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PD Editorial: Leaders need to offer straight talk on virus

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How To Reduce Your Risk

Local health officials urge practicing good hygiene to reduce the risk of becoming infected with a respiratory virus, such as the flu or coronavirus. This includes:

• Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

• Avoid touching your eyes and face

• Cough or sneeze into your sleeved elbow

• Stay home when ill

• Get a flu shot, and it’s not too late this season

Source: Sonoma County Department of Health Services

For more information, go to sonomacounty.ca.gov/Health/Information-About-Coronavirus.

Questions or concerns can be directed to the county’s 24-hour information hotline at 211 or 800-325-9604. You can also text “COVID19” to 211211 for coronavirus information.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

By now, we all should know about social distancing, washing our hands and sheltering in place. Here’s one more thing that would help people get through the coronavirus pandemic: straight talk from public officials.

At the federal level, President Donald Trump keeps touting unproven treatments, contradicting public health experts and, even worse, causing shortages of medication desperately need by people with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. One vital drug now in short supply is used to prevent organ damage in lupus patients.

Unfortunately, the president isn’t alone in offering inaccurate or incomplete information.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom created a stir with his almost offhand comment last week that public schools aren’t likely to reopen until fall. Parents already trying to figure out home-schooling regimens are now waiting for details about how the state plans to manage a lengthy closure.

Another example: Newsom’s prediction that a staggering 56% of California residents — 25.5 million people — will be infected with COVID-19 within two months. The figure was included in a letter seeking federal assistance. But the letter lacked important context: The forecast was based on an unrealistic scenario in which the state took no steps to stem the spread of the virus.

Here in Sonoma County, the refusal of health officials to provide the most basic details about coronavirus patients is adding to public apprehension.

Patients’ names are, justifiably, protected by federal health privacy laws. But county officials are refusing to provide such basic information as patients’ age, gender and city of residence, citing privacy laws. They also refuse to disclose how many of those who have tested positive are being treated in area hospitals.

We’ve heard from readers who want to know if there are hot spots to avoid when they leave home to exercise or buy essentials. We think the information also might help disabuse people of mistaken notions that younger people aren’t susceptible, which may be contributing to people ignoring orders to stay home and avoid crowds to slow the spread of this contagious respiratory infection.

Other counties have been more forthcoming.

For example, Marin County, where Dr. Matt Wills, the public health officer announced his own COVID-19 diagnosis over the weekend, has released statistics regarding the age range of people who tested positive at its drive-through testing site. Marin also announced that infections aren’t clustered in any part of the county.

In Napa County, officials named the cities where the two local patients live and provided some background on them. One is a law enforcement officer who works outside the county, and the other recently traveled to another state.

Some people have irresponsibly asserted that the virus is no more worrisome than the seasonal flu and that most of us can go about our normal activities without fear. The fact is we’re in the early stages of this outbreak, and no one knows how much worse it will get or how long it will last.

To avoid a worst-case scenario, we’re being asked to take unprecedented precautions to protect ourselves and others, including health care professionals on the front lines. It’s a big challenge, and straight talk from public officials would definitely help.

You can send a letter to the editor at letters@pressdemocrat.com.

How To Reduce Your Risk

Local health officials urge practicing good hygiene to reduce the risk of becoming infected with a respiratory virus, such as the flu or coronavirus. This includes:

• Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

• Avoid touching your eyes and face

• Cough or sneeze into your sleeved elbow

• Stay home when ill

• Get a flu shot, and it’s not too late this season

Source: Sonoma County Department of Health Services

For more information, go to sonomacounty.ca.gov/Health/Information-About-Coronavirus.

Questions or concerns can be directed to the county’s 24-hour information hotline at 211 or 800-325-9604. You can also text “COVID19” to 211211 for coronavirus information.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

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