By John Stone

Wow, what a difference a week can make in how we live!

From wondering about how the coronavirus COVID-19 might affect us, we are finding most events that attract people in large crowds have been cancelled, including all the basketball tournaments at the high school and college levels that we used to watch to carry us through the spring snowmelt.

“Social distancing” and “community spread” were terms we heard about before but now they have become ways of life. Instead of planning gatherings of friends for weekend events we’re gathering food and toilet paper and preparing to hunker down for a while, practicing social distancing to prevent community spread.

There are some important things we don’t seem to know about COVID-19. Anecdotal evidence so far seems to indicate that it is possible to be contagious with the virus before a person has symptoms. There isn’t enough study yet to show how far in advance of symptoms that may be. There are also cases in China where people who have apparently survived the illness and no longer have symptoms still test positive for the virus. It is not known yet if that is a problem with the virus or the testing procedures. And are they contagious again?

Those of us over 60 and those with certain health conditions are considered the most at risk. As we age, our immune systems become weaker and viruses can hit us harder. It was interesting, and a blessing, that there were no deaths of children under the age of 9 in the first thousands of cases reported.

It has been interesting, and frightening, to see how quickly something like this can spread around the world. The earliest documented traces of this particular virus are very late October or early November. By December, it was quickly spreading through parts of China infecting thousands.

In this world we live in, nothing is more than 24 hours away from us. People travel all over the world. Thousands of people board aircraft every day that take them across oceans and international borders. A single disease-infected person can be near hundreds or even thousands of other people in a single day.

We don’t know how long this will be with us and we don’t know what the total impact will be on our lives. Certainly many businesses may see less traffic as people distance themselves from others. Reduced traffic in stores and restaurants may mean layoffs of workers, a really stressful thing for a person already worried about getting ill. While programs are being considered that might help some of these people, there isn’t anything firm yet. Other businesses may be affected as well if someone in a plant or office becomes infected or if employee health becomes a risk.

Let’s hope and pray efforts like social distancing work and slow the spread of COVID-19. Let’s also hope that as we learn more we can benefit from that knowledge to also slow the spread of the disease. And let’s hope that scientists can come up with an effective vaccine that may not help us today but will protect us in the future.

In the meantime, practice good hygiene and take care!

John Stone is the former mayor of Glenwood and former publisher of the Pope County Tribune and Starbuck Times. In the Know is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.