By Ellysa Harris
There’s a lot of misinformation floating around, particularly on social media, regarding the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).
Dr. Sergio Lara, chief physician for the Hale County Health Department and a physician with Covenant Health Plainview, said right now it’s very important that people stay informed and know where to look for the correct facts.
“The most unbiased, the most reliable place for us, is the CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) webpage (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html),” he said. It’s being updated frequently with the latest information and prevention tips.
There’s no reason to panic, he said. But using caution and staying informed is important.
Lara said he’s been fielding phone calls and updates on case number and prevention measures multiple times per day. But symptoms don’t typically show right away.
Over the past three days, the CDC has issues new guidelines for childcare facilities, assisted living facilities and health facilities imposing restrictions on visitors. On Monday afternoon, the CDC and the President of the United States issued new guidelines suggesting avoiding social gatherings of more than 10 people and avoiding discretionary travel.
Prior to those decisions, area higher education institutions made announcements that classes would transition to online-only formats when they resume after spring break. Area eateries are also making changes to daily service routines and several businesses across just about every industry are encouraging those who can to work from home while simultaneously taking extra sanitary precautions for customers.
Some measures might seem extreme, Lara noted. But it’s better to be safe than sorry.
“I think it’s never too early to start preparing,” he said. “Sometimes it’s difficult to imagine or to realize the importance of what we’re dealing with.”
During flu season, it’s not uncommon to see schools take measures to disinfect and let students out early.
“The point is to quit having the kids in a close environment,” he said. “That’s the place where viruses will spread easier. That’s why it’s important.”
The social distancing and self-isolation are similar measures currently being taken to try to halt spread of the virus, or at least to slow it down, Lara said.
People shouldn’t approach the virus with a “cavalier” mindset thinking “oh well, nothing’s going to happen. I’m not going to get it or pass it to someone else,’” Lara said. But they also shouldn’t panic.
“I think we need to be realistic,” Lara added.
He describes fear as “a hysterical response to an imagined threat.” Caution, he said, is “a calculated response to a near danger.” Over the weekend, he heard and saw more of the former.
You may not need 20 extra rolls of toilet paper, but don’t brush off basic hygiene, Lara said. Wash your hands, use hand sanitizers and don’t touch your face with unwashed hands. Those guidelines are listed on the CDC’s website. And if you think you may have been exposed to the virus, call the Health Department. Use caution and stay educated.
“I think we have to be very aware and very informed,” Lara said. “I think that’s the most important thing is for the community to be well informed of the risks that we’re facing, of the problem itself, and how to protect yourself. Get access to the right information.”