A Guest Perspective on Adapting to a Changed World

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Over the course of what feels like months but, in reality, has been just a few weeks, our lives have been rearranged in a way that previously seemed unimaginable. As we adapt to our new normal, we’ll all be pondering how best to handle things. With that in mind, I’ve spent some time this week thinking about the “dos and don’ts” of life in the evolving coronavirus/COVID-19 crisis era.

DO find good information sources and read them carefully. Two of the best I’ve found over the last few weeks are San Mateo County’s coronavirus webpage and the San Mateo County Economic Development Association’s Business/Worker Resource webpage. The county’s 2-1-1 telephone line is another excellent resource.

DON’T blindly follow/post/retweet/share information unless you’ve carefully confirmed that it’s accurate. Expertise and qualifications matter. Following advice from those unqualified to give it can be deadly right now.

DO wash your hands, often and thoroughly for at least 30 seconds. Don’t know what 30 seconds feels like? Say, “At this point in my life, I should probably be able to figure out when 30 seconds has elapsed” six times.

DON’T touch your face. As we’ve all recently realized, apparently we touch our faces around 16 times an hour. It’s hard, but try to avoid it as much as humanly possible.

DO stay home. Seriously. No joke. We know the kids/teens will be getting on your last nerve (and vice-versa.) As I read recently, “Your grandparents were called to serve in war. You’re being asked to sit on your couch. You can do this.”

DON’T leave home unless you need to for an essential purpose like grocery shopping, picking up medication, or for medical reasons. A reminder that “essential” means, “absolutely necessary” or “extremely important.” Yes, you can still go for a walk or jog.

DO shop as you normally would (remember the six-feet rule.) The virus has not affected the supply chain. Toilet paper aisles are barren simply because folks overreacted initially and hoarded.

DON’T overbuy and hoard. Kudos to local stores like Costco, Safeway, and many others who have implemented rules to ensure a steady supply of basic items of necessity.

DO support businesses still open in your community as much as you can. Order delivery/take-out from local restaurants. Need some tools/supplies for all those “to-do” list items you never seem to get to but now, all of a sudden, have plenty of time for? It’s a great time to patronize your local hardware store.

DON’T eat inside a restaurant and if you see one offering dine-in, call your local police department’s non-emergency line and let them know. If you’re picking up food, don’t forget the six-feet rule.

DO get some exercise. Go for walks in areas of your neighborhood you can access without driving. Go for a run, jog, walk or a bike ride. Just make absolutely sure you maintain six feet of distance between you and others when you do.

DON’T leave your neighborhood to get exercise. Don’t drive to the beach, your favorite trail, or your favorite park. The idea here is to keep people from aggregating together at attractions like this.

DO be aware that due to some appallingly bad decisions by high-ranking federal officials about how to refer to coronavirus, our friends and neighbors of Asian ancestry are vulnerable to some truly awful behavior. If you see someone being harassed or assaulted, call the police immediately and try to help if you can safely do so. This is San Mateo County; we do not and we will not tolerate racially or ethnically motivated crimes of hate.

DON’T let fear or appallingly bad decisions by high ranking federal officials about how to refer to coronavirus confuse you. This virus and the COVID-19 disease it causes knows no borders and doesn’t care what your ethnicity or race is.

DO follow the Golden Rule. If you find yourself wondering how you should handle a situation, just remember to treat everyone as you would like to be treated. It’s really that simple. Speaking of which, I’ve fielded a ton of calls and emails over the last two weeks from people wondering how they can help. I recommend two things: 1) sign up to be a volunteer through the county at surveymonkey.com/r/WSXH6PZ and 2) donate as much as you can to the SMCStrong Fund at smcstrong.org/. Every dollar raised will stay in the county to help individuals/families, small businesses, and nonprofits suffering from the negative impacts of the crisis.

Charles Stone is the Vice-Mayor of the City of Belmont, the Chair of the San Mateo County Library Joint Powers Agency, and serves on the Caltrain and SamTrans Board of Directors. The thoughts and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the positions of any organization he is affiliated with.

This story was originally published in the April edition of Climate Magazine. To view the magazine online, click here.

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