Once or twice a year here in central North Carolina, there’s is a snow panic. Forecasts call for the potential of 1-5 inches (which is a big deal here). Our population immediately seems to fall into one of two camps. One group laughs, scoffs, and yells, “Bring it on.” The other immediately blockades themselves in at home to eat milk sandwiches until the siege is lifted.
In a day or two, the storm either materializes or doesn’t. Then it melts and we go on with our lives.
The COVID-19 epidemic strikes me very much like a slow-motion snow storm. Some are walking around not washing their hands and begging the disease to come at them. Others are eating milk sandwiches inside toilet-paper stockades in their living rooms.
I thought it might be a good idea to bring out some facts supported by multiple doctors and scientists. (Not that I don’t believe your friends’ cousin who puts up some great Facebook memes and read a couple articles while waiting their turn at the barbershop.) I’ll follow those facts up with what I believe to be a slight dose of common sense.
Fact One: If you are exposed to it, there’s a strong possibility you’ll catch it. It is more contagious than the normal flu or the common cold. By the way, COVID-19 and the common cold are both forms of coronavirus.
Fact Two: For the overwhelming majority of people, if you do catch it, you’ll be fine. We won’t know the accurate percentages until the storm has calmed, but we know quite a few things from what we’ve seen so far.
If you’re a child and you catch COVID-19, the symptoms will probably be extremely mild. So far, there has not been a single fatality among the children in China who caught the disease. Almost universally children have had extremely mild responses to catching it.
Some healthy adults get strong flu-like symptoms. A very, very small percentage die, while some end up hospitalized. Quite possibly, there are more adults who don’t even get symptoms than get hospitalized. (Thirteen percent of all people who catch the normal flu don’t get any symptoms either.) Of the two confirmed cases in North Carolina, both are recovering at home and neither has required hospitalization.
What this means is that most healthy adults don’t have much to worry about for themselves. They should be more concerned with passing it to people who are at-risk, namely the elderly and people with compromised lung functions. This last group needs to taking the strongest precautions.
Fact Three: Just like our annual snowstorm predictions, we won’t really know how this will play out until we are in the middle of the storm. That leads to a couple things that aren’t established facts, but are just good, common sense (at least in my opinion).
- Don’t over react or under react. This is not the end of the world. It’s probably just the newest form of flu which may well be part of our lives for the foreseeable future. The CDC is trying its best to contain it not to keep it from getting here but so doctors can manage the flow. If everyone gets it at once, it overwhelms medical personnel. Keeping it to a trickle makes it more manageable and helps the medical community do their best to help the sick and not be overwhelmed.
- Don’t be an idiot. Wash your hands. Well. Try not to touch your face in public. Cover your coughs. Stay home if you’re sick. Take greater precautions if you are part of a more at-risk class.
- Be a good neighbor. If you’re sick, don’t go out in public. But also, let’s not put our local small businesses out of business. If we move to extreme measures before it’s really necessary, we’ll make it very hard for local restaurants, florists, mechanics, etc. to still be in business when this slow-moving storm passes (or becomes just part of our lives).
As far as Spout Springs Church goes, I’m one of many in our church who are monitoring this closely from reliable sources.
Across the country, large events are being cancelled for good reasons. Some are being cancelled because the event is in the middle of a storm surge. A high enough percentage of the community is already infected that a mass gathering means many more infections.
Others are being cancelled because they draw people from diverse geographical areas. SXSW was cancelled because people come to the event from all over the world. The likelihood of infected people bringing the virus with them is extremely high, and so is the almost certainty of them then distributing the virus back out to areas that were previously infection-free.
On the other hand, basically everyone who will be at SSC tomorrow will be from the same safe-so-far population pool. We are all going to the same restaurants, shopping at the same stores, sending out kids to the same schools. There may well come a time when the virus is introduced to our population pool. Then it may be prudent to switch to online-services only. That may even be true by next week.
But it’s not yet.
So, I hope to see you tomorrow. Wash your hands before you come and once you arrive. Use elbow taps or Vulcan salutes instead of handshakes. And take advantage of the opportunity to get out of the house before the coming storm possibly locks you in for a while.
Those milk sandwiches get old pretty quick.