Editor’s Column: Common sense

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I don’t begin to imagine plagiarizing the title of Patrick Henry’s famous essay will lend a similar impact to my little column, but I’m using the title just the same.
Once again the world is in the frenzied throes of paranoia, this time over another new virus: COVID-19, aka coronavirus. Doesn’t it make you long for the days when you didn’t know what bug was coming down the pike until it took you out? I mean, what you don’t know can hurt you, but what you do know can cause you enough stress and fear to hurt you even more.

Am I concerned about coronavirus? Absolutely. I hate being sick. Also, I don’t have time to be sick, so I do what I can in the name of prevention: I exercise regularly, I try to eat right most of the time, I get a flu shot, I listen to my doctor, and I compare scientific information with the tantalizing internet lore that promises protection in exchange for the purchase of whatever snake oil is in season. I do give some credence to old wives’ tales (because you don’t get to be an old wife without a little wisdom in play), and I try to temper it all with that most valuable and rare of commodities: common sense.
Common sense tells me several things: 1) We don’t have all the background information about COVID-19 and we won’t get it any time soon, if ever. 2) We don’t really need to know the details to take rational preventative steps which we should be taking all the time anyway: wash your filthy hands, stop touching your face (with aforementioned filthy hands), cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze (not with your hands, please), and clean everything you can clean.
What we shouldn’t do is panic. Panic makes people make silly decisions. Y2K comes to mind. Freeze-dried food and cheap generators, anyone?
As with most things, preparation and planning really are keys to success.
During wildfire season we’re urged to be prepared to evacuate our homes. Those same guidelines are pretty applicable in the face of other threats, only instead of being ready to “bug out,” we need to be prepared to “bug in.”
Looking back at history (always a good place to learn valuable lessons we don’t want to repeat) some communities fared better than others during the Spanish flu of 1918. What did those communities do? They self-quarantined. They canceled events and changed plans. They weren’t unscathed, but they suffered less than communities which paid no heed to warnings from doctors and scientists, or, for that matter, common sense. The media was horribly complicit, fearful of repercussions under the Sedition Act, in which anything perceived as a negative comment about the government or the war effort was subject to prosecution.
I’d like to believe this week will be the last time we need to mention COVID-19, but there are no guarantees. Meanwhile, in the words of esteemed journalist Dan Rather, “If you’re happy and you know it, wash your hands.”

By NIKI TURNER | editor@ht1885.com