Opinion: How much should the United States worry about the COVID-19 virus

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According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been one U.S. death from the COVID-19 virus and NBC News has confirmed at least nine other patients have recovered from the disease. There have been no confirmed cases in Colorado. Photo courtesy of the CDC.

Here are some basic facts about the virus and some possible ways this outbreak could go. I am not a doctor, but these facts come from the experts.

COVID-19, or the Novel Coronavirus 2019, what is it?

According to the World Health Organization’s website, who.int, the COVID-19 virus is only one type of coronavirus; other viruses people might know are the SARS, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome virus from 2003, or the MERS, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus from 2012. These viruses are first transmitted from animals to people and can be transmitted between people. Common symptoms are fever and respiratory problems, shortness of breath, cough, sore throat, runny nose and so on. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and death.

How Much is the United States at Risk?

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This is a tricky question since the reported numbers show a low number of outbreaks in the country, with the highest estimation reaching only 70 reported cases.  

According to CNN, “It’s likely there are more coronavirus cases in the United States than the numbers show.” Less than 500 people in the US have been tested for the virus, according to the CDC’s website on cases in the US, and there is a lot of room for error. 

So far, there has only been one death in the US from the virus. The number of cases and deaths could change at any moment with new techniques being developed for testing for the virus. 

How to Protect against the virus?

According to the World Health Organization website, do not wear a mask unless you are the one that is sick. Healthy people wearing masks are not needed unless you are around people with the virus. Buying masks unnecessarily can cause a drain on resources for the medical professionals dealing with the outbreaks. 

The World Health Organization also recommends common-sense steps similar to dealing with colds or the flu. 

  1. Wash your hands frequently or at least use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid people who are sick. 
  2. If you are sick stay home or take the necessary precaution like coughing or sneezing into your elbow or a tissue. 
  3. Make sure to seek medical assistance from your doctors if you are unwell, and to call your hospital ahead of time to give them the heads up about your situation so they can prepare to receive you.

The response from the Trump administration has been anything but reassuring. He says his team has very educated people on the case, but no concrete plans are being shared with the public; only a half thought out comment on the government owning millions of masks. The World Health Organization stated again that people should not be buying these masks unless they need them, a point that Vice President Pence had to clarify later on the Saturday presidential press conference.

”The average American does not need to go out and buy a mask,” Vice President Pence said.

The President made vague promises such as these to the American people implying no one is at risk with the number of case counts being low.

“We’re doing really well,” Trump said. “Very, very professionally handled. We will respectfully ask the media and politicians and everyone involved not to do anything to incite a panic.”

These were unhelpful statements considering the experts at the Center for Disease Control, the CDC are asking that Americans be prepared for changes to their life. clearly stating people should not be buying these masks unless they need them, which Vice President Pence had to clarify later on the Saturday presidential press conference.

The President seems to be unashamed to use this opportunity to bash Democrats and to promote his own political agenda. 

“Hoax referred to the action that they take to try to pin this on somebody because we’ve done such a good job,” Trump claimed to imply the democrats were trying to politicize the virus. 

However, it is clear in later statements that Trump is using the virus as a political tool. Using it as a way to increase his agenda of the travel bans on Iran and his policies on the southern border.

President Trump said in response to a reporter’s question, “We are thinking about the southern border.” 

He was looking to further connect with his base of supporters by stirring up more fear about the Mexico-US border issues. The implication that there is more reason to shut down the southern border because of the COVID-19 virus is a misrepresentation of the facts. There have been only two confirmed reported cases of the virus in Mexico according to the World Health Organization, leading to this comment being an unnecessary fear-mongering tactic in an already tense situation.  

Another mishap of this response lies in his total failure to know who had died as a result of this virus. Trump called the patient who had passed away an elderly woman when he was in fact a 50-year-old man. It should go without saying when dealing with a viral outbreak which can result in death, the correct person should be verified. The president’s administration should have made it a  priority to know the exact facts on the virus’s victims.

Now, it should be said that Coloradans at least should not panic. 

The Colorado Department for Health and Environment confirmed that “Colorado has no cases and the risk of COVID-19 for Coloradans is low at this time.” 

People should look at their local government health websites for information about the local effects and progression of this virus.

As famous Youtuber Doctor Mike would say, “We are going to stay alert and not anxious.”

For general questions about COVID-19: Call CO-Help at 303-389-1687 or 1-877-462-2911 or email [email protected]

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