what’s more dangerous: coronavirus or panic? - part 1

Coronavirus has become a worldwide health scare. And almost everyone is panicking about it.

So, is coronavirus truly dangerous? Should you worry or not worry? What’s the verdict?

Let’s look at the facts.

As I write this, the COVID-19 virus has infected more than 120,000 people and killed more than 4,300 in 113 countries. If you’re running around hunting for masks, hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes to help you protect from this fatal disease, let’s help you get a better perspective. The seasonal flu kills upwards of 650,000 people worldwide every year. Shouldn’t this staggering number induce fear and panic in you?

Let’s look at other potent health dangers to be worried and fearful about. In the US alone, heart disease kills 650,000 people every year, followed by cancer taking 600,000, and then accidents taking third place. But these occurrences have become so common that even if they appear in the headlines tomorrow, no one will panic; they’ve all become a fact of life.

But COVID-19 is new and unknown, and that’s why it’s gathering attention from millions around the world. Yes, more than 4,000 deaths are tragic but as compared to other rampant diseases, this number is too small to warrant a global panic perpetuated by incessant media firestorms.

Let’s talk about the seriousness of coronavirus as compared to previous pandemics. Here’s what the World Health Organization has to say:

  • 80% of those who become infected with this virus make a full recovery without any special treatment.
  • 1 in 5 people will get seriously ill and need medical treatment.
  • This is not a disease that seems to affect our children (that’s good news!).
  • SARS was deadlier (mortality rate was 10%), but coronavirus is more infectious (mortality rate is 3-4%).

Of course, it would be foolish to not take precautions and completely ignore the potential risks of coronavirus. We have to be careful. But panic is not the solution. In fact, panicking is the worst thing that we can do for ourselves and others. Panic and fear, in reality, is our greatest risk in this situation.

Fear and panic can make rational people do irrational things. As Lao Tzu said, “There is no illusion greater than fear.” When you succumb to fear, then panic, you end up making the pandemic worse than it actually is. It’s human to feel anxious and afraid and natural to get concerned in this crisis, but we must cultivate fearlessness and take charge over the primal programming in our brain. 

Whether we’ll be directly affected by virus or not, we’re all going to be indirectly affected. The stock market is plummeting, stores are running out of inventory, schools, colleges, museums and movie theaters are closing, factories are ceasing production, and many public gatherings and conferences are being canceled or postponed. While all these occurrences can be extremely annoying, if we zoom out and look at the bigger picture, we will realize that these setbacks are just mere inconveniences that we can all deal with. 

Nothing is permanent, and because we humans are extremely adaptable, in order to get to the other side of this prevailing pandemic safely and healthfully, it’s best that we endure this temporary pain and discomfort. While we must be wary of the hyperbole that floats around us, we must also practice self-regulation and slow down. At least for a while, both for ourselves and others. As paradoxical as it may sound, social distancing is the best way to express our love for others and take care of them.