An empty shelf of toilet paper at Superstore in Cranbrook on Sunday, March 15. Trevor Crawley photo.

COLUMN: Adjusting to a (temporary) new way of life

Slowing and halting the spread of COVID-19 will take a community effort, locally and beyond

The last week has been surreal and unprecedented.

I remember wandering the halls of Parkland Middle School in 2001, trying to process the events of 9-11 and what it meant for my place in a new reality, a new way of not just seeing the world, but living in the world.

Everything changed that day, just as everything is changing now.

The rise of COVID-19 is rapidly altering the way we live, the way we work, the way we socialize. So far,the advice from the medical community and government has been common sense.

Wash your hands. Practice social distancing. Stay home if you’re sick. Self-isolate if you start showing symptoms. Call your family doctor or the provincial health information line (811) if you feel you have symptoms. Quarantine yourself if you’ve just arrived in Canada from international travel. Work from home if you can.

And while much of that advice may seem inconvenient, it’s all part of a series of multi-tiered responses to stopping the spread of the coronavirus.

That’s the only thing that matters right now — any disruption of our lives right now is (hopefully) temporary. Because we’re seeing how health care systems can be overwhelmed overseas in places like Italy or Spain.

In the last seven days or so, news has cascaded down from various levels of government describing the number of cases, including fatal outcomes, as well as government action such as restricting border access or banning events and gatherings larger than 50 people.

The closures are meant to stop the spread of the virus by reducing and eliminating public places and events where it may be inadvertently passed on from person to person. Even for those who are young and healthy, the fear isn’t necessarily getting sick, it’s unwittingly transmitting it to someone more vulnerable, such as a person with a chronic illness or a compromised immune system.

For us working in the news industry, announcements and updates are all happening at — dare I say — a feverish pace. For the public, for news consumers, some might feel inundated to the point of numbness.

It’s the same for us in the newsroom.

Things are likely going to be worse before they get better. More announcements will be made, more action will be taken, more will be asked of the public to be vigilant and maintain order amongst the chaos.

At the Townsman, we’ll be watching for any announcements being made by the city, the province, the federal governments and anything in between to keep people informed about the latest updates to the COVID-19 situation locally, provincially, nationally and internationally.

The avalanche of COVID-19 stories are to inform, and make people aware of the latest developments in a rapidly changing environment. If there seems to be an inordinate amount of COVID-19 stories, it’s because they’re all in the public interest.

There’s no doubt the events are going to impact the economy, and that’s where we all have to pull together. Support local businesses, buy take out or get a gift card to use later, check in on your neighbour, offer to help get groceries for someone who is in isolation, FaceTime a family member or a friend.

We are all in uncharted territory here, but what cannot change is the way we treat others around us — with dignity and respect.

This is the biggest news story of my lifetime as a, ahem, millennial-aged adult, and it’s not going away anytime soon.

And like processing the events of 9-11 nearly 20 years ago, the ripple effects of COVID-19 are going to have far reaching future consequences.

However, I believe in the power of the human spirit and our collective ability to overcome adversity. There is an onus on each and every one of us, a responsibility that we all have to bear in meeting this challenge head-on and doing our part.

Together, we will get through this.

And please, for all our sakes, stop hoarding toilet paper.

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