Fear can spread faster and do more damage than any outbreak

Events have moved very, very quickly this week.

Monday opened with a stock market crash and endless waves of stories about the spread of coronavirus.

We’re not going to offer advice about dealing with the coronavirus.

We will, however, offer advice about who you should listen to.

Mainly, listen to actual medical scientists and local officials.

Take with a grain of salt advice from most people who make their livings talking into a microphone.

If that living has been made by a tradition of whipping people up, or of peddling quack solutions to complex problems, run from that advice as fast as you can.

Listen to the folks on the front lines combating the illness, not those hoping to make political hay.

The threat of coronavirus is not to be underestimated. The threat of its running mate, panic, should not either.

Panic robs us of reason and the ability to make sound decisions. It chews away at our humanity and our sense of community. Panic opens the doors to all sorts of horrors. And it spreads rapidly.

A man who knows a thing or two about horror, author Stephen King, once said, “Panic is highly contagious, especially in situations when nothing is known and everything is in flux.”

That’s a pretty good description of what we’ve seen this week.

So, listen to the experts. Take care of yourself, your loved ones and your neighbors.

We would offer one suggestion to readers if some of the more dire predictions of the coronavirus outbreak come to pass: Keep the kids in mind.

There have been a number of cancellations of large events, and in Japan schools have closed. Should schools close here, take a moment and think about the recent “Stuff the Bus’’ effort. Thanks to community support, toiletries, clean clothes, shoes, etc. have been made available to local students facing challenges at home, with efforts being made to make sure students who count on meals at school had those needs met during break.

If schools wind up being shuttered for health reasons, those kids will need to be the focus of our attention again. If there’s a combination of prolonged economic distress added on top of that, local food banks are going to be under an awful lot of pressure. Should the worst case become a reality, let’s keep them in mind.