Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a worldwide pandemic. It is now in Alabama.
There is no reason to panic, but fear and anxiety are driving many to horde everything from toilet paper to Ibuprofen, leaving bare shelves from Walmart to the local pharmacy.
Cautious vigilance is more the order of the day than panic.
Worldwide, there are a reported 173,029 coronavirus cases, with 6,663 deaths and 77,783 recoveries, according to Worldometer.info, which track data from around the globe.
Of the 88,583 active cases, 82,646 (93 percent) of patients are listed as having a mild condition, 5,937, or 7 percent, are serious or critical.
Disruption to daily life is already here with school closings, event cancellations and self-quarantine among the measures being employed to stop the spread of COVID-19. But these actions are preventative measures, not a sign of horrors to come.
“Fear of the unknown may be a, or possibly the, fundamental fear,” said R.N. Carleton as noted in Into the Unknown: a review and synthesis of contemporary models involving uncertainty.
Humans don’t respond well to unknowns, and we want to do something to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
But what to do when faced with such looming uncertainty?
Hand washing, social distancing and other precautions don’t seem nearly adequate to the potential hazards, but they are the best health professionals have to offer at this time.
While the media to some may be seen as over-hyping events, it is the media’s job to inform, educate and yes, alert the public in a time of crisis. In uncertain times, clear and accurate information is vital to public safety.
One of the reasons Alabama is seeing a panic-surge is because, for weeks, the state appeared on maps showing no cases of COVID-19. It took more than a week for the state’s health officials to say the virus was here, just undetected.
Understandably, these health officials were waiting for confirmation, but even the most basic scientific reasoning would have assumed that the virus was already present in Alabama, despite maps.
A kind of magical thinking prevailed at the national level of the government, leaving some skeptical that the emergency was real. A positive outlook is good for the soul, but hard facts allow a sober mind to make rational decisions.
Last week, the federal government and Alabama made the right choice in declaring a state of emergency freeing up much need funds and resources while finally admitting the seriousness of the situation.
“Alabamians should not be fearful, but instead, use commonsense to watch out for themselves and others,” said Gov. Kay Ivey when announcing the state of emergency. “We will remain engaged on the matter and continue prioritizing the health and wellbeing of all Alabamians.”
For many, fear has taken control, but over time, perhaps commonsense will prevail.
Currently, a herd mentality is ruling many people’s behavior as store shelves are stripped bare of essentials. There is no reason to stockpile goods in vast quantities but it is a natural response when there is a fear of the unknown. Is it irrational? Yes. Is it unusual? No. The desire to protect one’s self is hardwired while deliberate and proportional actions take discipline.
The number of infected Alabamians is likely to grow exponentially over the next few weeks, so it is essential to stay informed but not to succumb to hysteria.
For a time, there will be rampant uncertainty. Look at facts and stay informed.
While self-preservation is a primal emotion, it is also important to remember we are all in this together. Even in a time of social distancing, we are stronger together than alone.
We are the offspring of those who have survived much worse and lived to build upon the crises that challenged them to offer a better world to future generations.
This present dilemma will pass also.
Here at APR, we will continue our expansive coverage of COVID-19 as well as the state government’s actions. We are also providing an interactive map tracking the confirmed cases located in Alabama.