The Public Service of Staying Home
The show must go on, right? Unfortunately, that is not the case in a COVID-19 world, but you would not necessarily know it; many people have been slow to commit to the mandated stay-at-home lifestyle. Throughout March, there were baby showers, weddings, birthday parties, and happy hours. Life ebbed on at the usual pace as the number of coronavirus cases ticked upward – the term COVID-19 was barely in our vocabulary. When governors closed schools and encouraged social distancing, many took this as an opportunity to meet up with others, schedule play dates, and pluck lingering home-improvement projects from the “when I have more time” category.
As March marched on, the COVID-19 pandemic intensified, the number of cases in the U.S. exponentially grew and clustered in states like New York, New Jersey, and California. Could the testing numbers be bias? Sure, but unlike golf, the over/under count really does not matter. What matters is changing the perception and mindset of people and to indoctrinate the belief that social isolation works. It is one tool in our toolbox which each and every one of us has in our control.
Everyone, regardless if they are high-risk, low-risk, or think they are no-risk, needs to stay home. Early adopters of the stay-at-home life are now feeling weary. Is it not always the case that rule followers are annoyed by rulebreakers? Late (or non) adopters perhaps think isolation is unnecessary because their non-isolation track record has worked for them so far.
What about those cafeteria adopters – you know who they are. They pick and choose isolation based upon any menagerie of decision-making factors. For example, they socially isolate but go to the grocery store every day simply to get out of the house. Or, they socially isolate but get together with a few church friends – no hugs, kisses, or shaking of hands, but bring an appetizer to share and bottle of wine. We have to eat, right? What about the small-business owner who works from the office and directs her employees to do what they feel comfortable with? But the body follows the head, and so the staff members go into the office. Cafeteria isolators pick and choose so long as it does not really inconvenience them or their lifestyle.
The community benefit of isolation is clearly documented in science literature and epidemiology studies – but oh, how humans bristle as we are asked to make the leap from theory to practice. Is there not an internet meme out there yet about someone supporting everyone else’s social isolation practices so they can go about their life uninterrupted? Social isolation is in fact a public service that we can do for others. Just like recycling, not littering, picking up after our pets on walks, stopping at crosswalks, holding doors for others, and simply saying please and thank you – we do small things in small ways that just feel “right” as members of the community. Right now, our communities need isolation.
Honoring the spirit of stay at home just does not work, and we must all must honor the constrictions – the prickly, pokey, uncomfortableness of being homebound. If anything, this should make us more appreciative and thankful not just of our ability to move about, but also make us thankful for our health and our community which we are trying so desperately to protect.