EDITORIAL: Going private

Residents should heed call to limit public interactions

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. (NIAID-RML via AP)

Every day more entities announce precautions against the coronavirus.

Schools at all levels have canceled or postponed sporting events and other school-sponsored travel.

Some have extended Spring Break. Universities across the country, including the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and the Texas A& M University McAllen campus, are using the additional time to create systems that will allow students to finish the current semester online, and thus not have to return to campus for the remainder of the school year.

Businesses are taking similar precautions.

The Valley’s two largest retailers, Walmart and H-E-B, have both reduced operating hours.

Other companies are allowing, if not asking, some of their employees to work from home if it’s possible and they desire to do so.

Surely many Spring Breakers are happy to have another week of vacation and others will adjust their shopping habits to deal with store curtailments. It’s important, however, to consider the reasoning behind the somewhat drastic measures, and adjust our activities accordingly.

The objective is to limit the amount of interaction we have with unknown people and reduce the possibility of exposure to the coronavirus. The Trump administration on Monday asked older Americans to just stay home, and all people to stop eating in restaurants and avoid other public places if possible.

It’s not something to be taken lightly; reducing our exposure to other people reduces our exposure to any communicable diseases any one of them might have.

There’s a large numbers of people come down with colds and other illnesses soon after flying in commercial airplanes, going to conferences or attending concerts. Everybody breathes the same air in such confined locations, and as crowds grow larger, so grow the chances that some of them might be sick, and pass their sickness on to others.

Therefore, those who suddenly find they have more Spring Break days to enjoy should think twice about going to large events on the beach or other public venues.

Those who go should gather in smaller groups of people they already know, and remain a safe distance from larger crowds.

Likewise, the idea behind stores’ shorter operating hours would be undermined if they only caused larger crowds during their shorter hours and thus increased rather than decreased shoppers’ exposure to others. People should plan their trips, buy what they need and get out as quickly as possible.

Window shopping will have to wait for graduation season.

Certainly, more limited shopping opportunities can be an inconvenience for some people, although extended school vacations might seem a windfall for others. However, we must remember that the idea is to allow people to stay home as much as possible to avoid possible contact with people who are sick, possibly with a serious illness.

If the suggestions meet their intended purpose, fewer people will get sick, the pandemic’s duration could be shorter, and we will have more time, and better health, to enjoy outside activities sooner rather than later.