After a week of covering the Wuhan coronavirus as both as a pundit and a biosafety professional, I have come to the conclusion that maybe it is time to dial back the drama associated with the pathogen.

Let’s begin by starting with some perspective. The current flu season has hit 32 million Americans, resulting in 18,000 deaths, and the vaccine that was selected for the flu season was limited in its effectiveness. Yet, we are not doing a daily flu death countdown.

Understandably, COVID-19 is a new pathogen. However, American bioscientists and medical professionals have focused on it with impressive intensity. It is from a family of viruses that have been well-researched. Currently, the CDC has established the following risk levels:

  • For most of the American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low.
  • People in communities where ongoing community spread with the virus that causes COVID-19 has been reported are at elevated, though still relatively low risk of exposure.
  • Healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19 are at elevated risk of exposure.
  • Close contacts of persons with COVID-19 also are at elevated risk of exposure.
  • Travelers returning from affected international locations where community spread is occurring also are at elevated risk of exposure.

Next, I believe that the virus should be rebranded to reflect a more realistic degree have hazard for most people. Conservative pundit Don Surber suggests the “Corona Flu.”

Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist, would also like to use another term:

After some consideration, I would like to propose: The China Cough. This name would be in recognition of the role the Chinese government had in allowing the virus to get out of control, as well as the fact it is mainly a respiratory illness (rather than a flu). However, I am open to other suggestions, so please leave them in the comments.

Another excellent reason to stop panicking is the fact the Coronavirus Task Force is clearly on top of the situation. Vice President Michael Pence headed a smart, succinct press briefing that addressed the situation with the Grand Princess cruise ship that is moored off the coast of California:

Of the 46 people swab-tested on the Grand Princess so far, 21 tested positive for the virus and one was deemed inconclusive, Pence said. The rest tested negative for the disease. Nineteen of those who tested positive were crew members.

“We’re taking all measures necessary to see to the health of the Americans on the Grand Princess and just as importantly to protect the health of the American public and prevent the spread of the disease,” Pence told reporters at the White House. “We will be testing everyone on the ship. We will be quarantining.”

The press is currently ginning up fear about the lack test kits. However, Pence noted that all the state labs that had requested test kits have received them. And because of the changes in the regulations implemented by the Trump administration last week, the state labs can actually run the tests.

Between March 2 and 5, over 900,000 tests had been distributed across the country. By the end of next week, 4 million tests could be shipped. Pence made it clear that a public-private partnership (working with Lab Corp and Quest) was being implemented toward getting even more test materials to the state labs more quickly.

Earlier this week, Pence promised coronavirus testing will be covered by private insurance plans and by Medicare and Medicaid. He said that because the Department of Health and Human Services has designated the coronavirus test as an “essential health benefit,” people will not have to pay for it out of pocket.

Thousands of tests have been shipped to health centers across the country and more are expected to be next week, officials said Friday.

In other words: Millions of tests for a disease that was essentially unknown a month ago will soon be in the hands of America’s public health professionals. I cannot imagine another administration responding so robustly to stem a potential epidemic.

Finally, Dr. James Phillips, operational medicine fellowship director at George Washington University, recently said that most people who contract the coronavirus will “do just fine.

“Most of us are going to get this virus. It’s undeniable,” said Phillips. “You won’t find a single expert out there who is saying that this is going to be contained. “And, the more we learn about it, the more we see that the spread is going to be global and, for the most part, that’s OK because the data we know from China shows that roughly 98 to 99 percent of us are going to do very, very well.”

In conclusion: Stay calm and keep your hands away from your face.

 

 
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