As we are about a week out from the presumed end of our executive “stay-at-home” order, it’s important to start to come to terms with what that will mean. It will not mean we are automatically back to the way “things once were.” As the famous Bucks Fizz song says, “those days are gone.” We are not the community, country or world we used to be. Dozens of Vermonters have lost their lives to Coronavirus, thousands of people have died in America and hundreds of thousands around the world are all gone from this one disease. Millions have battled this illness and while we have been extremely fortunate to have minimal cases locally, we are not immune to the impact and change that is on the horizon. In a famous song by Otis Redding, he writes, “It’s been a long, long time coming. But I know, but I know a change has gotta come.” That change is here, and more is to come!
What is most important to realize, is that every single person will have their own views, beliefs and limits when it comes to how to go forward and handle these changes. There will be some who won’t think twice about going to public places, thinking about travel and gatherings. While others will be hesitant to approach a grocery store for the first time since the lockdown and may not want to visit or have visitors. What is more important to realize is that both deserve respect. In a time like this, science and studies show us that caution and care are above all else important. Do not shame or pressure someone who has concerns and anxieties about the future. There is data to support their worries and you should support them too with compassion.
We need to be mindful that May 16th isn’t a pass to get too overzealous. As our Governor is stressing, this will be a slow and steady increase, “one quarter turn at a time.” Now isn’t the time to start planning major parties, getaways and gatherings. Social distancing will be something we will implement for a while. As we have snowbirds coming back to their Vermont homes and others coming and going as businesses open, it is more important than ever to protect ourselves and each other. As much as you may want to run and hug your family who may have just returned from Florida, or you may be chomping at the bit to get to your summer residence, we need to be cautious, careful and act in accordance with our guidelines. Keep a six-foot distance from others.
While social distancing has proven very helpful in these times, we must also stay vigilant with how we take care of ourselves and others. Handwashing is still going to be and always has been an important measure of staying well. Wash your hands any time you come into a new building or leave a store. After you get your mail, after you use a public space, just keep washing. Wash well with warm water and lots of soap. Hand sanitizer can be helpful when you get in the car after a run to the store but wash your hands well when you get home. The same goes for masks that everyone should be wearing outside the home and washing them after each return. Other clothing items that may be contaminated should also be washed in hot water too. This is truly a time of “better to be safe than sorry.”
We ask that you choose a positive and educated attitude. The person with the worst attitude and the loudest complaints doesn’t win and certainly isn’t a leader. Choose to be patient, positive and respect the research that billions of dollars have been poured into to protect you. We all know how hard it is to stay home, not be with friends, etc. but it saves lives. Just because you miss those gatherings and you “don’t care,” doesn’t mean you win. Would it be worth a BBQ with returning friends from out-of-state if someone died? Is it worth a trip to New Hampshire because their stores allow you to buy certain things if it meant you might become seriously ill? Is practicing patience really that hard that you would risk your life or the chance of risking someone else’s? Work together. Choose to be positive and trust leadership that only wants to keep us all safe.
It’s likely that none of us expected to be living during a pandemic. Although Vermont has had low numbers, our neighboring states have lost thousands of lives. People we know and love have lost ones they know and love – maybe even you are trying to manage grief right now. We will be working together for a long time to rebuild our communities, country and planet to be a healthier place, a sustainable place and one that requires everyone to do their part. Can you do that? Can you work together a little longer? Be respectful of those who are scared and nervous? Can you be patient with yourself if you are anxious and worried? We are all part of a team called humanity and while you will soon be able to “leave your home,” that doesn’t mean a free for all. Even here in the NEK life will be different and we must be united. A change is gonna come!
Director of The Wellness Center