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Desperate times call for desperate measures

As of this writing on Sunday afternoon (March 15), our state was reporting 32 confirmed cases of COVID-19, more than doubled the 15 cases from two days earlier.

Yes, I can do the math…..32 individuals infected with this virus in a state of 10,611,862 citizens (the latest estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau) means that a tiny fraction (0.000003 percent) of our population is sick. Thus far, no North Carolinian has succumbed to COVID-19.

By comparison, the number of seasonal flu cases in North Carolina is significantly higher. While I could not locate online the total number of flu cases in North Carolina for the 2019-20, I did locate several websites that reported the number of confirmed cases peaked at 1,342 the week of Feb. 9-15. Ironically, that was the same week that I was diagnosed with the flu and was out of work for four days.

That number had dropped to 798 new cases by the first week of March.

Tragically, 134 people in our state have died from the seasonal flu from October 2019 until this writing.

So why is all the focus on COVID-19? Why are schools shutting down…why have sporting events (professional and amateur) been postponed….and why are churches canceling services? And, pray tell, why is there mass hysteria to clean the store shelves of bread, cleaning supplies and, oddly enough, toilet paper?

The first thing to address is to remove the fear factor and deal with the facts.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were 125,048 confirmed cases and 4,613 deaths from COVID-19 as of March 12. Those numbers reflect 6,729 new cases and 321 new deaths over a 24-hour period.

In China alone, where the virus allegedly originated in January (perhaps earlier), nearly 81,000 people were infected. Of that number, 3,173 have died.

If there’s any good news to report, confirmed cases in China are rapidly declining. There were only 26 new cases reported as of March 12.

However, as we all very well know by now, COVID-19 was not contained within China’s borders.

Other than China, Italy is one of the hardest hit countries with 12,462 confirmed cases and 827 deaths as of March 12. Iran confirmed 9,000 cases and 354 deaths. France and Spain each reported roughly 2,220 confirmed cases and an equal number of deaths (48). Three people have died in Germany (among 1,567 cases there) and there are 460 cases and six deaths in the United Kingdom.

As of March 12, there were 987 confirmed cases and 29 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States. Our immediate neighbors to the north and south are reporting lower numbers: Canada with 93 cases and only 1 death; Mexico with a mere 11 cases and no deaths thus far.

COVID-19 is at the pandemic threshold because it has reached 118 counties and territories and did so with great speed.

According to the WHO, “despite our frequent warnings, we are deeply concerned that some countries are not approaching this threat with the level of political commitment needed to control it. Countries that decide to give up on fundamental public health measures may end up with a larger problem, and a heavier burden on the health system that requires more severe measures to control.”

Our nation and our state are doing everything within their power to address this medical issue. Our government is doing its best to identify, test, isolate, and treat each case.

It appears the most effective way to lessen the impact of this virus is to break the transmission chain by not only identifying individual cases, but quarantining their closest contacts as well.

Closing schools, canceling sporting events, and limiting the number of people in one place together (our places of employment, retail stores – to include supermarkets – and shopping malls are excluded) lessens the opportunity of transmission.

Parents of schoolchildren are impacted the most, especially those who work to include those in the healthcare profession who are on the frontlines of this particular battle. They have tough decisions to make about caring for their children during weekdays.

Just keep in mind that we’re all in this together. The sun will rise tomorrow; the grocery shelves will be re-stocked; life will go on. The end of COVID-19 will come….we just need to work together and follow the recommendations of our government and healthcare officials and that day will arrive fairly quickly.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.