Hello everyone! I had an entirely different blog I wanted to post this week but the nation’s developments over the last 24 hours have prompted me to do otherwise. No worries, my other blog is forthcoming. Please allow me, just for today, to put on my public health nurse hat and speak to you for a bit. I also want to address how to combat fear, the role of the faith community, and common sense.
What Is It?
Novel Coronavirus or COVID-19 as it is also called has made itself known to planet Earth. We didn’t choose this. It’s no one person’s or people’s fault, it just is. COVID-19 is an upper respiratory virus that for most causes flu like/cold like symptoms accompanied by a fever. For our seniors and those with chronic illnesses, it can be very harmful if not lethal. Our first Oklahoma case has recovered which is good news! Most people do recover from it. NBC News (thank you NBC) captures a Coronavirus patient’s interview very well where he described his symptoms, course, quarantine and recovery. You can google this from any computer or mobile device. Speaking of computers and googling, your best source for scientific information about this virus and steps you and your communities can take to stop the spread in the US can be found at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html Current steps being taken such as travel restrictions and canceling of events and other gatherings such as church services are common sense measures to stop the spread of the virus; they are not about fear, they are not an assault on your faith; and most importantly, they aren’t personal. Church, this gives us an excellent opportunity to be Jesus in our communities! It gives excellent opportunity for all of us, Christian or not, to help our neighbors and friends!
Let’s talk about fear.
Fear is a natural human response to something unknown. Fear is why you see the panic buying at grocery and large chain stores. However, we don’t think straight when we are afraid and we do silly things too. When people are afraid, they can also be very cruel. You have probably seen this evident in the last week or so around the globe with incidents of racism, hoarding, and rudeness captured on social media. Fear feeds on our wildest imaginations even when the opposite is true. I want to encourage everyone reading this blog that we don’t have to be afraid. Public health all over the country is taking extensive steps, along with our federal government, to contain spread and follow up with those who have returned from travel abroad or been exposed in this country. Our goal is to see that anyone who has been exposed is tested and placed in 14-day quarantine to protect them and others. Those who are sick will receive the supportive medical care they need at our hospitals who are already prepared. What can you do to help? You can volunteer with medical reserve cores to staff phone banks. You can help public health spread reliable information. You can leave groceries on the door step of friends or family who you know are quarantined. You can contact people by phone or social media you know who may be quarantined and just want someone to talk to. America, we have a choice to pull together or fall apart. The choice is ours. Let’s pull together and show the world who we really are. Let’s help each other. Let’s help our government help us. Christians, let’s lead by example and show others what it is like to be servant leaders who will help our local, state and federal government(s) instead of fight against them. Fear is an option, but it won’t be my option and it doesn’t have to be yours.
Where does faith come into this equation?
Faith plays a vital role in the fabric of our society. Faith leaders, pastors and persons of all faiths play a vital role in quelling fear and in helping public health spread reliable information and stop the spread of the virus. When your pastor or faith leader announces that your services or observances will be held online or changed in some way, don’t get discouraged or see it as an attack. See this as a way to help your community stay healthy and lead the way toward healing for those who are sick. We don’t have to gather in one place to pray. We can pray right where we are. The internet is a wonderful tool to not only provide for our spiritual life but to also help us not spread the virus to others who may at high risk. Many persons of all faiths can appreciate and I believe would want to protect our most vulnerable citizens. When we take a temporary break from church services and other religious gatherings as a congregation, we are doing just that, protecting the most vulnerable in our society. I can't think of a better way to practice our faith!
How can we practice common sense as we face the challenges of novel Coronavirus?
I’m going to put my public health nurse hat back on for a moment. The most common- sense ways to protect yourselves, your family, and your communities are actually quite simple:
1) Wash your hands.
2) Use hand sanitizer.
3) Stay home if you are sick.
4) Don’t go around other sick people unless you are the care giver and take precautions if that is the case.
5) Don’t travel abroad or in the US to areas of high community spread.
6) Use reliable public health information to make your decisions.
7) Spread reliable information through social media to friends and family.
8) If you are quarantined by public health and being monitored, help us help you, your family, friends, and community by abiding by the specifics of your quarantine.
9) Stay calm and clear headed – cool heads prevail.
10) Ask questions of public health as needed.
Common sense will go along way to stop fear and stop the spread of this virus. We in public health or in the faith community can’t do this without you. We can do this together! We don’t have to succumb to fear. Let’s instead help each other and our communities stay healthy and safe.
1 Corinthians 16:14, 16; Do everything in love…submit to such people and to everyone who join in the work and labors at it.