Coronavirus: Keep calm and wash your hands.

What East Texans can, and can't, do to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Under a microscope, coronavirus looks eerily similar to World War II underwater mines. Metaphorically, that’s an apt observation. 

The explosion of reported coronavirus cases worldwide (nearly 90,000 spanning 61 countries) and in six of our nation’s states (over 100 cases so far) is jaw-dropping. 

Three thousand deaths have been reported across the globe, six in Washington State as of this writing.  

The collateral damage caused by fears about coronavirus is taking a toll as well. Financial markets around the world took huge hits last week and Wall Street saw its worst week since the 2008 recession. Thankfully, by Monday, there was a sharp rise after the seven-day rout. 

While coronavirus and COVID-19 (the disease that results from it) is no laughing matter, some of the knee-jerk misinformation out there is gobsmacking.

Reports of some folks avoiding Asian people, Chinese food and even Corona beer have surfaced over the past week.

Here in Texas, the release person twice cleared for coronavirus by the Center for Disease Control only to have them turn up with it days later, has prompted a State of Emergency declaration by the city of San Antonio and Bexar County. Doubling down on that, both went to federal court late Monday seeking a temporary restraining order that would stop the release of the more than 120 coronavirus evacuees being quarantined at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. Researchers now know that compared to the regular flu, novel coronavirus can be a slow starter with symptoms showing up quite a while after exposure.

South by Southwest, the prodigious conference and festival convergence in Austin, Texas, whose attendance in 2019 reached over 400,000, maintains that it will begin as scheduled on March 13, in spite of coronavirus concerns. For his part, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey says he won’t be attending after all, and a petition effort in Austin over the weekend to cancel the event garnered more than 10,000 signatures. 

But you live in East Texas and you’re wondering what to do if coronavirus shows up on your piney woods doorstep.  

UT Health, along with state and county health agencies, say they have their response plans in place. The largest school district in East Texas, Tyler ISD, has its plan in place. Even local first responders have created a protocol for coronavirus. 

But what should your plan be? 

Coronavirus is spread by airborne particles from coughing or sneezing as well as close personal contact, like shaking hands or touching commonly used surfaces. Because of that, we’re reminded by the CDC that Mom was right: 

– You should wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds regularly through out the day. Preschoolers are taught to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice before rinsing and drying their hands. 

– Try to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with hands that are unwashed. It’s estimated that some of us touch our faces nearly a dozen times an hour! 

– And, of course, avoid close contact with people who are sick. If you’re the one who’s sick, stay home. 

Is it really that simple? Don’t you need a mask or something? The CDC is saying surgical masks or even those painters masks you get at Lowe’s and Home Depot probably won’t save you. 

Retired surgeon, Dr. Dennis Spence of Canton, put it like this to me: “Surgical masks kept our germs out of patients, not vice-versa.” 

The CDC dispenses its advice to prevent the coronavirus.

That said, UT Health’s top infectious disease specialist, Dr. Richard Wallace, says if you’re sick or around someone who is sick, “you should consider a mask” (if you can find one!). Hey, it couldn’t hurt, right?

The latest reports from China indicate the number of coronavirus cases is starting to slow down. Containment efforts seem to be working there even as other countries like Italy are still struggling. It was a little disconcerting to see Pope Francis sniffling and coughing while greeting the crowds Sunday from his Papal apartment balcony in Rome. “Just a common cold,” according to the Vatican. From their lips to God’s ears. 

Coronavirus/Covid-19 is a “developing story.” The ability to provide instant updates is on every news platform out there. This story will update hourly in some cases. One factoid to keep in mind is that the fatality rate from coronavirus is estimated at less than 1.5%. In the meantime, the Feds are working on containment plans here at home.  

As for me and my house, we will keep calm and wash our hands

We will also continue to spend time with our Asian friends, consume Chinese food and down the occasional cold Corona.

Cheers!

Mike Landess is a semi-retired Broadcast/Digital journalist whose decades-long career began here in Tyler as a high school senior. He’s the recipient of dozens of Emmy Awards from Washington, DC, Atlanta and Denver and was recently inducted into the Denver Press Club Hall of fame. He moved back to East Texas last year to be close to his adult children and grandchildren. 

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Mike Landess is a semi-retired broadcast/digital journalist whose decades-long career began in Tyler as a high school senior. He's the recipient of dozens of Emmy Awards from Washington, DC, Atlanta and Denver and was recently inducted into the Denver Press Club Hall of fame. He moved back to East Texas last year to be close to his adult children and grandchildren.
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