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Column: This virus moves fast and we must move faster
Shannon Casas
Shannon Casas

Not that long ago, the coronavirus seemed a world away. It was a world away.

The news has changed so rapidly my head is spinning. 

It was in China. It was in some other countries. It was on our West Coast. Then it was here, and we were talking about which songs to sing in our head to wash our hands well. 

Now, schools are shut down, the governor is advising social distancing and many of us are wondering whether we should hunker down inside with our toilet paper and canned goods.

Last week, I was messaging a friend who lives in Washington State, wondering how crazy things were there given reports in the news.

A few schools had shut down to clean. Access to groceries was becoming somewhat difficult. Reports varied between stay calm and brace for a massive outbreak. 

At that point, 58 people were confirmed to have COVID-19 in King County, where she lives, which covers a large area and includes Seattle. In one week, the cases grew to 328. 

As of Saturday, there are 66 confirmed cases in Georgia.

Scores of national sources have great information about the spread of the virus and what we can do to “flatten the curve,” that is avoid a huge spike that overwhelms our health care systems. Numbers can vary widely depending on how the virus is transmitted and what governments are doing to mitigate it. 

Graphs show Italy’s numbers skyrocketing over 17,000, and numerous reports suggest its health care system is overwhelmed. 

“Italy went from having a handful of cases to the second-largest death toll after China in less than three weeks, flooding intensive-care units with hundreds of patients,” Bloomberg reported. 

In Seattle, the virus is already straining the health care system, according to the Seattle Times.

“Medical supplies have run low. Administrators are searching for ways to expand hospital bed capacity. Health care workers are being asked to work extra shifts as their peers self-isolate,” the newspaper reported Friday.

My friend lives about an hour from Seattle. She doesn’t know anyone infected but has watched the cases move from the city to communities closer and closer to hers. 

Friday afternoon she was training as part of a planned teacher work day and preparing school from home lessons. There, schools will shut down Monday for six weeks.

Parking lots at grocery stores are full, frozen fruits and veggies and staples like rice and potatoes are limited or gone, though stores are getting restocked.

Some online orders for groceries are getting canceled due to too much demand.

Much of her story already sounds like ours. Closures of schools and churches and cancellations of events last week sparked panic and a lot of shopping. 

For now, our schools are set to close one week. With the news changing so rapidly, I pray we got ahead of this. 

Much can change in a week. The speed at which the virus can change our lives is astounding.

The Times’ editorial board, of which I am a part, provides suggestions on how we should react to all this news, so I won’t get into that here other than to say we must take this seriously, which does not include panic or denial. 

But changing our lives now rather than later is prudent. I’ll gladly stay 3 or even 6 feet away from you to avoid devoting our entire newsroom staff to covering an outbreak like what has been seen in Italy.

So, I won’t see you at church. I won’t see you at the gym. But The Times will still be at work, — though at least some of us remotely — reporting on the implications of this virus on our community.

If you have questions about the implications, please reach out. We’d also love to tell stories of those who are making the best of this situation help connect us all with the resources we need in this time. On that note, please join a Facebook group The Times has created called Community against coronavirus

Understanding this virus and its implications affects all of us. 

Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a foster parent. You can hear her most weeks on the Inside The Times podcast on iTunes or Google Play.