The coronavirus is a quiet killer that can lull us into complacency with its largely unseen attacks on our health and economy.
It does not shock and awe; it creeps and slithers. But it is deceptively fast and effective.
As of Monday, the number of reported cases in the state was approaching 300, including 11 in Guilford County.
As for the collateral damage, roughly 113,000 people have filed for unemployment benefits with the N.C. Department of Employment Security within the last week. That figure is nearly three times the number of claims filed in the rest of the calendar year combined, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported.
When faced with the visceral, soul-shaking tragedy of 9/11, we could at least fight back with open acts of resolve and solidarity — whether it was refusing to surrender to fear by going on with our daily lives or making the ultimate commitment as soldiers and first responders.
That’s harder to do with the novel coronavirus. It isn’t evil; it just is.
To be sure, first responders and medical workers are on the front lines as usual. But the outcome of the COVID-19 threat in Greensboro and beyond depends in large measure on what the rest of us do. Or choose not to do. It feeds on open defiance. It dares you to dare it. So, battling it sometimes can feel like punching the air.
But some of the best ways we can make things better by committing to what we won’t do:
Don’t hoard. While that admonition may seem a day late and several thousand rolls of toilet paper short, it still applies for the days ahead. Get what you need, but not more. Panic buying creates a self-fulfilling prophecy by causing unnecessary shortages.
Don’t equate youth with invincibility. The images of young people carousing on beaches, or closer to home, blissfully playing pickup basketball games on a local recreation center’s outdoor courts, belie some important facts about the coronavirus.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 5 of the COVID-19 cases in the United States that require hospitalizations involved people ages 20 to 44. Two to 4% of those cases led to intensive-care treatment, though fewer than 1% were fatal.
Don’t be offended if someone avoids your path: It’s probably nothing personal, just a precaution that may benefit the both of you.
Don’t take the virus’ invisibility as a sign of its harmlessness. What you can’t see still can kill you: gas leaks, radioactivity and chemicals in tainted water come to mind. The same kinds of dangers apply here.
Don’t balk at making sacrifices in the present for a safer and more prosperous future. Let’s not treat this health emergency as too many have treated the climate emergency — with stubborn disbelief or indifference. Or both.
Don’t be seduced by misinformation. We should choose reliable news sources. We should vet wild-eyed claims and promises of quick cures and treatments with sober fact checks.
Don’t let partisan divisions threaten the greater good. This isn’t about whether you’re Republican or Democrat or Libertarian. The virus certainly doesn’t care about your party affiliation.
At the same time, we still have to ask hard questions and hold our leaders accountable. Being united at a time of crisis doesn’t mean being blindly accepting of whatever we’re told. Or not challenging, constructively, the efficacy of a certain policy or approach. And being unified doesn’t mean being uncritical. But tribalism for the sake of it will only make a bad situation worse.
Don’t be surprised at how much harder this is going to get. Gov. Roy Cooper on Monday extended public school closings at least through May 15. Businesses are hurting, especially small businesses. The governor also halved the limit on public gatherings in the state from 100 to 50 people.
Expect tougher days to come. When the governor holds a conference call today with county commissioners across the state, it’s not clear what the next steps may be. But governors in a number of states already have issued shelter-in-place orders that discourage residents from leaving home except in certain cases. Added to that roster of states in recent days have been Delaware, Ohio and Louisiana, as well as a number of cities and counties.
Finally, if you were an early skeptic, don’t cling to a notion that is now demonstrably false and potentially dangerous.
Not that long ago, President Trump agreed with you. He doesn’t anymore.