The Coronavirus Is Now A “Pandemic.” Maybe We Ought To Take It More Seriously Now.
by Scott Faith
It’s official: the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID19, is now a global pandemic. We might better stop being so cavalier about it and start taking the outbreak a bit more seriously.
The World Health Organization (WHO) made the determination today, as reported cases topped 120,000 infections and more than 4,000 deaths worldwide. While the vast majority of cases are currently confined to just four countries–China, Korea, Italy, and Iran–the disease is spreading throughout the world at an alarming pace.
The US counts over 1,000 infections and more than 30 deaths from COVID19. Those numbers are FAR fewer than any number of other causes of death in America, including heart disease, smoking, and obesity-related issues. Nonetheless, COVID has our nation, and the world, deeply concerned.
Personally, I’m not that worried about the coronavirus. I’m relatively young, generally healthy, I live in a US state that so far has something like one reported case, I don’t travel a whole lot, and I don’t have any underlying health issues that might be exacerbated should I get COVID19. Nonetheless, I’m beginning to get concerned, or at least a lot more interested, about the disease and I think maybe the rest of us should as well. I’m not talking “run out to Costco and buy literally all of the toilet paper” levels of concern, but I’m at the “definitely wash your hands often, try to avoid large crowds, see a doctor if you develop any symptoms, and above all educate yourself” point.
By now, I think most people are taking prudent steps to protect themselves. And I don’t feel like I’m at much more risk today than I was two months ago. But I’m also worried about people who are not me. COVID19 disproportionately affects people who are old, obese, smokers, or have other underlying issues. Do you know where there are lots of old, fat, and/or sick people? That’s right, America. And not just us, but in much of the developed world. Countries that have a lot of foreign visitors, and that have a lot of immigration, are also at greater risk. The US checks those blocks also.
Changing predictive models also indicate a much-increased chance for widespread infection, and the world is taking notice. Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel told her people to expect an infection rate of up to 70%. 70%. Of Germany’s ~83 MILLION people. Down with COVID19. Imagine what that will do to trade, to education, and to the global politic. And that’s just one country.
They’re not the only ones concerned: Italy has virtually shut their country down in order to contain the outbreak. Israel is banning tourists from entering unless they’re willing to be quarantined for two weeks. And Iran… well, no one’s really certain what’s going on in Iran right now, but it’s not good.
For the last several weeks many Americans, including me, have had a pretty cavalier attitude about COVID19. And while it does not do us any good to go into panic mode, we can no longer simply ignore the problem until it goes away. This disease isn’t “coming,” it’s here. And no matter how it compares to “real health issues” in the US, the fact is that this disease is having an enormous effect on the world economy, on our daily lives, and the health of the people it affects. It’s important for us to remain aware, and to act responsibly.
So, keep yourself informed. Take prudent steps to protect yourself, and people who are not you. And if you think you might be sick, or have been exposed to someone who is sick (you can be a carrier even if you feel fine and never show any symptoms), go get tested.
And for God’s sake, stop buying up all the toilet paper. Diarrhea isn’t even a common symptom of COVID19.