Editorial: A virus tests human relations, systems

Staci Matlock
Editor@taosnews.com
Posted 3/19/20

The novel coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak is testing people even as people get tested for the virus.

The outbreak is testing society. The State of New Mexico and local governments have taken extraordinary steps to stop COVID-19 from spreading. Schools are closed, spring sports postponed, assisted living centers are off limits to visitors, and many events have been canceled in order to reduce crowds where the virus can spread more easily. Restaurants and bars now can't serve people inside; gyms are closed. Some people will be out of work.

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Editorial: A virus tests human relations, systems

Posted

The novel coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak is testing people even as people get tested for the virus.

The outbreak is testing society. The State of New Mexico and local governments have taken extraordinary steps to stop COVID-19 from spreading. Schools are closed, spring sports postponed, assisted living centers are off limits to visitors, and many events have been canceled in order to reduce crowds where the virus can spread more easily. Restaurants and bars now can't serve people inside; gyms are closed. Some people will be out of work.

Some say those steps are unnecessary, an overreaction to a virus that is no more serious than the seasonal flu.

They are wrong.

While the number of people who've contracted the illness and become seriously ill or died remains a fraction of other infectious diseases like influenza, its potential to sicken and kill more people is greater.

There is no vaccine yet for COVID-19. It's too new. It can potentially sicken a lot more people than seasonal flu because humans don't have an immunity to it yet. Waiting around to find out how bad it could get simply isn't an option.

COVID-19 is a new type of coronavirus so there are aspects of it that scientists are just now beginning to understand such as how long it takes for a person to show symptoms and how long the droplets of virus from a sick person's cough or hands can last in the air and on surfaces.

A new study has provided some answers to that and it indicates that infectious droplets can last from a few hours to a few days on surfaces. That's why frequent disinfection of surfaces, washing hands and keeping a distance from other people is important.

It is critical to slow the spread of an infectious disease - to "flatten the curve" in the language of scientists. Every person can help flatten the curve by washing hands frequently with soap, disinfecting surfaces and avoiding large crowds. It is a test of every person's resolve to do what they can.

The virus outbreak has tested people's ability to stay prepared, not just during a crisis. It is wise to always keep a couple of weeks of food, a couple of gallons of water, first-aid supplies, charged flashlights -- and toilet paper apparently - on hand. That way whether it is the electricity going out or some other crisis, people are better prepared to take care of themselves. This is a lesson past generations knew well and the current one is relearning.

This outbreak is a test of how we all treat each other and help each other, even from a distance of a few feet, in a challenging time. If there are only three packages of toilet paper left on a shelf or two bottles of hand sanitizer, practice generosity and leave at least one for the next person.

Practice patience in lines at the store and at restaurants. Practice neighborliness by calling elderly neighbors and single parents and those on self-quarantine to see how you an help - such as dropping off extra supplies (outside the door) or just to let them know you care and are thinking about them. Let people know they are not alone.

This virus outbreak is a test of gratitude. Thank people who remain on the front lines through all of this by the nature of their jobs. Appreciate the first responders and hospital staff, the store workers who are restocking the shelves as fast as scared people empty them, the school staff and teachers working to make sure children stay fed, the court staff who ensure people's rights are still met in a time of crisis, the government workers trying to provide service even if it isn't face-to-face.

Above all, this is a test of the resolve not to panic. Panicking helps no one. In a state of panic, people make bad decisions and fail almost every test above. Panicking sends people to emergency rooms seeking a test for coronavirus even when they are healthy and show no symptoms.

Yes, this is an unprecedented time for many. Yes, it is serious.

The Taos News is working hard to keep you updated online with frequent posts as new information and new requirements are released. This week's edition looks at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Taos schools, government, businesses, entertainment, artists and seniors.

Next week there will be more stories about potential impacts on tax filing dates, upcoming elections, social services and a fun issue of Tempo filled with creative responses to this novel coronavirus. All of the Taos News content online is free for the foreseeable future.

Taking the simple actions of cleaning, washing hands, keeping some distance, finding new ways of greeting each other and, finally, taking care of each other even at a distance will reduce the severity and impact of this virus on everyone.

Stay calm. Stay kind. Carry on.

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