Commentary: COVID-19 triggers an outbreak of fear and uncertainty

Algenon Cash

Commentary: COVID-19 triggers an outbreak of fear  and uncertainty
March 12
00:10 2020

By Algenon Cash

The coronavirus has the stock market and country at-large roiling with government, non-profits, and the private sector all feeling the unexpected impact of the spreading of COVID-19. Stocks and oil trading have experienced the largest decline since the 2008 financial crisis. Consumers feeling a deep sense of uncertainty have emptied store shelves in preparation of a doomsday scenario.

Global investors are fearful the coronavirus may lead to a worldwide recession. The outbreak has more than 120,000 cases worldwide, with countries such as China, Italy, and Israel under extreme quarantine measures.  

Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency for North Carolina, while dozens of companies have cancelled events to further reduce potential spreading. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services has confirmed seven cases of COVID-19, with none requiring hospitalization.

The epidemic has left many questioning whether the reaction has been warranted or possibly excessive.  COVID-19 is most dangerous for elderly people with chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, or heart conditions, and so far children are not high risk. Those diagnosed with coronavirus experience flu-like symptoms such as fever and coughing – most patients recover after two weeks.

To put all this in perspective: coronavirus has killed just over 4,300 people since being first reported several months ago, but around 8,200 people in the United States have died from the flu this season and the World Health Organization estimates 650,000 people worldwide die annually.  

One significant contrast is that people have the option to help prevent the flu with a vaccine, which surprisingly most decline every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), less than half of American adults got a flu shot last season, and only 62% of children received the vaccine.  Nevertheless, there have been just around 15 million flu illnesses this season, and 140,000 hospitalizations.

But for some odd reason, the flu never receives the media attention an outbreak like the coronavirus does, and Americans do not worry about the flu despite it killing more people each year than any other virus.

Coronavirus originated in China and containment measures inside the country seem to be slowing the proliferation of COVID-19, while at the same time cases in other countries appear to be increasing rapidly.  Undoubtedly, it’s important that people follow the lead and directions of experts working to curtail the perilous situation. 

 Here are some tips to consider:

1.     Clean your hands often and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

2.     Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

3.     Stay home if you’re sick.

4.     Cover coughs and sneezes.

5.     Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.

Of course these are common sense practices that should be closely followed all year long, not just during a virus outbreak or flu season. Mass hysteria is a real possibility and it leads to people making uninformed decisions such as buying out all the hand sanitizer, facemasks, or toilet tissue – none of those behaviors actually prevent the spread of the virus. People should remain calm, but first and foremost, clean.

Algenon Cash is a nationally recognized speaker and the managing director of Wharton Gladden & Company, an investment banking firm. Reach him at

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