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CBH Editorial: Responsible reaction to COVID-19

| March 12, 2020 12:23 AM

A new member of the coronavirus category called COVID-19 is at the top of the news here and about everywhere. The virus has so far claimed one life in Grant County and mobilized institutional resources against it.

The Columbia Basin Herald has put substantial reporting resources into COVID-19 in our area. Our goal is to responsibly inform and educate on the subject. The CBH has published instructions that health agencies and health care providers have been giving the public for staying healthy, including: Wash your hands, avoid close contact, stay home if you can. People have been asked not to rush to emergency rooms and clinics hoping to be tested.

One piece of advice seems to be getting overlooked: Don’t panic, don’t overreact.

There have been reports of people buying out stores’ supplies of things like disinfectant wipes and face masks. Some people have even gone wild stocking up on toilet paper and bottled water, neither of which is actually related to the virus. An airborne virus such as this one, with no vaccine (not yet — a vaccine is being worked on), sounds frightening. But most people who get the virus will recover and be fine, Grant County Health District has stated. Interestingly, to date, there have been no reports worldwide of children dying from COVID-19.

The CBH will continue to report on developments with the virus and local organizations’ efforts to slow its spread. At the same time, we want to maintain sensitivity to those who may be suffering personally during this public health situation while not fueling undue anxiety over it.

While it’s natural to want to do something, anything, to make ourselves feel safer, sometimes we need to step back and think twice. Let’s be rational. Level heads will help our community by improving cooperation. Level heads will help everyone follow advice from local officials, who have the responsibility to guide the public through times of disruption, when new challenges like this arise, with all of their uncertainties.

Out of an abundance of caution, some workplaces and public facilities are keeping visitors away and asking employees to stay home when they are ill. This is a reasonable approach. So is limiting public access to hospitals and long-term care facilities, places with a lot of people who are especially susceptible to the virus.

As Grant County Health Officer Alexander Brzezny has pointed out, influenza has already claimed many more lives this year in America than COVID-19. That is a fact, though some may debate whether COVID-19 is more or less of a threat than influenza based on numbers of infections and deaths. Because the flu comes around every year, it doesn’t trigger the fearful response that COVID-19 has.

Our experience with influenza over many years gives us perspective: We get our shot (or don’t, for many people) and go on with our daily business.

For most of us, the simple precautions of hand-washing, avoiding crowds and covering coughs should keep us from coming down with COVID-19. We don’t need to lock ourselves away, hoard consumer items or lie awake at night fretting over getting sick. A little caution and common sense will do more to protect us than overreaction will.