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Smith: Be smart, don't let the crazy out over the coronavirus

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Can someone please tell me -- why the run on toilet paper?

Since the announcement that COVID-19 - otherwise known as the coronavirus -- has hit Iowa, I've seen lots of empty paper product shelves in photos from friends and family.

And I have to wonder: Does a 14-day self-quarantine really require several cases of TP?

At the Globe, we've been extraordinarily busy trying to get as much useful information as possible about the coronavirus and its impact out to you. We've dropped our paywall for all coronavirus-related stories and now you can subscribe to a daily newsletter that will contain all our latest local information as well as a roundup of what's leading the national news.

Make no mistake - this is not a case of media hysteria, people. The coronavirus is serious, it is here and it will spread. That's what viruses do.

The issue is how much can we as a nation work together to slow its spread. If you've done any reading on this illness then you know by now that slowing its march is absolutely essential to eventually containing it.

Why? Because an explosion of cases is much more difficult for our health care infrastructure to handle than a constant, but manageable flow. 

That's why public events like Friday's concert at the Surf, or The Gathering local farm to table program at the North Iowa Event Center have been canceled. That's why NIACC is switching to online classes and Waldorf has extended its spring break. It's why all Iowa state schools are doing the same.

The fewer large gatherings we have the less likely there will be a major outbreak. This is common sense.

If you're sick, stay home. If not, keep your distance, but live your life.

And that includes continuing your daily routine.

Because if the markets are telling us anything, it's that this virus also has the capacity to do serious damage to our economy.

Here's a local anecdote that's a perfect illustration. My oldest son works as a waiter at a higher end restaurant here in town. On a typical night, he can make more than $100 in tips because of the constant flow of customers he serves.

This week? He's been sent home early and has made no more than $11 a night in tips.

"No one is dining out," he said.

Now that is a problem. We can't let our local businesses suffer economic hardship. 

Here's what you can do:

As long as you're not feeling unwell, keep up your daily routines. Don't shake hands, don't touch your face, wash your hands while singing the refrain for "We Are the World," but don't hibernate.

Nervous about going out? How about buying a gift certificate from a local business to use later?

Or use GrubHub or another food delivery service. It's here in Mason City and lots of local restaurants use it.

And stop hoarding toilet paper. Please.


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