Coronavirus has caught the world off guard and everything is changing

Mike Jiggens

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The coronavirus pandemic is starting to hit a little closer to home. Events and other public gatherings are being postponed or cancelled left and right, including one close to my heart – the annual chamber of commerce Trivia Night fundraiser in Delhi for which I’ve been involved the past 15 years.

These aren’t easy decisions to make, especially considering the amount of work that goes into organizing these events. But these are pre-emptive measures designed to keep the public safe and to slow down the spread of this virus.

Not everyone is happy with these decisions. Some believe they are merely knee-jerk reactions to what they figure is an illness no worse than the flu. Reaction to the coronavirus is something that is being blown out of proportion, they’ll argue. I actually shared that opinion, more or less, as recently as a few weeks ago, but the more I read about it and the more I listen to what the medical community has to say, the more my take on it is starting to change.

When it’s decided that schools should shut down for three weeks and that professional sports leagues indefinitely cease operations, it’s time to sit down and take notice and perhaps think about this in a whole new way. It’s true that far too many people are succumbing to hysteria. Cleaning store shelves out of toilet paper is a bit much.

The unexpected extension of the March school break by another two weeks has caught working parents off guard, and they’re scrambling now to find care for their children. A typical school year is supposed to include “X” number of instructional days per academic year. Rotating strikes among teachers have already reduced that number, and these additional two weeks have compounded the matter that much more. I’m at a loss to guess how this will ultimately be rectified.

Die-hard sports fans are disappointed to see the hockey and basketball seasons come to a grinding halt, especially with the NHL and NBA poised to begin their playoffs next month. It’s incredulous to think that professional golf’s Masters tournament would be cancelled or that college basketball’s March Madness would be scrapped. But these things have happened, and these decisions have come at a steep cost. Billions are being lost without the revenue from television advertising and ticket sales.

These are costly measures, but are being done for the world good. The number of TSN and Sportsnet viewers is going to drop like a stone over the next while as Canada’s two leading sports networks will likely fill their programming voids by airing sporting contests from yesteryear.

Human behaviour has been altered as a result of the coronavirus spread. I attended an industry event last week, and little or no handshaking took place. Instead, we used fist or elbow bumps to greet one another. I’ve personally decided to put formal handshaking on hold for the time being. It’s bothersome to have to use hand sanitizer after each shake. You won’t offend anyone by refusing to shake hands. Since the declaration of coronavirus as a pandemic, everyone “gets” that handshaking needs to be paused for now.

A new human foible has arisen from the coronavirus outbreak. It’s being called social distancing, meaning that individuals should stand at least one metre apart from one another while engaged in conversation so that any projected droplets emerging from the nose or mouth have a lesser chance of reaching the other person. Social distancing also negates the urge to shake hands unless both parties are orangutans.

Until we get through this, wash your hands regularly, refrain from out-of-country travel and buy only as much toilet paper as you need.