Coronavirus is foremost in many peoples’ minds at the moment. And for good reason–we’re watching the virus spread through Europe, Asia and the U.S. and receive constant updates on the newest infection numbers from dozens of different sources. 

Whether or not coronavirus has reached your community, people are stocking up on essentials, most notably toilet paper, hoarding large quantities in their homes while throwing dirty looks at anyone who comes near, as anyone could be a carrier of this highly-contagious virus. 

In the midst of this widespread panic, in an election year no less, it is hardly a surprise that the coronavirus has become a favorite topic for the three contenders–Trump, Sanders, and Biden. While President Trump works to address the crisis, Sanders and Biden critique his response. 

But what strikes me the most is the fear mongering by media outlets. The New York Times reports that Sanders “warned that the death toll of Americans from the coronavirus could exceed the number of U.S. soldiers killed during World War II.”

Let’s be clear here. The coronavirus does pose a serious threat to our communities and to our economy. It needs to be addressed swiftly and deftly. But comparing this threat to the death toll from a world war is not helpful and only serves to frighten people and add to the already widespread panic. 

300,000 American soldiers were killed in World War II. But that was a time when the U.S. population was much smaller. According to the 1940 Census, the total US population was 132 million. Today, our population is estimated to be 331 million. We have almost 3 times more people in this country than we did before World War II. 

To continue to put the numbers that we are constantly seeing in perspective, thousands of Americans die from the flu every year. Last year was a particularly bad year and, according to the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, about 57,000 individuals died from the flu. We rarely hear those numbers reported, nor does the media whip us up into a panic every season. 

Coronavirus is very serious. It is more deadly than our normal influenza and we should not take chances. But read the stats with some context in mind. If we can work together, we can try to limit the effects of this highly contagious virus. 

So wash your hands frequently, participate in the social-distancing called for by your communities, look out for those who are particularly at risk but don’t panic. Our country has made it through crises before and there will be others after this one. Just stay calm, be informed, and take the extra time at home to finally read that book you’ve always meant to read. We can work together and we will get through this.