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COVID-19 Pandemic: Take It Seriously, Take A Breath

Updated on March 17, 2020
Christina St-Jean profile image

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.

COVID-19 Symptoms - CDC


State Of Emergency - Not State Of Panic

In the last two weeks, I have seen people try and pull together in ways that highlight the best of humanity.

However, I have also seen some of the most disgusting examples of human greed and ignorance that I mistakenly thought were impossible in the 21st century.

COVID-19, aka the coronavirus, has gotten us all worried, and in all honesty, it should. This is far more serious than SARS, and it's more serious than a flu bug, which is what it's been most often compared to. There are people dying on an order that medical professionals haven't seen, and reading one news story out of Italy should be enough to highlight just how bad it could be. Medical professionals there are making decisions about who they can save, simply because their medical system is so horrifically overwhelmed.

I live in Ontario, Canada, and two days prior to us heading out on March break, the announcement came down that all elementary and secondary schools would be closing for two weeks after March break because of this virus outbreak. This is a good decision on the government's part, as we have zero control as to where people are travelling to during this week and effectively, schools are very large incubators for viruses to spread. We have 25 to 30 or more kids per classroom, people don't always wash their hands appropriately, and for sure, if there are kids under the age of six years old in the class, there are a lot of runny noses and kids coughing and sneezing going around, with nowhere for any virus to go except between individuals. So, with COVID-19 being of particular concern, we definitely want to slow that spread down, so it makes sense to see schools close for a while.

However, the news of school closures sent people into such a tailspin that stores were once again overrun with people wondering where to find toilet paper, of all things, and bottled water. I have friends who are pharmacists and nurses, and they've shared stories with me about the irrationality of people during this time that make me want to hit things. I know another lady who is a cashier and she said when she told one woman that she was limited to two boxes of tissue instead of six to get the sale price, the woman threw a box of tissue at her.

Today - within the last half-hour, in fact - Ontario premier Doug Ford declared a provincial state of emergency. This is a logical move, as it prevents people from gathering in groups of 50 or more, among other things, but people will hear "state of emergency" and immediately launch into a state of panic. Calling a state of emergency actually allows the province to mobilize more effectively rather than waiting for things to happen. It allows money to flow to areas where it's needed most rather than it being bogged down by legislative red tape. It's also not as though this hasn't occurred previously; Ontario declared a state of emergency in 2003 as a result of the SARS pandemic at the time.

During the SARS pandemic, however, we did not have the easy access to the media that we see now. The 24-hour news cycle was not such a big deal then, and pretty much any schmuck can post things online. Since COVID-19 became such a significant concern, I've received more emails about "cures" for coronavirus just from the click of a button than I even dreamed was possible. We're seeing images from Italy, China, France, and Spain as they try to slow the spread and flatten the curve of this virus.

In short, there's been no escape from the inundation of information and images about COVID-19. To use my teenaged daughter's terms, we have as much of an infodemic as we do a pandemic at this time, and that is very definitely not helpful as we try to figure out what our next steps are.

The thing is, we have to figure that out in a rational manner. Nowhere has any legislator or medical professional said, "Buy all the toilet paper, and while you're at it, buy all the sanitizer, soap, masks and cleaning supplies." The people who have panicked and bought 20 jugs or more of milk have potentially taken that from someone who needs it to feed their child. My youngest daughter, who's been struggling to determine exactly why people have thought they need so much toilet paper, has said, "They won't need the toilet paper if they don't have food."

COVID-19 is serious. There is no question about that. However, panic and irrational behavior - like panic buying 27 packages of meat or fresh fruit and vegetables that don't necessarily freeze well, if you even have a freezer that big - is not going to help anyone, and it will make the situation worse.

Take a breath, wash your hands, clean surfaces, and don't touch your face.

Don't panic.

Reach out to family and friends on FaceTime or Google Hangouts.

Rest and hydrate.

We will get through this.


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