Big Chuck: Stay calm, be wise, be prepared and wash your hands

 The “Era of Coronavirus” is upon us.

Trying to keep up with the news of the effects of this spreading virus is breathtaking. I doubt if any of us have ever seen anything like this in our lifetimes. I mean they closed Italy for God’s sake.

It is not hard to go back to the beginning of this virus, which is now the No. 1 topic on everybody’s mind. Right after the New Year we started hearing about a pesky bug in far off Wuhan, China, that was keeping scientists awake at night. From the day the virus was identified, Dec. 13, 2019, until March 11, 2020, about a 100-day period, the virus has gone from beyond Wuhan’s borders, spread around the world to every continent except Antarctica and finally was declared a full-blown pandemic by the World Health Organization.

In its earliest days, the virus was a mystery to Americans. It was far away and suspicious. People made jokes about wearing masks, about wiping down things with disinfectant, kidding about what we would hoard if it ever got here. Not knowing what the future held, some of these were innocuous jokes and bad humor and some were down-right funny. Remember the bottle of Corona beer wearing a surgical mask?

Not so funny anymore.

It is time to get serious, folks. If not already past time.

The coronavirus has deviously changed our way of life in America, and around the world, like nothing I’ve ever seen. Travel restrictions have been put into place. Large gatherings of crowds have been either banned or discouraged. Some sports games are playing to empty stadiums and arenas. On Wednesday it was announced that the SUNY university system in New York would close down and classes would resume online. To put that in perspective, that means that up to 425,000 students would not be returning to their 64 college campuses in the near future. And most of their campuses are in upstate New York.

And what about bleach, toilet paper and paper towels? I know one local child care facility that had to order a large amount to be sent to them by FedEx because the stores were out. The stock market is in nosebleed territory. Five members of the U.S. Congress are on self-quarantine after coming into contact with an infected person. World-famous iconic sites are devoid of humanity. The Louvre, the Trevi Fountain, LaScala Opera House, the canals of Venice — what are those places without crowds oohing and ahhing at their majesty. They are different, that is for sure.

The Houston Rodeo, the world’s largest rodeo and a Lone Star tradition for as long as anybody can remember, attracts 100,000 people a day. It closed down early leaving masses confused and wondering what to do. I know because my brother and his daughter got caught up in it.

New Rochelle, New York, is now under the care of the New York National Guard. Described as the “ground zero for coronavirus for New York,” the city has been significantly impacted by the spread of the virus.

OK, so enough about today.

I always write this column days in advance of its publication. So, everything I have listed above is current as of 4 p.m. Thursday, March 12, 2020. To give you an insightful measure of how big this thing is, and how fast it is moving, and how much in our life is changing right now, think about Thursday, March 12, 2020. I assume you will be reading this column when it gets published on Monday, March 16.

Has anything changed in the last five days?

I’ll bet it has.

So, what can we do? We can be aware. We can listen to the health professionals. We can follow safe practices. We can be prepared. We can demand answers. And we can, no, we must be flexible. Things are going to change. What we mustn’t do is spread rumors. We mustn’t ignore advice from those who know. We mustn’t adopt the “it will never happen here” mentality. And we mustn’t panic, for this too shall pass.

Mothers are the font of wisdom from which all else flows. When I was a kid, and probably you too, one piece of advice from dear old Mom still rings in my ears. “Hey, mister, get upstairs and wash your hands!”

True in 1955 and probably truer than ever in 2020.

Stay calm, be wise, watch out for your family and neighbors and be prepared.

And maybe saying a little prayer might be a good thing, too.

I’ll catch you in two ... 

"Big Chuck" D'Imperio's morning radio show can be heard weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Otsego County, WDLA-AM 1270 in Delaware County and WCHN-AM 970 in Chenango County.  All of his columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/opinion/columns.

Recommended for you