When bad things happen, taking people by surprise, the real enemy is fear. That’s as true in war as it is on the highway when you are confronted by a brake-slamming emergency.
The coronavirus, now officially a pandemic per World Health Organization standards, is a demonstration of fear being the enemy, or as Santa Barbara County officials phrased it earlier this week, falling prey to an “emotional contagion.”
Much like the nation’s current political turmoil, emotional contagion is a direct result of misinformation.
Here in Santa Barbara County, emotional contagion has led to runs on certain products at local markets. We can say from personal observation that a lot of local folks now have an abundant supply of toilet paper. We saw a story online about a family buying a 12-year supply of toilet paper by mistake.
The point is that in almost any panic situation, humans are prone to making mistakes. Something about imminent danger paralyzes brain cells and throws logic out the window. This may also be one of those situations in which one should believe none of what they hear, and only half of what they see.
Here’s some help: If you or someone you know is experiencing acute stress or panic about the coronavirus, the county's Behavioral Wellness Department offers a 24-hour help line at 888-868-1649. Making that call might help you avoid an over-abundance of toilet paper.
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The best strategy in this crisis is to continue practicing good hygiene. Wash your hands, thoroughly and often, especially when stalking the supermarket aisles. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Stay home and away from others if possible. Call your doctor if flu-like symptoms develop.
That’s really just commonsense stuff. Good advice during any flu season, and especially in the coming weeks, as experts get a better handle on which lane the coronavirus is going to pick.
To get the correct information about the virus’ path, skip your usual social media browsing, and stick to reliable news sources — like us — and reputable national media. Listening to a bloviating pundit insisting that the coronavirus is the Trump impeachment all over again is total nonsense.
It is clear the coronavirus is on the loose. It broke out of the important barrier weeks ago. In fact, we already have achieved epidemic status in the United States, and as the disease spread globally, the World Health Organization declaring a pandemic will better mobilize resources.
It also is obvious the coronavirus is going to have a significant impact on the economy, both here at home, across the nation and planet. It’s already doing that, with the travel industry expecting to lose hundreds of billions, the stock markets taking a wild, scary, ride, and economists predicting global losses in the trillions.
The world may get a break when winter fades into spring and summer. There is evidence that coronaviruses don't much care for hot, humid air. The viral particles don't do well in that kind of environment. Summer tends to give lots of people a break, so this summer could be especially kind to us.
It is clear the coronavirus will change our lives in the short run. It has already done that. The big question is, will there be a long run? There’s no way to know for sure, but we are fairly certain that buying more toilet paper probably won’t help.
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