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With coronavirus, remain calm and follow health suggestions: Editorial


No one likes uncertainty. We want to go through our lives with a high level of comfort knowing that we have safety for ourselves and our loved ones.

The coronavirus outbreak is throwing us all for a loop, because we simply don’t know enough about it to see a path to where it is going to end. We don’t know how widespread it will become. It is deadly, yes, but more deadly than the flu? Will those we know become infected? How will it affect our economy?

Every day, new developments are announced globally. Here in our portion of the world, we have been relatively free of disruption. Pennsylvania has 10 confirmed cases (as of this writing), but none in our area. Schools remain open. Harrisburg International Airport continues to operate. Students from around the world gather at Penn State Harrisburg, although system-wide it cancelled all university-affiliated international travel for spring break and is strongly discouraging its students, faculty and staff from traveling to China, Italy and South Korea, where there are major challenges with the outbreak.

What can we do in this time of uncertainty? Look at the basics. We can’t control what is going on in other parts of the world, or even in other parts of our own country. But we can control what we do in our everyday lives.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health continues to remind us to:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

• Cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow, not your hands.

• Clean surfaces frequently, such as countertops, light switches, cellphones and other frequently touched areas.

• Contain if you are sick. You should stay home until you are feeling better.

All of these points are achievable. In fact, there is nothing new here. We should be doing these things at all times anyway. They are the same actions that help stop the spread of the flu.

On the first point, remember that 20 seconds is longer than you think. Sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.

But less us ponder that last point: Stay home from work if you are sick.

That is relatively easy if you are staying home for a day or two, and if your workplace can manage without you and a few of your co-workers.

But what if you are staying home for several weeks? What if you don’t have sick time to spare? What if your employer can’t operate when it’s not just you staying home, but 50 percent of its workforce? What about tourism and travel? What if schools close but parents have to continue to work?

These questions, and ones that are much harder to comprehend when it comes to a global economy and what we import from China, will continue to play out.

Speaking of China, where this pandemic began: CNN reported Tuesday that the situation has calmed there, with travel restrictions beginning to lift. Chinese President Xi Jinping even visited Wuhan — which was ground zero for the outbreak.

China announced the coronavirus outbreak at the beginning of the year, less than three months ago. Does that mean we can expect a window of several months here in the United States until the tide turns, as it did in China?

We realize that other parts of the world are still grappling with the worst of it. Italy is struggling. The entire country is now under lockdown. Movement is restricted, events canceled, schools shut, and public services suspended, according to CNN, and 97 people have died in Italy since Sunday, bringing the country’s death toll to 463.

Here in the United States, we already saw the stock market bounce all over the place Monday. The New York Stock Exchange stopped trading for 15 minutes when stocks plunged more than 7 percent. Then Tuesday, after President Donald Trump said he planned to propose relief in the form of a payroll tax cut and help for hourly workers most affected by the coronavirus, the market rebounded strongly. This uncertainty might continue for awhile.

We simply don’t know where this will end. But there isn’t a need to panic. Panic rarely solves any problem.

Take steps to be safe. Follow the guidelines repeatedly issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Get your information only from trusted and reliable sources such as these agencies.

Be prepared. Be calm. Don’t be overwhelmed. These can be scary times, but there is no evidence that the coronavirus is the worldwide plague that will wipe out millions like in a sci-fi movie. We say that with due respect to the 4,000 people around the world and the 26 in the United States who have already died from the coronavirus.

Do your small part locally. We will get through this.