Coronavirus: Watch, prepare … and wait

Keep calm and carry on — but be ready. That’s the advice American authorities are giving us, and it’s sound. Panic is pointless, but prudent preparation is vital.

After brief remarks at Monday’s press conference urging the country to remain coolheaded, President Trump wisely let the experts speak. Deborah Birx, the physician/ diplomat who heads the White House coronavirus team; Tony Fauci, the nation’s top expert on infectious diseases; and several others gave us news we can use.

“Every American has a role in stopping the spread of the virus, and so we wanted to put out guidance for every American and every community that was practical and common sense,” Birx said.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams noted who’s most at risk: the elderly. The average age of death from COVID-19 is 80; the mortality rate for under-40s is only 0.2 percent. And he was clear on what not to do: Stop using face masks (unless you’re contagious); they do little to protect the man on the street, but shortages put the health professionals who need them most at risk. The best defense by far is to wash your hands regularly and (as the virus spreads) avoid crowds.

Adams was also frank: “Unfortunately, you’re going to see more deaths.”

The feds have made some mistakes: Errors by pros at the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration delayed production of sufficient effective test kits. But it’s now ramping up, and testing will increase rapidly until the epidemic’s over.

And the administration is getting its job done, says the chief executive of America’s bluest state. Trump “said everything I could have hoped for” in their private conversation, California Gov. Gavin Newsom told reporters Monday. “And every single thing he said, they followed through on.”

Here in New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio is doing his best to channel post-9/11 Rudy Giuliani, giving regular progress reports to share all the information he has with anyone who’ll listen.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is just as open, reporting that New York has nearly 170 confirmed cases of coronavirus — with only eight people hospitalized and no fatalities as of yet. But we’ll see more: “These numbers are going to continue to go in one direction — and that is up.”

On Tuesday, the gov sent the National Guard to New Rochelle (New York’s corona epicenter so far) to set up a “containment center,” though not yet a full quarantine. Several universities are moving to online-only instruction. Many employers are preparing to maximize telecommuting. More large-scale events will be canceled.

Keep watching, and respond to events as they unfold. Cases look to have peaked in China and South Korea; the United States surely isn’t there yet — but it will be.

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