JACKSON — Here is what I sent out to Emmerich Newspapers employees this week:
Because our newspaper offices are not public spots like stores or restaurants, I believe it prudent to remain open. However, I believe we should respect the feelings of those that may feel threatened by coming into the office. Here are some thoughts of mine:
1) Anybody sick should stay home, especially if fever is involved. This is allergy season, so some of us may have hay fever. If the hay fever is severe, stay home.
2) Touching your personal phone, keyboard, desk, etc. is not likely to transmit the virus. Pay attention to communal hotspots such as all doors, shared printers, breakroom, etc. Think in terms of “who else has touched this.” Tissues, wipes, paper towels and/or sanitizer should be placed near communal touch points.
3) Keep alcohol, soap and paper towels in your car. Apply before you enter your home or office. Your car is the gateway to the public. Apply sanitizer every time you leave your car. A simple bar of soap with a spray bottle of water will work just great.
4) Simple soap and water is the best. Soap contains fat-like substances known as amphiphiles, some of which are structurally very similar to the lipids in the virus membrane. The soap molecules “compete” with the lipids in the virus membrane. This is more or less how soap also removes normal dirt from the skin. It will also destroy viruses.
5) Don't panic. Panicking does nothing productive. God is in control. This is his world. Instead, exercise reasonable judgment as a steward of earth. For sure, the epidemiologists of the world are clanging the alarm loudly. That's their job. We all want to nip this in the bud. And we will. But panicking achieves nothing.
6) There are only two possibilities: A) The virus is widespread and much less deadly than we think, or B) The virus is deadly but not very widespread. On Sunday, there was ONE death in the United States from the coronavirus. In comparison, there were 100 deaths from the common flu.
7) Starting from scratch, it took China two months to get the coronavirus under control. It took South Korea one month. It will probably take a month or so for the United States to get over the hump. One very down month will have a negative impact on the economy, but probably not even enough to bring a bad recession. Keep calm and carry on.
8) Fifteen percent of ordinary colds are caused by coronaviruses. There is nothing new under the sun. This is not the Andromeda Strain. Our medical community understands the coronavirus well. Dozens of medicines, treatment strategies and vaccines are in the works and will be available in record time. We have had dozens of epidemic scares over the last hundred years, including many viral scares. We survived them all.
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At the moment, all we see is the bad aspect of this coronavirus scare. But many good things may come out of this.
First of all, as a society, we may become much more aware of hygiene and sanitation. That’s good news. The ordinary flu kills an average of 40,000 Americans each year, yet many of us don’t wash our hands nearly enough. And hardly anyone uses hand sanitizers on a regular basis. The simple act of keeping wipes in your car would cut those deaths down dramatically.
It may be time to abandon handshakes. The handshake originated centuries ago. It was a way of showing that you did not have a sword or weapon in your hand. A smile, a nod, an elbow or fist bump is far more practical in this day and age. Let’s work on that.
Viruses mutate rapidly. Viruses that kill their hosts don’t do so well. Over time, this new coronavirus will mutate into something far less lethal.
If we escape this scare, and I believe we will, it will be a wakeup call to develop a plan to fast-track vaccine and other anti-viral treatments. You can bet our medical community will acquire a huge amount of expertise as this epidemic unfolds.
Two previous novel coronavirus epidemics, and the Ebola virus, died off quickly because they were so lethal. There is an inverse correlation between lethality and communicability. The deadlier the virus, the less it spreads. The more it spreads, the less deadly. This creates a natural protective mechanism for humans. This did not happen with the Bubonic plague because it was carried by rats and fleas without killing them. The coronavirus has no intermediary carrier. If it kills us, it kills itself.
Our ability to instantly communicate around the world with the internet and smartphones gives us a huge weapon against the coronavirus. We are alert, knowledgeable and responsive. This is nothing like the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918.
After this scare, we will get a long overdue recession and bear market behind us, leading the way to another decade of economic and stock market growth.
Let’s use this experience to better rely on our faith and trust in God. We should not make our comfort and security an idol. Our ancestors had to deal with plagues, droughts, invasions, diseases and natural disasters on a scale far beyond what we are now experiencing. Yet here we are. We survived.
Let’s put this in perspective. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria cause 35,000 deaths a year in the United States. That’s 500 times more than the coronavirus. That’s a tragedy, and we are working toward a solution, but nobody is in a panic about that. It hasn’t shut down our economy.
Because this is a new strain of coronavirus, there are unknowns. The medical community is being very cautious. That’s their job. Our job is to be sensible and not panic.
Let’s practice appropriate hygiene and social distancing measures until we get more data. Then let’s all get back to living our lives.
Emmerich is editor and publisher of The Northside Sun in Jackson and president of Emmerich Newspapers.