Diplomatic Notes

Responding in crisis

The world is currently facing the specter of a global pandemic. One of the common reactions to threats of harm is panic. The problem with panic is that it is often irrational and not based on facts and can exacerbate an already volatile situation. When we look at wall street it often seems to be driven by panic; the slightest sign of danger and everyone runs for the hills in fear only to reverse course soon after when the fears prove to be unfounded.

The current coronavirus threat is one of those instances where there is great opportunity for fear and panic. I am by no means minimizing this very real global threat, but what I am saying is that in order to have the best chance of success we must have the most measured, fact-based response. If we do not have this type of response then unproven remedies, unproven theories, unsubstantiated claims will proliferate, and it may become hard to separate fact from fiction.

What I have tried to do in responding to this crisis is to begin with known, substantiated facts from credible sources, which means not accepting a WhatsApp forward from a random person promising that if you drink lemonade combined with seaweed you will be cured.

If we begin with credible information and sources, we stand a much better chance of responding correctly and effectively to such crisis. In formulating my responses, I have begun by seeking advice and counsel from professionals who are actively engaged in the fight. What I have discovered is that there is an almost universal agreement on what the facts are when referencing professionals as opposed to unattached individuals who only appear via viral tweets, posts or videos which cannot be traced to a credible source. If these posts are accepted, individuals may actually be harmed or lose their lives. A news report just yesterday revealed an online site selling “verified” cures for coronavirus before they were sued by the state of New York for false and malicious advertising.

The first step in a proper response is correct information. Once correct and verified information is in hand, the next step is to anticipate the most appropriate steps and sequence. For example, with the virus, the first step is to observe the most immediately effective simple protocols such as washing hands, covering mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and keeping an approved safe distance from others. Once these initial steps are taken the progression moves to whether it is safe to travel, gather in large groups and what adjustments need to be made to normal activities like a sporting event or church service. Is it advisable to drink from same cup at communion or shake hands?

Once these initial bases are covered then one must look at wider issues regarding whether or not to go to work, can one work from home? How long should these protocols last and under what conditions should normal activities be resumed? This simple, logical approach is what is needed to avoid panic and end up causing a spread of infection or panic that produces a negative effect that harms others. It is difficult to get everything right, but we stand a much better chance if we know how to respond logically.

Once the immediate personal issues are covered then we must consider other issues such as economic impact. Should we be stocking up on canned goods and nonperishable items as we would in a storm environment? Some stores in the United States have experienced panic buying which has led to empty shelves and persons in need being disenfranchised unnecessarily.

Stocking up on groceries may be a step to be considered but it should only happen after careful examination and consultation.

If we learn to respond to facts, remain calm and take advisable precautions then we position ourselves for the most favorable outcome.

I trust that as a people we adopt this approach and not succumb to fearmongering or mass panic. The facts will come out as sources are verified for credibility and efficacy. These are challenging times, but our responses can make them even more challenging or put us in the best position to succeed. I trust that we do the latter.

• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to pastordaveburrows@hotmail.com. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange.

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