Trying to put some perspective to the pandemic

Published 4:24 pm Thursday, March 19, 2020

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It has long been my policy not to weigh in on what everyone else in the media happens to be pontificating about at the time. Hence, you saw little here about the Trump impeachment trial. To add to that cacophony seemed a waste of my time — and yours.

Today is different. This is about the coronavirus, a subject on everybody’s mind. Never have I witnessed anything like this. I suspect you haven’t, either. We are in uncharted territory and the fear of the unknown is pushing us toward panic – if we aren’t there already. To minimize the chances of contacting the virus, we are told to keep a safe distance between each other and not to shake hands. (I am still trying to perfect the elbow bump.) We are told to wash our hands often, disinfect surfaces, don’t touch your face (every time I hear that, my nose begins to itch), and to cough or sneeze into your elbows.

Still, the virus marches on. Now in more than 100 countries, the outbreak has been officially declared a pandemic, according to the World Health Organization.

A pandemic is declared when a new disease for which people do not have immunity spreads rapidly around the world. As I write this, close to 5,000 people have died from the virus, the majority in China and Italy. Some 40 deaths have been reported in the U.S., including one (so far) in Georgia.

The coronavirus outbreak is not thought to be as deadly as the SARS epidemic of 2003, which killed around 10 percent of the more than 8,000 confirmed cases of the respiratory illness. And it’s far less deadly than Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, which has killed some 34 percent of the roughly 2,500 confirmed cases since 2012. That’s the good news. Yet, due to the mildness of many early symptoms, it can be difficult to know when to recognize a potential case of coronavirus and that there is not yet a treatment or vaccine. That could be as much as a year away. That’s the not-so-good news.

You would think that such a crisis would unite us as did 9/11. Not so. Sadly, we are as divided as ever. Donald Trump is doing a great job in managing the nation’s response to the virus, or Donald Trump is doing a very poor job depending where on the political spectrum you reside, which columnist you read or to what talk radio show you listen.

What the coronavirus pandemic has served to do is to remind us how fragile life is and how little control we have over it.

In the meantime, dear readers, please wash your hands. Don’t scratch your itchy nose. Stay safe and, remember, we are in this thing together. Can I get an elbow bump?