Mass Hysteria: An incorrect response to coronavirus

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Ambulance workers move a man on a stretcher from the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash. into an ambulance, Friday, March 6, 2020. The facility is the epicenter of the outbreak of the the COVID-19 coronavirus in Washington state.  (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Ambulance workers move a man on a stretcher from the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash. into an ambulance, Friday, March 6, 2020. The facility is the epicenter of the outbreak of the the COVID-19 coronavirus in Washington state. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

“It’s been a week of insanity,” residents outside of Evergreen Hospital say. Washington state as a whole has been seeing more and more cases of the novel coronavirus by the hour, especially in condensed areas like Kirkland and Seattle. As of March 5 there were 70 cases, but according to the previous source, the city is afraid to test more patients for fear of too many people turning up positive. If this were to happen, public panic would amplify, causing the economy to take a plunge. So in reality, the number of diagnosed cases in the area is actually unknown.  

Regardless of the city’s hesitance to test more people, there still seems to be mass hysteria. Residents in Seattle say that it feels like everything is closing — classes, recitals, field trips … even across the nation, several railway systems have been temporarily suspended due to reduced demand for train services. The momentary halting of some of these functioning systems within our society is mainly a result of public hysteria. In the U.S. epicenter specifically though, it seems to be a weird mix of business as usual — soccer games and trips to the mall —  contrasted with people who are walking around “fully covered.” Some people will go as far as to cover their hands and hair, or to use N95 masks over their face —  even when driving in their cars alone. Panicked residents are buying up all the toilet paper and bleach. In the meantime, hospitals don’t have access to appropriate masks or other personal protective equipment, forcing nurses and doctors to work in unsafe and unsanitary conditions while caring for sick patients. This is only perpetuating the problem, making more people in hospitals sick, and creating a greater risk of the virus being passed on. At Evergreen Hospital, professionals are calling it “the zombie apocalypse.” 

There is an issue with the way our society is treating this outbreak. It seems that most people fall on “opposite ends of the spectrum,” either toward panic and hysteria, or careless indifference. There should be some middle ground here, though. On the one end, terror-stricken residents —  who are hoarding supplies and refusing to use public services — are debilitating our economy and actually enhancing the outbreak. But on the other end we have residents who are treating the virus like the “common cold,” which it is not.  

The media is at fault for framing this skewed perspective within our society. This fear-mongering technique is nothing new, and has been largely over-played in the media as of late. This virus outbreak should be treated seriously, but mass hysteria seems to be an exaggerated response with negative consequences for everyone involved. Much of the media is misleading in its portrayal of the outbreak and its consequences. People want to believe that this is the “second coming” or the “end of the world,” but the reality is, generations before ours have dealt with disease outbreaks far worse. The media has invoked this sort of mass hysteria by focusing almost exclusively on details about the outbreak, and in some cases exaggerating their effect.  

These media platforms are most likely being influenced by the government. Beijing accused America of using “scare tactics” by “pulling nationals out and restricting travel instead of offering significant aid.” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said “Washington has unceasingly manufactured and spread panic.” Definitively, the government has had a hand in the nation’s perception of the coronavirus outbreak, and is responsible for the adverse chain effect it has created. 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual writers in the opinion section do not reflect the views and opinions of The Daily Campus or other staff members. Only articles labeled “Editorial” are the official opinions of The Daily Campus.


Samantha Bertolini is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at samantha.bertolini@uconn.edu.

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