Opinions represented in this analysis are those of the author, Justin Gould, and do not represent WNY Media Company, its brands or advertisers.
JAMESTOWN – Most weekends, generally on Saturday mornings, my girlfriend and I visit the Lakewood Wegmans to do our weekly grocery shopping.
Like many in the community, we only buy enough supplies for the week ahead.
On Friday night we decided to shop early, in an effort to beat the crowds expected due to the Coronavirus outbreak. What we saw at Wegmans was not only concerning, but also a bit disappointing. Not towards the store, as they are doing the best they can with the cards they have been dealt, but with society.
Items like ground beef, pasta and rice were sold out. Additionally, there was a limited supply of canned soup, bottled water and mac and cheese.
Workers at the store say much needed items like, toilet paper, will likely be restocked late next week.
Fellow shoppers seemed calm amid a “rush” to stock up.
The question I pose is “Why the rush?” Health officials say there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19, the novel Coronavirus, in Chautauqua County.
There are two people in a precautionary quarantine. One of them met criteria to be tested for the virus and heath officials are now awaiting those results.
With that said, I ask again, “Why the rush?” One plausible answer, and it hurts to say this, the news media.
Today’s 24 hour news cycle is detrimental to people’s well being during the outbreak causing panic and fear.
Part of what drives feelings of anxiety is a lack of information. The virus is new, and there remain many questions about the illness it causes. Most people haven’t had it, nor do they know someone who has.
The good news is, for most people, the illness caused by the coronavirus is generally mild and the flu-like symptoms of fever and cough don’t last long.
The bad news is the virus is novel and highly contagious, and right now there is no vaccine. The elderly and those with compromised immune systems or chronic diseases can become very sick and in some cases die.
Sure, large cities like New York should take action. As we’ve seen in China, the virus spread rapidly. Mainly caused by the large population mass that calls the nation home.
Here in Western New York, Chautauqua County specifically, I agree with health officials that while there is need for concern and preparedness; there is no need for panic.
If the risk to most people is mild to moderate symptoms, why does it feel as if the world is shutting down?
Public health officials are trying to control the infectivity curve. If cases go up too fast and too high, the people who need health care will be crowding hospitals all at once, making it impossible for everybody who needs it to get care.
We can not let fear control our life. We can not let society shut down. At the same time, we can not ignore the warnings.
Christine Schuyler, the director of Health and Human Services, says the virus most impacts those age 65 or older; those with underlying health conditions such as heart, lung, kidney, neurologic, or liver disease or diabetes; those with compromised immune systems or who are pregnant.
Schuyler says anyone in these high risk categories should be extra vigilant about respiratory, hand hygiene and avoid gatherings of ten people or more.
If you are ill stay home and avoid others.
If you have a fever and worsening symptoms of respiratory illness such cough and difficulty breathing, Schuyler says call your healthcare provider for advisement.
If you have a per existing condition or are elderly, you probably should be extra cautious, but not panicked.
So, what’s the take away from all this? I say, live your life, don’t panic, but at the same time be vigilant and follow the recommendations from our local health officials.
Remember to wash your hands with soap and water, disinfect dirty surfaces and cough into your armpit.
The national news is covering just that, the national story. Our story starts with the facts, the facts that effect our family, friends and neighbors. Facts that come from LOCAL officials.
The media has an important role to play. It must dispense accurate information without being sensational, and it must avoid exploiting people’s fears.
We will continue to cover the story, we will continue to put the facts first.