With the fast-spreading coronavirus unsettling millions around the globe, a balanced perspective can often be hard to find.
In many cases, commentators and clickbait panic-mongering headlines conjure up images of a vast plague that resembles nothing so much as a movie screen image of tendrils of evil slowly enveloping the world.
The be sure, it is a concern, with more than 116,00o infected people and more than 4,000 deaths from a disease most of the world did not know existed three months ago. But some commentators, following the lead of Surgeon General Jerome Adams, are embracing his call for “facts over fear.”
The impact of the virus is far less than that of the flu. The Centers for Disease Control estimates between 34 million and 49 million cases and between 20,000 and 52,000 deaths occurred between October 1, 2019 and February 29, 2020.
Writer Jon Henly sought to provide some of the context needs for balanced decision-making in The Guardian, noting “the world has never had better tools to fight it, and that if we are infected, we are unlikely to die from it.”
Among the nine points aimed at piercing panic are two that are being seconded in emerging research — most of those infected have mild symptoms, and recovering coronavirus victims are now doing just fine all around the world.
As proof, Henly cited a Johns Hopkins tracking project that, as of early Tuesday, showed over 64,000 people had recovered from the virus against 4,000 deaths. Henly also cited a Chinese study that showed death rates in China spiked in people above 70, with people under 20 representing only 3 percent of the cases and people under 40 making up 0.2 percent of the deaths.
Citing the work of Ignacio López-Goñi, a professor of microbiology and virology at the University of Navarra in Spain, Henly said science is moving faster than it ever has before to attack the virus. In contrast to the two years it took to identify the virus causing HIV, he noted, this one was identified in seven days.
That, according to Henly, has allowed for testing to take place. He also noted that prototype vaccines exist, treatments are in test mode and medical journals are filled with research that will point one researcher towards a vaccine.
Although the concept of quarantine is not appealing, Henly noted that it has served as a fairly reliable breakwater to check the spread of the virus, which, as it seems to break out in clusters, is uniquely suited to this type of management.
Even prevention is not completely a mystery, Henly noted.
“Catching it is not that easy (if we are careful) and we can kill it quite easily (provided we try). Frequent, careful hand washing, as we now all know, is the most effective way to stop the virus being transmitted, while a solution of ethanol, a solution of hydrogen peroxide or a solution of bleach will disinfect surfaces,” he wrote.
“To be considered at high risk of catching the coronavirus you need to live with, or have direct physical contact with, someone infected, be coughed or sneezed on by them (or pick up a used tissue), or be in face-to-face contact, within [about 6 feet], for more than 15 minutes. We’re not talking about passing someone in the street,” he wrote.
In a recent Op-Ed in the Washington Times, writer Tammy Bruce pushed back against what she labeled as a political- and media-driven exercise in panic-mongering,
“Consider that flu season has been upon us and continues to wreak havoc, yet there’s never a peep from the bureaucratic establishment. The flu is an inconvenient issue for them because they can’t blame Mr. Trump for it.
“But something new with some uncertainty attached can be fashioned into another arrow with which to strike the president. If the bureaucratic establishment, Democrats and media really cared about the impact of a pandemic on the condition of people’s lives, they would be comparably up in arms over what happens during flu season,” she wrote.
“The silver lining about the establishment and media obsession with coronavirus is the instructions to avoid it are virtually identical to actions that should be taken to avoid the flu. So by default, we at least are hearing information that will assist us in a genuine way to stay healthy.”
“The flu and the coronavirus are absolutely something we must avoid, along with other respiratory ailments, because of its impact on us. But it is an opportunity to observe media and the establishment develop a narrative in society with the intent on dragging us along by our ears into their preferred (and usually false and fear-based) narrative,” she wrote.
Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control, said that in voicing concern for what comes next, the media should not lose sight of the fact that within weeks. America’s public health system has ramped up to do its job.
“I think it’s important to use the data and the science that we have,” Redfield said Friday at a media briefing, according to a White House media pool report.
“I mean, we’re not blind where this virus is right now in the United States. And we need to focus our resources right now where we know this virus is circulating substantially in the community, like certain parts of California, like certain parts of Seattle. That’s where we need to put our focus … That’s why we are accelerating, as the President said, our surveillance.”
“So we really want to have the American people to have confidence — it’s not just in the CDC; it’s in the public health community of this nation. It’s strong. They’re doing their job. I tell people, every time we see a new confirmed case, they should think of that as a success, not a failure, because they know their public health community is out doing their job,” he said.
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