Coronavirus: Be informed, but don’t panic

February 27, 2020 1:00 AM

Over the past month at Boundary Ambulance Service we have been closely monitoring the coronavirus outbreak, and are fortifying our operational preparations as the map of those affected stretches steadily outward from across the ocean.

There is still much unknown about this infectious disease, and anxieties are understandably high among many in our community. I’d like to take a moment to discuss some things we all can do to become prepared in case this virus comes knocking at our door, and for any future disasters or public health emergencies.

1. Stay informed. The Center for Disease Control, our state’s Panhandle Health District, local authorities, and local news sources such as the amazing Bonners Ferry Herald are great resources for up to date and accurate information. Subscribe to them on social media, and monitor their websites for public health alerts should any be issued in the future. Information regarding this outbreak is rapidly evolving, so check back for updates daily.

Additionally, if you are inclined toward health care jargon, the Lancet medical journal has been a leader in publishing peer reviewed literature pertaining to the new coronavirus. Their articles are available for free online.

2. Vet all new information for accuracy. I just received a forwarded email instructing readers to drink a certain extremely poisonous household disinfectant to prevent coronavirus infection. A quick internet search revealed the claims of the email to be linked to a snake oil miracle cure scam. The fact that someone would send such dangerous and irresponsible information to scared people — who are simply trying to learn how to keep their families safe & healthy — is at best disheartening, and at worst lethal.

The takeaway lesson is that predators don’t go on vacation during a public health crisis. Verify all new information — especially alarming information — with known, reliable sources.

3. Ensure your personal preparedness. Be prepared in case authorities ask you to remain at home for a week or more. To be clear there is no current indication this will happen, but it never hurts to have extra food, medications, and hygiene items on hand anyway, in case of any number of unforeseen circumstances.

If you wish to purchase personal protective gear, all of the same supplies we purchase for our protection at Boundary Ambulance are also available to you on the retail market. This includes nitrile gloves, safety glasses, protective gowns, and N95 respirator masks.

4. Talk with your family, church, and employer about coronavirus preparedness. Your situation is undoubtedly unique, and will require a unique approach to ensure your health, and the health of those you care about. These conversations should be guided by the most recent information and recommendations from accurate, reliable sources.

5. Keep calm and carry on. This slogan, created by the World War II era British Ministry of Information, is timelessly relevant. Considering our current situation, we have far less to fear than did the creators of the iconic wartime poster.

As of the time of writing, there are no cases of the new coronavirus in Idaho, and those being treated in nearby Spokane were brought to appropriate containment rooms by specialized, professional transport.

Panic serves no one, and remaining resolute in the face of this uncertainty will inspire courage in those who look to you for strength. Keep calm. Carry on. Stay informed with reliable information sources, make reasonable preparations, and act accordingly. Let’s all get through this, hopefully with a pantry full of unused emergency supplies.

And, for that matter, full unconsumed bottles of household disinfectant.

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Drew Rinella is a paramedic, and the captain of operations for Boundary Ambulance Service in Bonners Ferry.