When I was first conjuring the idea for this article on Sunday, my mind was racing with all the considerations to make. In fact, my legs were racing too, as I was in the middle of a long 7-mile run intended to be training for the Oklahoma City Memorial Half Marathon. But with learning the news it had been postponed until October, the training didn’t seem that important, and I cut my run short to jot down my thoughts. That must have been the first moment I had alone with my thoughts since we had a positive confirmed case of Coronavirus in Oklahoma, and they all hit me at once. I don’t think the Coronavirus was all that real for most of us Oklahomans until last week when The Thunder game was postponed. Suddenly, it became even more real to me when I learned that another confirmed case, a Utah Jazz player, had been at the school where my husband, Doyle, teaches, at Del City High School. Now a confirmed case in the Capitol building, and surely more to follow as the days go on. Things have changed daily over the past week, and so I expect that by the time this article goes to print, more changes will likely have taken place. Regardless, I’d still like to address the thoughts that have been most prevalent in my mind as the days pass.
First, I’d like to recognize and thank all of our leaders who have been thrust into an impossibly difficult position. They will be criticized for doing too little, but also for doing too much. We appreciate your efforts to consider all sides, and to make the best decisions based on the most recent information available. None of these are easy choices, but we are grateful for your efforts and sacrifice. I have been in contact with city, state, district, national, military, and health officials over the past days, and I can tell you that by and large, we are all working diligently in the best interest of all Oklahomans. In the end, the hope is that we will find that because we took so many proactive precautions, that we were spared much of the tragedy other places have suffered due to not taking it seriously.
There is a lot still unknown at this point. It almost seems as the days go by and we learn more, I actually feel like I understand less. We must, of course, listen to scientists, epidemiologists, and actual experts who have the most understanding of what is going on, but with each new day it seems there are new considerations to ponder. With so much unknown, it is understandable that anxieties are high, fuses are short, and our first inclination could be to lash out. Let’s remember to proceed with love and logic as things progress though. All of us have opinions and speculations of what will happen, but the truth is none of us can predict the future. We can take all the information based on the data and events from places that have had an earlier onset of confirmed cases, and make the best decisions we can. Hopefully, because of the thoughtful actions of our leaders, we will find out in the end that things were made better by the inconveniences we’re experiencing.
Most importantly, this pandemic should not be used as a political football. Yes, there are things that leaders on all sides could probably have done differently. Criticism for leaders is appropriate as long as they are based on facts and not wild speculation. Blanket statements like “The Democrats this,” or “The Republicans that,” are unproductive and frankly untrue. There are decent people on both sides of the aisle in an impossible position trying to juggle an uncertain future with a multitude of variables at play, and they are all changing daily, even hourly. Please reserve judgment for individuals and their actions, but remember we are all human and we are all learning. This is a situation unlike any the world has seen in recent history. That doesn’t mean we should all either panic or do nothing though. Much of the conversation I have witnessed has been at the ends of two extremes. My experience tells me that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. However, I think it’s also fair to say leaders should put aside their political goals when addressing this outbreak. The 1381 Peasants Revolt of England was due in part to the Crown’s poor response to the plague. I hope we don’t have to repeat history.
Additionally, during this time of uncertainty, it can be particularly challenging for our friends and family with mental health challenges. Remember to check in, not only with our physical selves, but also check in with your heart. How does your heart feel, friends? When I feel my anxiety is heightened, it helps me to learn facts to reassure me. Here are a few facts that I hope bring you comfort: 1) While many of us may eventually contract the COVID-19 disease, for a large majority of us, we will have mild cold-like symptoms or no symptoms at all, and will recover without complications. I’ve spoken with public health experts as well as physicians and have confirmed that there is no great threat to healthy children over four months of age, nor a great threat to healthy adults. The risk is with our older population, those who are immune compromised, and those who have existing respiratory problems. There is no vaccine, and since it’s a new virus, there is no immunity to fight it off. 2) School closures, business closures, government closures, all seem to be happening like a domino effect. This puts a lot of us in uncertain waters. However, know that there are supports in place to help folks with financial hurdles, ways to get food to those who rely on schools and churches to get food and supplies, and relief for businesses who are experiencing hardships. I’m happy to help those in need by reaching me via email at [email protected] Note that phones may not be answered as the staff has been sent home on administrative leave as of Tuesday. 3) We can continue to support each other and support local businesses by purchasing gift certificates and taking a rain check on services, purchasing coffee beans instead of a latte, shopping local online, or purchasing meals to-go and freeze when possible. We can show the world our Oklahoma standard by being creative and looking out for each other in this new normal.
In closing, I want to point out that it will be impossible to completely contain the virus from spreading. That’s not the goal. Rather, isolating yourself if you have symptoms such as cough or fever, practicing social distancing by keeping at home or in limited company even if not experiencing symptoms, as well as practicing good hygiene by washing hands are all measures meant to slow the spread of the virus. This is to prevent a potential strain on the health care system. The problem is when lots of people get sick at once and those with the most severe cases do not have access to things like ICU beds and ventilators because too many people need them. If we don’t slow the spread and flatten the curve to spread out those cases across time rather than having a spike all at once, we have the potential for creating a situation where people needlessly die because of lack of access to the healthcare they need. Do your part to protect the elderly, those with weakened immune systems, and those with respiratory conditions who have a harder time fighting the virus. Even if you still feel like all of this is an overreaction, consider this: which loved one are you willing to part with if it isn’t? We can do better for each other by remembering we are all in this together.