Editorial: Panic and hysteria surrounding Coronavirus is only making matters worse
As the coronavirus – also known as COVID-19 – spreads throughout the continental United States, Americans are reacting in a variety of ways. Some of them are smart, others, well, to put it nicely…not so much.
Keeping away from those large crowds, stocking up on medication and food in case of in-home isolation and washing hands frequently are all smart practices in the face of a pandemic that is spreading through those virus-laden droplets sneezed or coughed by sick people.
However, hoarding ridiculous amounts of toilet paper, crates of bottled water or absurd amounts of hand sanitizer as if the end of the world is near is simply irrational and unhelpful to your fellow residents in Moffat County, and the state of Colorado as a whole.
It’s puzzling to see the hand sanitizer supplies dwindling quickly, considering public health experts say the best way to clean germy hands is to wash them with standard soap and water. Additionally, it’s simply counterproductive to deny hand sanitizer to others, who could use it to avoid spreading the infection to you.
While hoarding hand sanitizer is outright silly, what’s downright stupid is stealing medical equipment for personal use. It hasn’t happened in Colorado yet, but just don’t be that person. The nation already has a woefully inadequate supply of facemasks, and taking protective gear away from those who work with sick people endangers everyone.
Now, people should certainly be concerned and take extraordinary-but-rational precautions to avoid coming down with COVID-19 — not only for themselves, but also for others in the community who are at higher risk for serious illness or death, such as elderly people and those with underlying health conditions. And it’s true that health officials have good reasons to be more alarmed by the new virus than the seasonal influenza, despite the fact that the former is responsible for far fewer deaths this year than the latter.
The virus looks likely to be the most serious acute public-health crisis Americans have had to face at home in decades. It is still spreading at exponential rates. Fatality rates are much higher than the flu and other familiar bugs, particularly for older people. There is no vaccine for the time being. The character of its spread and symptoms threatens to gradually overwhelm the capacity of health systems in affected areas, leaving them short of hospital beds and respirators to treat the most seriously afflicted patients and so dramatically increasing the risks to them.
That said, the reality is that the vast majority of people who get infected will have moderate, mild or even no symptoms. There’s simply no good reason for the masses to freak out.
As testing ramps up after a troubling delay, the number of confirmed cases will most likely rise quickly. Same with the global death toll. As this starts to happens, especially here in the U.S., people need to hold their panic level in check. Stay calm; panicking only makes matters worse for you, and those around you.
Fortunately, Northwest Colorado has yet to have a case pop up, specifically here in Moffat County. If you listen to Moffat and Routt County Public Health Officer Dr. Brian Harrington, we’re more prepared to handle the virus here in our neck of the woods than other rural areas are, which should put people at ease. Trust in those in charge.
That doesn’t mean rush out and buy up all the darn toilet paper though, folks.
Have some patience with state and local government officials who are grappling with difficult decisions and trying to walk the line between complacency and overreaction to protect the community that we live in. Does it make sense for an entire county to quarantine, as Italy has done? What about a state of emergency, like Colorado just recently went into? We will only know in hindsight.
With the stock market currently fluctuating and our usual work or school routines likely to be disrupted in the future, it may feel a bit like the end of the world as we know it. It’s not though, and we should start act accordingly. Be careful, be responsible, but don’t give in to pandemic panic.
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