Call first

By KAREN FIORETTI,

The first dozen or so cases of the coronovirus disease have been identified in Mississippi. It is officially a worldwide pandemic, sparking nationwide cancellations of schools, sporting events and even church services with more than 4,500 cases nationally.

The good news is that these measures are being taken, at least in Mississippi, before the virus reaches epidemic levels here. Prevention is always the best cure, and while it's probably not realistic to think Attala County will not experience any cases of coronavirus, following official warnings will narrow its spread.

Rather than being gripped by fear about what we can't control or making rash, bulk purchases, residents should focus on the little things they can do that in aggregate can make a big difference in saving lives.

The first step is to avoid large gatherings. It makes sense that the more people an infected person comes in contact with, the faster the virus can spread. Also, because the symptoms can take up to 14 days to emerge after someone is infected, they could be spreading it to others without even feeling sick. So the best policy is to not interact with large groups unless necessary.

Stay home with your family. Play some games, read a book or newspaper and talk together, all things that are sometimes lost in our busy, hyper-digitized culture. A self-quarantine may turn out to be a welcome relief for your family's mental health.

Second, good personal hygiene habits matter. The virus is spread through the air via water droplets when infected people talk, cough or sneeze. Those droplets can survive on surfaces like desks or shelves, and another person can be infected if they touch the droplet and then touch their mouth or nose.

Those effects can be mitigated, though, by hand washing and disinfecting hard surfaces. Wash your hands often and do it for at least 20 seconds while thoroughly scrubbing. Be sure and dry your hands completely because moist surfaces give microscopic organisms a better chance of survival, and use lotion if your hands start to dry out because cracks in the skin can allow viruses in. Then sanitize your home by using disinfectants, typically simple bleach, as per the instructions on the packaging.

Third, if you suspect you or a family member have the virus, CALL FIRST. Do not head to your preferred doctor’s office, clinic or the hospital. Call them first so that they can screen you and — if a visit is warranted for testing — they can give you instructions on a process that will help prevent you from infecting others as you seek testing and/or care.

Keep the needs of others in mind. Do you REALLY need that extra package of hand sanitizer or toilet paper? Check in (via phone) with those who live alone or are members of especially vulnerable populations.

It is very likely that additional measures intended to curb the spread will be necessary as more testing leads to more confirmed cases. For the sake of ourselves, our families, and our community, we urge everyone to employ common sense and concern for others as we deal with this public health crisis.

We're confident Attala County can and will meet this challenge. We just need to keep the faith and listen to public health officials with level heads.