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OK everyone, DON’T PANIC! Yes, the coronavirus (COVID-19) has reared its ugly head in the U.S., and along with it has come some of the sensationalism generated by such things.

Many of you heard the strange noise here in the valley this past week as our 401K’s disappeared down the stock market commode. I think that event along with China putting up its “Sorry we’re closed” sign have many people thinking the worst and reacting accordingly. One headline I saw this past week read, “Outbreak of stupidity spreading 10,000 times faster than the Corona virus,” which is probably very true in some instances.

If you’re a parent, you’ve often experienced crises, paranoia and quarantines over childhood diseases like pinkeye, chickenpox, colds, flu, etc., etc. I remember an experience my wife and I had that could qualify as a crisis when we took our 8-month-old son on a trip with us to Michigan. We were flying standby on Western Airlines and had been bumped twice, leaving us stuck in the Chicago airport for two days with only two diapers. Now THAT’S a crisis.

I’m even hearing comparisons between the coronavirus and plagues of “biblical proportion.” Really? Biblical proportion? I reserve the modern-day equivalent of that particular classification to driving on I-15 or running out of chicken nuggets at school.

The fact that this virus has shown up during an election year has really ratcheted things up a notch or two or seven by providing a platform for all the politicians in their mudslinging efforts to discredit one another. While each side is blaming the other, the only ones actually claiming responsibility for anything are the Taliban and General Tso’s Peking duck emporium in Wuhan.

The really sad part about all of this is that as people start panicking, there are those out there who seek to profit from the hysteria. Remember during the last solar eclipse all the jacked-up prices for those special glasses that were supposed to protect your eyes and the people who rented out prime “viewing” cow pastures and parking lots for thousands of dollars? Going back to the whole thing about biblical times, I’m sure there were people back then who took advantage of the crazed masses with tent cities springing up around Noah’s Ark touting “waterproof” robes, shower sandals and inflatable camels.

Who would have thought that the makers of surgical masks, hand sanitizer and Clorox would haul in such huge amounts of cash? I even saw a bottle of hand sanitizer on Amazon selling for $79! (Hurry only six left in stock!)

I remember being in Flint, Michigan, when there was a trucking strike going on in during the ’70s and the grocery stores emptying out of critical survival items — like water, batteries, generators, cigarettes and beer — in a matter of hours.

I have a hard time imagining what it would be like to actually depend on our food storage or having to forage for sustenance in a crisis. The idea of “Well, we’ll just hunt and fish for what we need” brings its own specific challenges. Our overpopulated urban deer and turkey numbers would certainly go away almost overnight, and I can just imagine the conversation between my oldest sons as they talk about possible solutions.

Son No. 1: “So what’s up with this Coronavirus deal?”

Son No. 2: “Well, to me it means ditch the size restrictions and screw the bag limits.”

So much for patiently waiting in a bread line.

As a teacher, I also wonder what it would be like if our schools had to shut down for an extended period of time due to a pandemic. I mean, how does that work? As anal as state education officials are sometimes when it comes to making up snow days (virus days?) down to the last calendar nano-second, I can predict that kids will be making up missed elementary school days until they’re 19.

I found it interesting (and a little scary) that people in China are or were being paid reward money for alerting the authorities to friends or neighbors who exhibited symptoms of the virus. Makes total sense to me, as I happened to sneeze on the bus on my way to school last week and 10 people took my picture intending to forward the images to the block warden. At 300 bucks a head, teachers could finally supplement their income squealing on sick kids and co-workers (I think I got turned in this week).

Researchers are talking about bats and other mammals as possible sources of the virus, which has led to discussions at school about Jingle and Jangle, my classroom pet rats. Not only are they a huge part of our classroom family and student body and would be hard to see go away, they also consistently score in the top one percent on the end-of-year state testing.

I guess for me, the hardest part about this crisis is sifting through all the information that experts and novices alike are offering up to the public, and then determining its credibility. I guess if worse comes to worse, we’ll hole up in the man cave in the basement with a box of MRE’s and my case of hickory smoked Spam. Lynda promises to visit.

Chad Hawkes is a fifth grade teacher at North Park Elementary School. He can be reached by email at chad.hawkes@ccsdut.org

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