8

En estos tiempos (marzo-abril 2020) he escuchado a unos periodistas decir el COVID-19 y a otros decir la COVID-19.

Tengo entendido que COVID-19 es la enfermedad. Entonces, ¿sería más correcto decir la COVID-19?

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    Depende de cómo traduces «disease», Para algunos sería, pero para otros podría ser otra como «trastorno» o «síndrome». – user0721090601 Apr 9 '20 at 0:04
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    Por lo visto, en italiano han optado por el femenino ("la COVID-19"), aunque muchos medios de comunicación utilizan "il COVID-19" por la confusión entre virus y enfermedad. – Charo Apr 9 '20 at 9:54
  • Creo que... el virus es masculino.. después de leer en un sitio colombiano [noticias], puedo ver que usa "el COVID-19". – Brian Pratt Apr 10 '20 at 1:15
  • Exactamente el virus se llama SARS-CoV-2. – Charo Apr 19 '20 at 11:14
11

La RAE (por exactamente esas razones) considera el uso femenino justificado, aunque nota que hay precedente para su uso masculino mayoritario:

COVID-19

La Organización Mundial de la Salud ha propuesto la abreviación COVID-19 (a partir de COronaVIrus + Disease ‘enfermedad’ + [20]19).

El acrónimo COVID-19 que nombra la enfermedad causada por el SARS-CoV-2 se usa normalmente en masculino (el COVID-19) por influjo del género de coronavirus y de otras enfermedades víricas (el zika, el ébola), que toman por metonimia el nombre del virus que las causa. Aunque el uso en femenino (la COVID-19) está justificado por ser enfermedad (disease en inglés) el núcleo del acrónimo (COronaVIrus Disease), el uso mayoritario en masculino, por las razones expuestas, se considera plenamente válido.

Así se manifiesta también Fundéu en coronavirus, claves de escritura:

2. COVID-19, mejor en femenino

Lo preferible es emplear el femenino (la COVID-19), puesto que el referente principal del acrónimo es el sustantivo enfermedad. No obstante, no se considera censurable el uso del masculino (el COVID-19), pues, tal y como explica la Gramática, la vacilación en la elección del artículo es habitual en casos como este en los que el componente principal no queda claro para los hablantes.

Otras enfermedades causadas por otras cepas de coronavirus también se llaman el, por ser síndromes:

  • El síndrome respiratorio agudo grave (SRAG / SARS)
  • El síndrome respiratorio de Oriente Medio (SROM / MERS)
2

Your question made me curious because I did not know whether or not COVID-19 was considered a disease or a virus or a pneumonia or something else altogether (until recently, I didn't really know what COVID-19 stood for exactly other than it referred to something that was highly contagious and causing sickness and death). Now I know that the "D" in COVID-19 stands for "disease," and that it is considered a disease and not a virus (el virus) or even a strain of virus (cepa de virus). For more on this distinction, visit this page where it specifically states

No se debe confundir con SARS-CoV-2, el virus que causa la enfermedad.
Not to be confused with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease.

So then I wondered, as you did, why it would not be referred to in Spanish as "la COVID-19." The short answer is, "I don't know."

I even went so far as to take a cursory look into what was used in Spain's paper of record — El País. I discovered that one will find many more hits with "el COVID-19" rather than "la COVID-19," if Google hits on web pages are any indicator. This preference for "la COVID-19" over "el COVID-19" was seen even up to a day ago. Having said that, there does appear to be a trend favoring "la COVID-19" over "el COVID-19," if the past week is any indicator. The chart below shows two charts, one with overall hits on a Google search of El País pages and the other just showing the hits from the past week:

Again, I don't know the explanation for this. My guess would be that, journalists and their editors are human and although they likely have a guidebook for such things (in the U.S. most journalists have at least heard of the AP Stylebook), I would imagine that demands for reporting on COVID-19, like the disease itself, hit so fast and hard that there was little time to get all Spanish language journalists on board with whether or not it should be considered grammatically feminine or masculine. They likely had larger issues to be concerned with and since the default for grammatical genders when it comes to foreign/borrowed/imported words is masculine for many languages with grammatical gender to include Spanish, it was quite possible that making it masculine just seemed natural. But more likely, as Diego has alluded to in his answer, some may have thought of it as a virus and others a disease and that's probably the best explanation there is for why we see the discrepancy in the first place.

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    Suggestion: the results might be biased due to contractions: if you search for "el COVID-19" you will miss many masculine uses of the form "al COVID-19" or "del COVID-19". Feminine results will not be missed due to contractions. – wimi Apr 9 '20 at 11:03
  • @wimi So true, and thank you for pointing that out. Despite overlooking that, at least I used the same careless methodology for both searches and considering that "el COVID-19" is much more common than "al COVID-19" (6:1 on El País as of right now). I think the point I was attempting to make — that journalists are now beginning to refer to COVID-19 using feminine gender — is still supported by what was revealed (in spite of the less than thorough methodology). But again, thank you very, very much for pointing this out to me. I truly do appreciate it. – Lisa Beck Apr 9 '20 at 23:33
  • Cuando la pregunta está en español ojalá la respuesta también lo esté :) – DGaleano Apr 19 '20 at 16:07

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