3/13/2020, 6 a.m.
Coronavirus is nothing to sneeze at.

Coronavirus is nothing to sneeze at.

While people should not panic as the number of infections and deaths rise globally and in the United States, we should take the proper precautions. Many of those precautions are simple things, such as hand washing with soap and water, covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough and wiping down surfaces with disinfectants.

We also must prepare individually for possible disruptions in our work, school or worship schedules or travel plans if businesses, schools and universities and places of worship are closed temporarily, and conferences or events are postponed or canceled, to avoid contact with or transmission of coronavirus.

What drives people’s fears and anxieties is that the virus is new, mysterious and potentially fatal, with a higher death rate than that of the flu. Coronavirus grabs people suddenly, and its symptoms can accelerate rapidly, causing death largely among the older population and those whose immune systems may be compromised with underlying conditions.

And while some people with the virus may be asymptomatic, they can potentially spread it to family members, co-workers or fellow church members who may wind up sick and/or suddenly placed under a 14-day quarantine.

Nationally, the climate surrounding coronavirus has been made more alarming by President Trump, whose lack of understanding, denial and outright misinformation about testing, preparation, containment and vaccines — there are none yet — have slowed the nation’s response, hindered the public’s knowledge and understanding of the situation and reinforced his narrative that America must shut down the borders to keep out the dangerous “other.”

Sadly, this pandemic is another instance in which we must point to the president and say, “Nevermind him. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

We must ignore the commander in chief and, instead, turn to the scientists, physicians and health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and in our state and local health departments to get a true and clear understanding of the scale of the coronavirus problem and to learn how we, the people, can respond in the most effective way to prevent contracting it and transmitting it to others.

We give high marks to Gov. Ralph S. Northam, a physician, who has shown leadership in bringing together health and other officials early on to discuss and plan Virginia’s response to this crisis. Testing is being handled in the state lab in Richmond, cutting down on the time in getting results because the test samples won’t have to be sent to the CDC in Atlanta for analysis.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there are nine confirmed cases of coronavirus in Virginia and more than 1,050 across the nation, with 35 confirmed deaths. As testing ramps up, officials expect more cases to be uncovered.

Globally, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 121,500 cases, with 4,373 deaths.

We also give kudos to Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras, who has canceled all school-sponsored and division-sponsored travel outside of Richmond for students and staff.

He also has asked families of the 24,000 students in city schools to prepare now for the possibility of schools being closed if a student or staff member is diagnosed with coronavirus. And he is asking the School Board for authority to reallocate $500,000 for supplies and services to deal with the coronavirus response.

We urge our readers to prepare as well, and to stay informed with credible science-based information.

Here are some helpful websites that answer a va- riety of questions, provide tips for preparing for and dealing with the virus and how to prevent its spread:

• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

• World Health Organization — www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

• Virginia Department of Health — www.vdh.virginia.gov/surveillance-and-investigation/novel-coronavirus/

Health professionals advise us that the best things to do right now are simple:

• Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds each time.

• Wash your hands frequently.

• Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough.

• Avoid touching your face.

• Avoid large crowds.

• If you feel sick, stay home.

• Consider stocking up on medicine and food for

family and pets for a two-week stay at home. We hope everyone stays healthy and safe.