Pictures of neighbors buying their 96th role of Cottonelle bathroom tissue offer clear evidence that many of us are fearing fear itself. And try buying a bottle of Purell hand sanitizer without surrendering to legalized theft on eBay or elsewhere. Other examples could be given, but, unfortunately, suggestions to “Stay Calm and Carry On” won’t hack it this time. We’re in deep trouble. There is a lot in addition to fear, well, to fear.
The virus is spreading like wildfire. Death counts are rising. And if you are in a high-risk category, you better take protective cover if you want to survive the year. Many dire predictions of CDC experts are proving on the mark. Among these are predictions of an overwhelmed healthcare system and that a vaccine may not be available for many months.
Is this situation hopeless? The answer is no. Political leaders across the country are being bold in implementing steps to contain the spread of the virus and “flatten the curve” with the intent of reducing the possibility of worst-case scenarios. Congress and the Trump administration, with the lessons of both the Great Depression and the Great Recession in mind, are acting now to minimize economic pain for those of us with little buffer between feeding our families and true crisis. By the time you read this, many of these measures will have been enacted and some of them implemented.
Awareness of the gravity of the situation is a first step to surviving it. The second step is to accept that we are all in this together. By “all of us” I mean not only our neighbors here, but all our fellow residents in North America and the rest of the world. This crisis is not about a crashed stock market or millions of retail and hospitality workers (among others) losing their jobs, or even about preventing the pandemic from killing millions of us. Instead it is about action—personal, societal and global.
Most of us already know that we must wash our hands, practice social distancing, and familiarize ourselves with the symptoms of coronavirus. Advice is a click away at www.cdc.gov. What some of us don’t know yet is that the ability to prevent the worst-case scenarios is within our own power. Simply put, if we accept what we need to fear but don’t over-react to it, we will get through this crisis.
The Spy and other media outlets are letting us know what is going on. Suggestions on how to survive a “shelter in place” order, which yet may be coming to the Eastern Shore, are part of the solution. Using advice on how to reduce risk and avoid infecting others requires staying sane and reacting to what is real while ignoring what’s not.
The next few months (or longer) will lead us into unchartered territory. Restoring normalcy once the immediate crisis ends, will take longer. There is a new normalcy coming, but, as of mid-March, we don’t yet know what it is. Change is coming. There will be challenges but, with them, opportunities.
J.E. Dean of Oxford is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant. He is a former counsel to the House Committee on Education and Labor. For more than 30 years, he advised clients on federal education and social service policy.