Editorial: Coronavirus — prepare, but don’t panic
The adage “hope for the best, but prepare for the worst” is the right approach to the coronavirus outbreak that now has reached every continent except Antarctica.
Even though no one in Connecticut has tested positive for the virus, as of Wednesday afternoon, it likely is a matter of time. Infections are confirmed in bordering Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Westchester County in New York. The virus is contagious and no longer associated only with travel to infected countries.
Gov. Ned Lamont sought to reassure the public that the state is as prepared as is possible while the breadth of the outbreak remains unknown.
The state’s Public Health laboratory in Rocky Hill was approved last week by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to perform diagnostic testing for coronavirus, which can provide results within 24 hours and save wait time from sending samples to the CDC in Atlanta.
Hospitals have test kits, as well as masks, gowns and disinfectant, and plans in place for dealing with a possible epidemic.
Metro-North is proactively stepping up the cleaning and disinfecting of rail cars and train stations. The head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the rail line — one of the busiest in the country — said Tuesday the trains will be sanitized every 72 hours.
This is important because not everyone who contracts the virus will have symptoms and so could unknowingly expose others. Although much is unknown about how the virus spreads, health authorities say it appears to be through droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, which can be transferred to common surfaces, such as handrails and doors.
While in France the health minister is recommending a ban on “la bise” — the practice of kissing each cheek in greeting — Lamont has different advice for Connecticut.
He and U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, who met Monday at the Rocky Hill lab, demonstrated elbow bumps as an alternative to handshakes between people as a precaution. It might catch on.
At this time, the seasonal flu poses more of a threat. Last year 88 people in Connecticut died from the flu and 3,506 were hospitalized. Yet not everyone gets a flu shot.
Coronavirus might not be that bad — or it could be multiple times worse. But it will take at least a year until a vaccine can be created, tested and brought to market.
That leaves people to use common sense. Wash hands with soap and hot water frequently and thoroughly, about the length of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday. Avoid touching common surfaces, and putting your hand to your nose or mouth. Use hand sanitizers when you can’t wash. Stay home if flu-like symptoms appear.
Things not to do: hoard sanitizers, masks or over-the-counter medication. In a disturbing twist, ammunition sales have risen in Connecticut and around the country.
Take the coronavirus seriously — be prepared — but not obsessively.