I’m just past the second week of my annual spring cold.

Blessed with bronchitis since a young age, the aforementioned spring cold comes with a telltale cough: it starts with a deep, dry bark before evolving into a phlegmy rattle. It’s almost gone now, but you can imagine the looks I got last week when the cough escaped my attempts to keep it at bay – with Benylin, Halls and water.

At a Minden Hills council meeting, for example, I got ‘looks’ and at least one staffer pulled out the hand sanitizer. Despite my repeated assurances, it was just a cold, many a Haliburtonian moonwalked away from me.

As I write this, from my kitchen table at home, I realize I just don’t want to be out there and be seen as a coronavirus-carrier or someone with full-blown COVID-19. I’ve been doing most of my work from home since that council meeting.

I guess I’m lucky since I have the sort of profession where I have the luxury of doing that. I can conduct interviews via email or phone. Now that just about everything is cancelled, I don’t really have to go out and cover anything, anyway.

Meanwhile, my partner just came back from the grocery store in Minden. There was no toilet paper at either Foodland or Valu-Mart. It appears there’s also been a run on frozen vegetables and potatoes. A lot of shelves were empty with limits of two per customer. The rabid stocking up continues.

I guess I can’t completely fault people. They’re scared and panicky. As a member of the fifth estate, I have to take some responsibility, although I believe the Haliburton news media has tried to keep its stories factual, informational and non-sensationalized.

Safe to say, the world has gone a little crazy since last Thursday.

The coronavirus, or COVID-19, is affecting all of us. School children will see their March break extended into April. Parents are scrambling to provide care for them. Some of us are working from home. Some of us are not so fortunate. College students are wondering how they can do hands-on learning via distance education. Businesses are very concerned about empty establishments and equally empty bank accounts. Municipal government has ground to a standstill. Live entertainment has been shelved. The Highlander can barely keep up with the cancellations and postponements filling our inbox.

So, it’s pretty easy to add anxiety to that already mentioned fear and panic as we seem to have slipped into some dystopian novel.

But, as a community, we don’t have to be fearful, panicked or anxious.

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge (HKPR) District Health Unit says there’s no need to panic.

They said declaring COVID-19 a pandemic has to do with how quickly it spreads, not its severity.

The majority of people who test positive for COVID-19 are experiencing mild symptoms and are recovering fully, the health unit said.

People in the county have been sensible in cancelling and postponing events to try to slow down the spread of the virus. Further, if people take the precautions health partners across the region are advising, this can be a manageable situation.

Stay home if you can. Enjoy some quality family time. Tackle some of those home-based jobs you’ve been putting off. Catch up on books, podcasts, radio and television. Leave some toilet paper and groceries for your neighbours.

In other words, keep calm and carry on

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