Coronavirus: Lessons to learn, opportunities to take

Friday, March 13, 2020

As the effects of the coronavirus make themselves felt in Southwest Nebraska, itís more unusual to hear of an event taking place as scheduled than to hear of one canceled.

Most schools are closed to some extent, many of them simply expanding spring breaks that were already on the calendar.

State tournament venues are an eerie place, with crowds a fraction of their normal size and motel reservations canceled, leaving rooms to go begging.

March Madness has been canceled, the NBA has canceled the rest of its season, and this summerís Tokyo Olympics are far from a sure thing.

Itís popular to point out that the regular seasonal flu -- which has claimed more than 18,000 people so far, according to the CDC -- kills more Americans, but experts say the COVID-19 virus is 10 times more likely to kill those who contract it.

Name anything that involves human interaction, and itís being rethought. Sporting events and concerts are being postponed, amusement parks closed, business travel postponed and cruise lines shutting down.

Already a booming industry, online shopping can only benefit from the contagion, the UPS, FEDEX of U.S. Mail delivery person simply ringing the doorbell and leaving before thereís any chance of exposure. The same goes for streaming services -- catching a movie on Netflix greatly reduces the threat of catching something else at the movie theater.

Traditionalists who turned up their nose at eSports like McCook High Schoolís nascent program are beginning to see the advantage; no travel, as long as internet is available, and no chance of spreading viruses from school to school. Perhaps the coronavirus will hasten the growth of more virtual sports.

Youíve probably received emails from your bank and credit cards, outlining how theyíre dealing with the shutdown.

The Gazette and other businesses are making contingency plans for continuing operations should illness strike, and itís worth noting that all subscribers have free access to our online reader as well as our website. Call 308-345-4500 if you havenít set up your account yet.

Coronavirus or no, if you submit something to our newspaper, it always helps if you can do it through email to avoid the delay and chance for errors in retyping.

Most of us have had some ability to work at home via computers and even smartphones, but the coronavirus has created a sense of urgency to find out exactly how far that envelope can stretch.

While all the precautions might seem unnecessary, itís all part of something public health experts call ďflattening the curve,Ē slowing infections enough that healthcare providers can deal with critical illnesses with available resources.

The peak of infections is reported to have passed in China, and itís only a matter of time before the same is true in the West.

But we should carry the lessons learned about avoiding the spread of disease, and learning to take advantages of new technologies, into the future to be able to deal more effectively with the next threat.

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