Coronavirus leads to widespread fear
By the Editorial Board
Fears of the coronavirus have been spreading across both the nation and the entire world. The virus seems to be infecting new populations at an unstoppable rate, leading to rippling effects across the world’s collective economy and psyche. A wave of hysteria seems to be spreading even quicker than the virus itself, with terrible results.
Firstly, it is important to keep the facts in mind when dealing with the coronavirus. This disease is not as fatal as one might be led to believe from headline skimming. For most people, the virus will essentially present as a bad flu. In fact, 80 percent of coronavirus cases are considered mild. Many people can have the disease and not even know it, which is part of the reason epidemiologists believe it is so easy to spread, because infected people don’t always stay home.
Obviously, COVID-19, the strain of coronavirus causing so much distress worldwide, is different from a common cold, despite the fact that it is rarely a deadly disease. The virus takes root deeper in the lung tissue. In older patients, especially those with preexisting underlying health concerns, this can often lead to pneumonia. Unlike the flu, there is no vaccine currently developed to fight this disease. The lack of ways to combat the virus is a significant source of fear, and has led to an outbreak of paranoia.
Fear of the virus now influences many parts of everyday life. Huge organizations are affected, as evidenced by the stock market history continuously plummeting as the outbreak worsens. On February 29, Governor Jay Inslee declared Washington to be in an official state of emergency. International and interstate travel has dramatically slowed down, as elderly people and pregnant women are encouraged to stay home. Local businesses feel the effect as well; one glance at the cleaned out bean, rice, and toilet paper shelves of Vashon Thriftway indicate that islanders fear a possible quarantine. Even the smallest parts of life at the high school have been inundated with talk of the virus.
Of course, the school district is following national trends and has become increasingly aware of the dangers to the virus. However, the high school’s response to the virus should not be seen as a cure-all. Currently, the school’s response is two-fold: communication and sanitation. They have sent out several emails that lay out safety suggestions. The emails recommend frequent hand-washing, heavy use of disinfectant, and for students to stay home if they are sick. Secondly, sanitation has become an increasingly important part of daily life. Many of the high school class periods now open with a daily distribution of hand sanitizer or a cleaning of desks. Teachers also frequently distribute small alcohol-based cleansing wipes to be used to disinfect Chromebooks and other frequently used classroom supplies.
It would be wrong to say that these efforts are not helpful. Any amount of precaution is sure to do some measure of good, and focusing on cleanliness is never a negative. However, it would be erroneous to expect these actions to prevent a coronavirus. While it is good that the desks are getting cleaned every day, there are so many surfaces that aren’t. Corona is an airborne virus, so it would be nearly impossible to completely clean it away. Additionally, the school’s newly-enforced absence policy may encourage some students to remain at school even if they are sick, in hopes of not missing too many periods. Though the administration has seemingly recognized this problem, and has discussed possible temporary changes to the policy, they have failed to make any of these potential changes clear to students or parents.
It is unrealistic to expect the school district to be able to completely erase any germs from the learning environment. Instead, it is much more likely that most people will simply end up catching the virus. For high-schoolers, some of whom fall into the 18 to 39 age range with a 0.2 percent fatality rate, this will only be a small illness and minor inconvenience. Many people will never know their symptoms were caused by COVID-19.
However, for an estimated 2.3 percent of the infected population, the virus may prove fatal. Though this number is a seemingly small percent, every member of the community will be affected somehow. For many, the biggest effect of the disease will be the effect on the collective community worldwide.
We need to view this virus as a community problem, rather than a potential individual illness. In order to protect the elderly and immunodeficient, those who have any coronavirus symptoms — which may present as cold symptoms — should stay home. By following proper procedure, and not giving in to hysteria surrounding the illness, the entire community will be safer in the coming weeks.