There are two very good reasons why I am not going to write a column about the coronavirus begetting mass hysteria.  

First, I’d feel like a fool if I died of COVID-19 after pooh-poohing it in print. And, second, I couldn’t live with myself if I thought I agreed with Donald Trump about anything. 

That said, the response to the coronavirus does seem all out of proportion to the risk.  

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

gladly risked my life to watch the Bowdoin women beat Brooklyn College in the first round of the NCAA D-III basketball tournament and no one in the stands was wearing a surgical mask. Then Bowdoin announced it would play the Sweet 16 round without spectators. Then the New England Small College Athletic Conference canceled all spring sports. Then colleges decided to send all their students home. 

Statistically, it is extremely unlikely that you will get the coronavirus and it is very likely that you will survive it if you do. As of this writing, there have only been 4,100 cases and 71 deaths in the United States, most of them elderly patients in nursing homes, not college students. 

In Maine, there were 17 confirmed and suspected cases as of Monday, but there had not yet been any deaths. 

I keep hearing that the coronavirus is 10 times more deadly than the seasonal flu, yet since last fall, there have been an estimated 45 million flu cases and 46,000 deaths in this country. How come we didn’t cancel school and sporting events because of the flu? There’s something very irrational going on here. 

 Globally, the coronavirus has claimed 7,000 lives. That may sound like a lot, but it’s less than the number of people killed each year by tsetse flies (10,000), and, as far as I can recall, they’ve never called off the Olympic Games because of sleeping sickness. 

As usual, Donald Trump has made the coronavirus outbreak all about himself, which is why I have no qualms about doing so as well. 

“I like this stuff. I really get it,” he told reporters. “People are surprised that I understand it. Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability.” 

But every word he speaks reveals how little he understandsTrump thinks the coronavirus is a media hoax designed to make him look bad ahead of the November elections. 

Meanwhile, the media is having a field day, the stock market is having fits, schools are closing, sporting events and concerts are being canceled, foreigners can’t fly here and cruise ships full of sick people are sailing around in circles just offshore. (If there is a bright side to the coronavirus outbreak it’s that it might kill off the cruise ship industry, an indefensible enterprise of floating germ factories that have been polluting the planet for years.) 

But, hey, don’t panic. Just don’t take any unnecessary cruises. Wash your hands frequentlyDon’t touch your face. (Good luck with that.) And don’t worry if you can’t find surgical masks at your local pharmacy. They don’t help anyway. Toilet paper is another story. 

Yes, there’s something irrational going on here, alright. It seems the panic may be worse than the virus.   

What the coronavirus has revealed is the paucity of courage and common sense in this country since fear and ignorance won the 2016 election. Let’s pray this widespread panic will all be over by November, by which time Americans may have returned to their senses. 

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