Record editorial: Residents should heed experts’ advice as prospect of coronavirus outbreak in Utah looms
The prospect of a coronavirus outbreak in Utah — and the rest of the country — is alarming.
The first U.S. fatalities from the new virus, officially known as COVID-19, were confirmed in Washington state recently, and the total number of cases in the country surpassed 100 early in the week. Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the coronavirus is likely to become a pandemic, which is particularly concerning given lingering questions about the Trump administration’s ability to respond to a large-scale public health crisis.
Far from pressing the alarm button, however, the Summit County Health Department and Utah Department of Health are striking a measured tone. Both agencies have expressed confidence in their ability to respond to a possible outbreak and note that, while significant efforts are underway to prepare for the coronavirus, the seasonal flu, which kills tens of thousands of people in the U.S. each year, remains a larger public health concern at this point.
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Residents, in turn, should follow their lead and remain calm. It seems likely the coronavirus will spread in Utah — state officials indicated Monday that it’s a matter of when rather than if — and it’s impossible to predict how the situation will play out or how well equipped we are for a worst-case scenario. But instead of panicking, the best thing people in Summit County can do to brace for the threat is heed the experts’ advice.
According to the Utah Department of Health, that includes taking simple health precautions like frequently washing one’s hands, avoiding people who are sick and avoiding touching one’s mouth, eyes and nose. State officials also recommend that businesses and families plan for the possibility of an outbreak by preparing to take steps such as allowing employees to telecommute, stocking up on vital items like medications and making child care preparations in the event schools are affected.
Residents can also do their part to counter one insidious factor that seems likely to make preparations more difficult: the amount of misinformation about the coronavirus spreading through social media. Relying only on credible sources, like the county Health Department or the CDC, for information is paramount and will only become more critical in the event of an outbreak in the state. So think twice before hitting the share button.
The coronavirus is coming. That’s concerning, no doubt — but we can weather a possible crisis by following expert advice and acting responsibly.
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Our view: Against a once-unimaginable backdrop, and with little margin for error, county officials have made painful but prudent decisions in an attempt to spare us from the worst of the pandemic.