Wash your hands and keep your head as the new coronavirus nears
Wash your hands and keep your head as the new coronavirus nears

Wash your hands and keep your head as the new coronavirus nears

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It’s starting to get scary. A third person has tested positive to the COVID-19 virus in Wisconsin, including two in Dane County.

The new coronavirus appears to have a significantly higher death rate than influenza, scientists tell us, and it poses the greatest risk to the elderly. Yet the death toll remains low, compared to seasonal flu, and children appear resilient. Most people who catch COVID-19 experience mild symptoms.

So don’t panic. But definitely do take sensible precautions.

Most important: Wash your hands. Cover coughs and sneezes. Clean hard surfaces. Try not to wipe your nose or touch your face. If you’re sick, stay home. If you have a fever and shortness of breath, call your doctor.

A little prevention can go a long way toward keeping COVID-19 at bay.

So will clear communication from political leaders and health officials.

President Donald Trump’s chaotic and misleading approach to governing is poorly suited to this challenge. Yet his decision to assign Vice President Mike Pence to oversee the nation’s response provides some reassurance. The former Indiana governor has been a calming presence while updating the public. Honest information is the best way to ease worry.

So is bipartisan cooperation, such as the swift congressional approval of $8.3 billion to fight the outbreak.

State and local officials have big roles to play in promoting public safety, too. They shouldn’t fear shutting down schools, sporting events and other large gatherings if evidence suggests the novel virus is spreading through our communities.

Wisconsin has been lucky so far. The few people confirmed with the disease had been traveling out of state or to China, where the virus originated.

Yet we live in an incredibly connected world and shouldn’t underestimate the danger this pandemic poses.

A few readers have accused the media of sensationalizing the risk. But the front-page headline in Saturday’s newspaper, “100,000 infected by virus,” was a fact. So was the reporting in recent days detailing a “total lockdown” of Italy.

If the virus spreads here, you can count on the State Journal to provide the latest public health information and data. We will stick to the facts in our reporting and carefully convey what public health officials are saying.

We also will apply some healthy scrutiny. For example, a state Department of Health Services official strangely urged the public last week to stockpile water. But that suggestion wasn’t a reaction to COVID-19. It was general advice for natural disasters. So to be clear: No evidence suggests the virus will have any impact on our water supply.

The State Journal will continue to report what’s happening with this virus. The public should stay informed and calmly heed health warnings.


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