Since the coronavirus out break began in January, media coverage has been severely lacking. Media outlets in the United States appeared to publish occasional headlines of some mysterious disease afflicting people in China, but no serious warnings or analysis was widely spread.
After China decided to shut down the City of Wuhan, the province of Hubei, and then expanded the lock down to a few hundred million people, the “Western Media” still failed to grasp the size and possible danger the Coronavirus posed. In fact while still living in Taiwan, I began regularly communicating with my best friend(he watches the news everyday), he informed me that he had no idea of the lock downs happening in China. It seemed very strange that non-Asian media was failing to report on events as important as those unfolding in China.
After returning from Taiwan and self quarantining for about two weeks (back in early February), I began informing friends and family about the situation in China. Most people I interacted with had absolutely no idea what was happening, and they believed it was a problem for China not America. However, this was about to change.
As February came to a close and cases of the Coronavirus began sprouting up in America, people were being told it was “just the flu”. It seemed everyone I talked to was now aware of the virus, but the media and government officials insisted the virus was no worse than the flu. The “just the flu” propaganda was compounded with media pushing a “stop panicking” narrative. According to the mainstream media people were being tricked into “panicking”. The idea that Americans across the country were panicking was hilarious. No one was panicking. I had not encountered anyone in my local circle that cared, none of my several hundred friends on Facebook posted anything about the virus. Influential people on Twitter reiterated that no one they saw was panicking. Yet the media continued pushing the “stop panicking” narrative. In addition to my anecdotal evidence of American apathy towards the Coronavirus threat, until last week(March 2nd – 7th), people were regularly attending large gathering across the country. In fact, Americans had their heads so far in the sand, many were genuinely surprised that someone had unwittingly exposed thousands of people to the virus at CPAC, a well-known politically conservative conference.
As of this week March 8th, Americans have been divided by the “Stop panicking” media into two factions: Pro-panic and Anti-panic. Of course these options are not real, but it appears constructed to shame people who have been preparing for the virus. If you post information on social media for people to buy supplies in case of quarantine or lock-down you are encouraging people to “hoard supplies” and “spread panic”. If you wear an N95 face mask, it is because you aren’t aware “they do not work” and might “spread fear”. Meanwhile Hong Kong and Taiwan have both had very limited outbreaks as people immediately began wearing face masks and practicing social distancing.
Additionally, since many people do not want to be socially shamed, they are staying with the “anti-panic” camp for now. I believe this will continue until localized outbreaks become larger and medical facilities began expressing concern with over-capacity. Once the majority of Americans realize they have been tricked into letting their defenses down, it will be too late or hazardous for people to go out and begin stocking up on supplies for a lock down or “containment zone” .
Now it is March 10th. Most people I know in Houston still do not believe we will have a problem here. Most Americans did not believe there would be problem in America, but New York state has now issued orders to create a containment zone to “stop the spread”. Despite the fact that China, South Korea, and Italy have all instituted lock-downs and quarantine zones, Americans have largely failed to prepare for a lock down scenario.
I will emphasize that I do not believe this virus will wipe out America in some apocolyptic event. However, healthcare systems around the world are struggling and some failing to deal the with large amounts of people needing ICU support to survive. If ICUs and hospitals become too over-burdened in a short period of time, experts warn we will see an increased death rate directly from the virus, and from people unable to be treated for problem like car accidents and other illnesses.
Americans must slow the spread of Novel Coronavirus or risk a wide-spread healthcare crises. Preparation is not panic.