By editorial board • 

Cool head best defense against all forms of fever

OK, first of all, calm down.

Stop buying filter masks. Every competent medical authority says they do nothing to prevent you from contracting the coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19.

Masks should be worn only if you’re already infected. In that application, they may prevent you from spreading the virus to other people.

Grabbing every mask on the shelf may actually hurt people with seasonal allergies and other conditions — people masks are designed to help.

While we’re on the subject of caring about others, think before you buy all the toilet paper in the store. Many local retailers barely have a square to spare for all the hoarding.

Show a little restraint. Remember other people need toilet paper, too.

Yes, there’s a slim chance you might be quarantined for something like two weeks. You should stock up on shelf-stable food and other essentials. That’s a good idea independent of any health threat.

Unexpected crises come in many forms. Pandemics aside, earthquakes and other natural disasters could require you and your loved ones to fend for yourselves for a few days.

The Boy Scouts are right: Be prepared.

However, the best thing to keep in full supply is wits.

COVID-19 is scary. People understandably want to do something — anything — to protect themselves. This leads to frantic thinking, and everything from wearing filter masks to boycotting Corona beer.

Some of the hysteria echoes the days following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, when people hoarded gas masks and sealed off their homes with duct tape.

Fear is a virus that feeds in environments without the antitoxin of information. And government officials help create this pestilential petri dish.

Nationally, the president prattles in his trademark brand of disjointed gibberish. More locally, hospital administrators and health officials restrict any information beyond bland but carefully crafted statements fed through narrow keyholes.

Trust in our basic institutions is crucial when confronting a pandemic. Controlled information and uncontrolled misinformation do nothing to engender that trust. People fill the voids left behind with their fevered imaginations.

There’s no evidence COVID-19 will evolve into a nightmare scenario straight out of science fiction. Of course, given the insurmountable task of proving a negative, there’s no evidence to the contrary either.

It suddenly becomes easy to envision hundreds of sick and dying people warehoused in a high school gym. Easy but incredibly premature.

All human beings can ever do is hope for the best, prepare for the worst and deal with the available facts. The facts in this case are that on an individual basis, you can do  little to help, no matter what course the virus takes.

Wash your hands. Avoid touching your face. Stay home if you feel ill.

Above all, remain calm. A cool head is your best weapon against any fever, whether physiological or psychological.

Take the actions that will help you and the rest of the community. Reject the snake-oil solutions and cultivate the critical thinking skills to recognize the difference between the two.

Turning into a doomsday prepper won’t spare your body. It will only ravage your mind.

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