Staff Editorial: Coronavirus, the excuse you needed to practice good hygiene

In the past weeks, the spread of COVID-19  worldwide has sparked worldwide fear of the virus.

Throughout this process, major governmental and institutional issues have been exposed as well. Countries throughout the world, including the U.S., have struggled to test and isolate this virus. International travel plans are being cancelled, schools have been shut down (and in some cases virtual school has temporarily taken its place), and cruise ships are being quarantined.

This is a scary environment to be in and many people have been left feeling helpless to the inevitable spread of COVID-19.

Frantic Costco runs and efforts to stockpile anti-bacterial supplies have left storefronts barren of soaps, hand sanitizers, and face masks. Purell is the latest hot commodity.

However, there is one easy way that we all can temper the spread of the coronavirus. This simple mantra has been repeated on the news, social media, and by people we know, but warrants repeating: wash your hands. With soap, hot water, and for at least twenty seconds.

New Trier is a petri dish full of bacteria. Students leave the bathroom after only holding their hands under the water for two seconds. There is constant sneezing, coughing, nose blowing, and face touching. Because of this, classrooms are ripe with disease, sickness, and bacteria.

Washing your hands thoroughly (and multiple times a day, especially after you sneeze, cough, or blow your nose) as well as avoiding touching your face can make it more difficult for you to contract the coronavirus and pass it on to others. Not taking the proper precautions is irresponsible.

Teenagers tend to downplay the potential impact of the coronavirus because we are not the most at-risk demographic. Most pre-teens and teens have stronger immune systems than older adults, and the fear we feel (or lack thereof) reflects that.

For most students and high schoolers generally, contracting the coronavirus would just mean a cough, fever, and some bed rest (if that). But for others, the virus is a lot more dangerous and can yield more fatal effects.

Immunocompromised individuals are at a higher risk of fatalities from the coronavirus. Even though you personally may not be in life-threatening danger if you catch the coronavirus, neglecting your hygiene and disregarding habits that could stop you from spreading the illness is just self-centered (and frankly kind of gross).

Similar to the herd-immunity phenomena with vaccines, everyone doing their best to avoid getting sick will protect those with the most compromised immune systems from contracting the coronavirus.

So despite the massive government mishandling of this outbreak, the US’s inability to roll out the testing kits and make them accessible, and the immense amount of fear mongering and hysteria surrounding this virus, there is one simple way we can fight back. Wash your hands, cover your cough (in the crook of your elbow please), and if you are sick, stay home.

New Trier’s high-strung, academically obsessed culture does not always encourage the healthy habit of skipping school when you are sick. Though students sometimes justify coming in for classes because “making it up is harder than just going,” bringing your germs to school can have larger ramifications than you just needing to go in to talk to your teachers about what you missed.

There are currently over 107,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide with over 3,600 deaths according to Johns Hopkins CSSE. This novel coronavirus is spreading quickly and globally, and while there is not necessarily a need to panic, there is a good reason to be cautious and aware of what is going on.

But if there’s one potential positive that comes from all this, the coronavirus is the very excuse you need to practice the hygiene habits you were taught in pre-school and should have continued up until now.

There’s no need to panic or obsess unnecessarily over the spread of this virus, but just be thoughtful of the health of those around you and wash your hands for more than 2 seconds (with soap) next time.