Coronavirus — specifically, a new strain of virus named COVID-19 — has claimed over 3,100 lives since it first broke out in Wuhan, China on December 31, 2019.
From the sinking cruise industry to plummeting stocks, the coronavirus is also affecting Americans. In some ways, it’s practical; people are avoiding big events and international travel. In other ways… not so much. Corona beer sales have fallen over 30%, despite no correlation with the virus.
Nine people died in Washington state over Leap Day weekend, and coronavirus cases have been reported in 15 states so far.
First, What Is Coronavirus?
COVID-19 is a never-before-identified virus from the family coronavirus, which are viruses that primarily affect animals. This particular strain is believed to have started in a “wet market,” or a market where animals are slaughtered and sold in the same space, making it easier for the virus to jump from animals to humans.
To date, over 90,000 cases have been reported — the vast majority in China — and almost 50,000 people have fully recovered, with more on the way.
According to The Telegraph, around 80% of the cases have been mild; presenting as common respiratory illness, with symptoms including runny nose, sore throat, and coughing. Roughly 14% of the cases are severe enough for hospitalization, and the global death rate hovers around 0.7%. It should be noted that most of those who’ve died are either very old or very young, with compromised immune systems.
But with little research and no vaccine, the virus has quickly created a global panic, prompting people to forego their travel plans in favor of buying face masks — which, by the way, don’t work against coronavirus.
How Is Coronavirus Affecting the Military?
While most of us are able to avoid international travel, military members don’t have that same luxury. They go where they’re needed. So how is coronavirus affecting the military?
Well, currently, post training and operations in South Korea have come to a halt. This news was announced in the past week, after the first active-duty case of coronavirus was reported at Camp Humphreys in South Korea. Another civil worker has since been diagnosed, and the nation itself has seen around 1,700 cases.
The U.S. has approximately 75,000 troops stationed in countries that have been affected by the coronavirus, including South Korea, Italy, and Japan. Right now, they’re trying to strike a delicate balance: one where the proper precautions are taken to avoid an outbreak, yet military readiness is not impacted.
For the most part, action so far has been minimal. Besides shutting down operations and banning off-base activity in South Korea, officials have also closed military schools in Bahrain and on-post theatres, gyms, daycares, and other facilities in Italy. Some Navy ships have been ordered to stay at sea; and troops deployed to the Middle East and parts of Asia have been denied any form of leave.
Additionally, the Army is now screening new recruits for the virus, and Army researchers are working overtime to help develop a vaccine.
If active-duty cases ramp up, we might expect a similar increase in military actions to protect against the virus.
How Can You Stay Safe From Coronavirus?
Although those stationed overseas may be at higher risk, that doesn’t mean we’re totally safe on the homefront. Now that the virus has entered the U.S., it’s a mad rush for many to figure out how to not catch it. And while the only fatalities so far have been reported in Washington state, that doesn’t mean it’ll stay that way.
45 of those infected came from the same cruise ship; three recently came home from Wuhan, China, the site of the outbreak; 17 contracted it through travel abroad; and 37 caught it from another American here at home.
According to medical experts, you should follow these steps to stay the safest from the virus:
- Avoid people who are visibly sick.
- Wash your hands thoroughly throughout the day for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water.
- Don’t substitute handwashing with hand sanitizer, which won’t kill the virus. If you have to use it, make sure it has at least 60% alcohol content.
- Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth unless you’ve just washed your hands.
- Stay home if you are sick.
- Clean frequently-used surfaces.
It also makes sense that frequenting crowded areas would increase your chance of catching a virus, so do your best to go about your normal daily life without putting yourself at undue risk.
If you can, you should also do your best to stay healthy in general. Get enough sleep at night, eat healthy foods, and take a multivitamin/vitamin C to boost your immune system.
What You Shouldn’t Do
Here’s some things you shouldn’t do in response to the coronavirus outbreak:
- Don’t panic. Seriously, don’t. In all likelihood you will never come in contact with the virus, and if you do you have less than a 1% chance of dying. If you notice yourself getting sick, go to your doctor for a check-up and some peace of mind.
- Don’t stop buying Chinese food. That is, if you usually buy Chinese food. Believe it or not, people are avoiding their usual Chinese takeout spots for fear of the coronavirus. Asian people in America have the same chance as other ethnicities of catching coronavirus — just because it originated in Wuhan doesn’t mean they’re more susceptible or likely to have to virus.
- Don’t spread false information online. The mass panic that has resulted from coronavirus has been reflected in the media. It’s everywhere; news of the current death toll and what scientists are doing to stop it. While it’s never bad to be informed, it is bad to spread statistics or information you don’t know is true. Make sure to get your news from reputable sources, like the CDC or WHO.
Keep your U.S.-based loved ones informed, and send care packages to those overseas to make sure they know they’re loved, too.
You can also help by donating or organizations like Direct Relief, who provide medical professionals with gear so they can treat patients safely.