Recently The Dispatch has received pressure from members of the public to release or seek out the name or other identifying information about the first person in Clay County to test positive for the coronavirus.

People pushing for this have suggested that if names or other identifying information is made public, others in the community might be able to tell if they’ve been exposed.

First, let us assure you we don’t have such information. All we know is that someone who traveled recently has tested positive, and that person and others that might have been exposed began taking precautions to isolate themselves and limit the spread of the disease even before they had any symptoms. We’ve confirmed that through both official and unofficial sources.

But even if we did know who got the coronavirus or any other identifying information, we would not print it. We know that some papers have printed names and identifying information, but we’re talking about much bigger communities, and even there those people have faced threats of violence and other life-altering consequences. Even people only suspected of spreading the disease -- largely Asian Americans -- have been beat up and injured all across the country over this.

We live in a small town. If we print any kind of identifying information, it won’t be hard to figure out who the person is or where they live. We won’t be part of anything that might lead to someone getting hurt or their life being ruined long after the disease has run its course.

This disease is insidious. It sticks around long after the infected person has left the area, stays live for a surprising long period after leaving the body -- anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days -- and the person who’s contracted it stays infectious for a couple of weeks. That’s a lot of time. We are certain that people who have spread it have done so unintentionally and many without even being aware they are infected.

Even the most guarded precautions won’t stop the disease from spreading -- only slow it down. It’s important to slow it down because the most vulnerable need to be put on a respirator to survive. If the disease spreads too quickly, our health officials will be overwhelmed and a lot more people will die simply because there aren’t enough respirators to go around.

More people are gong to get sick. Some here might even die from the disease. It is going to get worse, but what we don’t need is to start turning on each other. The vast majority who get sick will be just fine.  We will survive it, and history will judge us for how we handle this crisis right now.

Recently, we heard a conservation between several people in leadership positions in the community talk about an incident in China where authorities beat up several young men who had ignored containment orders and were out on their motorcycles. One of them said, “We could use a little bit of that here.”

We don’t.

Right now, we need compassion, understanding and empathy, especially for those who are infected. We can’t succumb to fear, anger and violence. Take it from someone who’s seen it first-hand. Violence fueled by hysteria is a dark and twisted path that has no way out.

 -- Ryan D. Wilson