It had become obvious that the question would not stay one of if, but rather would become one of when. The pace at which the COVID-19 coronavirus has spread across the world and now through the country made inevitable that its immediacy would impact this corner of New Hampshire. This week’s news that Monadnock Regional/Middle High School would close for a day of disinfecting following the screening of a student for the virus and that the ConVal school district, Keene State College, Antioch University New England and Franklin Pierce University are curtailing operations to limit the risk of spreading the virus made clear that time had arrived and that normal life here will be upended.
Navigating amidst all the uncertainty will be a challenge, but it’s a responsibility for individuals, with the support of government, employers and other institutions, to take care of themselves and, equally importantly, to take steps to forestall any spreading of the virus. Public health officials are scrambling to understand COVID-19, but it’s clear that, as in the case of seasonal flu, those most at risk include those over 60 or with cardiovascular or other underlying health conditions.
Knowing that, those individuals have every reason to be especially observant of the precautions being urged by officials. But everyone — and we mean everyone — should be every bit as vigilant, for their own sake and to ensure that, even if seemingly healthy and at low risk, they don’t expose others. In short, steps can and should be taken that can make the pandemic’s spread less likely and its impact less severe. Those steps include:
Cleaning your hands often
Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
Staying at home if sick
Covering coughs and sneezes
An important component to limiting the COVID-19 spread is so-called social distancing, and this has led to widespread cancellations of events. Locally, since the Monadnock school and Keene State College news broke, a number of cancellations and postponements of area events have been announced. No one should dismiss these actions as an overreaction. Rather, they are critical to improving the chance of limiting the virus’s spread at a time when inadequate testing capability nationally and/or the potentially lengthy incubation period makes it nearly impossible to identify people carrying the virus before they expose others to it. It wouldn’t be the worst thing to look back in hindsight and say the response was too strong.
Critical to navigating these anxious times is access to reliable information about the virus and its impact, and care should be taken to consult trustworthy sources. Certainly, the websites of the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html), the World Health Organization (www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019) and, more locally, Cheshire Medical Center (www.cheshire-med.com/coronavirus.html) and Lebanon’s Dartmouth-Hitchcock (www.dartmouth-hitchcock.org/patient-education/coronavirus.html) are among them.
For our part, in addition to regular coverage in our print edition, we now have a dedicated compilation of links to coronavirus coverage on our SentinelSource.com home page, as well as updated cancellation and postponement information, all of which we are making fully available without charge during these times. And we are working as part of the Granite State New Collaborative with other New Hampshire-based media to share statewide reporting of updates and solutions to the crisis.
During the past week, the World Health Organization has declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic. Friday, President Trump has officially designated it a national emergency and Gov. Sununu did likewise for the state of New Hampshire. Each of us can do our part in addressing the crisis by exercising recommended precautions for ourselves, showing thoughtfulness toward others in our daily interactions and staying informed of the latest developments and recommendations.