How To Help People Affected By The Coronavirus

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Since December 2019, the spread of a new coronavirus originating in Wuhan, China, has had people all over the world taking extra precautions to protect themselves from the illness. Now meeting the criteria for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, the outbreak has people worried about the ultimate devastation the virus will cause.

On Feb. 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced an official name for the strain of the coronavirus: COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The name change is an attempt to combat stigma and discrimination surrounding the virus since it was first identified in Wuhan, China at the end of 2019.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, tweeted: "Under agreed guidelines between WHO, the @OIEAnimalHealth & @FAO, we had to find a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people, and which is also pronounceable and related to the disease."

Though the virus has been found in 24 countries as of Feb. 11, the largest concentration of the outbreak remains in its origin country, as China's sick toll is nearing 43,000 confirmed cases, and 1,018 fatalities. In an effort to control the outbreak, Wuhan residents are under quarantine, which has limited their ability to get fresh food and other necessities and resources on their own.

There are only 13 confirmed cases in all of the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meaning the threat of infection is not currently considered an emergency. On Monday, Governor Cuomo shared that there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New York. According to The New York Times, the basic flu is more of a threat to New Yorkers than COVID-19 with 57,000 cases of the flu reported across the state and counting. Being aware of the threat level, severity of the illness, and the actual state of the COVID-19 outbreak, versus giving into fear mongering behaviors is a personal responsibility that should be taken seriously.

You'll want to put your efforts into helping people affected by the COVID-19 by donating your time, energy, and resources to relief efforts. Here's a list of organizations that are currently accepting help, resources for responsible, and reliable information on the state of the outbreak, and other ways to make a difference:

1. Prevent Misinformation

When a global crisis is occurring, and there's a constant flow of information being broadcast and embedded in our awareness, it's easy to take in false or misleading information, accidentally. If we're not diligent about staying up-to-date with factual reporting, or we rely on unofficial sources, we risk spreading not only inaccurate information, but also promoting xenophobic mentalities. The New York Times has a live update vertical for COVID-19 information that you can check regularly for reliable and accurate information and CNN is providing live coverage of COVID-19 news, in addition to a daily summary report.

Part of responsibly portraying information is to avoid behaviors that promote unnecessary precautions fear-mongering behaviors. Currently, the U.S. is not in a state of emergency, so wearing face masks in public not only sends a message of unnecessary fear, but also uses up a valuable resource that's needed by people who work with people who are sick which could be better valued in China. What's more, there's currently a face mask shortage, and the CDC continues to stand by the fact that wearing a face mask really won't do anything unless you're a doctor, interacting with potentially sick patients.

Send Messages Of Support

Nearly 50 million people either infected with COVID-19 or in danger of becoming infected are on lock down, quarantined from their families and friends. You can send these people messages of support and love via social media so that they can see that positivity and hope is being sent their way. According to the BBC, "Stay strong Wuhan!" or "Keep on going Wuhan" are phrases that are being cheered locally.

Donate To An Organization That Supports Public Health

When an outbreak occurs, it's the public health organizations that are able to contribute resources and finances to the right places most efficiently. Because we don't yet know the extent of the toll or have an idea of how resources can be most efficiently utilized, organizations in the U.S. are mostly not yet coordinating dedicated relief. Donating to The Public Health Institution or Save the Children will help them prepared to support the cause when needed.

Be Responsible

One of the most important ways to help the people affected by COVID-19 is to do your part to control the spread of the outbreak. The more people that are affected, the less resources there are to go around. Maintaining your own health is one of the most responsible things you can do. According to the CDC, the best way to defend yourself from getting sick from COVID-19 is to wash your hands regularly (especially after being in public places) for at least 20 seconds with an alcohol-based sanitizer soap, to stay home if you're feeling run down, and to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. If you've recently traveled to China and believe you might be sick with the COVID-19, call a doctor immediately and do not touch or interact with others until you're given instructions on the best way to be seen. Showing up at a local hospital or clinic could endanger other patients, so speak with your doctor on the phone and follow their directions.

If you do become symptomatic, remember that people in the U.S. are exponentially more likely to be sick with the seasonal flu or common cold, which both have very similar symptoms to COVID-19 infection. So stay up to date with information, follow protocol, and call your doctor if you're feeling sick, just to be safe.

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