As a member of the media I have witnessed sensationalism in the news and a seemingly never ending cascade of Coronavirus COVID-19 stories from virtually every angle media outlets can piece together.
Fear is a healthy response to danger as it helps the body get ready to fight by increasing adrenaline levels and heightens awareness so we can take in information about our situation and process it quickly.
As a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, I adhere to its ethical rules and I’m seeing many of these rules being broken by all types of media, further fueling the flame of panic and fear.
Speaking with members of the community here in Lincoln City I’m shocked by the level of fear that exists due to the sheer number of coronavirus related stories and the way this event has unfolded and been reported. Everything from buying toilet paper to price gouging articles have a severe impact on the way people live, shop and interpret information.
Balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness.
Speaking with countless people in Lincoln City and Newport has been eye opening for myself as I did not fully grasp the level of fear they were experiencing because of misinformation and unreliable data.
I get it. There’s not enough information and there’s a bunch of confusion about what to do and how to protect families from this new coronavirus.
Some have a handle on their fear and are continuing life as normal. Others, not so much, as evidenced by the depletion of many household items online and in stores. A NY Times article of a Tennessee man who bought up 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer illustrates why online retailers the likes of Amazon and Ebay have curbed price gougers from capitalizing on a pandemic.
“I think we have a bad virus that targets a narrow band of the population,” a police chief said while shopping at Safeway. “I don’t think it warrants the run on toilet paper, rice and pasta.”
Former Lincoln City Mayor Don Williams, who has been speaking out against overreaction for close to a week says, “It’s time for this lunacy to stop.” Williams expressed concern over the loss of constitutional rights, such as the right to assemble peaceably that has been suspended recently by an order from Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown.
From the Constitution of the United States of America:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Our reporting has been based on facts from the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and prevention, as well as local sources like the Oregon Health Authority, however, it needs to be said that a complete picture of this disease has not been put together and the numbers may not be what they seem.
Time published an article that called into question the 3.4 percent mortality rate for COVID-19, saying the data from countries with robust testing systems supports the idea of a mortality rate lower than 3.4 percent. The United States has tested vastly lower numbers of people and have focused on the most severe cases. This suggests that testing more people for all severities of the illness would cause the mortality rate to go down. With some, such as the President and local doctors saying it could be less that 1 percent.
So it may not be as bad as you think. Probably not so bad that you need to buy enough toilet paper for two months. All the President’s men say the chance for contracting COVID-19 is very low unless you’ve come in contact with an infected person.
But how would we know?
Is it imperative we get enough tests to find out who has it?
I’ve been to Safeway, IGA, Walmart, Bi-Mart and Fred Meyer grocery stores and observed first hand the panic in people based on what’s in their carts alone.
Seeing a lady buying five 20 pound bags of cat food didn’t seem reasonable. The lady who saw the woman buying such a large quantity of cat food and loading up the same amount herself seemed even less reasonable.
One man was buying buckets and when I asked him why, he said, “for bathroom purposes, ya know?”
A fight almost erupted at Lincoln City’s Dollar Tree as the TP ran out, with a father of three pleading for one package from a man who had just grabbed the last four. The issue was settled with the man buying one for $5 from the other guy.
Some people I spoke to had pertinent information.
One commercial fishing boat captain I approached in the wine aisle at Walmart said he was worried because he could not send his fish to a port in South Korea. He went on to say how that country did a good job of testing their population and has since reopened the port of Busan and said they “nipped it in the bud.” When I asked him if the U.S. was doing a good job he looked bewildered and shouted “Nooooo!”
“They didn’t get the test kits out in time. They are too slow.” He said COVID-19 was “not that bad for most” and that people were freaking out for no good reason over a really bad “flu.”
A surgeon I spoke with at McKay’s said we had about three more months of COVID-19 in our future. He said that by June “this will be in our rearview mirror.”
An investigative journalist said he was sick at home on self-quarantine. He said “We’re all going to get it and the best thing you can do is hunker down.”
Another journalist said:
“The mainstream and social media are mostly to blame for this sensationalism. There would never have been this insane overreaction 10 years ago.”
There is a real disease spreading throughout the world and vulnerable populations should limit their exposure by staying home as much as possible. Check reputable websites like the CDC and WHO, and please wash your hands, don’t touch your face and stay six feet away from people.
I’m curious to know what you think. Leave a comment below and let us know how you are reacting to the coronavirus pandemic.
No amount of TP or sanitizer is going to stop you from catching this. However, the best preparation we all can do is immune boosting techniques to insure your body taps into it’s defenses agressivly.If you eat well with added supplements get exercise/relax your body will do it’s job. The ones in trouble are the elderly or people on immune suppressing drugs like the multiple sclerosis therapies and chemo since those drugs wipe out all of the white blood cells. The health food store like Trllium should have a line wrapping around the building…words from a person whom has MS. Thank God I am not on Immune suppressors. But, I think of all the people who are and can’t go out to get what they need out in stores or on-line because of the panic virus.
Great article Justin. I was shocked to see the US Surgeon General comparing the US to Italy in numbers of cases. His assertion that we are seeing similar numbers is just bad math: the population of Italy is 60 million people vs 300 million in US. Italy is 116,000 square miles. Continental US is 3,119,884.69 square miles. The number of cases may match what Italy once experienced but the density of our population is no where near the same nor is the percentage of the population. Average age in Italy is 45+ Average age in US is 38. Want to lessen your stress? Turn off television news. This brings to mind the Don Henley song “Dirty Laundry.” Remember it’s a business like any other that needs customers to survive and they are loving this. I’m not changing one aspect of my life and no I won’t “elbow bump” with you.
Stay calm, do not give in to SOCIALISM ideas that wish to take our President out of office one way or another. Ronald Reagan gave a terrific speech on this happening, years ago. We stand strong with everything our great POTUS, Donald Trump has accomplished for our country. The Democrats are trying and announced they would destroy it all if they get in power. That will not happen. America is stronger today, more desired and brilliant than many years. VOTE REPUBLICAN, Stay safe, do not stop visiting the local stores, restaurants as they keep our community going. Everyone needs money and we can continue to give them support.
Irene, to turn this comment section on the coronavirus into a praise center for Trump is more than disgusting!
We are way behind the rest of the western world in reigning in this virus due to Trump and his greedy, lying rhetoric…and you wouldn’t know socialism if it came up and hit you in the face. You have been living with socialism for decades. What do you think SSI, Medicare, police, firefighting, etc.are? The saddest day in the history of this country politically was 1/20/16. Happily the monster in the Oval Office will be booted out on 11/3 and our democracy will be saved from Trump and his cult members.
I am confident most people will read your very misguided comment in the same way I have and will continue to follow the guidelines of the medical experts in this situation. You should be ashamed of yourself encouraging people to do the opposite of what has been asked of us. Typical Trumper behavior…
Try sitting in on one of the huge rallies and telling them what you just said. You are the one who is behind times in America.
Thank you Justin for your accurate reporting on all issues. The media today is nothing but false reporting and only care about selling papers. They could care less how this affects our country. Thank God we have President Trump in office. He is a very proactive President and I am proud to have him as our President.
I am a mostly retired journalist and think it is ridiculous to blame the media for public reaction to what is a very real crisis. Yes it’s ridiculous to buy excess toilet paper. But it is perfectly reasonable to reduce your exposure to other people especially if you are over 60, and double especially if you are over 70 or 80.
Experts have predicted that 40% to 70% of the population eventually will be infected. 40% of 328 million Americans is about 130 million. Even if the fatality rate is “only 1%,” that works out to 1.3 million dead Americans, twice the death toll from the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, which killed 675,000 Americans when the population was much less than it is now.
I was eating in restaurants as recently as last Saturday, but no more. my outings for at least the next few weeks will be limited to quick grocery trips when absolutely necessary and pharmacy trips for refills.
Science is not a liberal conspiracy. This is a pandemic. Look that term up if you need to understand what the planet is facing. We are a mobile society and with that, we exacerbate the speed and breadth of transmission. Listen to epidemiologists, viral disease specialists and emergency room physicians, not ‘all the president’s men’. Hoarding toilet paper or sanitizer is selfish and causing problems for others who also need those things – like first responders. The hospitals in this country are not sized nor equipped to handle a surge of people needing hospitalization. The Lancet estimates that 17% of the population that gets infected will require a hospital stay. For those of you that like numbers – do the math on that one assuming only 40% of the country’s population gets infected. Now compare that number to the number of hospital beds in your local hospital. And now calculate the 1% fatality rate and you end up with over a million Americans dead. You may not get the virus, but what if you need hospitalization for something else during this time? You just may not get that lifesaving surgery because the hospital is full or the health care workers are themselves infected and home self quarantining so consider collateral damages in your evaluation of this health crisis. Those of you that waste any time at all arguing your personal rights, please have some empathy for others. You may not get the virus but you can certainly transmit it and the time-frames for how long the virus can remain active on surfaces is still being worked out so you may already be infected or a carrier. Why add risky behavior to the equation?
And for those of you that own businesses that employ hourly workers with no benefits offered, please consider closing and still paying your workers to stay home – there is also a role for Congress and the Federal government to assist in this regard. There are only so many ways to flatten the curve and it requires a temporary major shift in YOUR behavior. That’s everyone. Because it will take the collective commitment of everyone to make it happen. Self-quarantine, avoid groups, eliminate non-essential travel, read a book, reconnect with your immediate family, practice your ukulele, eat at home, watch a movie, take a virtual tour of a museum. It’s only temporary and for the greater good.
I agree that there is a lot of unnecessary media hype surrounding this pandemic, and that it has fueled an unreasonable panic in many people. That being said, that panic is based on a very reasonable and very justifiable fear. This is not The Stand, nor is it the end of the world, but many of us may legitimately feel that way before this is over. Please don’t buck the system, or argue that we should all be able to congregate when we have alternatives like FaceTime that can bring us together without the risk of contracting an untreatable disease. The restrictions being asked of us are painful, but not as painful as watching our loved ones suffer or die from this virus. We can’t stop it – it will catch up with us eventually – but we can slow it down enough for our medical care providers to have a chance to treat everyone who needs professional treatment.
Wow these are city leaders with comments like this. Well Justin you just outed yourself and this right wing newspaper. Been watching any propaganda fox lately. This town is a cruise ship on land. Casino at one end, shops and restaurants down the main, and everyone looks out the window at the ocean. This is were people go to escape reality! I know I work in the biz and have to act like a hazmat worker on the front lines. Responsible people are canceling! BUT the irresponsible opertunists are quickly snatching up these vacant slots as if everything is normal. This town will be full of irresponsible condensending people swiping the slots, and grabbing doorknobs. The city leaders seem to only care about money not health of our middle age and seniors, cancer treatment and a host of other underlying ailments people have. Man . . . I am using my VOTE!