By now, you’ve heard your fill about social distancing, symptoms to watch out for, using videoconferencing to stay in touch with friends and family, how to keep your kids busy, the best cleaning products to use, 20 seconds of hand washing …
Here’s a message you might not have heard: You’re doing a spectacular job, for the most part.
Seriously. Take a step back and look at American society, or, even better, bring the focus down to a smaller point: New York State, Long Island, the East End, the South Fork. At every level, there are notable exceptions, of course, but the vast majority of people have accepted quarantine. There is fear and uncertainty, without question. But there is no real panic, aside from a bit of panic buying. (If you own stock in toilet paper companies, sell … there might not be another roll sold in 2020.)
Despite the decided mixed signals that came from the White House throughout the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, most Americans figured out pretty quickly that it’s much better to be safe than sorry. Most adopted the recommended protocols without much complaint.
We often focus on the negatives — the people who hoarded food needlessly, acting a fool in grocery stores, or wearing their ignorance as a point of pride on social media, boasting of ignoring all the social distancing recommendations. Some people are still gathering too close at the beach, still standing too close in stores.
But, for once, let’s focus on the people who are doing the right thing, for all the right reasons. That’s most of you. Take a bow.
There is a terrible economic price to shutting down and sheltering in place, and a terrible social price as well. The longer it goes on, the harder it’s going to become.
So the message, as April — and, perhaps, warmer weather that maybe, just maybe, will help begin to attack the novel coronavirus, in the same way it does other coronaviruses — arrives, is an important one.
Discover Long Island, which promotes tourism and economic development in Nassau and Suffolk counties, did a dandy job of coming up with a simple phrase that’s exactly what we all need to hear: “Hold fast.”
They’re selling T-shirts and using it as a hashtag on social media, and it’s as good a message as any for a region with a long nautical history. Its roots are in the Dutch phrase “houd vast,” which is simply “hold tight.” On a ship, it means just that: We’re in rough waters, and it’s going to get worse. Stop what you’re doing, grab hold of the rigging, or something else solid, and don’t let go. Stay where you are. You’re no good to the crew if you’re washed overboard.
It’s only been weeks — though it seems like months — and it’s going to be several more weeks of bad weather, and the worst is off the bow. Governor Andrew Cuomo believes the peak of the virus’s impact in the state, which is the epicenter in the United States, could still be two weeks off. How high that peak goes is still unknown as well.
The important thing is that, through exhaustion or impatience, we aren’t tempted to let our collective guard down. The steps taken last week, and the week before that, are paying off steadily: It might not be visible, as the numbers of cases, and deaths, climb so swiftly and frighteningly. But it will help round off the curb, and perhaps keep this catastrophe within the grasp of the health care system’s herculean efforts to contain it.
We have to hold fast, ride out the storm safely, and look for brighter skies on the horizon. They’re coming.
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One fine body…