Bill Sniffin: Coronavirus – Greatest Plague – Or Biggest Overreaction Ever?

A news report on TV Sunday predicted that 100 million people in the USA could be affected by the virus. What does that mean?

Bill Sniffin

March 08, 20204 min read

(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily publisher

As of right now (Sunday afternoon, March 8), Wyoming has not had a recorded case of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and that is a huge relief.

A news report on TV Sunday predicted that 100 million people in the USA could be “affected” by the virus. What does that mean?

If you are over 65 and have a medical condition like a bad heart, high blood pressure, diabetes, or some other chronic disease – well, you better be careful. By the way, that describes most of my buddies at the Fox News All-Stars coffee group, which meets every morning in Lander. It probably describes the Benchsitters in Buffalo and even the crowd at the Cheese Barrel in Casper.

Two years ago, a young, vibrant friend of ours, Leslie Blythe, died at the Casper hospital from complications of the flu. That was a wakeup call for all the thousands of Wyoming people who knew her. If Leslie could die from the flu, then we were all vulnerable.

So how does that compare to the Coronavirus?

By now everyone has read about it and heard about it on TV.

Not hard to find cynical views of this “over-reaction.” Radio guru Joe Kenney in Lander says: “I think the media has so overblown this virus it’s crazy. We were walking the dogs on the path in City Park today and a woman walked by giving us the stink-eye and I told her the dogs wouldn’t bother her. She said she wasn’t afraid of the dogs, she was afraid of the coronavirus. I told her the dogs didn’t have it, either!”

Joe continues “So far this flu season 18,000 people in the USA have died of the regular flu, and, what, 10 from the coronavirus? Why aren’t people getting crazed by the regular flu?

Joe concluded: “I was at NAPA on Friday and owner Rick Bestul showed me a box of ten 3M facemasks. His price is about $28 every day of the year. On Amazon Friday they were $188 a box, and now I hear some stores are having a run on toilet paper? Frikkin’ country is going nuts. Don’t you have something better to write about?”

Pat Schmidt said the Cheyenne Sam’s Club had a run on bottled water and toilet tissue.

Bill Schilling of Casper wrote me: “Bill, I would be careful on this. Give it two weeks to see how many spikes occur. My fiancee’s daughter and family live in Kirkwood, WA. Ground zero there. University of Washington with 40,000-plus students has gone to all online courses.”

As aside, the word coronavirus is more of an umbrella term that refers to a group of viruses that cause diseases like SARS, MERS and COVID-19.

As is often the case in the scientific world, coronavirus’ name is Latin. In the ancient language, corona means crown.

According to officials, virions give off the appearance of a crown when the virus is examined with an electron microscope. As for the new disease caused by the coronavirus, it was originally called novel coronavirus. In February, the World Health Organization gave us the name COVID-19.

The CO stands for corona. VI is for virus. And D means disease.

The 19 is for 2019, the year the disease first appeared in China.

To escape Wyoming’s recent cold and snow, Nancy and I sneaked off to Las Vegas, where we keep our motorhome in the winter. What we are seeing in a big city is astonishing. Every cart at the local Albertson’s, local Walmart, and local Sam’s Club is full of cases of bottled water.

My friend Dan Whetstone saw people buying entire pallets of bottled water at a Costco.

They are also buying toilet tissue by record numbers. You see lots of people wearing masks and you cannot find a bottle of Purell hand sanitizer for sale anywhere.

Whether an overreaction or not, this is shaping up to be the biggest story of 2020 with huge ramifications to the economy and the presidential election. Stay tuned.

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Bill Sniffin

Wyoming Life Columnist

Columnist, author, and journalist Bill Sniffin writes about Wyoming life on Cowboy State Daily -- the state's most-read news publication.