Opinion: Putting this year’s Captain Trips in perspective

Doug McMurdo

There’s a fine line between letting people know there is a superbug zooming around the planet getting people sick — and even killing some of them — and sparking mass hysteria.

That was the worry of The Times-Independent this week when the newspaper reached out to local officials to ask what their response would be should the coronavirus make its way to Moab. It seems inevitable that one of the world’s more popular tourist destinations would be at high risk of an outbreak.

There is no vaccine available at the moment. Antibiotics work against bacteria, not viruses. And the flu shot won’t protect you from coronavirus, but it will protect you from the flu, which is what you are much more likely to catch.

People can also take precautions, some of them more difficult to pull off than others. It could be difficult to avoid close contact with someone who is sick, but you can stay home if you are the one who’s feeling under the weather.

Wash your hands with soap and water after using the restroom, before you eat and after you sneeze or cough. This might be the best advice you will get. Good hygiene pays dividends that go way beyond a Pepsodent smile and a lack of body odor.

But let’s put things in perspective. As of Monday, fewer than 90 of the roughly 90,000 cases worldwide were in the U.S. and two of the 3,000 deaths were in the U.S. There are 7 billion humans on the planet and 90,000 is about 0.001 percent of 7 billion.

Let’s look at this year’s flu season. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 32 million and 45 million people — only in the U.S. — have caught the flu. Between 14 million and 21 million people were treated for the flu and between 310,000 and 560,000 of them were hospitalized. Between 18,000 and 46,000 deaths have resulted. Worldwide, this year’s flu season will claim roughly 650,000 lives and that is not atypical.

Granted, these are wide ranges and the CDC acknowledges they are preliminary estimates based on weekly influenza surveillance data. That’s a far cry from the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic that killed an estimated 50 million people – about 5 percent of the global population at the time.

In closing, you should know there is a superbug zooming around the planet getting people sick. The flu bug is also out there. And while there is cause for concern, don’t let your anxiety get out of control — and keep washing those hands.

My wife traveled to Nevada for a two-week visit with our daughter and her family. We’ve been apart a few times over the past three decades, but this is the first time I’ve been 100 percent a good boy. I made the bed every morning. I did the dishes every night.

The first week I ate what I wanted when I wanted and listened to music a little louder than she likes, but that was about as rebellious as I got.

I did enjoy that first week, but the second week was not so fun. The dog was not adapting well to being alone and neither was I. Loneliness, as Kris Kristofferson once wrote, had become more than a state of mind.

Saturday I drove to Tooele, the closest halfway point without meeting in the middle of nowhere, and we were reunited. Hugs and kisses all around.

We also brought home Sophia, our youngest grandkid, who will spend a few weeks with us. She’s a precocious 4-year-old who asks about 4,000 questions a minute, every minute, and I intend to answer every single one of them to the best of my ability.

Life is better when you spend it with people you love.