More often than I would like, I find myself leaving our North Riverdale office quite late in the evening. If you’ve never been around Skyview Shopping Center near West 259th Street after midnight, it’s an interesting experience. What’s typically a busy Riverdale Avenue becomes eerily quiet.
It’s unnerving, to say the least, because I have to remind myself I’m in New York City. But usually I find some solace civilization still exists thanks to the fantastic music emanating from Yukka, or a quick glance into the window to see a packed bar at Connaughton’s Riverdale Steak House.
What we’re going through right now with this coronavirus is unprecedented, to a certain extent. It seems nearly every generation has something that disrupts our lives in ways we’d prefer not. Whether it was the Kennedy assassination in the 1960s, the energy crisis of the ‘70s, or the much more recent Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which is hard to believe was nearly 20 years ago now. These are events that force us, as a society, to change. And hopefully in good ways.
It’s very rare for The Riverdale Press to put an opinion piece on the front page. In fact, we could probably count on one hand the number of times it’s been done. But I felt it was important to take account of what’s happening for a moment, and maybe even offer a little bit of hope.
Hope? With a virus pushing its way into our lives, turning very social people into a community of hermits? Yes. Because things might be tough. The future might be uncertain. But even with six feet of separation, we are all still stronger together than we ever are separately.
And we will get through this together. No, we can’t gather at the Monument. No, we can’t assemble at the American Legion and hash it out. No, we can’t even commiserate over a drink with some of our closest friends.
My biggest fear is being a part of a community that is panicked. And that’s not easy to contain, especially when some of the early cases of coronavirus in New York were directly associated with our very community. It’s the reason why you don’t see us going out of our way to share statistics — what’s the point of that? Sure, the numbers are available, and we will share them from time to time. But to act like cable news, and focus on it constantly, the anxiety is just too much.
But here is the reality of all this: You’re probably going to be exposed to SARS-CoV-2. You may even develop COVID-19, whether mild symptoms, or enough to send you to the hospital. Efforts right now are designed not to stop the spread of the virus, because it’s not clear we can do that, but instead to slow it down, so that we don’t overwhelm our health care facilities.
That’s why following the guidelines from health officials is vital. Stay home if you can. Don’t gather in groups. Limit your interactions with people. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds regularly, and don’t touch your face with your hands. If you show symptoms, call a doctor.
Those are our responsibilities when it comes to keeping a health crisis under some sort of control. But we also have responsibilities to each other as a community.
First, support your local businesses. While there are definitely health effects that we have to look out for, there are also financial impacts that could be so deep, it would take years to recover.
Yes, restaurants are closed to sit-down customers, but many are still open for take-out and deliveries. Supporting these local businesses is how we keep those local businesses here. The owners of these restaurants, cafes and stores, they have families to support, bills to pay. And it’s important we do our part to help them.
When you do support businesses and such, be mindful of your neighbors. A single multi-pack of paper towels will likely last you a couple months. You don’t need 10 of them. And I’m not sure what you’re going to do with all that toilet paper either — this is a respiratory disease, not the norovirus. Hoarding supplies gives you way too much of something, and not enough for someone else.
Be mindful of your friends and even your neighbors, including those who might be homebound already. Make sure they have everything they need, including someone like you, who could be just a phone call away. It’s easy to put out of our minds people we don’t see very often, but during a crisis like this, they should be at the forefront.
And finally — and most importantly — don’t waste your energy casting blame. Even if you get sick, it’s no one’s fault, not even the person you think may have passed it on. This isn’t a “foreign virus,” or a “Chinese coronavirus” or any of those terrible descriptions. Diseases happen. Few of them require the response SARS-CoV-2 is getting, but they still happen, and it’s no one’s fault.
Hopefully sooner rather than later, we’ll have a chance to look back at what this was, and then we can look at where our leaders could have done better. But not to point fingers, but instead to ensure that when this happens again — and it will — that we can better contain the spread, and ensure we’re not overwhelming our medical system.
As your community newspaper, we are here. We depend on you and we depend on our advertisers to ensure we’re getting vital information out to you. But keep picking up the paper. Follow the latest on RiverdalePress.com. And if you want updates the moment we get them up, email me at email@example.com, and I’ll be sure you’re on our notification list.
Be safe. Be a good neighbor. And be well.
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