Keeping up on the coronavirus pandemic is up to you.
You sure can’t trust the president.
Staying abreast of the latest data on the COVID-19 virus is not easy. Government health experts are updating statistics and their advice by the hour, and much of what they’re putting out there, in good faith, is being undermined by a White House that’s putting politics ahead of public health, downplaying the seriousness of the threat.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to fight the spread of the virus. Denying the facts is the wrong way.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly sought to wish the crisis away. He didn’t do anything to convince us otherwise during a news conference Monday evening that sought to calm an American stock market rocked by the virus’ effect on oil prices, the travel and convention businesses and other big industries.
The president said he’ll have more specifics on Tuesday before leaving the lectern without taking questions, leaving Vice President Mike Pence to manage reporters’ barrage of questions.
If only the president had taken things more seriously from the beginning.
On Feb. 26, in a typical utterance, he insisted there were just 15 U.S. cases of the coronavirus in the United States and that the number soon would be “close to zero.” In the real world, there already were dozens of cases and the unofficial tally as of Monday was close to 600.
Last week, Trump assured the nation that “anybody who wants a test can get a test” — when in fact his own experts were reporting that far too few test kits were available.
And before his press conference Monday, Trump tried to shrug it all off again, pointing out that the common flu kills tens of thousands of people a year. “Think about that,” he tweeted.
As if the number of coronavirus cases wasn’t increasing rapidly, which it is. And as if the virus were not more lethal than the ordinary flu, which it likely is. Better to be over-prepared than under-prepared. Trump could do his own experts a world of good just by keeping quiet.
Social media has been even worse, as you might imagine, hyping a slew of hysterical and unfounded assertions. The most dangerous: that the coronavirus is nothing more than a hoax cooked up by Democrats — and the public should go about their business as usual.
Never mind taking sensible precautions.
Stay up to date
Most people infected with the virus — about 80% — will experience only mild flu-like symptoms. But we would all be wise to keep up to date with the latest information and expert advice.
For the latest in Illinois, where there were 11 reported cases of coronavirus as of Monday, go to: http://dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/diseases-and-conditions/diseases-a-z-list/coronavirus.
And if you’re feeling symptoms of the disease, you can call a statewide hotline, 1-800-889-3931, that’s staffed 24/7. Or send an email to email@example.com.
In Chicago, the city’s Department of Public Health has a dedicated website at: https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/cdph/provdrs/health_protection_and_response/svcs/2019-novel-coronavirus—2019-ncov-.html
The experts urge that you revisit the websites periodically to see what’s new. On Sunday evening, for example, the Centers for Disease Control issued updated guidance to health care professionals.
The CDC is now prioritizing testing for older adults; those who have “co-morbid” conditions, such as cancer, AIDS or lung disease; symptomatic people in areas experiencing community transmission, and health care professionals who have had contact with someone who has, or is suspected of having, the virus.
States of emergency
California, New York, Oregon and Washington State, where the numbers of cases are the highest, all have declared states of emergency. On Monday, Gov J.B. Pritzker added Illinois to the list. Worldwide, according to World Health Organization, more than 110,000 cases, including more than 3,800 deaths, have been confirmed.
Yet the federal government is just now getting around to offering guidelines on when schools should be closed and when businesses should direct employees to work from home, among other things.
What people at higher risk of COVID-19 should do:
- Stock up on supplies
- Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others
- When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact and wash your hands often.
- Avoid crowds as much as possible
SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control
In Chicago, many quarantines and cancellations have been announced, including the canceling of large trade shows. On Monday, most recently, the American College of Cardiology called off a three-day conference, set to begin on March 28, that was expected to draw more than 18,000 people.
Take care of yourself
Should you develop a mild cough or fever or have trouble breathing, stay home.
If your symptoms grow worse, call your doctor, who, in consultation with your local public health department, will determine whether it is appropriate for you to be tested.
Call the state hotline or check the official websites for the most up to date information.
And pay heed to the most credible sources, of which the president sadly is not one.
Send letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.