Coronavirus Pandemic & Paranoia vs Fearing, Caring & Sharing – By Yvonne Sam

  By Yvonne Sam – Commentary

Amidst the panic what message are we sending to the kids.

The news has been received—Yes, the coronavirus is here. Fear Not.

But mass panic is also here- FEAR.

As a health care professional for more than four decades, there is very little to which I have not been exposed in my profession – HIV, whooping cough, tuberculosis, shingles, measles, hepatitis, diphtheria. And with noteworthy exception of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Acute Syndrome), very little has left me feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed or straight-out scared.           

I am not overly afraid of COVID 19.  Instead, I am deeply concerned about the ramifications of a smacking new infectious germ that has disseminated.

I am not scared of COVID-19. I am concerned about the implications of a novel infectious agent that has spread the world over and continues to find new footholds in different soil. I am rightly concerned for the welfare of those who are elderly, in frail health or disenfranchised who stand to suffer mostly, and disproportionately, at the hands of this new scourge. But I am not scared of COVID-19.

What I am scared about is the loss of reason and wave of fear that has induced the masses of society into a spellbinding spiral of panic, stockpiling obscene quantities of anything that could fill a bomb shelter adequately in a post apocalyptic world.

I am scared of the N95 masks that are stolen from hospitals and urgent care clinics where they are actually needed for frontline health care providers and instead are being donned in airports, malls and coffee lounges, perpetuating even more fear and suspicion of others. I am scared that our hospitals will be overwhelmed with anyone who thinks they “probably don’t have it but may as well get checked out no matter what because you just never know …” and those with heart failure, emphysema, pneumonia and strokes will pay the price for overfilled ER waiting rooms with only so many doctors and nurses to assess.

I am scared that travel restrictions will become so far reaching that weddings will be canceled, graduations missed and family reunions will not materialize. And well, even that big party called the Olympic Games … that could be kiboshed, too.

Can you even imagine?

I’m scared those same epidemic fears will limit trade, harm partnerships in multiple sectors, business and otherwise, and ultimately culminate in a global recession.

But mostly, I’m scared about what message we are telling our kids when faced with a threat. Instead of reason, rationality, open-mindedness and altruism, we are telling them to panic, be fearful, suspicious, reactionary and self-interested.

COVID-19 is nowhere near over. It will be coming to a city, a hospital, a friend, even a family member near you at some point. Expect it. Stop waiting to be surprised further. The fact is the virus itself will not likely do much harm when it arrives. But our own behaviors and “fight for yourself above all else” attitude could prove disastrous.

I implore you all. Temper fear with reason, panic with patience and uncertainty with education. We have an opportunity to learn a great deal about health hygiene and limiting the spread of innumerable transmissible diseases in our society. Let’s meet this challenge together in the best spirit of compassion for others, patience, and above all, an unfailing effort to seek truth, facts and knowledge as opposed to conjecture, speculation and catastrophizing.

Facts, not fear. Clean hands. Open hearts.

Our children will thank us for it.

Social distancing could qualify as an oxymoron in Italy, where walking arm-in-arm with friends, kissing neighbors in greeting and patting the heads of babies are part of the demonstrative culture.

But a new virus has rapidly redefined the concept of respecting personal space for tactile Italians, as well as for South Koreans, Filipinos, Americans, Spaniards and citizens of many other crowded parts of the world.

Whether acting under government orders or following basic public health advice, people are putting distance between themselves to keep the coronavirus away. The new rules of engagement call for maintaining a gap of one to two meters (or three to six feet) to prevent possible exposure when an infected individual coughs or speaks.

The safe space standards also reveal how closely humans positioned themselves before.

Overnight, habits of a lifetime and of an entire society were turned upside down.

Yvonne Sam, a retired Head Nurse and Secondary School Teacher, is Vice-president of the Guyana Cultural Association of Montreal. A regular columnist for over two decades with the Montreal Community Contact, her insightful and incursive articles on topics ranging from politics, human rights and immigration, to education and parenting have also appeared in the Huffington Post, Montreal Gazette, Pride Magazine,  XPressbogg and Guyanese OnLine. She is also the recipient of the Governor General of Canada Caring Canadian Citizen Award.

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  • Ken Persaud  On 03/20/2020 at 2:26 am

    The author:

    “The new rules of engagement call for maintaining a gap of one to two meters (or three to six feet) to prevent possible exposure…”.

    All the experts I have heard and read uniformly say it should be two meters or six feet. Three feet is way too close.

    I’m afraid, Miss Sam, you are disseminating, dangerously, the wrong message.


    • S.Tannis  On 03/20/2020 at 8:43 am

      See the link below bro of March 18. The lady is right.

      Whether acting under government orders or following basic public health advice, people are putting distance between themselves to keep the coronavirus away. The new rules of engagement call for maintaining a gap of one to two meters (or three to six feet) to prevent possible exposure when an infected individual coughs or speaks.

      • Ken Persaud  On 03/20/2020 at 11:19 am

        That is misinformation. The recommended distance is six feet. That outlet may have erroneously printed that three feet separation 4 days ago, but one day ago corrected it to six feet.

        Besides, common sense dictates that you are more likely to inhale droplets from a sick person if you are three feet away from them than six feet.

        About 50 reputable medical experts (professors) from major universities have all recommended six feet. Not one mentions three feet.

        If you adhere to a three-foot separation from an infected person, you are doing so at your own peril


  • Hermina  On 03/20/2020 at 1:40 pm

    Mr. Persaud what is your occupation? Why are you so hooked up on social distancing? If the New York Times have printed misleading information then bring out your information to refute them. The lady has given a range of three to six feet. That means that six feet is also within the desired distance.
    Sorry but I fail to see your point. I like many others have always said that the editor should not subject readers to idle and baseless mouthings,

    • Bernard  On 03/21/2020 at 2:17 pm

      Yvonne Sam has no credibility. She should be ignored.

      • Hermina  On 03/22/2020 at 7:35 pm

        My pity goes out to you. Ponder on this if your level of intelligence will allow. In the clash between ignorance and intelligence, ignorance is usually the aggressor. There is nothing more frightful in this world than ignorance in action. To quote Confucius Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.
        On another note instead of acting asinine and blatantly moronic support all statements made to bear out your point.
        You need your few seconds of writing glory, for which you should give the editor thanks as it is clear as hell

        Instead of condemning try copying as it is clear to all readers that you are no way near to the writer’s standards.

      • Bernard  On 03/22/2020 at 8:08 pm

        Hermina, everyone is entitled to their opinion, even you.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 03/20/2020 at 5:26 pm

    Hermina: I would rather ignore the man – Thanks for stepping up!

  • Ken Persaud  On 03/20/2020 at 5:39 pm

    To my fellow Guyanese:

    If you have read that three feet away is a good distance, you should ignore it. The overwhelming opinion in the medical/scientific community is six feet. To do otherwise is akin to Russian roulette.

    For those who are not yet aware, you should do the following in addition to keeping a two-meter distance:

    1) wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
    2) do not touch your mouth, eyes or nose with unwashed hands;
    3) sneeze and cough into your sleeve, not into your hands,
    4) if you ill, stay home;
    5) avoid crowded places.


  • Tata  On 03/22/2020 at 6:04 pm

    Sounds personal! But what’s New? Most Guyanese men don’t respect a women’s point of view. So what’s the argument? Coming from a family of healthcare specialists, this is great advise from someone who’s been In the frontline of saving lives.

  • brandli62  On 03/23/2020 at 12:40 pm

    Overall, I support the basic message of Ms. Sam’s commentary that we should approach the covid-19 pandemic with reason based on scientific evidence. Keeping distance from eachother more is better than less is sound advice. To practice basic hygiene rules is also absolutely correct. As some might know, I usually do not agree with Ms. Sam’s political commentaries, here however I have to concede that she is right on message. I hope you all stay healthy!

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