With the coronavirus (COVID-19) spreading to every state, I’d like to offer some encouragement and recommendations to help you stay safe, sane, resilient, and informed.
It goes without saying that few if any of us have ever faced a pandemic. I can assure you that I stand alongside a vast number of incredibly hard working, dedicated healthcare professionals and volunteers who are all doing our absolute best with what we know about this virus, and the resources we have. I think you are going to see many examples of ingenuity and creative problem-solving as we adapt to manage this outbreak. However, our success is largely going to be dependent on how we as communities respond to control the spread, and I feel that The New Pioneer magazine readers are particularly well prepared in our moment of need. We can do this!
In brief, COVID-19 is special because it is a strain of coronavirus we’ve never seen before, so we are learning every day. The CDC has the most up-to-date information on the virus, including guidelines and recommendations on who should be tested and when, and whether or not you should go to the hospital. I strongly recommend that you visit their website to stay the most accurately informed.
So what gives me confidence in your readiness?
You are a bunch of creative, tough, innovative and skilled folks that span our country. You are masters at growing, preserving and storing food, which allows our grocery stores to provide for those who can’t. And you can repurpose things lying around into useful projects like nobody’s business. We don’t know yet how our supply-chain will be affected, but I know you will be finding creative ways to build, fix and invent products and tools that will be helpful if supplies become hard to find. Start thinking and anticipating now! We will need all of your ideas.
How can we stay sane and healthy?
Let’s continue to be a people who spend life not on the couch but outside in the sun, elbow deep in the dirt, chasing naughty goats, and wrestling with puppies in the grass. Pour yourselves into your projects. Learn something new. Try a new homesteading project, or take up a new hobby. Pick up that dusty banjo. Exercise and eat healthy. Read for fun. Engage in and expand your personal spiritual or religious practices. Try yoga and mindfulness exercises, they are more than just woo-woo activities, they have many research-proven health benefits for both body and mind. Sleep!
All of these things will help you be as healthy as possible, so if you do become infected, you are best ready to recover. Limit your intake of information and updates on COVID-19 to reputable sources, and to a limited amount of time, like an hour or less a day so that you can be up-to-date but avoid information overload and fatigue.
How can we keep our family and community healthy?
Please take the safe social distancing recommendations seriously, avoid unnecessary trips and group gatherings. This absolutely grates against some of our deepest core values. We may not be able to enjoy neighborhood barbecues, birthday parties, church, and even family gatherings. None of us like being told what to do, and the desire to buck the guidelines can be strong. I don’t want to limit my kids’ access to their grandparents either, but if this outbreak spreads as we think it will, the best thing we can do is to protect our families and friends from getting the virus.
Many of us may have to try new technological tools like video phone calls with our friends and relatives, in lieu of in-person gatherings. Call and send photos, videos and texts! Many churches and other houses of worship are doing virtual services, and plenty of museum tours and classes are being offered for free. I have a lot of questions about how I’m going to manage my kids being at home for the foreseeable future too, but may this be a fruitful season of deep connection with them, full of game nights, pillow fights, collecting bugs, planting seeds, reading stories, playing instruments, family prayers and watching the stars. They will miss their friends, but that doesn’t mean this time will be wasted.
How can we do more?
We’ve all seen the hysteria and the hoarding. Let’s do the opposite. Let’s be a people who take the warnings seriously, but become known by our generosity in this time of need. Do you have extra canned beans? Garden crops? Meat in your freezer? Diapers or baby food? Consider sharing or donating. Deliver cough medicine to someone who falls ill, or grocery shop for elderly neighbors. Grab the guitar and give a front-yard concert at your local nursing home. Have your kids write letters to folks who can’t receive visitors. Support local businesses and restaurants limited to take-out. Is there someone out of work you could employ for a side job? There are Facebook groups and neighborhood apps such as NextDoor that provide ways for people to post needs that are being met within minutes by others.
We can continue to be a close-knit community without spreading the virus. So, wear gloves if you are shopping for someone or delivering supplies. Wipe down surfaces that are touched, and resist the normal hugs and handshakes. Can you do even more? Consider applying for emergency foster parent certification to help handle a potential influx of needy kids. Or take in animals people can’t afford to care for anymore.
Ultimately, in many ways our lives will be different this year, but the truth is, we can do hard things. Maybe the best way to put it is to “isolate in community.” Let’s be there for each other in safe, tangible ways. And may all the unique skills, work ethic, heart and ingenuity that characterizes those who consider themselves “New Pioneers” lead our communities and country through this challenging season. Saddle up, and let’s ride!