How should we respond to the Coronavirus?

By Cole Schnieders, Staff Writer

Coronavirus has been in the headlines since the World Health Organization declared the novel SARS-like disease an outbreak on Jan. 30. In fact, it is on the front page for this edition of The Vantage.

The disease itself probably won’t be a civilization-ending pandemic; many cite the low mortality rate. I think the real lesson to learn from COVID-19 is how our society responds to large-scale threats like these.

The two political parties in the United States have responded, at times, correctly, pointing people to the CDC and WHO for up-to-date info and advocating for funds to be directed to continued research and care.

At other times, the response has been less than stellar. Pundits and politicians have said everything from COVID-19 being created in Chinese labs as a weapon to the disease being an impeachment scam.

On social media, the response has been just as mixed between good information and conspiracy. Facebook recently had to start banning misleading ads but is now offering WHO free ad spaces. Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok have had their own share of problems combating misinformation about the disease.

A special meme culture has sprung up around the panicked stockpiling of bottled water, toilet paper and other hygiene products.

Trivializing the disease as a joke or a political tool sets us up for failure in preparing an appropriate response.

The disease and its high infection rate have been enough to give our leaders pause. The mortality rate is low at 2-4%, but that number can be deceiving when compared to the high number of infection cases.

Populations most affected by the coronavirus are elderly and those with compromised immune systems. Simply because you may not have long-term adverse effects doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make efforts to prevent the spread to vulnerable members of society.

There’s little we can do about the political infighting. But we can have better individual responses to the outbreak. We can look to trusted sources like WHO, the CDC and the Sedgwick County Health Department for up-to-date information and stop the spread of misinformation on social media and among our peers. And, of course, we can wash our hands.

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