OPINION: We can come together as a community … by staying apart

 

The bread and soup shelves were empty. The white milk in the dairy cooler was gone, although some chocolate was left.

“It could be worse,” I said to the harried cashier. “Chocolate milk is good in coffee; it’s even OK on cereal.”

She was in no mood. She was angry.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with people,” she exploded. “I can’t get milk and I work here. My husband loves Kraft Dinner. Am I supposed to make that with chocolate milk?!”

Sarnians are frustrated, and seeing their neighbours hoard toilet paper and hand sanitizer hasn’t helped. We’re also worried, for our loved ones, our jobs, because we don’t know what’s going to happen next.

But amid Sarnia’s surreal new reality of shuttered schools, empty stores and silent streets, a few encouraging signs can be found.

Here is what I’ve seen:

City Hall, the health unit and hospital have responded with remarkable speed and co-operation, and are issuing daily, useful, fact-based reports.

Many residents are helping get food, medicine and supplies to the elderly and people in self-isolation.

And despite an economic punch to the gut, businesses are raising their hands. Freshii Sarnia last week offered 1,000 free meals to first responders and health-care workers.

Most critically, Sarnians are heeding the call for social distancing and, where possible, staying home. Remaining apart is an act of social solidarity, as odd as that sounds, but we seem to get it. A healthy person who avoids infection and doesn’t pass it on helps everyone.

We are not asking you to go to war, we are not asking you to work in the factories,” one doctor said last week. “We are literally asking you to sit on your couch and watch Netflix for the next few weeks.”

Sarnia-Lambton still had no confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Monday. As remarkable as that is, it’s critical that we maintain wide-scale social distancing. Once the hospital is overwhelmed with sick people we’ve squandered our chance.

Italy underestimated this virus. Let’s not do the same.

It’s raining pink slips, and not everyone is fortunate enough to work from home. To those who are keeping things rolling, a heartfelt thank you.

To the doctors and nurses, long-term care home staff, the police and firefighters, the tellers, the bus drivers. To the postal workers and grocery store staff, including my cashier, who was last seen violently wiping down her workstation with disinfectant, thank you.

This is a new pathogen. We don’t know where this is going, or how long it will last. But to this point our community seems to have taken the right steps to limit its spread.

Let’s keep it up.