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When it comes to the pandemic, scared is good

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  1. skybrian
    From the article: [...] [...]

    From the article:

    Nearly every journalist who contacts me about the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic wants to talk about panic. I usually ask the reporter, “Do you know anyone personally who’s panicking?” The answer is always no.

    Panic is doing something harmful to yourself or others that you would never do if you were thinking straight, but you can’t help yourself because of out-of-control emotions. We see it in old horror movies: screaming crowds stampeding through the streets, hands waving in the air. Customers in a queue at Tesco, loading up on pandemic supplies, are not panicking. Yet some officials call that “panic-buying” – waiting patiently in line!

    If officials keep dumbing down “panic” so it just means anxiously taking precautions against something scary, fine. But then they shouldn’t suddenly revert to the real definition and warn people that “this isn’t a time to panic” (when is?) or, worse yet, withhold upsetting truths out of fear that people will panic.

    In crisis situations, true panic is rare. Most documented mass panics happen in places like nightclubs and soccer stadiums – places with a lot of alcohol. Sober people often feel panicky in a crisis, but rarely panic.


    Instead of ridiculing people’s early overreactions, smart crisis managers legitimize and try to guide them. Instead of telling people not to have an adjustment reaction, they help people have a good one.


    There’s one more problem I can’t find on my chart. In recent days I’ve been thinking about all the people who tell me they’re really, really upset about COVID-19 – and then they mention the plane trip they’re planning or the meeting they’re looking forward to or the crowded subway they took to work this morning. There’s a gnawing anxiety in the pit of their stomachs that just won’t go away. But they haven’t changed their daily lives much yet, or even planned much for life changes that they sort-of suspect are just around the corner. They’re fearful enough – but they’re still not taking precautions, even the wrong ones.