In the early years of the Obama presidency there was a dangerous outbreak of the H1N1 / swine flu virus. Estimates put the number of infected in the U.S. at more than 60 million people which resulted in 12000+ deaths. The Obama administration did almost nothing for 10 months, then declared a state of emergency, and weeks later after the flu season dissipated, the story quickly disappeared from the media’s radar and life went on.

There was no panicked 24/7 news coverage – at least nothing close to the levels seen today. No journalists screaming at the president. No by-the-minute updates regarding new cases or new deaths. In short, none of the manufactured hysteria we now see going on with the coronavirus outbreak – an outbreak that appears to be significantly smaller in overall scope than the H1N1 pandemic which is believed to have killed as many as 575,000 people worldwide. (By comparison there are fewer than 6000 coronavirus deaths so far – or about just 1% as many as died from H1N1. When you apply the death rate comparison of the two outbreaks to just the United States, (just 50 deaths so far) the numbers are even lower – .4%.

And remember, coronavirus is almost exclusively a threat to the elderly, especially those with underlying health conditions. For those in good health it poses very little threat even for those who contract it. Many won’t show any symptoms at all while others will only have very minor symptoms equal to the common cold. The media continues to downplay this fact or in the worst cases, ignore it altogether.

Last week Dr. Drew Pensky shared his thoughts regarding the media malpractice that has surrounded the coronavirus outbreak:

“The panic must stop. And the press, they really somehow need to be held accountable because they are hurting people.”

He’s right. The media is hurting people – but people need to be held accountable as well for their own behaviors. Take a moment to go beyond the overly dramatic headlines and you’ll find the truth – coronavirus is a legitimate public health concern – primarily for the elderly who are already in poor health. Measures taken to protect those people is a good thing, both at the family level, the local level, the state level, and the national level. Having said that, the media-generated panic that now surrounds the virus is quickly becoming far more damaging than the virus itself.

President Trump never said the coronavirus was a hoax – he called the media coverage of the virus to be a hoax. Sadly, he’s right.

That’s a problem that we as a society need to take a hard look at in the coming weeks and months.

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