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Getting the facts on COVID-19

“Share facts, not fear.”

That is the best advice we have heard regarding COVID-19, the coronavirus.

It came from Dr. Clark Milton, chairman of Wheeling Hospital’s infection control committee and director of corporate health, on Tuesday.

One key to remaining calm as we deal with the local arrival of a pandemic is to understand this: Public officials are criticized often for reacting to danger rather than anticipating threats and responding decisively enough to minimize harm.

Now, at the local, state and national levels, many officials seem to recognize that COVID-19 has not become a major disaster — but it could without steps being taken now.

Understanding what we in the public can and should be doing, both now and later, since the virus has hit our area, is critical. Reliable local information is required.

On Friday, the Belmont County Health Department announced that two residents had tested positive for the virus. They are quarantined at home, and those they have been in contact with are being notified and appropriately isolated.

Since the threat became apparent, we at The Times Leader have worked hard to get valuable information to you, both through our newspapers and our website (timesleaderonline.com). We pledge to continue doing so — providing facts, not merely scare stories.

So, what are the facts?

n COVID-19 is a threat primarily to older people and others with underlying health challenges. But — and this is a very big “but” — concern about exposing other people, including children, is not unfounded. That is because healthy people of any age, while not affected severely by the virus, can carry it to those at greater risk. Sometimes, they can do so without showing symptons themselves.

n Common-sense personal infection control is a key to avoiding both COVID-19 and other illnesses, including common influenza. By the way, the flu has claimed about 18,000 American lives this year.

n Another important consideration, especially for those most in danger from COVID-19, is avoiding contact with people who may be carrying the virus. Unfortunately at this point, that could be many of the people with whom you come in contact on a regular basis.

n Panic of any kind is, by definition, counterproductive. It can interfere with thoughtful, fact-based steps to stay healthy.

Educate yourself about COVID-19, then proceed with rational caution. Milton is right: Share facts, not fear.

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