Regular readers will notice we’re running the second story in a month on coronavirus (aka Covid-19). I’ve been keeping tabs on its spread over the past month, doing my best to monitor what’s happening at ground zero—Wuhan, China.
The Chinese government initially kept a pretty tight lid on reports of the spread, but that didn’t stop its citizens from sharing snapshots of the chaos on Twitter. I’ve watched videos of the virtual lockdown of Wuhan, including hazmat-suited law enforcement literally welding shut the doors of residential buildings with their occupants inside. Horror stories abound, so beware.
In mainland China alone, since January, more than 2,700 people have died. World Health Organization representatives have visited and are reporting that the coronavirus carries a mortality rate between 2 percent and 4 percent. For perspective, the typical fatality rate for influenza is 0.1 percent. The good news is that the rate is slowing in that hotspot.
Meanwhile, though, the virus has spread to 42 countries and territories. More than 81,000 cases have been confirmed, as of this writing. That includes 57 people in the United States—several of whom live in California. (The spread is so fast, in fact, that our story, on page 12, went to press earlier and includes lower numbers.)
On Tuesday (Feb. 25), Dr. Anne Schuchat, the deputy director for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noted what’s happening globally and said it was a matter of when, not if, a pandemic would occur. “In that case risk assessment would be different and new strategies tailored to local circumstances would need to be implemented to blunt the impact of the disease and further slow the spread of the virus,” she said.
That’s what is happening elsewhere. In parts of northern Italy, which was hit hard this week, schools are now closed.
Considering how quickly this situation is evolving, I certainly hope Butte County Public Health takes an aggressive approach to informing the public—even if there aren’t any local cases of the virus. The private sector also should think about how to help mitigate the spread—employees telecommuting to work, for example.
Call me paranoid, but with two-thirds of my household categorized as immunocompromised, I can’t afford to take any chances. It’s actually been a couple of weeks since my family restocked our supply of N-95 masks—the kind used during the Camp Fire. Gloves are on my shopping list, as are a few household staples. I’d urge you to be proactive, too.
In other news, you’ll once again find our endorsements on this page. Next Thursday, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming—you know, editorials on hot-button community issues. Believe me, there are plenty I’ve wanted to tackle in that space. Case in point: Andre Byik’s scoop this week on the state water board’s investigation into what looks like an egregious case of toxic stormwater discharge stemming from the county landfill.
Last but not least, I’d like to publicly welcome back Contributing Editor Evan Tuchinsky, who’s been gracious enough to jump back into the fold while we’re short-handed. A former CN&R editor, he has written for the paper off and on for the past decade. Reach out to him at email@example.com.