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Those who do not understand the “fuss” — to keep your distance from others and to stay at home — need look no further than Italy’s tragedy of horrific daily death rates and an overburdened healthcare system due to an invisible enemy that is wreaking havoc on its population.
If lots of people get sick at the same time, the healthcare system will be unable to handle the enormous surge, and people will needlessly die because they cannot get any care. During a pandemic, other ailments like cancer, heart attacks, and strokes do not wait on the sidelines while this coronavirus has its moment. If anything, the collective stress of this pandemic will result in some ailments increasing — only time will tell.
We cannot ignore the huge suffering caused by society coming to a stop. The faults in the US safety net are coming into clear focus during this crisis. Our schools provide so much under-recognized support to working families — meals, childcare, and physical and mental health care. The rapid evaporation of these services has left many children and families in extremely vulnerable positions as school staff are scrambling to support students in new and profound ways.
Workers living paycheck-to-paycheck risk everything — stability, food, shelter, education, and health — when their responsible businesses close in order to prevent further spread of the virus.
These are the types of enormous crises that good government and strong public health infrastructure were designed to address. Currently, the US is working to catch up.
There is hope. We can all do something. We can all do our part. Listen to the experts.
Stay home. Limit excursions to grocery stores and pharmacies. See a doctor only if absolutely necessary.
Go for a bike ride. Play board games with your kids. Read with your kids. Read for yourself. Let your kids build forts.
Clean out that closet. Plan your garden. Read. Organize photo albums.
Call your friends and relatives — the ones you only communicate with at the holidays.
Build a rhythm to the day. Assign chores to family members at home.
Regroup and get creative.
With a little luck and all of us doing our parts, we will look back on the spring of 2020 and think, “What was all the fuss about?”
We upended our lives and sent the economy into a tailspin for what, exactly? And that will, of course, be entirely the point — the strongest indicator of success. Success because the doomsday predictions of the mathematical models of the current global coronavirus pandemic in Maine, the US, and world will not happen. Healthcare systems will not be overwhelmed; physicians will not be choosing who gets life-saving care because there is a lack of resources, and our world will return to its new normal.
When all the “fuss” is over, we will have learned a lot: To appreciate each other a great deal more and to live with a great deal less. If we prevent coronavirus’ spread and avoid the proverbial doomsday, all of these inconveniences will seem anticlimactic.
Please remember to stay put; you may never know which person you protect, but you will save a life.
Deborah Hagler is president-elect of the Maine chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.