Now is not the time to panic, nor is it the time to be complacent.
With the COVID-19 virus on the minds of the entire world, local governments and health officials are trying to send the message to be relatively calm, vigilant and go about your lives.
So far, that’s been easier said than done.
It’s nearly impossible to find hand sanitizer, medical masks and many household cleaners. Even toilet paper has been in short supply in a number of stores as officials have told residents to be prepared for any extended stay at home should they or a family member be exposed to the coronavirus. Social media and some unreliable news sources haven’t helped either.
With six confirmed cases of the coronavirus here in Maryland — including four in neighboring Montgomery County — and results of other tests pending, the raw numbers, at least here, show no reason for panic. All cases have been “travel-related,” meaning that the patients were exposed to the virus while out of the country.
At the same time, the disease has shown a pattern of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls “community spread,” meaning that infected patients are passing it on to friends, neighbors or co-workers. Community spread has been blamed in other parts of the United States, particularly at a nursing home in Washington state.
Several hundred people were asked to self-quarantine on Monday after the rector of a prominent Episcopal church became the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Washington, D.C.
On Monday, it was Frederick County’s turn to hold a press conference. County Executive Jan Gardner and Dr. Barbara Brookmyer, county health officer, along with medical, business and public safety officials, discussed how they are prepared to combat the disease. If anything, it was reassuring to see that our elected officials have a coordinated effort to confront this virus should the situation change dramatically.
“At this time, the risk to Frederick County residents is still considered low,” Brookmyer said. “We encourage residents to continue to go to work and school, and everyone can do their part to protect themselves and others.”
Brookmyer suggested some common-sense steps, such as avoiding contact with people who are sick, cover your cough/sneeze, avoid touching your face, clean “high touch” surfaces, stay home when sick, and wash your hands often.
All good advice that we should be following even if it were just a “routine” flu season and not just because of the coronavirus. This year, the flu has claimed 47 lives in the state. The difference is that COVID-19 is considered more contagious.
She also said it’s important to get the facts about the disease from trusted sources, such as the CDC or local health department websites, and not rely on social media. Chances are, and this is where we’d insert a sarcasm font if one existed, your Facebook friends aren’t as knowledgeable.
“We have been actively planning with our public health agencies, safety partners and community leaders and assure our residents that we are prepared for the coronavirus arrival in our community,” Gardner said. “Since this is a rapidly evolving situation, we encourage residents and businesses not to panic, but plan for the possibility that their daily routines could be temporarily impacted.”
Above all, don’t take risks, especially those over the age of 60 and with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, COPD, heart disease or other autoimmune diseases.
At this point, there’s still so much uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus. Getting ready for it just makes sense. That’s not panic. It’s preparation.
The key is going to be to do it in a way that’s practical, not hysterical. To repeat Brookmyer’s words, the risk of getting this virus “is still considered low.”
That’s good to know. But it’s also good to know that we’re preparing in case that changes.