This is a scary time for many in our community. People are afraid. They are afraid of the coronavirus and what it could mean for their families, friends, colleagues and neighbors. They also are afraid of the collateral damage. Local schools have shut down, leaving parents who must work scrambling for childcare. Small local businesses, especially restaurants, are hurting. Older and immune-compromised Mainers are feeling isolated and at risk.
Fear can be a great motivator, but sometimes it leads us to do irrational things. Emptying the store shelves of toilet paper, diapers, baby formula and other necessities in order to amass huge stockpiles for personal use defies logic and standards of basic decency. There’s a real difference between being prepared and panicking.
Panic can be as dangerous as any virus and spread even faster. Coronavirus is a legitimate threat and how we rise to meet that threat will test the efficacy of our nation’s infectious disease prevention measures and the capacity of our health care system. It also will test citizens’ willingness to comply with recommended precautions against the disease.
Public officials at all levels must be proactive and transparent about their efforts to contain and combat the spread, basing their decisions on the best available science. Citizens must do their part to wash their hands and stay home when they’re sick. It’s always a good idea, and particularly pertinent now, to have a couple of weeks’ worth of essentials in the pantry and medicine cabinet just in case. But unnecessary hoarding is not fair to the next shopper. Many people can’t afford to buy large quantities at a time. When they do head to the store for necessities, they need to find them.
The coronavirus — and fear of it — has already had serious financial implications with more to come. Many upcoming events in Hancock County and around Maine have been called off or postponed. Bicentennial plans for this past Sunday, the state’s official 200th anniversary, were nixed. The Great Harbor Shoot Out, which had games scheduled on Mount Desert Island as well as in Ellsworth and Trenton over the weekend, was cancelled late last week. So too were the teams’ hotel reservations and dinner plans. This at a time of year when local establishments could use a cash infusion. Event organizers are prudent to heed the advice of public health officials and postpone large indoor gatherings, but it comes at a cost.
So while it may not be the right time to gather together, it is the right time to pull together. To find ways to support affected businesses and nonprofits. To check in with friends and neighbors who might be at particular risk. To leave a little toilet paper on the shelf for the next guy.
We have an obligation to look out for each other — not just ourselves. And to remember, this too shall pass.