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EDITORIAL: Science and facts, not political posturing, should drive the coronavirus discussion

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Our opinion: There’s a lot we don’t know about the coronavirus outbreak, but using the new disease as a pawn on the political chessboard isn’t good for anybody.

Everyone seems to be talking about coronavirus — COVID-19 — and with good reason. We’re all struggling to understand the impact on everything from an individual’s health to the global economy and everything in between.

But viewing this through a political prism is wasted energy and potentially dangerous at this time. Sadly, in our current political environment that some would call as toxic as the virus itself, everything, it seems, is seen from a tribal, partisan perspective. 

Sadly, the tension between the Trump Administration, Democrats and the news media too often becomes a distraction from the real issues at hand. That’s certainly the case with coronavirus. Little is gained as the American public struggles with this growing public health concern by blaming either the president for a weak response or the news media and Democrats for overreaction.

In the context of the uncertainty and fear in the general population, making this a political issue is irresponsible. Instead, we should focus on scientific evidence from trusted sources rather than ideologues with an political agenda. Listen to what health care experts have to say and follow their advice.

At this point, that is to be aware, cautious, diligent and calm.

Here’s what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is offering as background about COVID-19:

Based on what is currently known about the novel coronavirus and similar coronaviruses that cause SARS and MERS, spread from person-to-person with these viruses happens most frequently among close contacts (within about 6 feet). This type of transmission occurs via respiratory droplets. On the other hand, transmission of novel coronavirus to persons from surfaces contaminated with the virus has not been documented. Transmission of coronavirus occurs much more commonly through respiratory droplets than through fomites. Current evidence suggests that novel coronavirus may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials. Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in households and community settings.

The symptoms don’t appear to be very specific, but they can initially seem similar to a cold or the flu (think: fever, cough, sore throat, difficulty breathing). Call your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms and have been around an infected person or someone who has traveled to an area that has been significantly affected.

Most cases seem to be mild. But the elderly and those with conditions like heart and lung disease, diabetes and compromised immune systems are especially vulnerable.

This is what the CDC is suggesting:

Promote the daily practice of everyday preventive actions. Use health messages and materials developed by credible public health sources such as your local public health department or CDC to encourage your event staff and participants to practice good personal health habits. Promote everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

And here are some basic things that everyone can and should do.

• Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds

• Use hand sanitizer between washes

• Avoid handshakes

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth

• Cough and sneeze into your elbow, not your hands

• Stay home if you’re sick

• Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick

• Get a flu shot (to generally protect your immune system)

No one knows how this is going play out and what impact we’ll feel locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.

But, as noted earlier, let’s not get caught up in the distraction of all the political noise. Pay attention to what the established medical community has to offer and then take responsibility for yourself and those around you. You can read a statement from Freeman Regional Health Services on page 3A of this week’s Courier.


The Courier editorial reflects the opinion of Jeremy Waltner and Tim L. Waltner