I’m old enough to remember the hours and days after 9/11- when the country and in many respects, the rest of the world- came to a standstill and completely shut down. Flights were grounded. schools and businesses closed. Major events and large gatherings were cancelled- both out of respect and out of fear for more attacks and more casualties.
And despite post-apocalyptic movies, television shows and novels- I thought terrorism was one of the only things that could cause such mass hysteria like that again.
That was until now, anyway. What I’ve seen as a result of- and in preparation for- the coronavirus has been unprecedented. In my 30+ years of living- this is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, and I admittedly have moments where I’m frightened about the uncertainty with what’s going to happen next.
And then there are moments when I’m furious with how the media is handling this pandemic.
The facts about the coronavirus are similar to those of other illnesses we’ve seen sensationalized by media outlets in the past- it spreads quickly, there’s no known vaccine, and it can be potentially fatal to children, the elderly, or to the disabled or those with compromised immune systems and pre-existing conditions.
For those who are younger and/or otherwise healthy- the virus results in mild symptoms for a brief period of time- including dry cough, fever, and shortness of breath. It is, in many ways- a newly identified flu- and with that comes the question of how to slow or prevent the further spread of it to the most vulnerable of the population.
Common sense prevails in these cases. Good hygiene (wash your hands!) covering your mouth/nose when you cough and sneeze- staying home when you’re not feeling well- all are good practices from things as minor as the common cold all the way to this current epidemic. With coronavirus, avoiding coming into contact or close quarters with those who could potentially be harmed the most by it is also extremely helpful to slowing it’s spread and keeping people safe.
And I cannot stress it enough- but please don’t listen to everything the press or social media tells you. I’ve seen a lot of misinformation- from statistics to changes in policies- being shared by others who are just as nervous as the rest of us, and the reporting is reckless and extremely dangerous. Trust your local officials to keep you informed about the latest closures, rules/regulations and, if necessary- quarantine protocols- and keep an eye on updates from the CDC and WHO.
I know it’s tempting to take the word of your cousin’s friend’s friend on Facebook who heard that gargling bleach is a safe preventative strategy- but I assure you- it’s not. Don’t be fooled by fear mongering and paranoia. Be smart, take the recommended measures- and if you feel overwhelmed- get offline and turn the TV off for a while. I’ve had to do it plenty of times these past few days when I felt my anxiety spiking- and it’s done me a lot of good.
Also? Don’t hoard face masks or hand sanitizer. They do little to prevent the spread of a virus- but they’re necessary for healthcare providers who are at the front lines of this epidemic who need them the most and are handling medical equipment non-stop.
I’ve taken necessary preventative measures, myself- especially since I usually get mild coughs/colds this time of year when the weather and temperatures start to change- and I don’t want to scare anyone I travel with if I clear my throat a little too much. I’ve made the difficult decision to postpone next week’s planned trip to the West Coast until April.
I’m not happy about it, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. I may not get sick, but I could potentially and unknowingly be a carrier and pass along the virus to someone who is not as fortunate as me. I don’t want that.
The key to making it through this with as little suffering as possible is to stay calm, stay cautious- and look after one another. If we can do that, we’ll all be okay and we’ll get through this together.