Editorial: Don’t panic, but be prepared for coronavirus

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Salisbury and Rowan County residents should take common precautions and avoid overreaction to news about COVID-19, sometimes referred to generally as coronavirus. It’s also important to treat the virus as the threat that it is.

So, what does that look like?

It means washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds at a time.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

Avoid close contact with people who are ill, no matter what they may have.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and do not reuse that tissue. Importantly, do not cough or sneeze into your hand or openly in public places.

Clean and disinfect surfaces that are touched frequently.

Treating the threat of the coronavirus properly also means staying home and calling a doctor or health care provider and letting them know about symptoms if you are sick. It also means relying on medical professionals and credible sources like the Centers for Disease Control, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and, on a local level, the Rowan County Health Department for guidance.

The Centers for Disease Control, for example, does not recommend people who are healthy wear a facemask. Instead, those should be worn by people diagnosed with COVID-19 and other flu-like illnesses.

People who have a higher risk of becoming seriously ill from coronavirus include older adults and people who have serious medical conditions already, including heart disease, diabetes and lung disease.

Those at higher risk are advised by the CDC to take everyday precautions to keep space between themselves and others and stay away from large crowds and people who are sick when in public. The CDC also advises those at high risk to stock up on supplies like household items and groceries as well as any extra necessary medications in case there is an outbreak in the community and the person needs to stay home for a prolonged period of time.

Employers can help, too, by encouraging their employees to take time off to get well if they are sick or to work from home if time off isn’t possible. Too often, employees come to work sick, and that just makes the spread of viruses easier.

As for its impact, coronavirus is not the flu and people should not act as if the two are identical. For one, there’s a readily available vaccine to the flu everywhere from family doctors’ offices to hospitals; there’s not one for coronavirus. And the country’s ability to test for the flu dwarfs the number of tests currently available for COVID-19. As more people are tested and medical guidance is updated, there will be more cases identified.

The good news, however, is that COVID-19 is not currently widespread in North Carolina. Seven cases of the coronavirus have been identified in the state — six in Wake County and another in Chatham County. In conjunction with that case number, Salisbury and Rowan County shouldn’t panic, but residents of both should practice good hygiene and be prepared for what might come.