Our View | COVID-19: Cause for Concern, but Not Panic

By The Signal Editorial Board

It’s easy to understand the sense of alarm about the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

On its face, the news can seem scary and it should not be taken lightly. But it should not be taken with panic, either. 

And so far, it seems the response from our local public officials has been appropriately measured. This week, county Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the 5th District, which includes the Santa Clarita Valley, introduced a motion to be considered by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday calling for the county to request federal help for the county to prepare and plan for dealing with COVID-19. It’s an appropriate step and we expect it will be approved.

The news about the virus, which originated from so-called “wet markets” in Wuhan, China, has been evolving rapidly, and it’s certain the news will have changed between the time of this writing and its publication. While it may be tempting to calculate fatality rates of this sometimes deadly virus, health officials say that can be a moving target. What is clear is that the fatality rate varies significantly based on age and general health, from less than 1% for healthy individuals under 50 to more than 14% for those over age 80, according to a report by the Chinese Journal of Epidemiology.

As of this writing, there are 33 confirmed cases of the virus in California, and the state is monitoring 8,000 people — mostly travelers who came via commercial airlines from Asia — for possible exposure to the virus, according to a statement issued Thursday by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who also called on the federal government for assistance, including additional testing kits.

Of those California cases, none are known to exist in the Santa Clarita Valley. As far as we know, only one SCV resident has contracted the virus: KHTS Radio co-owner Carl Goldman, who is in quarantine in Nebraska after returning from the cruise ship, Diamond Princess, which was docked at Yokohama, Japan, after the first case of an infected passenger was discovered in early-February.

Goldman’s wife, Jeri, had been traveling with her husband on the cruise ship, and she, too, is quarantined in Nebraska, separate from Carl, and as of this writing has not tested positive for the virus.

We wish both the Goldmans well, and will welcome them when they finally get to return home.

Meanwhile, as concern increases about the virus and its potential to spread in the U.S., clinical trials are expected to get under way in about six weeks on a potential vaccine, according to the biotechnology company Moderna Inc. 

“Vials of (the vaccine) mRNA-1273 have been shipped to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a part of the National Institutes of Health to be used in the planned Phase 1 study in the U.S.,” according to a statement issued by Moderna.

That’s promising news. In the meantime, the public should remain alert and take the normal precautions one should take to prevent the spread of any illness. 

It’s a situation that calls for prudent caution — but not hysteria.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has posted a set of guidelines on its website, cdc.gov, to help protect against the spread of the virus. 

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