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Social distancing: It’s the least we can do

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No one foresaw in January or February, what the year 2020 would bring. We had our new year resolutions and goals for the coming year. We made plans for the spring, summer, and fall, not knowing that far away in Wuhan, China, the novel Coronavirus or Covid-19 epicenter, was already wreaking massive havoc at the beginning of 2020. None of us, not even our scientists or experts, esteemed health officials, or politicians, anticipated what we are experiencing right now. 

It is an understatement to say that global leaders are making many mistakes throughout the outbreak. Some suggested that the novel Coronavirus was a hoax. At the same time, experts grappled with the best approach to combat the “invisible enemy” to buy us time to contain the deadly virus while desperately trying to identify its symptoms and find a cure. 

Wuhan (where the virus began) and Italy–the two places hit hardest–provided a template to fight the pandemic–social distancing and lockdown. By the time the World Health Organization declared the virus a global threat, a pandemic, terms like social distancing and sheltering in place were the norm. Lockdowns are not new. Governments used them to contain pandemics as early as the 17th century in Venice to combat the plague. In the early 20th century, China and Spain employed them to control the Great Plague in Manchuria and the Spanish Flu epidemic.

Today, some take issue with enforced social distancing, mask-wearing, and lockdowns; the strategies helping to contain the pandemic thus far. The recent protests by citizens in Spain, the U.K., Germany, and major U.S. cities do nothing to promote their cause. Threatening the state legislators with high-powered weapons is not a viable way to argue that lockdowns and mandatory mask-wearing violate their freedom.  

Covid-19 may be making us tired, bored, and burdened by heavy emotional and financial tolls. It may even make us lose faith in the communication tools at our disposal. Being holed up in our homes for weeks and months either alone or with family, coupled with the pressures of losing your livelihood, can be depressing, frustrating, or at the very least annoying. We cannot give up. We must persevere.

It is vital to maintain the much needed social distancing and the well planned and gradual easing of lockdowns rather than act prematurely. If we do not, we may live to fight another time, and what a difficult fight it will be! The critical issue is that a resurgent or re-emergence of Coronavirus infections in the proportions of a few weeks ago when it threatened healthcare systems will be a catastrophic setback to defeating this invisible enemy. 

As I reflect on the recent protests as we go through a myriad of pandemic-related hardships, I am always motivated by the toils and sacrifices of our forebears who fought for the freedoms we seem to take for granted today. Every day I am reminded equally about the sacrifices of frontline workers–doctors, nurses, first responders, grocery-store workers, janitorial staff, transportation workers, and food distributors and their wellbeing. Failure to self-isolate is a total betrayal of their selflessness, sacrifice, and toils. We must ask ourselves, do I have the right to put another’s life in danger because I am bored, frustrated, or worried?

In the face of fascism and totalitarianism, some of our forebears made the ultimate sacrifice to guarantee the civil liberties we enjoy today. Now is the time to individually answer the timely question posed by President J. F. Kennedy some decades ago, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask What can I do for my country?” Add to that question, What can you do for the vulnerable among us as we fight COVID-19? What can I do to defeat this invisible foe? 

As it stands now, until we find a viable treatment and vaccine, we need to keep to hand washing, face masking, social distancing, and practicing the guidance and guidelines the medical experts give us. For some of us, this will be the only war we will ever have to fight; the only sacrifice we will ever be called upon to make. It is not beyond us at all—it’s merely maintaining social distancing and temporary lockdowns.

We must remember that the essential thing in life right now is the gift of life itself for our loved ones, neighbors, and those valiantly serving us. We must use these distressing times to be grateful for the good things and the gifts life offers us—companionship with others, being there for ourselves, beautiful weather, good health, human kindness, and compassion, among others. 

We must not forget that in all the frustrations of social distancing and the need to connect, we still have the power to do so. Use the power of technology to reach out to those you love. Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom someone when you’re bored or missing them. You’ll feel better and so will they. We are in this together. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York State beautifully sums up our shared responsibility in defeating COVID-19 when he said:

 “And you know how we keep each other safe? By our individual will, responsibility and respect, by wearing the mask, by maintaining social distancing. That’s how we get through this.  Everybody has a role to play here. There is pointing fingers. Nobody’s been here before. It’s no one else’s job. It’s all of us together, and that’s what has worked so well so far. We just have to stay at it.”

Stay safe. Keep social distancing!

About the author: Dominic Obour holds a Master of Arts in Public Relations from Iona College, New Rochelle, New York. He’s currently based in Southern California where he teaches. He is a hospital chaplain and a mentor and has a keen interest in issues affecting common people every day. Email: oboursavio@gmail.com

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