Beth Mace called it a game changer.

Speaking last Friday at the NIC Spring Conference, the organization’s chief economist was referring to the emerging coronavirus outbreak. And as usual, she was spot on.

There is no denying that the spread of this new virus is causing serious damage. Our money markets are in a state of severe decline. In fact, it appears we are about to enter bull market territory. And, by the way, the older people in your community are among those most at risk for serious illness or death.

Among the field’s growing concerns: What happens if there is an outbreak in our community? What happens if prospective residents opt not to check in? What happens if our workers must stay at home for reasons ranging from sickness to school closings? What happens if plaintiffs’ lawyers come a-knocking?

Will capital continue to flow freely? Will the sector’s fundamentals take a hit? Who knows?

Nor can we predict how serious the virus will be, or when a vaccine might be found or available.

As I write this, the World Health Organization just declared the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. It appears that no country is safe from its spread, including our own.

So what’s to be done? Well, for starters, there are the usual commonsense precautions. Wash your hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds each time. Disinfect wherever possible. Avoid crowds. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Any by all means, stay home if you are sick.

Keeping nonessential people out of your buildings also is a pretty good idea. You also might want to postpone any vacations on the near horizon. You are needed at work right now, if only to provide a steady presence.

To be sure, the coronavirus is a real threat. And I am by no means minimizing its potential for destruction.

But here’s the thing. Currently, roughly 500 cases and 22 deaths have been reported nationwide. Those are discomforting numbers, to be sure.

But what if 34 million people had been made sick by the virus, and more than 20,000 had died. Can you imagine how crazy things might get?

Actually, there’s no need to imagine. For those number happen to align with what the flu virus has done this season. And its wreckage continues.

Yet the flu is not causing schools to shut down. Nor is it nearly impossible to buy disinfecting wipes because of the flu.

So let’s put things in perspective. Most of us have learned to if not manage, then at least live with the flu. Many of us get shots every year and take other preventive steps. We also make sure that residents are protected to the best degree possible.

We need to give this emerging virus the respect and response it deserves. But let’s also try to keep things in perspective. The flu is inflicting far more damage.