The United States is now home to over 1,000 people who’ve been diagnosed with coronavirus, and 30 have died. Undoubtedly, we have a situation on our hands. Increasingly, it’s being called a pandemic.

I had to look “pandemic” up, as it’s not a word I typically use. I don’t participate in most pandemics, like the annual influenza “season” that you probably fear every winter. I haven’t had a case of the flu, or the common cold, in almost two decades — but I’ll get to that in a bit.

For now, let’s talk about coronavirus. In addition to the global outbreak, we’re also managing rumors, misinformation, and irrational fear. I think the outright paranoia about COVID-19 that’s gripping so many people is CRAZY.

A woman working at my gym told me that people are cancelling their memberships in the wake of the scare. That seems counterintuitive to me. If you’re happy, a gym is a great place to help you stay healthy, not a place to avoid.

Major music festivals like Coachella are being cancelled, along with campaign rallies by both Senators Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, for fear of the coronavirus. And the next televised president candidate debate, scheduled for Sunday night, won’t have a live studio audience.

Speaking of studio audiences, both Jeopardy and Wheel Of Fortune will soon begin taping without one.

Major airlines are cancelling flights. School districts are closing.

The NBA is contemplating banning fans from the stands, and there’s talk of the NCAA cancelling March Madness.

And speaking of madness, sales of Corona — the beer — are up despite news that Americans won’t drink it. There’s no correlation, people. Enjoy your beer — if you’re not sick. If you are, stick to OJ and lots of water.

Not this OJ.

Last night, I was never happier to turn on CNN and find their anchors droning on about primary election results from states with only 1% of precincts reporting. For the first time that day, it seemed, Anderson Cooper and company weren’t talking about coronavirus. The topic has been dominating news feeds for days.

Should you be concerned about coronavirus? Yes. Of course, especially if you’re a senior, have a compromised immune system or other health issue — or if you practice poor hygiene, never wash your hands even as you cough into them, and touch your face a lot.

But we should have been on high alert anyway, as we’re in the middle of what you probably refer to as “flu season.” It’s a “season” that I haven’t observed, or even acknowledged, in years.

Most of us enjoy four seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. “Flu” is not a season, and I stopped referring to it as such almost two decades ago. As I mentioned earlier, I have not had a cold or the flu in over 19 years.

In February of 2001, I got so sick with a case of influenza that I could barely move. I missed about a week of work while I was at home, sweating it out in bed.

When I pulled out of that one, I decided that I’d had enough of the flu to last a lifetime, and was going to take measures to make sure I’m never that sick again, if I have anything at all to do with it.

What measures, you ask? I wash my hands — a lot. I am fanatical about doing cardio five days a week. And I don’t hang out with sick people. I’ve turned down meetings, and invitations to parties, over the issue.

Last Christmas, I rescinded an invitation to my home for a holiday movie night after a friend told me he “thought” he was no longer contagious, after he had been off from work for several days. Get back to me when you’re sure, bruh, and Merry Christmas.

I also eschew buffets, pot lucks and the like while the world celebrates “flu season.” I don’t share utensils, even with my kids. When I feel a headache coming along, I make sure I get extra sleep and make sure I’m eating healthy meals. I don’t wear my contact lenses much during the “season,” reducing the amount of time I’m sticking a finger in my eye.

Any of that sound familiar? It should if you’ve been following news coverage on COVID-19. All of those tips are on everyone’s list for avoiding infection.

And I have to say that it seems that every year, the media trumps up something for us to be afraid of. If you’re old enough, you remember the Swine Flu. Or Y2K. Or killer bees. Or for that matter, HIV. All were and should have been of concern, but all were also accompanied by at least partially unsubstantiated hype and paranoia.

So back to COVID-19 — here’s the scoop: read up on coronavirus, so you’re not one of the idiots walking around the shopping mall in a surgical mask that you should have allowed someone who works in the medical profession to buy. The masks should only be worn if you’re already sick and have to go out, for the protection of other, healthy people. They’re not going to do much to protect a healthy person from being infected.

You also won’t be one of the fools buying up all of the toilet paper and hand sanitizer. If that’s not paranoia, I don’t know what is.

Read up on COVID-19. Get the facts. Then, it comes down to a simple question. It’s a question that may be a bit much for you if you’re not a person of faith. Are you going to wield fear, or faith?

I’m not necessarily talking about the Bible-toting Pentecostal type of faith — although I’m fairly well versed at that, and my advice applies to them, too. I’m speaking of the kind of faith that is dead without works. The kind of faith that is the substance of things not seen.

And the kind of faith that you can only wield when you let go of fear — even coronavirus fear. You can’t hold on to both faith and fear at the same time.

And for the Bible-thumpers, the last time I checked in with the scriptures, I think I read that the Creator didn’t give me the spirit of fear.

So when I am confronted with it, as I was last Saturday evening when I walked into my favorite Chinese restaurant to grab an order of my beloved sweet and sour chicken and thought that GASP! I COULD CATCH THE CORONAVIRUS IN THERE!, guess what I did?

I snapped out of it!

Then, I scooped up my sacked Chinese chow and I took it home. I washed my hands really well before I sat down to eat. Experts advise singing two choruses of the Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday” while we’re scrubbing our hands, and making sure we get under our fingernails, between our fingers, and under our rings.

See? I’ve been paying attention to the news coverage! I’m certainly not advocating ignoring science.

Remember the climax to Indiana Jones & the Raiders Of The Lost Ark? A guy can dream can’t he?

But like the customer I chatted with at the deli counter at Raley’s yesterday, a guy who suffered from emphysema and whose shopping trip was made possible by a wheelchair and a trusty tank of oxygen, I will not to cower in fear — or stop living my life — while I avoid coronavirus infection.

And that’s a good thing, because that Saturday night sweet and sour chicken dinner was incredible. This weekend, I think it’ll be Szechuan shrimp.

Published by Michael P Coleman

Freelance writer. I used to talk to strangers and get punished. Now I talk to strangers and get published.

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