We’re frustrated by a lack of details about COVID-19. It doesn’t change how we should respond

CN+R EDITORIAL
Posted 5/8/20

Information is a hot commodity in the age of COVID-19, and, unfortunately, as currency, there’s a pretty robust black market for those who trade in it.

Rumors. Hearsay. Social media rants. …

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We’re frustrated by a lack of details about COVID-19. It doesn’t change how we should respond

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Posted

Information is a hot commodity in the age of COVID-19, and, unfortunately, as currency, there’s a pretty robust black market for those who trade in it.

Rumors. Hearsay. Social media rants. Unsubstantiated claims. A veritable grapevine of gossip, enough to overwhelm the senses at a time we’re already overwhelmed.

There’s no denying: we’re all curious. Who in Chatham has COVID-19? Where’d they get it? How’d they get it? Who’s been tested? Who’s recovered? Who’s being monitored? Why don’t we have names? Where are Chatham’s hotspots? Who’s coughing and not wearing a mask? Did “it” indeed come to Chatham from an overseas traveler who lives here and came home sick, knowing he/she might have the virus? How bad is it at Mountaire that The Daily Kos helicoptered into Siler City and did a three-part story on the outbreak there? Why aren’t they limiting foot traffic at Lowes Home Improvement, and how many employees there are sick?

How can we know we’re safe?

Will I get it?

These days, there are many more questions than answers, and a great deal of mis- and dis-information to boot. Loud voices are drowning out useful ones, and in our hunger to satisfy our curiosity we’re feeding on whatever morsels are tossed our way.

The frustration is easy to understand. Chatham County, per capita, is one of the most-infected counties in North Carolina; there are more than 400 cases as of this week, with COVID-19-related deaths now numbering in the double-digits. Take away the outbreak at the Laurels of Chatham and we’d still rank high. We’re on the front lines and fighting an invisible enemy, and we’re all at risk.

And rightly and logically, we want answers. We have neighboring counties whose officials, on a daily basis, are telling their residents not just how many positive cases are there, but who — by gender and age range, though not by name — has COVID-19. They’re also saying how many people have recovered and, in some cases, providing details about where the infected live.

There’s no question we’re curious about those same details in Chatham County, that we’re all stymied by a perception of a closed — or at least stingy — information loop.

But at the end of the day, would knowing some of those details matter?

Not one bit.

Put aside federal health privacy laws and individual privacy rights, knowing all that and more wouldn’t change what each of us should be doing to safeguard our own health in this crisis. Speculating on those kinds of details, while an enticing experiment, only serves as a distraction from what’s more important: that we should assume the worst about the contagious nature of the coronavirus and do our best to practice proper and safe health practices — practices all of us have heard repeatedly, but too often fail to practice.

Upset that other municipalities and counties are dishing out more details than in Chatham? We get it.

But to overlook, or to disregard, the tireless work the Chatham County Public Health Department and Chatham’s Emergency Management are doing, and their commitment to slow the spread of the virus? Isn’t that — not the dissemination of vague statistics — a higher priority?

Thinking otherwise is bad medicine.

This is new for them and everyone. There’s not a playbook for this. When it’s finally in our rear view mirrors, we’ll look back and think of a thousand and one things we could collectively have done differently, better. Parsing and sharing information will certainly be one of them.

But when it’s over, we’ll also look back on what really mattered most: the fact that, as former President George W. Bush said over the weekend, we are equally vulnerable and equally wonderful, and we’ll rise or fall together — wholly in proportion to how smart we act.

Chatham officials are focused on ongoing mitigation in hotspots like Laurels of Chatham and Mountaire Farms on testing, contact tracing and medical care for employees. In the meantime, we’ve all been asked to suffer some inconveniences and nuisances until the virus is more understand, more under control.

Let’s focus there, and knock this thing out. Save some debates for later.

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