Listen to the experts

By Jenn Watt

Preparations for the arrival of the new coronavirus in this community intensified exponentially last week following the World Health Organization’s declaration on Wednesday that the virus’s spread qualified as a global pandemic.

We went from reminding people that they should wash their hands with soap and water to watching as grocery store parking lots spilled over with residents and March Break visitors scrambling to buy up as much toilet paper and hand sanitizer as they could.

On Thursday the provincial government surprised many with their decision to close all publicly funded schools until April 5 and by Friday most postsecondary institutions had decided to move course instruction out of the classroom and into virtual spaces.

One by one local organizations started cancelling events. Everything from the upcoming Business and Community Achievement Awards to a St. Patrick’s Day dinner in Kinmount was erased from the calendar within hours.

By Friday evening the health unit shared news that the first person within the region tested positive for COVID-19 (in Northumberland County) and a day later another case was confirmed in City of Kawartha Lakes. The news is coming in so quickly that by the time this column appears in print it’s possible more cases will have been identified.

It feels stressful because a global pandemic is stressful. The actions being taken by our governments public and private institutions are changing the way we live life disrupting our routines and potentially putting pressure on our financial wellbeing.

It can also feel at once very serious and very silly to stay home when no one you know seems sick or to avoid public spaces that feel familiar and safe. However the reason we’re being asked to practice social distancing to avoid crowds to skip our visit to a grandparent in long-term care and to keep kids home from school and playdates is that those spaces that most of the time are the core of our community are also the places most likely to allow COVID-19 to spread.

None of us knows how the next few days weeks or months will play out. This is unfamiliar territory.

The best thing to do is listen to the experts: the public health unit and our local health-care providers. Their guidance is based on what’s been learned in other countries and has been carefully considered to keep our population safe and healthy.