As the Coronavirus takes grip of the world and panic surges across communities, the actual facts of the situation are often being ignored and not taken into consideration.

First and foremost, just to put things in perspective, in Spring 2009, the U.S. was faced with the Influenza A/H1N1 virus, better known as the Swine Flu. By Spring 2010, 59 million Americans had contracted the virus, 265,00 had been hospitalized, and 12,000 had died as a result. The Swine Flu was labeled as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).

More recently, during the current 2019-2020 flu season, the CDC estimates that 34,000,000-49,000,000 contracted the flu, 350,000-620,000 people were hospitalized, and 20,000-52,000 died.

These are staggering numbers, numbers that far surpass the current COVID-19 numbers that are being seen in the U.S. With that being said, we don’t want to see anyone die or suffer unnecessarily, that’s why at this point we need to do what is right and take the proper precautions to bring this pandemic to an end.

As a previous Special Operations Combat Medic, I have a few suggestions for how we should combat COVID-19:

1) Stop Panicking – The reason I listed those statistics previously is to help everyone understand the gravity of our current situation versus prior events. Our country and the world have experienced events like this before. The Swine Flu was pretty bad in 2009, but life as we knew it never stopped. I don’t know if it’s because of social media, or smartphones, or the fact that it’s an election year, but this is starting to spiral out of control.

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Everyone is being so quick to take drastic measures that they’re not thinking about the long-term negative effects of their actions. People are losing thousands in the stock market and many people are out of work due to so many events being canceled. People are hoarding food, toilet paper, soap, medical supplies, etc. This is the worst thing to be doing right now since yes, some of our supply chains have been interrupted, but over-buying supplies is going to create a negative chain-reaction for the entire U.S. population.

2) Wash Your Hands – First, I’m just going to say how alarming it is that it takes an event like this for people to go buy soap and hand sanitizer. It sounds simple, but humans are imperfect and often fail to wash their hands. Just putting soap and water on your hands doesn’t cut it. You need to get soap into all crevices of your fingers, scrub your fingernails, wash the palms and back of your hands. Pretend like you were going into surgery, sing Happy Birthday twice to ensure you washed your hands long enough. Constantly apply hand sanitizer, especially while out in public. When you use hand sanitizer, scrub it around your hands until it is completely dry. Also, hold yourself accountable: if you sneeze or cough on your hands, wash them immediately (even though you should be sneezing and coughing into your sleeve). Remember, we’re in this together.

3) Hand Discipline – We tend to always want to touch our faces, our eyes, our mouths, our ears, our noses (when no one’s looking). I’m guilty of it too. Well, we all need to stop doing that immediately. It’s gross and it’s a sure-fire way to give ourselves the virus if we’ve been near it. It’s also important that we don’t touch things while out in public. Stay away from handrails, push doors open with your foot, instead of with your hand. Use your debit/credit card instead of cash. Stop shaking hands and hugging.

4) Leave the grandparents alone – Research thus far has shown that individuals 60 and older are more susceptible to COVID-19 and are more likely to experience severe symptoms. Individuals over 80 are at extremely high risk and have a higher likelihood of dying from the virus. Nursing homes throughout the country are already closing their doors to outside visitors. Everyone should make it a point to avoid contact with older people when possible, in order to protect them. With that being said, if you do have an older family member or friend, offer to go get their groceries and supplies, deliver their items on the front porch. Keep them away from the unsanitary public.

5) Maintain Your Personal Space – According to the CDC, the virus is being spread by close human contact (within 6 feet of each other) and through respiratory droplets that enter the air from sneezing and coughing. So, make it a point to defend your personal bubble and don’t get too close to others.

6) Sanitize – Whether at work or at home, clean all surfaces thoroughly and often. Depending on conditions, the virus potentially can live for a few hours up to a few days on surfaces. Usually, we are able to maintain an inventory of disinfectant wipes or Clorox spray to kill germs. Since the country is in panic mode and these basic items are disappearing from the shelf, you can make your own homemade disinfectant spray. All you need to do is mix 5 tablespoons of bleach with a gallon of water and you’re ready to go.

7) If You’re Sick, Stay at Home – Whether you’re sick with COVID-19 or anything else, just stay at home (except to seek medical care). Right now, we need to make an effort to minimize the number of people getting sick from anything. Everyone is hypersensitive at the moment, so even if they have the normal flu or just a cold, they may fear the worst. Additionally, it’s important to keep our immune systems strong. We don’t want to become immuno-compromised with any other sicknesses (feel free to eat some Vitamin-C gummies). Also, unless you’re sick, don’t wear a mask. Masks are in short supply and are needed most by our healthcare providers and those that are actually sick. If you are not sick, wearing a mask will not prevent you from contracting COVID-19.

8) No More Big Parties – In the last couple of days, most institutions and governments in the U.S. have shut down major activities and events — so, we, as the people, are having our decisions made for us, regarding the ability to attend populated events. But, the airlines are still flying, some cruise ships are still sailing, and hotels are still open, so travel and transportation decisions are still up to our own discretion. It is undoubtedly difficult to decide whether to cancel a trip or a flight. These decisions are up to each individual.

You should ask yourself, what’s your appetite for things not going according to plan? What if you get stuck at an airport or potentially quarantined in a location? How old are you and what health conditions do you have? These are all questions that people should ask themselves before they travel or take part in events. The right decision is not necessarily black and white: a lot of it depends on an individual’s threshold for risk. (But, if you do follow the recommendations listed in this article, you can keep yourself much safer.)

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Opinions vary on whether the government, organizations, and media are blowing this situation out of proportion. At this point, it doesn’t matter. COVID-19 is here and is heavily affecting our daily lives.

The only way to get our lives back to normal is to decrease the number of cases of COVID-19. This can only be accomplished by everyone heeding the requests and warnings of our health professionals and the government. If everyone makes small sacrifices now, I believe this virus, along with the social negative impact, can be brought to an end in the near future.

This article is featured on the SOFREP Coronavirus eBook