Novel Coronavirus COVID-19

Whatever you call it, Coronavirus, the Wuhan Coronavirus, Coronavirus disease 2019, or the official designation “COVID-19”, everyone is in a panic over this “novel” (aka “new”) virus.  And panic is not a good thing.  Panic leads to stupidity, like buying several years’ worth of toilet paper and hand sanitizer and not leaving any for your neighbors, which increases your chances of being exposed to the virus.

Think about that for a minute…

There is so much going on with this that it’s almost impossible NOT to feel overwhelmed.  To feel helpless and afraid.  To feel like the government doesn’t have your back…

OK, that last one is true, but it’s always true.  Government is too top-heavy to react quickly to any crisis, particularly a health issue like COVID-19.  Government is slow to react, and the first reaction is usually to try to calm things down, downplay risks.  (More on the government response later…)

The media, on the other hand, is always looking for higher ratings, so feature the goriest stories and worst possible scenarios to glue people to their TV sets.  Public hysteria is good for ratings, and ratings = money.  Remember, there’s no such thing as journalism anymore.

So stop, take a look around and make sure you’re at least 6 feet away from another person (10 or 12 would be better), take a deep breath, and engage your brain.

Yes, COVID-19 is serious.  It is not the flu.  Nobody has real immunity to it.  And it can be dangerous, particularly to an immune system that is compromised.

But that’s no reason to stockpile toilet paper.

We’ve done this before, many times.  SARS.  MERS.  Even the flu, which has been part and parcel of the winter months for generations and impacts everyone.  It’s a virus.  Different from the flu, but still a virus.  And we know how to deal with viruses.

So calm down and think.

For most of us, standard preventive practices will reduce the chances of contracting any viral disease, including this one; hand washing, “social distancing,” avoiding large groups, all those things limit personal exposure.  We’re making it tough for the virus to survive long enough to infect us, we’re keeping our distance from it. The aim right now is to both reduce the impact of the virus, and to slow the spread (it’s pandemic now, we don’t want it to become epidemic) so we don’t completely overwhelm what resources we do have.

That’s why schools are being closed and sanitized, large gatherings postponed or canceled outright, handshakes being replaced with “namaste” (hands together with a slight bow) or the Vulcan salute (which I think is very cool).

And for the vast majority of us, if we do contract it we’ll have flu-like symptoms of varying severity, which we need to treat as we treat the flu when we get it.  If symptoms become severe, get medical attention – just like with the flu.  Otherwise, use the anti-viral practices we’ve learned since we were kids (bundling up, steam, hot baths, lots of water, ginger tea, soup, eat other warming foods, use a neti pot, no sugar or alcohol, etc.), and we’re going to be fine.

It’s the same population that is most at risk with the flu that we need to be most concerned with about COVID-19.  Most of the deaths in the state of Washington, so far the state hardest hit by this virus, have been nursing home residents; compromised immune systems in an enclosed environment is a deadly combination whenever there’s a new bug going around.  But those of us who are healthy need to be very much aware of the potential exposure issues when visiting sick and elderly friends and family.  Retirement communities are cutting off visitors and common-room functions in an effort to limit exposure.

For some reason, COVID-19 doesn’t seem to be affecting children as much as the flu does.  That’s a ray of sunshine…

We don’t need numbers to know what we need to do to limit the spread of this new virus.  We don’t need a leaden, broken government to tell us what we already know.  We just need to do it.

So for a few weeks, we’re going to live in a different world than we might be used to.

That’s no reason to stockpile toilet paper.

Live Long and Prosper.

spock salute

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