The coronavirus is coming and it doesn’t care about your politics.

Millions watched as President Donald Trump’s discussed COVID-19 and Vice President Mike Pence outlined this administration’s plans. COVID-19 doesn’t care if you cheered or hissed those remarks Wednesday night.

Just how much of a threat the virus poses to these United States as a whole, and to Blount County in particular, is educated guesswork. The virus is most dangerous to those with already compromised immune systems.

The virus may just make the average citizen sick, but to the elderly or those undergoing chemo treatment, it can be deadly. The concern for most of us is not that corona might kill us, but that we may give it to someone who it can kill.

We have several factors in our favor that say at least the mortality rate will be much lower than the 2 to 3 in 100 that has been documented at its source in Wuhan, China.

One is our medical profession remains a capitalist enterprise. Debating government support for citizen’s insurance funding is election material. In this case, what matters is your doctor has a financial interest in you remaining alive. Most of the world can’t say that because they either do not have access to a qualified medical care or their nation has true socialist healthcare where doctors make the same pay as long as they see a certain number of patients in a year, regardless of how many of those live or die. While there is not yet a cure, the medical profession understands treatment better than it did two months ago, which is making a difference.

Two is our standoffishness that most of the world views as American arrogance. U.S. citizens have the largest social distance in the world. That’s that area you consider your personal space where only those you truly trust may enter without you getting uncomfortable. We average that space in feet. It gets down to inches in other parts of the world. No matter the source of our standoffishness, social distance will make a difference that the coronavirus cares about far more than who you vote for in November or which meme you posted on Facebook this week.

It limits the ability of the virus to effectively spread. In simplest terms, the itty bitty bits of the disease have a greater distance to travel to reach another person. That distance combined with basic protections like hand washing and covering your mouth will do more damage to COVID-19 than any orders that emanate from Washington.

And third, this is Blount County where we don’t wait for someone to come help us, we mobilize to provide assistance. This time, it’s not gathering supplies for hurricane victims or raising money for schools and orphanages overseas — it is doing the things at home that will make a big difference.

Individually, it’s following the common sense guidance and our society’s standard of basic decency by covering your mouth, washing your hands and taking those measures that will help stop the spread. It means staying home when you’re sick to prevent giving it to anyone else. It’s taking care of those who are sick responsibly. It’s speaking out to remind those who don’t and applying the social pressures on those who won’t do the same.

For employers and schools, it means absorbing disruptions, being liberal with sick time and having the gumption to send home the tough cases who want to soldier through being sick.

We have spoken with officials at the hospitals, cities, county and at the state level and they are all keeping tabs on the global spread and updating their response plans to deal with the coronavirus.

This isn’t China. After admitting the problem, that government began and continues to use all of its authority to combat the disease — from forcing people to stay in their homes to a massive mobilization of public servants to treat the sick, monitor compliance by its citizens and scrub every open surface over entire cities.

The coronavirus doesn’t care that our government is different than China’s. It doesn’t care if you think the president is saint or devil or which Democrat you brand as the biggest idiot.

It only cares about its ability to replicate and spread.

Here, we will rely on ourselves, our family, our friends and our neighbors to voluntarily do the smart things to stop the spread. If that means schools close, sporting events get cancelled and we work from home or get a mandatory vacation, that’s the cost of the enlightened self-interest to protect ourselves and our community.

If the worst happens, we will not panic in the face of a pandemic. We will work together — albeit from a polite distance — and come out the other side perhaps a little stronger for the experience.

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