Fearful reactions to the new coronavirus can put lives at risk

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Photo by Tayfun Coskun / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

People in the US are worried about the new coronavirus outbreak. That concern is warranted: the virus is a scary new threat, it can cause serious harm, and there aren’t any medications that can stop it. That’s not to mention the cancellations of schools, popular events, and the general disruption to people’s lives it’s causing.

But fear, and the things people do when they’re afraid, changes and drives the societal impact of the virus. Viruses can’t function on their own: they require a host, a person, in order to survive and reproduce. That person makes choices and behaves in certain ways. When that person’s behaviors are driven by fear, it can lead to discrimination and decision-making out of line with public health recommendations —…

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