The World Health Organization has declared the  COVID-19 outbreak to be a pandemic, official recognition that the virus respects no borders and now affects masses of people in countries all over the world. And there is no denying the world is changing, in painful ways. We see it in financial markets,  where prices are plunging, and in supermarkets, where customers are stripping shelves bare. All driven by fear, as the number of virus cases grows with each passing day.

While we may feel powerless over this threat, we are not. There are important things we can and must do, and right now.

To borrow a phrase from the war on terror, the coronavirus only has to be right once to infect us. We have to be right every time to prevent it. So, every time you cough or sneeze, use a tissue or the crook of your arm. Every time you think of it, wash your hands, as frequently as you can. Every time you can, practice “social distancing”, stay away from others during this outbreak. Social distancing is now being enforced throughout our society. Schools are closing, sporting events of every kind are being canceled.

One important approach is to try to protect the most vulnerable, especially people with serious medical problems such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, or a weakened immune system. And older people have been more severely affected than the young.

And here’s something we need to keep in mind. We are all in this together. So even as we keep a distance from each other physically, we need to stay close emotionally. Social isolation is bad for your health!

If ever there was a time to call or video chat with friends and loved ones, Therapist,  it is now. Demonstrating grace under pressure is easier said than done. But that is this doctor’s prescription for getting through this. And, if we treat each other with kindness and empathy, we will.

2020Mar 16 CORRESPONDENTJonathan LaPook, CBS News