I’ll be the first to admit, when news of the novel coronavirus first broke, I didn’t pay much attention.  After all, it was a story we had all heard before. HIV/ AIDS, Ebola, Zika. You get the picture. But things quickly changed.

COVID-19 quickly found its way into headlines across the world, spreading like wildfire. Within days, this seemingly insignificant virus became a global pandemic. One which Americans were clearly not prepared for.

The last time the US dealt with a pandemic was in 1918 with the Spanish Influenza crisis, a time before the vast majority of Americans’ living memories. So, when news of the first case of COVID-19 in the States made headlines, rumors and uncertainty quickly clouded the facts.

I’m sure you have been privy to such rumors. From claims that COVID-19 is a political hoax created by Democrats to fake cures marketed by televangelists to desperate citizens who can’t afford proper health care, no one is completely sure of the risk the virus poses.

I mean, some people don’t even believe it exists. Others think Corona beer is in some way related to COVID-19 (hint: it’s not).

Fear and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 has been exacerbated by poor leadership, as the president himself peddled a few falsehoods about the virus, assuring Americans that it would simply disappear one day. Or that his administration is doing a “great job.”

But it hasn’t and they aren’t. Now, close to 2,000 Americans have tested positive for COVID-19, but it’s likely far more.

Lack of adequate testing is certainly cause for concern, but it seems that many Americans are putting the ‘panic’ in ‘pandemic.’ Just go into any grocery store and you’ll get a glimpse of the apocalypse at work. Toilet paper, hand sanitizer, face masks. Well, I suppose this is as good a sign as any that Americans haven’t dealt with a pandemic before.

You’d think people would go nuts over food, but no, Americans will poop in luxury until the end of time.

It’s perfectly normal, healthy even, to be concerned or afraid. But panicking is the worst possible way to tackle a crisis. It can be easy to fall victim to the fire and brimstone predictions, I know. It’s a side effect of prolonged uncertainty.

The reach of COVID-19 now goes far beyond the grocery store, with schools and businesses across the country closing or suspending services. Events canceled left and right, everything from March Madness to church services.

It might seem crazy, but social distancing does work.

Yes, it’s an inconvenience. A major inconvenience. Such action is unprecedented. It has likely thrown millions of lives into chaos. Is this an overreaction, canceling every event for the foreseeable future? No, it is not.

An overreaction is buying twelve 48-packs of toilet paper. Social distancing, however, is the best way to fight the virus. This practice gives health professionals critical time to develop a vaccine without the healthcare system being utterly overwhelmed.

It’s important to do your homework on COVID-19. Know the sign, symptoms and risk factors. Look to WHO and the CDC for reliable, accurate information. Uncertainty makes us blind to the needs of others, and we must consider others’ interests if we want to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The reality is that the number of cases will continue to rise, but we can make it so it doesn’t happen all at once.

Remember that the elderly is most at risk of critical illness related to COVID-19. They are the ones who need the most care. So, if you are the person who is buying ungodly amounts of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, stop panicking. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned for your health. We can overcome COVID-19, but the American fighting spirit isn’t enough.

Determination won’t keep you healthy, but proper hand washing will. So, will social distancing.

Just be smart. Be clean. Be considerate. Now is not a time to panic. Admittedly, a massive outbreak would certainly make for a fantastic science fiction novel, but let’s leave the apocalypse to the professionals who can contain it in a book.