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Coping With Quarantine

When I was a kid, there was a TB (Tuberculosis) hospital on a hill near the Cassadaga Lakes. It was meant to be in a rather isolated, rural area because TB was known to be very contagious…it could spread easily. I remember being sad that people with this disease had to be “quarantined off” from the rest of us.

One of the big problems with the new coronavirus is that it is also very contagious. It can multiply so fast that it can overwhelm hospital and health facilities. So, when one tests positive for it, it is imperative for that person to be isolated away from others. Evidence has shown that after 14 days the virus is much less “viral,” so-to-speak, and so the infected person can then return to a more normal life of living with others.

What caught my eye in this recent outbreak is that China felt so threatened by this new virus that they shut down the whole city of Wuhan with a population of over 10 million. That was a signal to the rest of the world that this virus is a threat which needs to be reckoned with. Italy has also been hit hard by the disease and has issued strict nation-wide travel and public gathering restrictions.

Though improving, the lack of sufficient testing resources in the United States has meant that we don’t have a very good handle yet on what, where or how big our infected coronavirus population is. Since it will take some time to correct this and to develop a new vaccine for this disease, containing it through a general quarantine process has become the primary defense against it.

It is a good reminder to all of us, of our common humanity. This new virus is not something that just affects Asians or Italians. This is a pandemic which affects all of us equally. It doesn’t discriminate on the basis of race, sex, ethnicity, religion or political affiliation. It is a threat to everyone and we must be united in our efforts to defeat it.

We are fortunate to live in a time when we have the diagnostic and treatment tools to address such a health threat. If we were living 500 years ago, we might be experiencing the death of millions through something like the black plague or smallpox, not knowing what was causing it. Today, we already have a name and description for this virus, and will eventually find a way to treat it.

In today’s international world of trade, travel and commerce, it is not easy to deal with something like this. The very idea of a quarantine speaks of, if nothing else, tremendous inconvenience. A new virus is also something that can stoke fear and misunderstanding. It can render us feeling helpless and afraid. Perhaps the greatest challenge is that as human beings we want to be around each other, and implementing a “quarantine” runs counter to that.

All the more reason, to be patient and come to an understanding of the science of this new threat. The research on this deadly disease started in China. Now, it is in the provenance of many advanced medical research facilities in the world. It is critical that we understand the “knowns” and the “unknowns” and take precautions and countermeasures from health professionals dealing with it. It is not a time to panic. It is a time to listen.

We will get through all of this, and will be the better for it. Hopefully, it will also teach us again the lesson that as to common humanity…we are all in this together.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.

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