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How Concerned Should I Be About The Coronavirus?

A person hunched over a laptop while wearing a mask in a darkened room

Within the past couple of months, a new disease known as the coronavirus or COVID-19 has seemed to put the world on a temporary hold. This virus has been spread from a city in China named Wuhan, to 210 countries world-wide reporting confirmed cases. Many people may wonder why medical experts and politicians are so concerned with this virus when many claim it simply has flu-like symptoms.


Less than a couple of months ago many people were travelling the world, and working non-essential jobs as usual. Then, as time went on the virus spread started to hit closer to home for many people. Consequently, news reports about the virus have ramped up in intensity.


It may seem that the mainstream media has placed people into two groups. On one hand people are flailing their hands, claiming it’s the end of the world, locking themselves in underground bunkers and hoarding rolls of toilet paper by the tonne. Then their polar opposites, breathing in the same possibly infected air, claiming it’s simply a made up ‘conspiracy’ are protesting in large crowds — Ignoring social distancing. Don’t worry, feeling concerned about the state of the world right now is perfectly normal.


Because it’s a novel virus, there is a limited amount of information at the moment  However, there has been a great deal of information released by medical professionals on the dangers of the virus and how to combat them.


According to Steven Gordon, MD, Chairman of the Department of Infectious Disease, COVID-19 is a novel(new) infection, that is a legitimate health concern, and there’s still so much we need to learn about this new disease.


St. Francis ER physician Michael Rommen says “though they(we) hope things can start returning to normal, it's important to continue practicing social distancing for the time being.”

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is part of a family of viruses that are common between humans and other animals. These viruses can cause a wide range of illnesses, from a common cold to pneumonia and other serious respiratory illnesses.


The virus can spread between people when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets are able to land on people nearby, which can possibly infect through their eyes, mouth, or nose. This means that people could possibly get COVID-19  when in close contact with an infected person who is sneezing or coughing. Many medical experts strongly suspect that you can also contract the virus from touching a surface that has these infected droplets.


This is why the CDC recommends that people with COVID-19, or caregivers for people who have it, should wear face masks to prevent spread of these droplets. However, those whom are actually sick do not need to wear facemasks.


When asked about the outlook of this situation? Mark Mayfield, a board-certified counselor and founder/CEO of Mayfield Counseling Centers says “The situation will improve if we all practice social distancing. Many of us struggle to be patient with the way things are right now.”

How Do I Know If I Have COVID-19?

A man lounging in front of a window with a zoomed in image of an art rendering of a virus

The coronavirus is a typical upper respiratory infection, which includes symptoms such as coughing and fevers. At the moment there is no identifiable list of symptoms for this novel virus that separates it from other viruses. Thus, if you have typical flu symptoms it’s best to assume that you have the virus until you are able to get a test result. The majority of people that actually contract the virus, will only show mild symptoms, and advised to self-quarantine by the WHO.


According to the journal Science, the symptoms of a staggering 86% of cases were mild enough that people wouldn’t even seek medical care to confirm if they contracted the virus or not. Also, these types of mild cases are only half as contagious, compared to the highly recognized coronavirus infections. Doctors can only be certain that somebody has coronavirus through a nose swab test.


Testing is not widely available in most countries. As testing becomes more readily available you may notice reports of surges of coronavirus cases. Moreover, many people with mild cases of the virus do not get tested; Therefore, the results may possibly skew towards making the virus seem more fatal than it actually is.


Most common symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Dry Cough
  • Fever

Other symptoms you may experience:

  • Muscle aches
  • Congestion
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Runny nose
  • Vomiting


Why Is COVID-19 So Concerning?

A satellite image of the planet earth with a face mask placed on it as if the planet were wearing a mask

There are many questions as to why the disease is so concerning to everyone around the world. It’s important for the general public to be familiar with the specific dangers of the coronavirus so we can learn the best way to treat it. When comparing the fatality rate to well known viruses before COVID-19 such as Ebola or SARS virus, many question why the world is taking it so seriously. However, there are high risk groups that have higher fatality rates. Some dangers are straightforward, while others are indirect.



1.) High Risk Groups for COVID-19

One of the more direct ways that COVID-19 is concerning, is due to its effect on people in high risk groups. The older populations with pre-existing health conditions are the most vulnerable. Younger and healthier populations are less likely to suffer fatal conditions from the disease.


High risk groups for COVID-19:

  • Heart disease
  • Lung disease
  • Compromised Immune Systems
  • Over the Age of 50

 A graph documenting the risk of death from COVID19 by age


As seen in Figure 1. The fatality risk of COVID-19 begins to rapidly increase past the age of 60. It shows less than a 1% fatality rate for those aged under 50, but a fatality rate of nearly 15% for the most senior citizens. This pattern is partially to blame on many people over age 50 being more likely to have pre existing conditions that put them at risk for the virus.


For example, the high number of severe cases in Italy can be attributed to the fact that their world-class health care system allows many seniors to live longer with other diseases and immune system deficits. Italy’s healthcare system has been ranked second in the world by WHO.


The Corona virus is more fatal than a typical case of the flu, the corona virus can be much more serious than that. According to the WHO DIrector general “Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected.”


2.) Flattening the Curve/ Hospitals

A chart diagramming the concept of flattening the curve from the CDCFigure 2. Graph from CDC

The curve is what concerns everyone, you may have seen graphs on social media about “flattening the curve”. The graph will show two curves, the tall narrow curve will represent the rapid increase in the number of cases of COVID-19, with no intervention(i.e lockdowns and social distancing). A lower line will represent a flatter curve that hopefully rests under the dotted line, which represents hospital capacity. Then there will sometimes be a dotted line showing the hospitals maximum capacity to treat patients.


The curve is meant to be flattened below the dotted line. Many people falsely believe that the goal of social distancing is simply to lower the amount of COVID-19 cases completely. The real goal is to spread the same amount of cases over a longer period of time. Less patients at once means less stress on medical staff and resources. The vast majority of countries all over the world are running low on ventilators, and other PPE for medical staff. This is why everybody should be concerned.

If there are too many people dealing with the virus, if you have any other medical issues you may face an understaffed hospital. At the moment hospitals in various countries are suspending surgeries that are not absolutely mandatory. This means that if you need work down on your bunions, or a non invasive procedure, you may be met with a significant delay.


Ironically, the high percentage of very mild cases is an obstacle for flattening the curve of the coronavirus. As previously mentioned, most cases are mild enough to the point people do not even bother to try seeking medical treatment. Unfortunately, this causes many people to ignore self-isolation and quarantine measures. This has even gone to the extent of people still participating in social gatherings such as weddings, house parties, and protesting. A flatter curve means a better access to healthcare for everyone. People living in areas with lax virus protocols face the most risk.

3.) The Economy / Workers

You may have heard about the price of stocks plummeting, and claims of this being a financial crisis harsher than the 2008-2009 recession. Information about the exact effects that this pandemic will have on the economy is limited. One thing is for certain though, the way we view the value of the working class on the economy, and the lack of importance placed on the public surface will never be undervalued again.


Working Class

Director of the International Labour Organization Guy Ryder noted that global employment was standing at nearly 200 million. But now workers in specific sectors are being hit even harder. There are four sectors that are experiencing the largest effects; food and accommodation(144 million workers); retail and wholesale((482 million); business services and administration (157 million); and manufacturing (463 million). This includes layoffs, hour reductions, and even budget cuts.


Tech Industry

People whose work is tied to innovation and technology will see an interesting turn of events. There have been many canceled conferences from numerous tech industries. Even though companies can communicate virtually, there will still be a huge slowdown in the development of networking, which leads to business partnerships. Companies will be having less products to turn, which is causing an already seen decline of media ad spend for companies. Even though it’s difficult to determine the exact value these alternative virtual networking sessions will have, there will still be strong impacts felt  from COVID-10 on the tech industry.


Small Business Owners

A local supermarket with 11 employees is considered a small business, and a manufacturing plant with less than 500 employees will fall under the small business category. Nonetheless, many small businesses, especially the ones deemed non-essential will feel the effects of this pandemic.

Goldman Sachs conducted a survey of more than 1500 small business owners, and over 50% of them said they most likely won’t be able to operate their business for more than 3 months during current conditions related to the viral outbreak.

4.) Mental Health Issues

The current COVID-19 pandemic is a specific situation that is extremely rare. Many people are affected physically as well as psychologically. Thus, causing depression, stress and anxiety.


Here are some ways to deal with your anxiety relating to COVID-19:

  • Fact check using trusted sources about COVID-19. Beware of the content you read from articles that are shared via social media. Make sure the content is being backed by verified and authoritative sources.
  • Refrain from media binging. Being informed about what you can do to deal with COVID-19 is essential. It’s still important for you to focus on the things you can control, and accept your position as an individual. Take breaks from social media, or news media coverage, if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed about the recent turn of events. When you’re feeling upset by endless conversations about the virus, change the topic if possible.
  • Stay aware of the situation. Every single person you come into contact won’t be a carrier of COVID-19. Protocol measures are important at the moment, but not every person with the sniffles has the virus. Acknowledging the situation with a logical eye goes a long way in easing general anxiety. Try to learn more about what you can personally do.
  • Find solace in tradition now that gatherings and events are being closed due to social distancing. Adapting to the change that comes with forced solitude can be uncomfortable. But now more than ever it’s still important to keep some sort of schedule. Daily routines will help make you, and your children feel much safer. This could look like meal times, date nights, watching a favourite tv series etc. Taking a walk is a great idea to calm yourself down as well, assuming you’re not in quarantine.


When nothing seems to be making significant improvement to your mental health, seek counsel from a medical professional. They will be able to help identify your exact problems and simples, and give you the effective tools to handle them.

Preventing The Virus

 A top down image of a person with light skin and long manicured nails in a gray sweater washing their hands.

COVID-19 doesn’t have a specific treatment. The best way to protect yourself is to practice typical hygiene for a flu season say University of Regina professor Dr.Gordon.


Actionable steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus:

  • Thorough hand washing using soap and water for at least 30-seconds, or use hand sanitizer when applicable.
  • Make use of protective measures. Wear a cloth face mask in public places, especially when people may be within 6 feet of you. This can help you stop the spread of COVID-19 even if you are experiencing mild-no symptoms. The CDC recommends you stick with cloth face masks, and leave the N-95 respirators or other surgical masks for healthcare and frontline workers.
  • Staying in from work if you’re unwell, regardless of if you think you may have contract the virus
  • Disinfect your frequently touched surfaces: keyboards, doorknobs and light switches.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially with unsanitary hands.
  • Properly coughing or sneezing into the crook of your elbow, or a tissue. Versus your hands or out into open space.
  • Isolate yourself from people who are exhibiting symptoms of a cold or flu

If you suspect that you or somebody in your family has been infected by the coronavirus, speak to a healthcare professional over the phone. They can identify your symptoms and recent travel to help give you the best course of action. 


Stephan Toure is a medical copywriter specializing in psychology, with a focus on helping people figure out what works for overcoming social anxiety, panic attacks, generalized anxiety disorders, and more.