Panic, hysteria, frenzy, fear...these are all words we are hearing frequently over the past 3 weeks (at the time of this writing). The news has everyone concerned about every aspect of their lives; from going into the workplace to getting the kids to school and for sure regarding any upcoming travel plans whether for business or leisure purposes. In the 14 or so years that I have been a professional travel planner have I ever seen or felt such a case of panic as I have now from those around me and from my clientele.
But before I go on, let me state clearly that I am not a physician. I am not a politician or government official. I am simply a travel planner. But I am a travel planner that has done my level best to stick to facts and listen to reason, especially when that reason IS coming from licensed and respected physicians who deal with viruses almost daily. Every physician I have heard address this strain of Corona (the Coronavirus has been around a long time vs this new strain), has said it is a very mild strain. They use the word "mild" to explain why it has spread so widely. When a virus is mild, carriers of the virus many times have no idea they are even sick or they dismiss it as nothing more than a cold virus because it is so mild and resembles many of the same characteristic symptoms of the common cold or seasonal flu. Those are Dr's words, not mine. So again, because it is mild and so many are walking around with it, many have passed it along just as we do when people go to work with a cold or seasonal flu and others in the office end up sick with that same virus a week later.
Doesn't that sound about normal every year? Someone comes into work coughing and sneezing and we say..."why didn't you stay home?" And they say..."I have too much work to do to stay home." And then everyone goes on about their lives and at worst, gets mad at the fellow employee once someone else or even themselves comes down with the same viral symptoms in a day or so. Life goes on. No one ran to Costco to stock up on toilet paper and wipes and water. No one decided to cancel an event or hunker down in a survival bunker. No one canceled their long awaited vacations or travel plans. Nope, life went on.
So why are things so different now vs what has happened every year when it is announced we are approaching cold and flu season? Is the discussion about washing hands and avoiding those that appear sick or coughing into your elbow something new? Nope...every year we hear Dr after Dr after Dr say, "best way to avoid getting the seasonal flu is to wash your hands, avoid those that appear sick and stay healthy by getting good sleep etc." That is said EVERY year.
So what else is different? Some will say that at least our seasonal flu has a vaccine and there is not one for this new strain of Corona. That is true, but please look at the statistics of how effective that vaccine is. It's not a cure. It's not a fail safe way of not getting the flu. It simply helps the odds according to Drs. And helping the odds is a good thing, don't get me wrong. But we all know someone who gets the vaccine every year and they still get sick with the flu. And no one panics when the vaccine is not touted as a cure or foolproof way of avoiding the flu.
Some will say it's the mortality rate of this virus compared to the flu. Again, I am not a Dr, but I have heard Dr after Dr explain that the mortality rate being reported is not a true representation due to the numbers of those that were and are carrying this strain never ever being tested. They (the Drs) go on to say that if we really knew the real number of those that were affected and have already recovered, it would reduce the mortality rate significantly. Those same Drs go on to make sure everyone knows that if you are of good health and not in the category of being elderly or suffering already from some underlying major health issue, you will only suffer from the same discomfort as you would have had you contracted our seasonal flu or cold and then recover. And when you look at the sheer numbers (facts that anyone can look up and read for themselves), regarding previous viral outbreaks such as SARS, H1N1, Ebola or even again our seasonal flu, the numbers don't add up. As of today, the reported mortality rate it at 3% for Corona. That is compared to over 40% for Ebola, 17% for H1N1 and 9% for SARS etc. You can again check those numbers for yourself. Not claiming to be an expert, just giving facts from some simple research.
So if Drs are saying what they are saying and if the numbers don't seem to be the reason for alarm there has to be something we are all missing to explain this mass hysterical frenzy that is happening right now in our Country and abroad. What could it be?
If facts and figures and professional Dr opinions don't seem to be the cause for alarm, then we are left with one conclusion. Yep...our good ole media. Several Drs came out a couple of weeks ago and said the media was reporting irresponsibly and recklessly in regards to the Coronavirus. Some news outlets chose to highlight those Drs while so many others never did. Why would the world's media be so bent on getting you and I so worked up that we literally change how we live and go about our business? Money...that is why. The newswires are full these days with so many "news companies" that are competing for your eyes and clicks. If their headline can get you to click on their report, they win because their money is made off of your readership and clicks. So headlines that have "Outbreak" or "Skyrocketing" or "Death Toll" or "Breaking News" etc in them (regardless of the facts or lack thereof in those articles) have a greater chance of getting our attention these days. And attention spans these days are very short. Many won't read this article because it is way longer than 140 or so characters like a tweet or a FB post etc. That is today's attention span and that is as about as far as someone will go before basing an entire opinion about something. When was the last time you saw a headline such as "Great News" or "Things are Looking up" or "Gigantic Improvement?" Have you ever stopped to think about that? It's because tragedy and bad news sells. Good news and happy events do not these days.
So our media has proven that their typed words (old days it was a pen) are truly mightier than the sword. Their headlines have crippled the stock market. They have crippled economies worldwide. They will cause loss of jobs. They have created a demand for things that even Drs say are not effective in preventing someone from getting a virus such as masks etc. They have caused events worldwide to cancel. They have hurt hotel staff, restaurant workers, tour operators and that hurt will continue. All of this was done via our media and our world's ever shrinking ability to listen to facts and reason.
We are a nation that could not be stopped by terrorism but somehow we have buckled to our knees over a virus scare. As we have learned from previous major world events, hysteria never solves anything and will only beget more fear and frenzy. The only way to stop it is finally get back to place where we all can think for ourselves and we stop and take a breath and actually sit down to read and study something for ourselves. Social media and the news have come to the conclusion we are no longer able to do that and they are the only ones winning right now.
So before you decide to stay home from that soccer game or that basketball game, or before you decide to cancel that trip to see your family or that vacation you really needed, STOP and take a breath. Call a Dr and ask about the real danger for you and your family. Sit down and devote a little time to research and reading. Understand all you can first and then make an informed decision. And make the decision that social media and the news are no longer going affect you before you have time to do your own thinking.