Center for Disease Control’s laboratory test kit for coronavirus.
Photo / Center for Disease Control
Center for Disease Control’s laboratory test kit for coronavirus. These kits are being shipped out to designated labs across the country.

There’s a chance you could come down with coronavirus soon. That’s scary right? It’s like that Matt Damon movie about the contagion or that Mark Whalberg movie about the contagion that ended up just being the wind or something, right? Those movies are scary. Thus, logically, we should all be losing our minds, going full bananas and buying up every surgical mask we can get our hands on, right?

Relax.

Okay maybe not all of us will get coronavirus, but almost all of us will be affected somehow.  Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch, in an interview with The Atlantic, predicted between 40 and 70 percent of people will come down with coronavirus. I know what you are thinking, you have a 40 to 70 percent chance of being one of the 40 to 70 percent of people who will get coronavirus and then immediately die, right? 

Relax. 

Lipstich wants you to know most people are likely to get a mild disease. If you got coronavirus it’s more likely it would feel like having the normal flu. I had the flu last December, and it was awful, but I didn’t die and I got better with lots of tylenol, time and ginger ale. If you get coronavirus and are between the ages of 10 and 49 the chance of you dying is less than a half of a percent. So let’s pump the breaks a little, because the spread of this disease is a very serious issue, but we do ourselves no favor if we panic about coronavirus causing our imminent mortality. 

There are very real stakes with the spread of coronavirus. Already six deaths have been reported in the United States, and the death toll worldwide is over 3,000. There are reasons to be concerned about America’s ability to properly respond and mitigate this outbreak. The CDC already fumbled the initial testing regiment they designed. Now, President Trump is putting Vice President Pence in a leading role to combat the disease. Pence, of course, has demonstrated experience in this arena—such as when he failed to respond promptly or effectively to an HIV/AIDS outbreak as governor of Indiana.

So maybe worry a little bit. In fact, maybe worry enough to do some proactive things to stop the spread of disease. For starters, wash your hands more and properly. Proper hand washing should take at least 20 seconds, but studies show the average hand washing time for men and women is between just 6 or 7 seconds. If we collectively stop being barbarians and take more caution washing our hands, we could significantly slow the spread of disease

On the other hand, relax on buying up all the surgical masks. You don’t need them and they won’t stop the spread of coronavirus, but healthcare professionals need them badly. It’s such a problem, even the Surgeon General got mad on Twitter about it, saying: “Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!”

Crucially, one thing you absolutely should NOT do right now because of the coronavirus is be racist. As a rule, you should avoid being racist in general. Yet, the coronavirus spreading is also causing a very concerning spread of racism against Asian people. Already in Los Angeles a man on the subway went on a racist tirade directed towards a Thai-American woman, saying, “Every disease has ever came from China, homie. Everything comes from China because they’re f****** disgusting.” Waves of xenophobia and racism often follow outbreaks of disease, and it’s important not to find yourself piling on. Just to be clear, the CDC says: “People of Asian descent, including Chinese Americans, are not more likely to get COVID-19 than any other American,” so you really have no excuse for assuming the Asian person in class next to you has coronavirus or deserves to be a target of your ham-fisted racist jokes. 

It’s likely our university campuses will also fall victim to racist fearmongerings, so we must stay vigilant in opposition to them. Already, a UC Berkeley health center Instagram post was caught listing xenophobia as a “normal reaction” to coronavirus. At the University of Albany in New York, students threw a coronavirus themed party where they wore surgical masks and drank Corona beers. I worry every campus is susceptible to this type of racism, and I hope instead of panicking over the danger coronavirus presents to our health we instead will relax and focus on combating the spread of misinformation, encourage good preventative measures, and discourage growing racism from running rampant.

Vincent Rendon can be reached at vrendon@sagebrush.unr.edu or on Twitter @VinceSagebrush.