Stay calm, despite COVID-19 threats

Sophie Oehler, Opinion Writer

I left UVM with a suitcase of warm weather clothes, two houseplants that looked in need of saving and a single hair tie. I assumed I’d be home for two days, and then traveling south with my grandparents for vacation. 

And then COVID-19 thought it was the perfect opportunity to take its own spring break and take a tour of the entire world, thereby canceling my own vacation and making University classes remote for the time being. 

I was left stranded in the rain of New Hampshire with a handful of dresses and a newfound appreciation for not only the strength of our newest pandemic, but also the drama of humankind. 

I don’t mean to sound flippant. Global pandemics are nothing to turn your nose up at, but I think the way we are currently responding as a society is all wrong. 

I agree with the closing of schools and universities, as much as it pains me to say it. I agree with limiting groups to ten people or less, and I agree with washing hands and faces as often as physically possible. 

I don’t agree with, however, running into the nearest CVS to wipe the shelves clear of hand sanitizer. I don’t agree with hustling to hospitals at the soonest sign of ailment because people are terrified they have the virus. I don’t agree with the hype happening on social media, inspired by lack of information and widespread paranoia. 

It is a scary time. But it’s not worth the chaos being created by the media and the public. We are far too quick to start drowning in the deep end of every issue that pops up on our newsfeed. 

So let’s all strap our life preservers on, and try to come to terms with the dystopian novel we’re living in. 

To argue the same point you’ve probably heard more times than you’d care to count in the weeks since the virus touched down in the US of A: COVID-19 is just another version of the flu. 

The COVID-19 virus is a strain of the coronavirus, a common respiratory infection, that broke out in Wuhan, China, Feb. 11. It affects mainly adults over the age of 60, especially those with existing respiratory, vascular or autoimmune conditions, according to the Center for Disease Control’s website.

It has infected nearly 150,000 individuals worldwide, however it has killed only 5,416. For comparison, the influenza virus will impact 9 million to 45 million people, and kill approximately 600,000 people worldwide per year according to the CDC. 

As a 19-year-old, whose only affliction is type one diabetes, and early onset back pain, I’m feeling pretty safe in saying I will remain unaffected.

The one good thing about COVID-19, however, is that it’s not airborne, according to the Center for Disease Control. So, as long as we are taking the necessary precautions against it, catching the virus is largely avoidable. 

Wash your hands, keep to your own personal bubble, don’t touch your face. Honor any curfews or limitations being set by your state’s government. Carry baby wipes around with you, if that makes you feel better. 

I went to Costco with my family to join the rest of the world in stocking our apocalypse bunker full of croissants, ramen noodles, and the gold equivalent of any dystopian society: toilet paper. 

Kidding, we don’t actually have an apocalypse bunker, but from what our fellow shoppers were buying, you’d think they did. 

One man walked out with two carts stacked with six cases of bottled water 40 count each, four crates of baked beans and two boxes of seventy two count bagel bites. 

The disinfectant and paper products aisles were wiped clean, and the bottled water section was soon to meet a similar fate. 

The point I’m trying to make is there’s a difference between being frightened and being paranoid. Collectively, we surpassed frightened long ago, and have instead jumped straight into chaos fueled by misinformation and panic. 

We’re allowed to be frightened. It’s okay to worry about what’s happening in the world. It’s okay to be scared for your safety and the safety of others. 

What’s not okay, though, is to let that fear dictate the way we live. Because in times like these, fear can make pandemics like these even more dangerous. Fear is what breaks down governments, and rips societies apart. 

A virus like COVID-19 can kill us. But fear will destroy us. We can’t let that happen. 

So take a deep breath. Put your fifth box of disinfectant wipes back on the shelf. Tune out the fear mongers and the doomsday criers, and avoid social media, well, like the plague. 

We’re going to get through this. Come this time next year, COVID-19 will just be a blip in history, and we’ll be on to bigger and better things. 

We live in interesting times, but that doesn’t mean they have to be scary too.