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COLUMNS

Please, no locusts

Tim Croft
tcroft@starfl.com

A bit difficult what to make of this corornavirus outbreak which the World Health Organization has declared a pandemic.

Watch the television news or pick up the daily newspaper, go a-Googling, and there is scarcely any space or oxygen left for any other news.

Missiles exchanged with guerrillas in Iraq, presidential races between 70-year-old white men (the minimum age is 35, it really requires double that to serve?) and turbulent weather events in the Southeast all pushed to the sidelines.

And it is hard not to think we have been here before.

Over MRS, Ebola, SARS, H1N1, go all the way back to Legionnaires, and there have been any number of viruses that have broken out through recent history, though the existence or extent of social media was not what it is now.

Every second, or so it seems, there is another breathless report.

The number rise or fall depending on if discussing those infected or Wall Street.

Sports leagues are shuttered, March Madness cancelled, ESPN left to rerun basketball games from “golden” years.

Entire cities shut down in other parts of the globe, mass transit curtailed or eliminated, stores cutting hours, travel bans, all enough to make one’s head spin right off the shoulders.

Cable television is strictly a choice between news about coronavirus, which depending on time of day may or may not have changed, and reruns of every bad movie you wanted to forget.

(The good ones are now on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and the like).

On the other hand, if in line shopping at the grocery store on Monday or seeking lunch along Reid Ave. during the noon hour, the concept of “social distancing” would have seemed completely foreign.

If they had attempted to institute a four-foot buffer between shoppers and their carts in line, the line would have reached through the warehouse to the garbage containers.

Maybe it was Hurricane Michael, those who survived the storm and rebuild to this point have acquired a certain emotional armor that something we can’t even see, if not reported to be close, can bring harm.

And the news has consistently been no cases in Gulf County, which has apparently attracted significant numbers of tourists who at the last minute decided social distancing at the beach didn’t sound so bad.

Amid the noise are health officials talking with the calm common sense that mothers once brought to the equation: wash your hands properly and if the thermometer said fever, back in bed.

The primary message from health officials, going all the way up to the nation’s top doc, was the same one mothers and health officials have repeated each flu season since before Miss Manners.

About washing hands long enough to actually clean them, whether singing “Happy Birthday” or some other ditty helped, so be it, but just get ‘em clean.

And, as the local administrator of the Florida Department of Health in Gulf County put it, the best way to not get sick is to avoid people who are.

Again, mom stuff.

Avoid touching the face, cover a cough or sneeze with a tissue, we are not talking rocket science.

The prime risk is for those with underlying medical conditions, particularly issues with immune systems, lung and hearts as it is every flu season.

All the common sense steps of flu season are those suggested to stop coronavirus.

And, that, in its own way is what makes coronavirus scary.

First, what is scary are those of us fortunate to be able to take those common-sense approaches, most particularly staying home when sick and proper hand-washing, but don’t.

Maybe it is the same in the other room, but my gender has largely forgotten the idea of hand-washing after using the restroom.

And even, as so many of us are, in an occupation where there are no true sick days, the rule still applies that if sick one should avoid others out of respect, Golden Rule and all that.

But, truly frightening is the parts of the world where people have no access, none, to sanitation, to clean water, to even rudimentary medical supplies.

And, what coronavirus has demonstrated, as with H1N1 and all those before it, is that viruses have absolutely no concept of borders.

Bill Gates, whose foundation has been devoting millions to providing clean water and vaccinations to developing countries, has stated that one day science will be up against virus for which there is no answer.

Maybe coronavirus is that virus, most likely not, but it should be a warning, a canary in the coal mine kind of warning.

And, to keep my bases covered, having survived a cataclysmic hurricane and now observing a pandemic, if a plague of locusts is next, I won’t be consulting CNN.