How Scared Should We Be?

How Scared Should We Be?

As this newspaper goes to press, the coronavirus is getting closer to Rockbridge County. After no cases of the virus were reported in Virginia through the end of the last work week, three cases have now been confirmed in the state with another two “presumed” cases. Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia had confirmed cases as of Monday.

Across the country, 22 deaths have been linked to coronavirus, part of a worldwide death toll of over 3,800.

Hand sanitizer and face masks are hard to find. More people than ever are wiping down shopping carts before they use them. California has over 5,500 residents in self-quarantine as are over 2,700 in New York City. The stock market is crumbling and no one is booking cruises.

Exactly how much we should be scared depends partly on who you listen to. President Trump has tried to be reassuring, but he has come under fire — not only from those on the other side of the political aisle but different experts in the medical field — for downplaying the virus. His administration is also being criticized for not moving fast enough to try to contain the virus and for not doing and saying the right things now, despite the creation of a task force led by the vice president.

Many people, including the president, are pointing out that the coronavirus is not nearly as widespread as the flu that we face every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 32 million Americans have come down with influenza since last September and about 18,000 have died.

Why is this dominating the headlines then? Because the coronavirus is new, there is no natural immunity to it like many of us have to the flu. There are also no medicines yet to treat coronavirus like we do the flu, and there is no vaccine yet So, for now anyway, it appears to be deadlier than the flu, particularly for those with underlying medical conditions and the elderly.

And it is spreading rapidly. Will it come to Rockbridge? No one knows, but it well might.

Should we panic? Should we stop a lot of our daily activities? Should we avoid stores? Should we avoid church? Should we avoid ball games?

We would argue, don’t panic but take precautions, make some emergency plans and stay educated with the facts about this illness.

First of all, if you haven’t heard by now, wearing a facemask will apparently do little to keep you safe and is only recommended for those who show symptoms of the virus to help prevent its spread to others and for health care workers.

On the other hand, hand sanitizer is useful, but washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds is even more important, especially according to the CDC - after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.

Other recommendations from the CDC include avoiding close contact with people who are sick; avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; staying home when you are sick; covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throwing the tissue in the trash; and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

The CDC website is, in fact, the best place to read about the virus, from details about precautions that should be taken and what you should do if you decide to self-quarantine to the latest updates. Information on what is happening in Virginia can be found on the Virginia Health Department’s website.

Hospitals and doctors’ offices, meanwhile, are urging those who have traveled out of the country recently or who may be showing flu-like symptoms to call ahead before they come in. The symptoms of coronavirus are fever, cough and shortness of breath, so, yes, the symptoms are similar to the flu.

And all of us should do some advance planning for both our homes and our businesses just in case a family member or co-worker comes down with the virus.

It is being recommending that we have enough food stocked up at home to last for two weeks. Businesses, meanwhile, should consider how they can continue operating should one or more of their employees catch the coronavirus. Perhaps there is a way for at least some employees to work from home.

Should we stop doing what we normally do everyday in the face of this new virus? For now anyway, we would say no. We would say continue to go to stores, churches and ball games; just take precautions. And, yes, if you are elderly or have an existing medical concern, you might not go to crowded places if you can help it.

But let’s not panic, and stay informed about this fast-moving story.

The News-Gazette

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P.O. Box 1153
Lexington, VA 24450
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