Should I Worry About the Coronavirus?
The Sky is Falling
If it still 2020 as you read this, then your news is full of declarations of catastrophe and peril, all courtesy of the medical panic of the day: the coronavirus (COVID-19). For some, it's a biblical indication of the coming end days, for others, it's the new Black Death or the 21st century version of the deadly Spanish Flu. In reality, it is a new virus that, if not taken seriously, could cause health complications that, if you are old, weak or have a compromised immune systems even death. If is beyond 2020, use this to alleviate what ever medial crisis the media is peddling now.
Is It Really That Bad?
The death part has been way overhyped, primarily because frightening news makes for good ratings. In reality, while it could cause thousands of deaths, so can many other things. Let's put a little perspective on the panic: the 2017-2018 regular, run of the mill, flu killed around 80,000 people; IN THE US ALONE. Worldwide, it kills up to 650,000 every year. So if the coronavirus kills a million people, it would not be that much deadlier than the annual flu season.
Even though those statistics should calm most of your nerves, COVID-19 is still slightly more to worry about. The mortality rate for ordinary flu is about one tenth of one percent. So far, the mortality rate of COVID-19 is about 1.4 percent. That is significantly higher, but still damn good odds. Also, the vast majority of that data comes from China; an extremely overcrowded place that doesn't have the best reputation for medical treatment. Expect the death rate from COVID-19 in the United States to be much lower.
Additionally, just like the regular flu, Coronavirus is more fo a concern if you are elderly, or have respiratory or immune system issues. But hey, don't let facts get in the way of a good panic. It makes for good television. Just the other day I was in Home Depot and needed to buy a respirator with fume rated filters because I was going to strip lead based paint off an antique door. What I found in place of a selection of masks to choose from was a gaping hole where they are normally stocked. The data on face mask effectiveness does show that the masks can reduce your chances of getting a virus somewhat. But only if you have the right kind of mask and wear it correctly. Only masks rated N95 or better (blocking out 95% of particles) are effective. Those of you buying regular dust masks that are not N95 rated are wasting your time and money. Those that do have the right mask, often wear them incorrectly. Give DIYers a break, leave the masks on the shelves for those that need them.
Who Should be Worried
So what if you are elderly, have emphysema and an immune deficiency problem. Then yes, the people that suffer from that trifecta should probably be worried. The rest of us....not so much. Still, be it the coronavirus or the regular flu, becoming infected can still make you feel miserable. And trust me, nothing is more miserable than being sick and having nothing to do but watch daytime TV. If you really want to tackle a social disease, spend a weekday watching television during daytime. That causes more brain rot than any illness.
Probably the most concerning issue with coronavirus is that is seems to be about twice a transmissible as the normal flu. So if you are in an area with a large amount of people, your chances of catching it are significantly higher, dooming you to a week of watching gameshows and soap operas.
What Can be Done to Stop COVID-19
What can be done to stop the spread of coronavirus? The outbreak has become a political football and great fodder for finger pointing. Can the government stop it? How well is Washington as stopping the regular flu each year? Viruses spread, and spread easily and quickly, nothing the government can do will change the outcome. For once, you can stop blaming politicians for your woes.
What can you do to better you chances of surviving the coronavirus? Be and stay healthy is the best option. Viruses prey upon the weak. Being in the best health that you can be for your age is your best option for surviving the virus if you get it. But it's too late to hit the gym and start eating right, so what can you do to lessen you chances of coming in contact with COVID-19?
Avoid people. People are the vehicles in which viruses travel. A virus needs a host to survive, without one, it dies. Avoid people and your chances of getting coronavirus decreases exponentially. Here are 12 tips to lessen your exposure:
1. Don't Travel
Closely pack a bunch of humans in an aluminum tube and hurl it through the sky and you have what we call air travel. Not only can you not escape your fellow passengers, but all of that air gets recirculated. If you fly with infected people, you will also become exposed and likely infected as well. If you can avoid air travel, do so. Also avoid train and bus travel is possible. While it may be impossible to do so for your work, if it is a personal choice, delay your trip
2. Skip the Kid's Birthday Party
Any gathering of people increases your risk, but kids, those mouth breathing, runny nosed offspring, are particularly worrisome. Kids go to school, where they are exposed to hundreds of other kids. Schools are notorious for spreading illnesses, and showing up at a birthday party where there will be lots of other kids is a risk you don't need. Plus, they might have a clown at the party, which is far scarier than any virus.
3. Try a Staycation
What is worse than a kid's birthday party for illness exposure? Theme parks. The constant churn of thousands of people, mostly kids, every day makes it a perfect zone for the spread of viruses. Nothing short of an aerial spraying of disinfectant is going to make it safe to hit Disneyland or Kennywood Park. On the plus side, any vacation, especially those that involve theme parks, are crazy expensive. Staying at home this year could save you a bundle. Use the savings wisely.
4. Limit Work Meetings
While you are not completely safe in your cubicle, at least you are not face to face with coworkers. When workers gather for another pointless meeting in the conference room, anyone infected is likely going to infect a few others. Suggest to your place of employment to curtail meetings, and if they must be held, try an inner-building conference call. Not only will that prevent person to person contact, but you can hit the mute button and play solitaire while pretending to listen.
5. Brown Bag It
Going out to lunch with your work pals is one of the bright spots of the workday. But not only are you interacting with familiar humans, but many others that happen to be in the restaurant as well. Play it safe by bringing your lunch and eating at your desk. Again, enjoy the savings.
6. Wash Your Hands at Every Opportunity
Yes, you hear this every flu season. It works. Do it. Hand sanitizers work as well.
7. Stay Away From the Stadium
Baseball season is here. The sport already has an attendance problem, a virus outbreak will not help boost ticket sales. Not as bad as travel, but at the ballpark you are packed in with thousands of other fans, some of which are certain to be carriers.
8. Contribute to Global Warming
I am a big fan of public transportation. But so are thousands of other people. Using the bus, train or subway subjects you a lot of opportunities to contract COVID-19. If possible, drive yourself and do not carpool. Bad for the environment, good for you.
9. Stay Out of the Hospital
Sounds like common sense, you would only go to the hospital if you were very sick. But unless you really, absolutely need to, don't go. Hospitals are the one place you know for a fact that harbors illness-causing viruses. Do not visit anyone in the hospital; call or send flowers instead. And only use the emergency room if it really is an emergency; like it was intended. Your kid's runny nose and slight fever is not an emergency. A broken limb is.
10. Netflix is Your Friend
Trust me, you do not have to see that newest film in theatre. The time between big screen and DVD is ridiculously short these days. Avoid people at the movie theater. And you know what is even more painful than contracting coronavirus? Paying $10 for a large popcorn. Enjoy the savings yet again.
11. Don't Pump Up
This is the year it is ok to be a girly man. Next to hospitals and airplanes, gyms rank high on the list of places to be exposed to disease. At most gyms you are required to spray down a machine with disinfectant after using it. Trust me, a large percentage do not. Sacrifice the huge guns for being able to breathe.
12. Take a Hike
You cannot sequester yourself the entire year in your house. You have to do something to get exercise and maintain your sanity. You know who doesn't spread coronavirus? Deer, squirrels, bears, birds and most other wildlife. Take a drive to a remote, but established hiking trail. Enjoy nature and do something good for your body.
Relax, Everything is Going to Be OK (Probably)
Utilizing the above tips will help you avoid the coronavirus, but they are not a guarantee. Viruses are sneaky and easy to contract. But those tips will help. Despite COVID-19 being overhyped as the new plague, getting it, or any flu, makes for a miserable week or two. Do your best to stay healthy. If you are really concerned about a health issue decimating our national population, smoking kills 480,000 Americans a year. What are you doing about that?