The Coronavirus May Be Our Finest Hour

There is an urgency to the media changing its approach to the way in which it has covered the Coronavirus outbreak. 

It can be said that all the public panic and anxiety (best exemplified by panic-buying in supermarkets) is the result of people being terrified by what they see in the media. We should instead regard the global coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to display our humanity and compassion for others. It is also a time to repair differences in order to cooperate for the greater good of the world.

All we have seen are headlines as to the number of infected persons and their significant spike, the lock-down measures in some European countries, and Trump’s negligent handling of the situation. And probably most concerning of all, the plunging stock markets and the effect on the economy. These outcomes are not to be downplayed, and they indeed paint a grim picture for the world over the next few months. People grow more anxious by the day, riddled with fear for the future. 

The media continually spreads the bad news, but rarely do they report ongoing developments that could uplift spirits and help people feel more positive. The media has given people zero hope — not even a little bit.

The more positive news related to the coronavirus is not often covered by the major media outlets. The push-notifications from CNN, for example, are enough to dampen one’s mood every morning. As are the New York Times morning briefings. Those rare cases that indicate positive developments are often buried under the more troubling news surrounding the virus.

There is no sugarcoating this pandemic and its effects. Boris Johnson was correct when he finally acknowledged that the coronavirus is the “worst public health crisis in a generation.” However, this does not imply that the situation is hopeless. The urgency of the situation has more and more efforts being made to contain the virus, with scientists working around the clock for both drug treatments and a vaccine. 

It is a common misconception that the coronavirus has no “cure.” In fact, it is indeed curable, although for those unfortunate enough to develop the worst symptoms,  the recovery process may be long. Some people also mistake “cure” for “vaccine.” And that combined with the media focusing on the number of infected and the deaths — rarely on the recovery rates — we can understand why people are alarmed. 

According to data from the John Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering, there are close to 200,000 people around the world who are now infected with the coronavirus, and nearly 8,000 have died. The number of those recovered? 81,960 people so far, and growing. While those who have recovered are not quite half the number of infections, the numbers will rise in the coming weeks and days because of the measures that countries in Europe have taken.

Countries in Europe are enforcing severe limitations on unnecessary travel. There is hope (and expectation) that, at the very least, we can flatten the exponential curve of the outbreak. Western European countries have implemented measures related to social distancing, and closing down schools, bars and restaurants. Rather than regarding these measures as a call for panic, we should instead see these as measures that can really combat the spread. These dramatic steps, combined with the wonderful recovery rates of those previously infected by the virus, should yield more progress in the next few days. Most of the measures in Europe (aside from Italy) have taken effect since Monday. Thus, don’t expect immediate progress, but rather, incremental progress over the next few weeks.

We have also witnessed cooperation between world governments in their effort to help fight the coronavirus. This is more uplifting news. Italy has been assisted by China with medical supplies and doctors to help curb the spread of the virus in Italy. The World Bank pledged 12 billion dollars in funds to assist countries that need support in responding to the virus. Some governments are providing stimulus packages to help their economies.

Though the situation is challenging right now, the developments I mentioned above should provide hope for the rest of us. In our darkest times, humanity and compassion have prevailed over darkness. The world is certainly capable of combating this novel virus, if we do so together. 

Along with infecting their lungs, the coronavirus has also impacted people’s minds. It created moral panic. When people see the huge numbers of coronavirus infection patients, they immediately react with fear without first processing fully all the numbers. This is understandable. But panic and anxiety will not beat the coronavirus.

At the time of writing, scientists and researchers are developing a vaccine for the virus. A positive development was made in the Netherlands a few days ago, when researchers at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam and Utrecht University found an antibody that blocks the virus. Their research is yielding a medicine that may well stop the infection in patients, allowing them to recover more quickly. And Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, a biotech company based in Tarrytown, New York has set a target to test their coronavirus antibody on humans by early summer.

There are plenty of reasons to be positive. Don’t be consumed by the negativity the media is spreading.

I do see this as the world’s finest hour. We have seen governments cooperating, with a simple display of humanity and compassion in an effort to combat a disease that affects us all.  The need is driving people to serve to the best of their abilities, creating society that provides for others.

In the words of Jon Meacham, who wrote The Soul of America: The Battle for our Better Angels, when a country faces a global pandemic (such as the coronavirus), their finest hour emerges. Meacham wrote that the “soul of the country manifests itself in an inclination to open our arms rather than to clench our fists.”

At the end of the day, we can prevail over this virus. We just need to find the better angels in ourselves. And we need to be willing to help others as they need us.

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