As an editor, I am in a unique position to access a great deal of information on numerous topics. Lately, my inbox has been overflowing with information on COVID-19. Facts, figures, experts willing to comment, updates from numerous news outlets, modeling firms and other solid as well as questionable sources.
I don’t deny that this is a significant issue and that we must be cautious in some areas and take sensible precautions in others. But as I travel to the grocery store, watch the news, and listen to people talk about their concerns, I’m wondering if maybe we’re panicking just a little too much.
I live in Maryland, and as of March 13, 12 people had tested positive for the disease. On a bad night in Baltimore City, more people than that can be shot. I’m not making light of this, just trying to provide some perspective. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 56,000 people die annually from the flu or flu-like illnesses in the U.S. alone, while as many as 600,000 or more die from it worldwide.
MERS, which is also a form of coronavirus, has a 35% fatality rate, as compared to COVID-19, which is closer to 2-3% for those in the high-risk categories. Keep in mind that for the vast majority of people who contract COVID-19, 80% will have a fairly mild case and will recover. The remaining 20% may have varying degrees of severity and yes, some will die because of already weakened immune systems from other factors.
I think what scares everyone is how quickly and easily it spreads, but again, using common sense and common courtesy will also help to slow the contagion down. I’ve always operated on the assumption that doorknobs, light switches, elevator buttons, grocery carts and other public touchpoints have germs, and I’ve carried a small bottle of hand sanitizer in my purse for years. I’m really glad that everyone is suddenly aware of the importance of good hand hygiene, but I have to wonder what everyone did before the virus?
And in what world would any of us need enough toilet paper or hand soap to last six months or more? Even in China, where people have been on lockdown for two months, they are allowed to go to the store every other day to purchase food and supplies. In the U.S., I expect that people will still be able to go to the store, order from Uber Eats or Door Dash, and spend quality time visiting Amazon and spending way too much money.
I’m pretty sure that we’ll still have running water (negating the need to purchase cases and cases of bottled water), there will still be books, internet access, cable or satellite TV (Comcast is offering free service in some areas and Sirius XM has a coronavirus channel) to entertain us, and a lot less traffic for anyone who’s still going into the office or other place of work.
I encourage you to keep things in perspective as all of us navigate the unknowns surrounding COVID-19. Use your common sense. If you’re coughing and sneezing, stay home. If you’ve traveled somewhere high risk or are aware that you’ve been around someone who has, choose to stay home. Wash your hands with soap and water, wash your jewelry if you wear rings, cover your face, smile when you greet other people, and be smart about your exposures. Wipe down common touchpoints in your home if someone gets sick — doorknobs, light switches, the refrigerator handles, sink faucets, cabinet pulls and the remote control. These are simple but practical steps all of us can take.
If you’re stuck at home, use that time to do some projects you haven’t had time to do before. Call your mother, check on your neighbors, be proactive instead of reactive. The effects of the coronavirus will not last indefinitely and panicking won’t solve any of them.
I’m not trying to be flip, so please don’t send me any hate emails or troll me on social media. I’m trying to inject a dose of reality into what seems to be a runaway train.
Opinions presented are those of the writer.