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In this commentary, written in two bursts—the first completed in April 2020, and the second at the end of July—we explore how media metaphors of COVID-19 constitute the pandemic in Australia and New Zealand. We argue that the media’s rhetorical strategies play an important role not only in describing the illness, but in influencing and shaping individual and collective responses to the pandemic, with significant consequences for mental health and well-being in the context of crisis. We align this commentary with the tenets of the sociology of diagnosis, which argue that even though there are material realities of disease, their social form and consequence cannot be separated from the tangible nature of illness and its management. We also lean on Derrida’s approach to metaphor, which underlines how even observable viral entities such as COVID-19 are simultaneously material, abstract, and in flux. We describe the metaphors used by local media to describe the pandemic—including combat, bush fires, earthquakes, and other natural disasters—and we explore how and why these metaphors construct the pandemic locally and farther afield.