Guest writer: Jess Belmont, North Carolina
Though I am not doing much these days, social distancing with my parents at their house in Belmont, NC the days are going by rapidly. I came home two weeks ago from New York. Not from New York City, but rather a small town in the Adirondacks.
I did not quarantine for two weeks like some of my classmates were required to do – one friend lives in Austria and the stipulation for him to be able to come back home was a mandatory two week quarantine. Today was the first day he got to step outside his home with a mask on.
We were both part of a program that was supposed to be in Ecuador on a mission trip for two weeks. When we were supposed to leave, March 14th, Seattle, Washington still had the highest cases of Coronavirus and travel to Europe was banned, but still people weren’t taking it seriously around us – it hadn’t hit close to home.
Our program director decided it would be best if we didn’t go to Ecuador regardless, which I agreed with – I definitely didn’t want to be part of 30 gringos from NY going to assist a local church who ends up wiping out a village by bringing the virus.
We tried to continue our program: having classes and going on adventures (the program had a focus on outdoor leadership). But, when Governor Cuomo of NY announced Shelter in Place mandates with also the recommendation of no groups larger than two gathering, the program had to end early (it was scheduled to end May 1st).
At this point, New York City had the most cases of positive COVID-19 cases so the mood was starting to shift. As I was driving through NY, gas stations wouldn’t let you use their bathrooms, gas prices were cheap, less cars were on the roads, and signs on the highway said “practice social distancing.”
The mood was different as I headed south, there was no shelter in place yet enacted in North Carolina (it wasn’t enacted in SC until today, April 7th!), there were plenty of cars on the road, and the highway signs just said check local state’s government websites for details.
My consensus is that culture in the South is not respecting this virus as seriously as it should which I think is due a lot to it not hitting close to home yet.
The projected peak date of the virus in North Carolina isn’t until April 26th, so it is likely those around me don’t know anyone personally affected by it yet. My family included was not respecting the virus as we should, not practicing social distancing as strictly, but recently we’ve tried to make the change because I come from a family of nurses – one who is working in the emergency room and ICU in Albany, New York.
When you start hearing the stories of what it is like working in the testing tents, patients being helicoptered up from NYC because there weren’t enough hospital beds, and my Aunt’s co-workers being intubated because of the virus, you feel the weight of the situation more heavily.
My family has started to make changes to be more conscientious of what we are bringing into the house. My mom is a nurse practitioner here in NC who still goes to work 5 days a week. She is not interacting with anyone who should have COVID-19, but it is really hard to know now who could be carrying it.
Yesterday, her practice started switching over to video visits which she still has to do in office. When she comes home, she takes her shoes off in the garage, strips her close and puts them in the wash, and then goes and takes a shower.
I signed up for InstaCart to be a shopper, hoping to be able to help InstaCart keep up the demand so those who are more at risk can use these grocery shopping applications and not have to leave the house. I have done two thus far, the first was for a family I was hoping would be benefiting from it. When I delivered the groceries (the app does not require you to hand them to the customer), a woman in her 60s, walking with a cane, greeted me through her door and told me she lived there with her husband and they took care of her husband’s father. I was really glad I could help this couple not have to go into a public setting; full disclosure, I was getting paid through this application.
But, last night, my mom pleaded with me to not continue to do it. My hands feel tied, what does helping look like right now? Staying home and social distancing helps my family, I don’t possibly spread the disease if I am just asymptomatic, and if I don’t get sick then I lessen impact on the healthcare field (especially because if I get sick then my mom can’t go into work either).
But, if I stay home as a healthy young adult people still need to get food so someone is still going to be leaving their home or possibly going without meals if organizations like food pantries or Meals on Wheels don’t have the volunteers they need.
Right now for me, I have decided to stop doing InstaCart because I do not need the money, I am being very well taken care of because both my parents are still working, but I am going to help deliver meals to seniors with Meals on Wheels this week while wearing a mask because I know they are hurting for volunteers and I can leave the food at their door.
I recommend those who feel able (not those who are high risk or coming into contact with those who are) to look into your local Meals on Wheels operations or food pantries. People still need to eat. A local food pantry in Charlotte, NC is running at less than 8% of their regular volunteer power. Now, I feel my hands are tied again because I also want to recommend taking social distancing seriously. I will end this section to say take the virus seriously and express to those around you kindness.
What I’ve come to realize through this time is that the world needs more self-sustainability.
The way I am thinking about self-sustainability is dietary wise predominantly, but I also acknowledge electrical and water sustainability. The reason I see this as a need in my life is that if I did not have the safety net of my parents both having jobs right now, I would be making no money and it would be hard to buy groceries, hard to live. I work in the outdoor recreation field, myself and most of my friends do not have jobs currently and do not know if they will for the summer, which is the high season of our field.
I acknowledge again that I am privileged, because I do live in a house with a decent sized backyard that could support a garden. But, I also see hope in that different people provide different necessities and we could trade items. Milk, soap, wood, drinks, solar power. I hope by writing this, I’ll take my own advice seriously and will prioritize how I could specifically become more sustainable once we have passed through this season. I hope you might, too.