The corona virus COVID-19 is circulating the globe, freaking folks out everywhere the illness goes.
Is our hysteria warranted?
At this point, not really. I mean even a math-deficient person like me can understand the numbers. Right now about 6,500 people world wide have succumbed to the bug – the vast majority in China – including 63 in the US. By comparison, there have been 20,000 confirmed regular influenza deaths in our country during the 2019-2020 flu season.
Still, it’s not as if we should ignore COVID-19. So, what do we do? Treat COVID-19 like you would the regular flu: wash your hands, don’t touch your face, stay home and rest if you’re sick.
That said, it might make you feel better to know that there are plans in place should COVID-19, or any other health disaster, hit with any force. I know this because I am part of just such a plan.
I have been a volunteer with the Maricopa County Department of the Public Health for several years. In that capacity, I am a first responder in the event of a medical emergency. The idea is that fast action is needed should there be a health danger to the public. In our training we’ve discussed the release of radiation from a nuclear power plant, the rampant spread of communicable diseases, events that contaminate drinking water sources, and – the worst possible scenario – the terroristic weaponization of substances like anthrax or the smallpox virus.
It is the last scenario that we practice for. Should anthrax be released in public, it’s estimated that 99% of those who come in contact will die without medication. Volunteers are tasked with setting up pods for the mass distribution of meds and information. People would be directed to local high schools and community centers where volunteers would assess individual medical needs. Processes are in place to screen those who speak other languages or who suffer from medical conditions that might be adversely affected by the medication provided.
Right now, the federal government has massive stockpiles of the antibiotics doxycycline and ciprofloxacin, enough to heal every man, woman and child in the country, should they be exposed to anthrax. The hope is that, in the event of an outbreak, first responders could assemble and deliver medication to anyone who needs it within 48 hours.
What I’ve learned from the training and drills is that the procedure will be messy. People will panic. Some will think the call to get medicine will be some kind of conspiracy. In fact, I asked about that in a training session.
“What happens if people don’t believe there’s a real problem, or if they don’t trust the government to hand out medicine?” I asked the instructor.
“They’ll die,” was the cryptic answer.
That people will panic is a given. Our drills include police and sheriff departments, paramedics, and red cross volunteers.
“What if someone arrives, points a weapon at you, and asks for all the medication?” an instructor asked.
There was silence in the class.
“Give them whatever they want. Do not put yourselves in danger. There is plenty of medication. We will have more delivered.”
Heads nodded around the room.
The bottom line is there are plans in place in case of a mass medical emergency. And while I can’t guarantee everything will go smoothly, volunteers are working on it. Perhaps you’d like to join them. If so, contact your local county health department.
Anne Montgomery’s novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other? The Scent of Rain is available at https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780996390149 and wherever books are sold.