Saturday early afternoon is my regular grocery shopping time: almost every Saturday I dedicate an hour or two to stocking up for the following week. I’ve been going to my local (Wendell NC) Food Lion now for twenty-seven years. The staff there is friendly and helpful, and most of them know me by my first name. And I almost always find what I am looking for.
Yesterday I went for my usual visit, and the place was like a war zone: long lines, frantic women loaded down with toilet tissue (which was almost all gone from the shelves), hand sanitizer sold out, bread and soup in very short supply, and even store-bought water running low. As one store assistant—a long-time friend—told me: “This is worse than Hurricane Matthew or Fran, or maybe the last Winter blizzard we had!”
Such shortages don’t affect me, since I live by myself (except for my handsome Cocker Spaniel), and I always keep a stock of necessary items on hand. (I learned that lesson back during the ravages of Hurricane Fran in 1996 when I was without power for eleven days!) But the extreme panic struck me.
And I thought to myself: the role of the media in generating this is very significant.
Amazon.com Gift Card i... Buy New $15.00 (as of 12:45 UTC - Details) Now I am not an assiduous viewer of network television—I much prefer, if I watch the Boob Tube at all, to catch an entertaining old oater (say, with Randolph Scott or Audie Murphy) on Encore Westerns or a timeless classic on TCM. But I have noticed, that as much as the media profess to present the “facts,” their lurid presentations of the ravages of this latest Coronavirus (COVID-19) and its effects have only heightened the edginess and fears of an unwary and spooked public.
Nationally, to take only an example, just this morning the inveterate anti-Trumper, Chris Wallace, interviewed on Fox both Dr. Anthony Fauci of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. And Wallace tried every way he could to get them both to admit that the very fate of the nation was at stake, that we were headed for the direst of dire events—a terrifying recession, if not worse, and that President Trump had been “too slow” and confused in reacting. Their responses to an insistent Wallace were largely reassuring to anyone watching…but Chris seemed not at all deterred.
Worse still has been much of the local media. A regional television station in this area—NBC-affiliate WRAL—loudly proclaims that its only desire is to give viewers factual information, yet its coverage, replete with rumors and selected horror stories, has been nothing less than scandalous and hysterical.
One doctor the station located predicted millions would become sick, but failed to note that many millions get the flu each year as well. And thousands die from the flu annually. The death rate from COVID-19 (which is a variant strain similar to the flu) is between 1% and 2% in the United States, and the great majority of those, according to the CDC, are the elderly with existent serious health issues, again similar to the effects of influenza.
There is, of course, a definite political twist to all this. Take for example the early reaction of leading Democrats and in particular of Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, who have criticized the president for “lack of action.” Given President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency this week and additional proactive measures by the administration and by Congress, some of this talk may lessen (but don’t bet on it). Recall the phrase of Mayor Rahm Emmanuel: “Never let a crisis go to waste [politically].” Expect to see the Democratic candidates and most especially the Internet and Twitter-world continue to ramp up and hype ignorantly this “crisis” and continue to “shout fire! fire!” and pretend that we are all contained in a crowded movie theater with the doors locked.
It has become one more stone to throw at the president. The Russia Hoax, the Kavanaugh caper, Michael Cohen, the Ukraine quid pro quo—they have all been trotted out to bring him down, and like darts which failed to strike the dart board, they’ve come up short. For far too many frenzied anti- and Never Trumpers, this COVID-19 situation presents one more opportunity to strike at the heart of the hated Donald.
And, if you can stomach it, take a peek at the coverage on MSNBC or CNN, and there, voila!, you will learn that to attribute this latest coronavirus to Chinese ineptitude is “racist,” to call it “Chinese Coronavirus” is another example of “Western white supremacy.” Maybe it has been in fact a plot hatched by some reactionary old white men huddled in the basement of the White House, intent on devastating brown and black peoples across the globe? Think I’m kidding? At this point and in this perfervid intellectual climate, I wouldn’t gainsay it.
After all is said and done, it comes down to these questions: what is the actual situation in the United States, what should I (and my family) do to avoid infection (practical steps), and what are the symptoms of COVID-19. And overall how should we react, prudently and rationally…and not like a heard of Gadarene swine plunging off the cliff into the Sea of Galilee.
The surest and most accurate source of up-to-date information is the Federal government’s own special Coronvirus-19 Web site, which offers essential details.
As Dr. Fauci and the CDC have stated, the symptoms of COVID-19 are characterized by a very high fever, a deeply-based cough, a noticeable shortness of breath, persistent pain in the chest, and in more serious cases possible mental disorientation. In fact, these symptoms are similar to those of aggravated influenza or pneumonia, and the need to treat them medically is very much like the treatment of those illnesses: strong antibiotics, constant hydration, and self-isolation until those conditions go away—with a visit to one’s doctor or an emergency room only in extreme cases.
Amazon.com Gift Card i... Buy New $25.00 (as of 11:14 UTC - Details) And, just like the flu—and clearly evident in the presently-counted cases—for most people exposed and the great majority contracting the infection the illness will not be life-threatening at all. Again, those most at risk—just like with influenza and pneumonia strains—will be the elderly with persistent health and immunity issues. Like with the flu most contracting COVID-19 who act reasonably and prudently (and without the frenzy I witnessed at Food Lion yesterday!) will fully recover.
Certainly, there are simple measures to avert infection and they should include frequent handwashing with anti-bacterial products, avoiding close or intimate contact with those with evident coughing and sneezing problems (and if you yourself are beset with persistent deep coughing, high fever and sneezing, cover up and depending on the severity, contact your physician).
Unfortunately the panic continues. The stock market has taken a hit; the airlines and travel businesses have seen a precipitous decline in business; many schools have let out, and with underage children at home, two-working-parent households are in a quandary. Perhaps millions will suffer economically in the short term. The president has taken bold action, and we shall see what effect the concerted actions—most likely over-actions—of government have.
In the meantime, the grocery store shelves—the Walmart specials—the CVS displays remain cleaned out. Toilet tissue is nowhere to be had. In such cases, alas, my best advice to you is to invest in one of those foreign-style bidets, or barring that, if you can find some old Sears and Roebuck catalogs still around….snatch them up!
Reprinted with the author’s permission.