As frustration mounts across the board with the response to COVID-19, it's worth noting that even those in the future seem to struggle with the most basic safety rules of a pandemic. At least, those in the future on TV, anyway. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, for example, was forced to quarantine in Season 1 Episode 4's "Babel," and surprisingly, handled almost everything worse than people currently living in the 21st century.
Ironically, this was probably an oversight by the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine staff, who hadn't faced a level of quarantine in their lives like folks are seeing now. With that said, many of us are now familiar with the basic protocols to follow in the case of quarantine, so let's revisit "Babel" and the simple steps the Deep Space Nine crew didn't take that could've helped prevent the spread of the virus.
Ignored Social Distancing Guidelines
Almost immediately after the order is put out for Deep Space Nine occupants to remain in their quarters, everyone began rushing around in search of something to do. I was willing to give occupants some benefit of the doubt at first, since space stations are tight spaces with tons of people on board. Then everyone rushed to Quark's establishment when everything closed, desperate to do anything but remain in their quarters as the directive insisted, and my heart hardened just a bit.
Everyone is falling over themselves to get in Quark's, and the place is literally shoulder to shoulder with folks having a good time. I couldn't see six feet available in the entire area, let alone a gap between the crowd that was all about having fun while they still could. It's no wonder the virus progressed so quickly, and that the characters in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine found themselves in such big trouble in a very short amount of time.
Quark Refused To Close Non-Essential Business
As mentioned, Quark decided to keep his business open despite every other shop closing in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode. Odo went to Quark trying to force his business to close, but the Ferengi fired back that his bar, casino, and holodeck arcade is "essential business." The swaths of people who flooded the bar reinforced that according to Quark, and he continued to stay defiant to the quarantine order.
And, for that reason, the virus got much worse. Quark's negligence gave more people aphasia and the virus went airborne. Had Quark obeyed the quarantine and closed his business for just a day or so, it's very possible the virus would've been discovered and eradicated before more lives were put in danger.
No One Washed Their Hands
Sisko is livid people aren't obeying quarantine orders in "Babel," and yet Star Trek: Deep Space Nine forgoes showing the most common preventative germ technique of the 21st century. Not once, not even for a second is anyone in this episode washing their hands. I watched, and re-watched, and no one ever stops to think "Hey, we're dealing with germs here, I should probably wear some protective medical equipment."
In fact, there are several instances in the episode where the sick are being handled by random people with no form of protection on. Full-on body contact and it is confirmed at this point the aphasia is being spread through airborne transmission. Despite that, people continue to hang out with the sick in close proximity and proceed to look stunned when their speech gets messed up and they get a high temperature. For all the future tech they have, how can they still be so ignorant about preventing disease transmission?
Literally Everyone Ignored The Stay-In-Quarters Order
Even when everyone got sick at Quark's there were still plenty of people moving through Deep Space Nine and continually appearing everywhere but the one place they're supposed to be. Keep in mind, the virus was airborne at this stage, and yet folks continued to hang out in the med-bay to be with loved ones, or to attempt to help the even sicker.
It's a noble thought, but frankly, there are people in these scenes doing little more than standing around and carrying people. They couldn't provide any significant medical treatment, and had they stayed in their quarters where literally everything they needed was available to them, they wouldn't be putting themselves and others at risk for this illness. Again, no one has protective gloves or masks on either, but that's just beating a dead horse at this point.
Travel Restrictions Were Broken
Travel restriction protocol is actually broken twice in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's "Babel," though I can forgive Kira's search for Dr. Surmak. Without his help the whole station would've fallen ill, more would've died, and no one would've been able to warn incoming folks to the station about the virus. Surmak did end up contracting the virus himself, but luckily was still able to procure a vaccine that saved everyone in the end.
Then there's the freighter captain who, despite quarantine orders, tried to launch from the station in order to escape the virus he may have already contracted. Of course, he didn't care, and his recklessness quickly turned things from bad to worse when his ship's power core is ruptured in the attempt to escape. Luckily some fast thinking from Quark and Odo prevented an explosion from severely damaging the base, though it stands to reason the explosion may have contained the virus sooner. Perhaps not in the way any character would've wanted, of course, but it needed to be said.
Quark Refused To Adhere To Advance Safety Directives
Not to harp on Quark too much, but the reason this virus took off is really all his fault. Beyond not keeping his business closed, Quark used an infected replicator on the command level despite orders that no replicators are to be used on that level.
In fairness, Quark had been doing that before the cause of the virus had been discovered. He also didn't stop once the quarantine directive was first ordered either though, so it's hard to excuse his initial behavior when it continued knowing there was a risk of getting others sick. Honestly, this situation really spun out of control rather quickly thanks to one ignorant Ferengi, which just goes to show how much damage one person can do during a pandemic.
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