As a people, Kansans are comfortable living with risk. After all, where else can you dependably find people outside watching the skies while a tornado warning blares?


That’s why we trust that folks in this state will understand that the new coronavirus, while concerning, is not a reason for panic. It’s a reason to look after your basic health, through vaccinations and doctor’s visits, keep your hands washed and pay attention to advice from public health authorities.


Because this coronavirus is new and unfamiliar, and because the population as a whole hasn’t developed immunity to it yet, it can seem scary. But official reports indicate that more than 80% of cases have mild to no symptoms. Of the remaining infected, only a fraction require the kind of critical care that we have seen in news reports.


We as a society live with risk in many other areas. For example, 12,000-61,000 Americans die annually from the influenza virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 36,000 people died in traffic accidents in 2018, according to the the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In each case, because we are familiar with the flu and cars, we have accepted the relatively small risk of negative outcomes.


This isn’t to say the new coronavirus should not be taken seriously. But so should the flu season. So should driving a car in an undistracted way. So should going to your basement during a tornado.


Commonsense preventative measures aren’t glamorous. Indeed, they might make you seem a little stodgy to family and friends. But they’re proven to make a difference, and in all of these cases, they could literally save your life or the lives of those around you.


However you choose to react, let us make one important request. Do not look to social media or fringe websites for reliable information about the illness and its spread. These sites and these posts are merely looking for engagement or traffic. They are not seeking to relay the most accurate and reliable information.


When public health emergencies arise, we should look to public health authorities. This is literally their job: Educate the public about ongoing health risks. We should pay attention to them. We should let them do their jobs.


And, as best we can, we should go about our lives.