my streak of good luck is about to end, because the person in front of me in the grocery line is wearing a mask below his nose — expelling a cloud of radioactive COVID dust that I cannot escape, short of dropping $50 on the conveyor belt and trying to outrun the security guard."

Stern went on to explain that "COVID-19 has turned the most necessary part of living — breathing — into a deadly event. If there’s anything that can make us hate our neighbors, it is the possibility that their very existence — every breath they exhale — could be lethal."

After sharing anecdotes about one of his friends expressing concern about hosting Thanksgiving and an illness his partner suffered while working with COVID patients at a hospital, which turned out to be a stomach virus, Stern stressed, "If there is a fear worse than contracting a deadly illness from someone you love, it is giving a deadly illness to someone you love."

"A day at work, a bus ride home or a restaurant stop to pick up a carryout dinner is only part of the daily land-mine course that risks exposure to coronavirus. Bringing that bug home to our kids, husband, wife or parents is terrifying," the columnist wrote. "It has left me Googling whether holding my breath when I hug my parents will spare me the Greek tragedy of killing my own mother or father."

"The covid [sic] lockdowner mentality is a form of mass hysteria that can quickly transform into mental illness, as seen below," radio host Buck Sexton reacted on Twitter.

"possibly [sic] the most hysterical virus fear porn article to date. no basis in fact, just alarmism and scare tactics. are we supposed to stop breathing?" Daily Caller's Logan Hall asked. 

"this is the epitome of absolute fear-mongering," attorney Mike Yoder similarly expressed.

"Alexa, what’s hyperbole?" Daily Wire senior editor Ashe Short quipped.

"I don't say this as a joke at all. Anyone who really feels this way is mentally ill, a danger to themselves and others, and should be committed to a mental hospital for evaluation," political commentator Matt Walsh tweeted, later adding, "They're really going to cancel breathing." 

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