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Our View: Preparedness is more important than panic

It seems every hour brings new information involving the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

School districts around the state are closing for up to four weeks at a time.

Hospitals and nursing homes are suspending policies regarding outside visitors.

Jails are canceling visiting hours.

National and local sporting events are being conducted without spectators, including the NCAA, SEC and KHSAA tournaments and even some NASCAR races.

Supplies are scarce for products like cleaning goods, sanitizers, toilet paper and bottled water. Soon, supplies of dry and canned goods will likely also begin to fly off store shelves as the country braces for the inevitable spread of the virus.

Unfortunately, there is already a lot of misinformation about the virus circulating. That and the never-ending news coverage of the virus have led to some panic.

Understandably, many people are anxious, especially as the virus hits as close as neighboring Fayette County.

While it is normal to be worried about contracting or spreading the potentially fatal virus, one of the best pieces of advice we’re getting from reputable sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and the Kentucky Department for Public Health is not to panic.

That may be easier said than done for many. Still, many are not taking the potentially far-reaching impacts of the virus seriously enough.

The key is to find a balance of preparedness and precaution, rather than panic.

It will be essential to find ways to slow the transmission of the virus, reducing illness and death, while still limiting the social and economic impacts of the outbreak.

The CDC has created some guiding principles for communities to respond as the virus spreads, citing that “when a novel virus with pandemic potential emerges, non-pharmaceutical interventions, … called community mitigation strategies … often are the most readily-available interventions to help slow transmission of the virus in communities. Community mitigation is a set of actions that persons and communities can take to help slow the spread of respiratory virus infections. Community mitigation is especially important before a vaccine or drug becomes widely available.”

As of Thursday, there were 1,215 confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S., with 36 deaths. Cases had been confirmed in 42 states, including Kentucky, and the District of Columbia.

In Kentucky, there have been eight confirmed cases, with no new cases since Tuesday. There have been 64 people tested in the state for the virus.

The goal of these strategies is to protect vulnerable populations like the elderly and people with underlying health conditions as well as health care and other critical workers, like first responders. Those who are at an increased risk of a serious COVID case include people with blood disorders, chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, compromised immune system, current or recent pregnancy, endocrine disorder, metabolic disorders, heart disease, lung disease or neurological conditions, according to the CDC.

The CDC’s recommendations hinge on things like personal-level actions, actions taken by businesses, schools, community organizations and local governments; focusing on settings like jails, hospitals and nursing homes that provide critical services to the community; and all the while minimizing disruptions to daily life as much as possible. Seems logical, right?

First, everyone needs to know where to find local information about COVID-19 and its spread. Some good resources include the Kentucky Department for Public Health, watching press conferences from the governor and state health officials, following social media accounts from reliable sources like local and state government and state health agencies, the CDC and WHO, and local news sources like this newspaper, television and radio channels.

Be aware of the signs and symptoms of the virus and how it spreads so you know when to seek care.

According to the Kentucky DPH, the virus spreads mainly from person-to-person through close contact or through respiratory droplets produced when someone coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses or people nearby, be inhaled by the lungs or even transmitted when someone touches an infected surface and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth.

Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath, and typically appear within two to 14 days after exposure.

Take personal measures like washing your hands, covering coughs and sneezes, staying home except for essential things like school, work, doctor’s visits, grocery shopping, etc.; cooking at home and cleaning frequently.

It would be helpful to have supplies ready in the case of a mandated or voluntary quarantine. Those include toiletries, medications, water, dry and canned goods, cleaning goods and sanitizers, etc.

Perhaps the most important step we can all take is to stay home and quarantine ourselves if we become ill.

Have a plan in place for your business, organization or family to prevent spread and transmission, but also how to respond if someone close to you does contract the virus. This might include things like reducing large gatherings, suspending programming and limiting visitors.

Agencies can access the full list of the CDC’s mitigation recommendations at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/community-mitigation-strategy.pdf.

Kentucky has responded well to the outbreak of the virus locally.

Gov. Andy Beshear is doing an excellent job collaborating with state health officials and keeping residents up-to-date about the spread of the virus with frequent and informative press conferences.

Many agencies are suspending large gatherings and programming to prevent the spread of the virus.

We can and should respond quickly and constructively to this outbreak. If we do so, we can avoid falling into situations similar to other countries gripped by this virus.

The local response has been spot on.

Panicking will only make things worse. Being prepared and cautious will be the best response.