I wish we didn’t have to re-open anything yet although I know all too well that people need to work. But some will think re-opening means it’s okay to relax safety protocols, to start to go back to life as normal, when it actually means anything but that. I have a friend who’s an ER doctor in Georgia (which has over 30,000 confirmed COVID cases) who is very clear that re-opening doesn’t mean anything is safer—flattening the curve just means there may be ICU beds available again. But they will fill up fast if we don’t continue to be as safe as possible.
The virus isn’t getting any less contagious. We’ve been very lucky in Dunn County so far but there will be even greater risk as people start to move around more. As far as we know, no one is immune. But at the grocery stores, and even just driving down the street, I see a lot of people not wearing masks and not social distancing. News footage showed busy bars this week as soon as the shelter in place order ended. This is hard to fathom. Being safe is the most patriotic thing we can do right now—not to mention caring and compassionate.
A friend’s mother died of COVID today. I think it won’t be long before many more of us will know someone who has it, if you don’t already. Wear a mask and distance for your mother’s sake, or your grandmother’s, or any of your loved ones—whether or not you’re seeing them right now. Wear a mask because the grocery store employees are somebody’s loved ones. And they should, of course, wear masks, too. If/when you go back to work or move about town more, distance and wear a mask because you care about everyone you see, don’t you? It’s such a teeny little thing we can do to help everyone.
What does this have to do with Stepping Stones? A majority of our volunteers are retired and some have had to step back due to underlying health issues. We serve a very vulnerable population, many of whom have chronic health concerns and who are disproportionately uninsured or underinsured. This is why we’ll continue to do only curbside pick-up of pre-packed food boxes. It’s why we all distance and wear masks at Stepping Stones—for the sake of those we serve, our volunteers, and each other. We want to ensure that we can be there for the many new families we’re seeing already and the many more who will experience economic hardship in the days and months ahead.
Usually when I talk about Stepping Stones’ needs I emphasize the need for food and funds, or the need for greater understanding of the realities of poverty—the causes of hunger and homelessness. That’s all still so important. But not more important than staying alive. Please distance. Please wear a mask. Masks are cool, they’re “in”, they can even be stylish! And they let others know you care about them. Not wearing a mask and distancing means you don’t. That may sound harsh, but it really is that simple. Do it for mothers and fathers, grandparents, children, friends, co-workers, and yourself. Do it for people who are hungry or homeless. Just do it! Please.
Katherine Dutton is the executive director of Stepping Stones of Dunn County. She can be reached by emailing email@example.com.
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