Email advice: Panic or chill? If you don’t have toilet paper… Panic!

Well there’s really no choice but to start with the coronavirus, right? We’re apparently on the front lines of the battle with two confirmed cases of a “presumptive positive” of COVID-19 in Gunnison County. At least I think so. The county said Tuesday that the state said there was a Gunnison woman who tested positive. Then they said Tuesday that she was from Denver and had gone back home. But she was tested here and was moving about and touching things between sneezes. And then the county said Wednesday morning that someone else tested positive. And then they said we take that back and then they didn’t. The bottom line is that the coronavirus has found its way into the valley and once it’s here, it’s probably going to spread.

Obviously we’ll repeat what you already know—wash your hands, don’t touch your face and don’t hug people coughing in line, any line. And there are apparently giant lines to buy toilet paper even here in Gunnison County.

I’m not freaked out by this virus showing up here. But as a newspaper guy my frustration is that information coming out of the government — the state and the county at this point in the week — is sketchy in the early days. I understand that to a certain degree given the unique situation. I feel for those in the eye of the storm. While I’m aware of HIPPA privacy regulations and don’t want personal details of patients, I do want clear, concise and pertinent information that has been confirmed that we can share with the community so the people of this valley can make educated decisions on how they want to react to this virus. I want to know how many people have tested positive in the county and where they are quarantined. I want to know if they went to the Red Lady Ball, a WCU basketball game or if they sneezed on the Silver Queen with the bar down. Do they have kids in school or do they work in a highly public job where we might have crossed paths with them? I’m not that worried about this thing personally but if my 83-year-old dad was here I might have a different attitude. It is reasonable for the smart individuals living in this community to assess the risk and that assessment comes through accurate and timely information.

Someone sent me an email Tuesday that said simply everyone should just chill. That’s not bad advice for any situation really. From everything I’ve seen, this coronavirus is still an unknown and that’s what makes it scary. It can be mild enough you might not even know you have it or brutal enough to kill you. If you’re a healthy teenager and you are exposed to the virus, chances are good you’ll have a mild case. Not to be morbid but if you’re older than say, 85, have say, diabetes, and are exposed to the virus, you might have bigger issues than the 25-year-old ski bum with a sore throat. We should all help those vulnerable people by not putting them at risk and actually helping them if they need it.

Look, the coronavirus can be a serious deal for people in the higher risk group. I don’t want anyone I know to get it. But what are you going to do about it? Be smart and do what you can to not spread germs. Since older people with underlying health problems are the most at risk, Gunnison Valley Health took proactive measures to prohibit visitation to the Senior Care Center and Assisted Living facilities. Sounds reasonable under the circumstances. Western State University is considering moving to close the campus and holding online classes. Better safe than sorry I guess?

For the relatively young and relatively healthy—if you get sick at all, then stay home and recover. That should happen anyway. But don’t make yourself crazy and worry that life as we know it will disappear. Be mindful. Understand there is risk in anything we do during this thing we call life. Crossing the street while texting is probably a greater danger than getting exposed to the virus for most young people.

According to the New York Times and Dr. Jin of the University of Hong Kong, for many with mild infections, the coronavirus could be virtually indistinguishable from the common cold or seasonal flu. “Some of these patients, they just go unrecognized,” he said. “It could be just as small as a sore throat. Then one day, two days, it’s gone.”

There are, broadly speaking, two possible outcomes of the current outbreak, Dr. Jin said. The new virus could, like SARS, another well-known coronavirus, become less and less transmissible as it spreads around the world, eventually dying out.

Alternatively, the new coronavirus could become well established in humans, becoming a kind of recurring, seasonal nuisance, like the flu, Dr. Jin said. In that situation, people would learn to live with it, and sometimes would contract illnesses from it; but the virus would most likely also lose some of its danger as time went on. Experts could also develop a vaccine, Dr. Jin added.

In the meantime, be smart and chill. Don’t get agro if that concert you have tickets for gets cancelled. Ski powder if winter comes back. Wash your hands. Don’t pick your nose. Someone else sent the email advice that if you drink water every 15 minutes you’ll be better protected. Why? Because even if the virus gets into your mouth, drinking water or other liquids will wash them down through your throat and into the stomach. Once there, your stomach acid will kill all the virus. If you don’t drink enough water more regularly, the virus can enter your windpipe and get into the lungs.

And then there is the email from the guy thinking ahead who instinctually knew to prepare for this precautionary liquid-oriented measure. He promised that if quarantined, he would make sure to stock up on plenty of liquor.

On the rougher side, I’m not sure exactly why but apparently people are hoarding toilet paper. People sent proof through phone photos and emails that the local City Market was out of TP on Tuesday. But we bought ahead of the frenzy. If only I’d sold my few stocks ahead of a similar frenzy. Anyway, if you need some TP let me know. It’d be pretty bad for you to be alone in quarantine as the world ends and you’re down to one square. Talk about life risk. Hey, someone sent me another email about cheap flights available everywhere. I guess seize the opportunities and take the advice of the first email…be smart, be patient and chill. Just let us know the true situation as it happens.

—Mark Reaman

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