It was somewhat of a jolt for some of us when news broke Monday of the first presumptive case of a patient testing positive in Louisiana for the coronavirus. I live in Metairie, so when I read the case involved a Jefferson Parish resident, I had questions. Who is this person? Do they live near me? Have they been to the same restaurant or business as I have recently? Have any of my family members or friends had contact with them?
A contagious virus you can’t see floating through the air somehow makes its way to our home parish after originating in Wuhan, China. That’s no small thing. Wuhan is 7,948 miles from Jefferson Parish. It’s even more confounding when you consider authorities say the Jefferson Parish resident testing positive had not recently traveled overseas.
It’s natural to imagine the worst. It’s the unknown of it all. Even though Johns Hopkins Medical University reports, as of Monday, the regular flu is still impacting Americans much more than the coronavirus. They are both infectious respiratory illnesses with similar symptoms but are caused by different viruses. The university reports what makes the coronavirus different from the flu is patients can catch it from tiny droplets in the air even after the ill person is no longer near. Yikes! Despite that, they say the flu is still much more contagious than the coronavirus.
The coronavirus has led to the deaths of close to 4,000 people globally. We’ve seen roughly two dozen die from the virus in America. One might wonder why all the hysteria with the stock market crashing and the canceling of events considering the small number of coronavirus related deaths. The game show Wheel of Fortune announced on Monday it will temporarily cease taping in front of a live studio audience as a result of the coronavirus scare.
The Centers for Disease Control estimate as many as 30,000 have died from the flu globally in the past six months. That’s more than seven times the number of people that have died as a result of getting the coronavirus.
This hysteria surrounding the coronavirus could end up causing real pain for Louisiana’s economy. New Orleans tourism could take a considerable hit this year and the price of oil tanking because of weakened demand will hurt one of our most important industries. The coronavirus is not solely responsible for the recent free fall of oil prices. Oil-producing Russia and OPEC are feuding. Could they have picked a worse time to not get along?
Gov. John Bel Edwards showed steady leadership after news broke Monday of the first case of coronavirus in Louisiana. He urged Louisianans not to panic. Edwards said the Department of Health has launched an epidemiological investigation to find the source of the virus as well as who the impacted patient came in contact with. Edwards also asked people to stay home if they’re sick and wash their hands frequently.
The hope in all of this is the coronavirus and the hysteria surrounding it will end up being nothing more than a bunch of hype. The United States hasn’t experienced a pandemic since 1918, when the H1N1 virus ended the lives of 675,000 Americans. The virus also killed an estimated 50 million globally.
But we’re much more technologically advanced now. Researchers are making progress on a vaccine for the coronavirus and expect to have one soon. That should go a long way toward containing its spread.
So, what now that the coronavirus has made it to Louisiana? Do we stop going to Pelican games or eating at restaurants for fear we’ll breathe in one of those tiny coronavirus particles floating around our humid Louisiana air?
It’s my experience most of the things I’ve spent time worrying about never live up to their billing. Remember the SARS flu in 2004, the Avian flu in 2008, the Swine flu in 2010, the MERS flu in 2012, the Ebola virus in 2014, and the Zika virus in 2016? The hype over those potential pandemics never panned out. Let’s hope the same happens with the coronavirus. Especially now that it’s made its way to Louisiana.
Email Dan Fagan at Faganshow@gmail.com.