Panic is infectious

As of March 7, there are more than 350 cases of the coronavirus in the U.S and the death toll has risen to 19, according to the New York Times. The March 6 situation report from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows there are, globally, 101,927 cases of the virus. And the number of cases continues to increase.

COVID-19, which is the WHO’s official name for this strain of coronavirus, was first identified in the Wuhan province of China, and has quickly spread to other countries. I remember the influenza pandemic in 2009, and it surprises me that COVID-19, which hasn’t even been classified as a pandemic yet, has caused more hysteria than what happened 10 years ago. I think the name, the fact that it originated from China and how fast it has spread are contributing to the panic we’re seeing. This makes me wonder if the underreporting of the flu has made COVID-19 seem far worse than it is; in terms of the mortality rate, the coronavirus doesn’t pose as much of a threat.

There should be a group effort to address, contain and eliminate the virus and help people recover from their illnesses. As we’ve seen from China’s fear of an economic disaster, which has spurred their considerable efforts to contain the virus, and the falling stocks prices on Wall Street, the virus will harm not only the health of individuals but also the health of our economies, our school systems and our governments. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), school closures in 13 countries due to COVID-19 has disrupted the education of more than 290 million students. Director-General of the UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, said the global scale and speed of the disruption is unparalleled.

Shouldn’t we all expect the WHO and even the United Nations (UN) to have protocols and procedures in place for potential and rising health issues that have the power to wipe out millions of people all over the world and ruin economies? I know each organization has taken measures in some way to address it, but it’s strange that when there’s this kind of global threat, we don’t have the expectation of a systematic response mechanism. For example, with the prospect of war we expect the UN to, you know, unite countries to either prevent a major problem or to handle one if it escalates. I think it would be a good idea if we all had recourse to a similar plan of action for health issues.

Concerning the U.S., specifically the East Coast, I hope we won’t have to learn our lesson about the coronavirus the hard way as we did with the floods in 2015 and the subsequent hurricane in 2016. I know schools don’t want to disrupt anyone’s education any more than they have to and they don’t want to raise unnecessary alarms; however, I don’t think it’s a good idea to wait until the virus has come into contact with thousands of people before we decide to close schools. FMU has been on the alert ahead of a state-wide crisis, and I appreciate that, but I wish I and the rest of the community didn’t have to wait in suspense until the university decides to close.

Granted, most people of college age won’t be significantly harmed by it, but they could very likely infect numerous people who are vulnerable. I don’t know what to expect, and that worries me.