The coronavirus swept the world like a storm, and our reactions to the outbreak are constantly changing. Some say it’s worse than Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS); others contend it’s weaker than the flu. Since the virus took everyone by surprise, we often find ourselves pondering: How should we react to this pandemic? 

Though there is no need to blindly worry about the new coronavirus, there is no excuse to underestimate it, either. COVID-19 demands more caution. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), COVID-19 has a low fatality rate but is highly contagious.  

As of March 13, the U.S. had at least 2,100 confirmed cases of the virus and 48 deaths, according to The New York Times. With a fatality rate of 3.4%, COVID-19 might be much more dangerous if its influence reaches the scale of the common flu. 

In response to the rising numbers, 32 states, including California, have declared a state of emergency. California has the third-most diagnosed patients in the country. The Grand Princess, a cruise ship carrying infected passengers, docked in Oakland.

According to NPR, Sacramento County ended automatic 14-day quarantines to focus on mitigating the impact of COVID-19, acknowledging that the county cannot effectively manage the quarantines while it’s handling COVID-19 cases.

Worried about the impact of the virus and the county’s ability to contain it, some schools in the Sacramento area, including Country Day, have taken swift measures to ensure the safety of their students. 

On March 13, SCDS suspended all in-person classes and implemented online learning through spring break, which ends on Monday, April 13.

Before this decision, Country Day had taken several steps to counter the spread of COVID-19. In addition to increased classroom and surface sanitation, librarian Joanne Melinson hosted a handwashing party on March 10 for students to learn proper techniques. 

Still, is there a need to panic? Absolutely not. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and WHO, most of those killed by the virus are elderly, have preexisting lung conditions or both. For teenagers and healthy adults, COVID-19 would most likely result in flu-like symptoms and no long-term damage. 

That said, we can’t ignore the outbreak. The indifference of adolescents and healthy adults may, in turn, result in uncontrolled, rapid transmission to more at-risk persons.

According to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, COVID-19 bears some parallels to two recent epidemics: SARS and influenza. 

China’s responses to COVID-19 and SARS, which began in Guangzhou in 2002, are very similar. SARS had a frightful death rate of 9.6% but totaled only one-fourth of the deaths of COVID-19 thus far. 

Influenza, on the other hand, shares a closer resemblance in its spreading pattern to COVID-19, with a rapid outbreak and swift expansion. Though the flu is responsible for thousands of deaths each year and infects 5% to 20% of Americans, its death rate is only 0.1%. COVID-19’s current death rate is 36 times greater. 

We should take manageable measures to defend against the virus. As the virus only has lung cell receptors — meaning the virus takes effect when in contact with the lungs — washing your hands frequently and thoroughly and not touching your face are effective preventative measures. Being aware of potential symptoms such as fever, cough and fatigue — similar to flu symptoms — also aids in identifying infection early and preventing its spread — though some patients may show few to no symptoms. 

Seeking early medical treatment, using face masks and executing self-quarantine are potent yet undemanding practices. However, with potentially undiagnosed patients and unnoticed community transmission, avoiding crowds and canceling plans is the most effective step.

Originally published in the March 17 edition of the Octagon.

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