We won’t help anyone if behavior and actions remain the same

This content was published as a column with the Record-Herald, a newspaper located in Washington Court House, Ohio 43160. As panic relating to COVID-19 continues, I shared some thoughts with my local community which may be useful to others.

We’ve had some rough days lately in the newsroom at the Record-Herald office (where I work as a journalist).

Regardless of what others think of us, we genuinely care about our community and have been sifting through tremendous amounts of information related to the current COVID-19 situation.

Personally, I hate crying yet I have found tears streaming down my face multiple times lately. It is not because I’m sick or someone that I know is sick, it’s not because I’m afraid of the virus.

It’s because of the most at-risk being isolated in their homes as programs they would have attended are canceled. It’s because of the most at-risk still attending large gatherings such as church as they refuse to “let the virus take over their lives.”

It’s because of the amount of fear and suffering I’m imagining others are in right now, as well as those few I have had the amazing opportunity to speak with over the past several days.

People who are facing unemployment for several weeks, possibly longer.

People, especially the elderly, who are struggling just to buy their bi-weekly groceries and care products after they finally got their checks because other people needed to “protect mine and my own.”

It’s because there are so many people in this county (and across the country) who work full-time jobs and the system isn’t prepared to help them as those jobs are suddenly disappearing for an unknown amount of time.

They could barely survive financially beforehand for various reasons and now what can they do but wait? Many have no savings (which was not due to laziness or lack of trying).

Some would say pray, if you believe in it.

Some may be looking for programs or ways to make sure their kids are fed and bills are paid.

Some are waiting to get information through to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services as the call volume and website traffic are overwhelmed.

The waiting seems to be the hardest part and the unknown the scariest.

I wish communities could come together and open their eyes, get rid of the invisible walls that exist between so many of us and help each other. That’s supposed to be one of the benefits of living in a small town. Why does that benefit seem so utterly non-existent in locations, including my own community?

Instead, it is like a constant me v. them, liberal v. conservative, rich v. poor, young v. old. I have a friend who had to overhear a person complaining at a doctor’s office about having to be screened prior to entering as they could afford the medical care not to get sick “unlike the rest of this poor county.”

Then there is the blame-game. Could things have possibly been done differently in the past to alter what’s happening now? Of course — things can always be done differently. Those things cannot help us now though.

I have heard so many people say that this is the Democrats way of getting free healthcare. I have had to work with both the local Democrats and Republicans in my area. You know what both have claimed regularly? That they care about the well-being of other people.

If that is truly the case, I need to see them working together, from both ends, to protect that well-being rather than a group-think, toxic political climate. If anything, the current situation should be an example of how broken our systems are, not another reason to spread more anger, fear and hatred.

Here’s one of the simplest pieces of news I can offer you folks — illness-causing agents do not care how much money you have or don’t have, your political agenda, your religious affiliation, your age.

People don’t choose to get sick — medical care isn’t a choice, it is a necessity for a healthy community.

Right now, I am so proud of the organizations that are helping the best they can. I hope these organizations reach out to others to share how people can assist one another and that other people reach out to these organizations.

I ask all of you to take a moment to release some stress — relax your shoulders away from your ears, stretch your jaw by opening and closing your mouth, now move your jaw side-to-side, stretch your muscles, rotate your shoulders, take a deep breath.

The virus will most likely appear in your local area if it hasn’t already. Okay, we know that. That means we should have plans to look to for guidance and behavior to help us stay healthy during this time, especially as people are already financially burdened without added medical bills.

Practice proper hygiene and respiratory etiquette.

What do I mean by that?

Wash your hands after using the bathroom, before cooking, during cooking anytime you touch something that isn’t clean or you lick your fingers, after you sneeze or cough if you do so into your hand (although you should do both into your elbow/arm), after you blow and/or pick your nose, after handling things that have traveled a lot (such as mail, money, packages).

What do I mean when I say proper handwashing?

When I worked as a state tested nurse aide (in Ohio) we were basically trained to do the following: if you have to manually dispense a paper towel from a machine, do that prior to washing hands, turn on warm water with a paper towel, dispose of paper towel, wet hands in water, put about a dime-size worth of soap in hands, wash hands.

As you wash, make sure to get under nails, on palm, between fingers, under jewelry and around your wrists. This should take approximately 20 seconds – sing ABCs to help with timing. Then rinse, use a paper towel to dry your hands, immediately throw that paper towel away, get another paper towel to turn off the water and then dispose of that towel.

In my personal life, I do not follow all of those steps as I see it as a waste of paper towels. I choose to turn the water on without one. After washing, I use a paper towel to dry my hands and then use that same towel to turn off the water and immediately throw it away.

Hand sanitizer isn’t that great an alternative to hand-washing. It’s better than nothing but don’t depend on it. If there is a sink and soap close to you, suck it up and take a minute to clean yourself properly.

If your hands crack/dry out, especially with increased hand-washing, get used to using lotion. A little lotion after every hand-wash or at least once a day can help greatly. Cracks/ wounds in the skin are entryways into the body for illness causing agents just as eyes, mouths and noses are.

Sanitize things regularly, especially things that get touched often like doorknobs, light switches, phones. Cell phones are items that needs sanitized often because they touch so many surfaces and are constantly with you.

Many of us are face-touchers. I know I am. If you get into the habit that everytime you touch your face you have to stop what you are doing to go wash your hands, you’ll start catching yourself right before you touch your face (because you won’t want to stop what you’re doing). This takes time and may be a nuisance, but it can help keep you from spreading or contracting illnesses.

Stop shaking hands. If people extend their hands you can politely decline and explain you don’t want to risk spreading illness between people.

Lessen the amount you kiss people, especially if someone is ill. The last thing you want is to transmit something to a child, a loved one or an elderly person because you couldn’t wait to touch your lips to them.

This doesn’t mean you have to isolate yourself, it just means to watch your actions during communication or switch to phone calls.

This is the time to be rational and really think about our actions — that isn’t an over or under-reaction. Honestly, many of these practices should already be done regularly but aren’t. That’s evident from how much the flu and strep has spread this season and keeps popping back up. Both of those illnesses are still an issue.

We won’t help anyone — not ourselves, our family, our coworkers, our friends, and most certainly not the communities we live in, if behavior and actions remain the same.

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