We’re OK today in Key West. Sun’s shining, winds have died down a bit, folks are out and about doing regular stuff. There are no reports in Key West of the coronavirus, COVID-19, that’s sweeping around the globe. Not today.
It feels like the week before a hurricane. We’ve got one eye cocked on the cone and the other roving across the storage closet to find the re-entry sticker. A low-grade anxiety hovers like fog. It’s not here today, but ….
I know that’s unlikely to last. Sooner or later, the coronavirus that has been confirmed in Miami-Dade, our neighbor 165 miles to the northeast, will make its official appearance on the island. And, when it does, here’s what I think we can expect in the two to six weeks following the first confirmed Key West COVID-19:
- Stay at home orders, which is fine if you’re retired, but not so much when you’ve still got to go to work.
- Closed schools, with parents and guardians scrambling for a way to take care of and feed the kids.
- Closed businesses, meaning folks out of work, most of them working a couple of jobs to make ends meet, with no insurance and no paid sick time.
- Canceled or postponed events, leaving countless not-for-profits struggling to make ends meet as their annual fundraisers take a hit
- Season wraps up early. Usually our snowbirds head home between Easter and Mother’s Day. They’re either packing up now or thinking about doing so. It won’t be long before visitors coming in by air, car and buses follow suit. The folks who want cruise ships banned now will get their wish, along with planes and autos.
- High demand for medical services on an island where medical services are limited, at least by mainland standards.
- Limited goods and services because there’s no trucks coming down from the mainland; no UPS, FedEx or US Postal Service.
- Workers who serve the public under stress, including law enforcement, fire and EMT workers, public health staff, doctors, care givers, trash collectors, public utilities workers. You know, the people we swear at or complain about in good times but need so desperately and appreciate so much when we’re in distress.
Typing that list made me hyperventilate. Deep breath. Those are the pretty much the same things we face with hurricane season when the order goes out to be prepared. Key West has disaster preparation and aftermath clean up in its DNA. We can manage COVID-19. Though I can’t leave the island for safety elsewhere, I can get on with doing my hurricane prep early this year, keeping in mind not to stockpile more than we actually need. Leave the rest for others.
Now before the naysayers jump all over me with claims of false equivalencies, making light of this virus and its potential to kill, let me say this clearly: COVID-19 is serious. Unlike many coronaviruses, humans haven’t built up an immunity to it, there is no current vaccine and we won’t know much about it until it’s moved through all its cycles. We do know it’s especially tough on the elderly, those with compromised immune systems or underlying/preexisting upper respiratory challenges. We need to protect them from the rest of us and ensure they get priority care.
The rest of us need to do our hurricane prep — then turn our attention to helping those around us. Take care of our neighbors. Put aside some cash to help a friend whose job’s in jeopardy. Stop sharing rumors in person and on social media. Stick with real news sources for information. Comfort those who are afraid. We will learn along the way; we will direct our anger and fear; sustain our hope and even be able to laugh again. Really.
My list of preferred news sources: