So long as you are shuffling on this mortal coil, you will not be able to avoid tiptoeing through the viruses every now and then, some of which are quite nasty and deadly.

My grandparents remembered Spanish Flu and people dying in the course of a day. My parents recalled polio and seeing friends in iron lungs. I’ve seen what AIDS can do to people and lived through the MERSA and SARS scares. I and my forbearers survived all these infectious diseases, and many other besides.

That said, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, isn’t freaking me out a bit right now. The reason for this is selfish—this is the first outbreak of a disease for which I am over 50 and have a “pre-existing medical condition,” which puts me in the crosshairs for getting sicker than most if I catch this bug. So I continue to hope the nation doesn’t stop doing all it can to prevent the spread of coronavirus, and the number of people contracting it stays relatively low and the pockets of infection isolated.

But damn if the cat doesn’t already seem to be out of the bag with this. As I write this column, the number of COVID-19 cases worldwide has shot past 100,000. The number of people contracting coronavirus within the U.S. is growing exponentially as well, and victims of the disease have been identified in 34 states, up from just a handful of states a week ago. The death toll from the illness is also progressing, a statistic that is depressingly likely to increase in the coming weeks and months. 

Coronavirus has also taken a toll on the nation’s economic life—the Dow Jones reports stock value has dropped a whopping $3.67 trillion since mid-February. Closer to our economic home, the stock value of gaming companies with casinos in Macau, which were forced to shut down for a two-week period in February, have taken a hit, and the timetable for recovery is uncertain. Indeed, a larger chunk of the gaming industry may be impacted if customers start to curtail casino visitation for fear of getting sick.

And yet, despite all the evidence to the contrary, there is still a train of thought in certain social and political circles that the danger from coronavirus is being overblown, that it will burn out when the weather warms in April, much like other winter illnesses.

Boy, I really, really hope they are spot on with these assumptions. But hope is a shaky rationale to base economic livelihood on. With that in mind, I suggest casino operators err completely on the side of caution and do absolutely everything they can to combat coronavirus now. Commonsense steps include informing employees about COVID-19—what it is, how it is transferred, and steps such as handwashing and use of hand sanitizers that can lessen its spread. Employees should also know the symptoms of the disease and where to go to get tested; informing them there will be no wage penalty if they have to self-isolate would also be helpful. 

Equally as important: operators need to put policies and practices in place to fight a “surface” battle, since diseases like coronavirus can spread though fluids left on static surfaces. An infectious disease epidemiologist told the New Yorker that elevator buttons, doorknobs, indoor handrails, touchscreens, TV remotes and other often handled surfaces need to be disinfected constantly. 

Visit the Centers for Disease Control website (www.cdc.gov) for far more detailed advice and procedures to slow the spread of Coronavirus. Let’s stay safe out there.