Panic is a sudden sensation of fear, which is so strong as to dominate or prevent reason and logical thinking, replacing it with overwhelming feelings of anxiety and frantic agitation consistent with an animalistic fight-or-flight reaction. Panic may occur singularly in individuals or manifest suddenly in large groups as mass panic (closely related to herd behavior).
As confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus spread in the U.S. this week, school leaders nationwide are preparing for their worst-case scenario emergency plans. Some are already shutting down schools or considering online learning if the health threat persists. And some are simply saying: Wash your hands.
Dr. Thomas File is president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. As head of the organization, he is one of 12 physicians who consult weekly with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is in touch with other infectious disease doctors worldwide, including doctors in China.
Dr. Thomas File: I think people are freaking out too much. I think there’s unnecessary hysteria when people are wearing masks and it’s not necessary. Right now, we’re much more concerned about the flu than the coronavirus. The flu remains a higher threat to U.S. public health than the new coronavirus. This flu season alone has sickened at least 19 million across the U.S. and led to 10,000 deaths and 180,000 hospitalizations. Other coronaviruses have been circulating for years and are associated most commonly with the common cold. The novel coronavirus 2019 is genetically different, which means no one is immune to it and therefore haven’t developed antibodies against it. Everybody is potentially at risk for developing infection, some of which can be severe. What is difficult with this strain is it appears people can have it, not be sick and potentially transmit it. It’s obviously something to be concerned about, but there is no need to panic. The surgeon general has a message for people who want to run out and stockpile masks to combat the coronavirus – don’t. “Seriously people – STOP BUYING MASKS!” Surgeon General Jerome Adams tweeted. “They are NOT effective in preventing the general public from catching the Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!” The upper-case emphasis is all his, and shows how adamant he is that people stick to the script for prevention offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Panic. A photographer was assigned to get photos of a forest fire. Because there was too much smoke, he hired a plane so he could fly over the forest. When he arrived at the airport, a plane was warming up near the runway. He jumped in and said, “Let’s go! Let’s go!” The pilot received clearance and took off. The photographer looked out the window and said, “Fly over the north side of the fire and make three or four low level passes.” The pilot asked, “Why do you want to do that?” The photographer said, “Because I’m a photographer and I’m going to take pictures.” The pilot paused and asked, “You’re not the flight instructor?”
These guys know what it means to have a panic attack. Most of us have been there. We’ve been in situations that caused us to panic. When you find out you won’t be able to meet an important deadline at work. When you oversleep for a job interview. Or when you discover you don’t have the money to pay a bill. When your child storms out of the house and doesn’t come home for hours.
Panic! When some people panic, they become unglued. Regardless of how we handle panic externally, the internal result is the same: we become immobilized and powerless.
Your feelings may tell you God has deserted you, but God promises us. I will never leave you or forsake you. — Hebrews 13:5
Your feelings may tell you, your situation is more than you can handle. You may feel you deserve what you’re getting. You may feel you’re not worthy of God’s power and love. But God’s Word reminds us. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. — Philippians 4:13. That’s a promise you can trust.
Your feelings (remember not to trust them) may tell you to give up because God has more important things to worry about than you, but the Bible says God watches over you because you are important to Him.
We read in Exodus 14 about the escape from Egypt. The Egyptians, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, horsemen and troops pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea. 10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”
It’s the Exodus from Egypt! “Out of Africa!” Free at last for the first time in over 400 years. They are marching out rejoicing in their new freedom when suddenly they encounter a problem.
The Christian life is not lived in straight lines. A straight line from Egypt to Canaan would have been about 150 miles northeast and would take less than 2 weeks to traverse. But God takes them southeast, the long way around. The cloud of glory seems to be leading in the wrong direction. The same happens to all of us.
We have a goal, a destination in our mind, some place we want to go, something we want to become or achieve. Sometimes we even know that God is in it and wants us to get there, but we just can’t understand why it’s taking so long. Don’t be discouraged if God has you on a detour route. He knows what He’s doing. God knows what we can handle.
Panic. They’re hemmed in and pinned down. There’s no way out. Mountains of either side of them, a sea in front of them, and Pharaoh’s military is fast approaching. 13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” 15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. 30 That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. 31 And when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.
When you feel your back is against the wall “Fear Not!” Someone has said there’s 366 times the Bible admonishes us not to fear, and if that’s true, there’s one for every day of the year including this leap year. Psalm 71:3 Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
We panic when we feel powerless. Thanks be to God, we’re never powerless. Our Father gives us His power to help us. When you’re tempted to panic, you don’t have to face the situation on your own. When you think you have nowhere to run, you’ve got to know where to run. Run to God, and let him save you. Amen.
Do not panic over the reports bombarding us over the coronavirus. Just follow the tips from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to stay healthy. You can help yourself and your loved ones to stay healthy by washing your hands often, especially during these key times when you are likely to get and spread germs:
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After using the toilet
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
- After handling pet food or pet treats
- After touching garbage
Follow Five Steps to Wash Your Hands the Right Way
1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.