If COVID-19 previously was a distant concern to anyone, the events of the past week most certainly pushed this new respiratory virus to the forefront of a life-altering reality.
Because of the spread of the microscopic boogeyman across multiple continents, last Wednesday the World Health Organization designated COVID-19 a pandemic. In a prime-time televised address to the nation that evening, President Donald Trump announced a 30-day ban on certain travel from Europe where countries such as Italy continue to struggle with containment of the pathogen.
By Thursday morning, mass cancellations quickly began for local support group and organizational meetings to high school, collegiate and major professional sports and all things in between.
Local and area faith communities began announcing cancellation of worship services inside their facilities, instead congregating virtually online where possible. Visitation restrictions were implemented at various assisted living facilities, nursing homes and hospitals. Colleges and universities told students not to return to class after spring break. School districts across the state announced plans to close for three weeks to mitigate and contain the spread of the contagion. By Friday afternoon, the president had designated COVID-19 a national state of emergency.
All the while, financial markets driven by global trade disruption and dismal corporate earnings forecasts were staggered by a drastic sell-off. The daily declines on Wall Street twice triggered automatic trade shutdowns and ended with the Dow’s worse finish since the Black Monday crash of 1987. An estimated $2.9 trillion was lost in stock equity between Monday and Thursday.
Untold millions more in revenues will be lost through the combination of canceled or suspended NCAA tournament, NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS competition, major theme and amusement parks such as Disneyland and Universal Studios, and major city parades and marathons.
While economists likely would shudder in attempts to make the calculations, it won’t be hard for the impacted hotel worker, restaurant server, bartender, concessions vendor, Uber driver or city police officer relying on the side hustle of contract security work to clearly understand the loss to their pocketbooks.
And any business, large or small, that hasn’t already reviewed its continuity plan to confirm ability to operate with limited staff or, preferably, through a work-from-home scenario might well be behind the eight-ball.
Whether feeling ill or not, COVID-19 became very real for the masses. Disruption to our daily routine and weekend plans has a nasty way of doing this.
The disease and its spread demands public attention. Clearly, what has been done in effort to contain and reduce the spread of the virus is necessary and justified.
But COVID-19 also demands perspective.
At week’s end, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported confirmed cases of COVID-19 had surpassed 1,600 in 46 states and the District of Columbia, with 41 fatalities.
In comparison, the CDC estimates 29 million people have contracted influenza so far this flu season with 28,000 requiring hospitalization and 16,000 resulting in death.
This isn’t to say COVID-19 isn’t serious, but it should give reason for pause and a calming on the growing hysteria.
Do not act or respond irrationally, but instead resolve to employ personal hygiene practices we were all taught at very young age.
By instilling simple steps recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, including frequent hand washing, we’ll each be actively engaged in the collective effort to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19, as well as influenza and other respiratory illnesses dangerous to ourselves and others at the same time.