Opinion » Letters

Be vigilant, but don't panic

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I rarely agree with President Donald Trump, but what he has said about how the coronavirus compares to the flu has validity.

The statistics on the flu are staggering. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates this season there have been at least 15 million flu illnesses, 140,000 hospitalizations, and 8,200 deaths in the USA. Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the flu kills 290,000 to 650,000 people annually.

By comparison, the incidence of and deaths from the coronavirus is very small. So far, globally there have been 114,423 cases of the coronavirus resulting in 4,027 deaths. In the USA, as of March 10, there had been 708 cases and 27 deaths (worldometers.info/coronavirus). For now, there have been no confirmed cases in SLO County. Of course, the current low prevalence and death rate doesn't predict what may happen in coming months.

I wonder if people were skeptical when the worldwide 1918 Spanish flu pandemic started and if that meant many didn't heed health experts' warnings. If so, hopefully that won't happen this time. But based on where things now stand, I don't understand the need to cancel events, close schools, give up vacations, etc., especially in parts of the country where the outbreak is so small. And I certainly can't fathom the local run on toilet paper, masks, etc., as if a hurricane or tsunami were immanent.

So, for now, I think intelligent vigilance rather than panic would be the wiser way to handle this new challenge.

Judith Bernstein

Arroyo Grande

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