No reason for us to panic over virus

If it hadn’t already, the concerns over COVID-19 struck home late Monday when organizers announced that this year’s Festival of Nations had been canceled in the wake of concerns organizers had about the spread of the coronavirus.

The day-long festival, which was organized annually by the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center, offered residents of the Tri-State Area the chance to get a glimpse of cultures from around the world through food, entertainment and informational displays. It was a much-anticipated event of late winter and early spring, and one which drew hundreds to the Millsop Community Center.

The announcement came from organizers of the event at nearly the same time that Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced that several people in Northeast Ohio had tested positive for the virus. And his announcement came just a few days after Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said positive tests were increasing in his state.

It also came at a time when the major professional sports in North America announced jointly new locker room restrictions that will essentially limit those areas to players and team personnel. Organizers of some major sporting events around the world, in fact, have already made the decision to allow their events to continue, but spectators and non-essential personnel will be banned.

And all of this comes not too long after producers announced that the release of one of the most-anticipated films in years, “No Time to Die,” the latest installment in the James Bond series, had been moved from April to November.

The Festival of Nations is not the only Tri-State Area event that will be canceled or postponed in the coming days and weeks as the effects of the virus continue to increase and will, inevitably, reach our region. On Tuesday, we learned that the Ohio Valley Business Conference, which had been scheduled to be held today at Eastern Gateway Community College had been postponed. We also learned that the next two meetings of the Jefferson County Safety Council, a program run through the Ohio Department of Workers’ Compensation and held monthly at EGCC, have been canceled.

The later come in the wake of DeWine’s decision to declare a state of emergency in Ohio and his request to community college presidents that events at their schools be, at the least, postponed.

From what we know about the spread of the virus, it’s impossible to question the decisions of organizers who choose not to proceed with their events.

In the meantime, we all need to remember to follow simple precautions as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Avoid close contact with people who are sick; avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth; stay home from work if you are sick; cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue that you then dispose of; clean and disinfect regularly touched surfaces; and wash your hands often with soap or water for at least 20 seconds.

For people who might be at higher risk — including older adults — it’s also a good idea to avoid crowds as much as possible and limit non-essential air travel and cruise travel.

In short — use common sense. But above all, remember that while we are right to be concerned about the possible effects of the virus, there is no reason for panic in the coming weeks.