April Editorial: Pandemic Heroes

Written By: Tawny Tesconi, Executive Director
Published: April 1, 2020

These are unsettling times. What our world is going through is horrific. Locally, this pandemic combined with the last few years of fires and floods makes me wonder if our county will ever catch a break. The health of our residents is threatened, and our economy is faltering, but in these trying times, I believe in the American grit. We are a nation that has proven its resiliency and history shows that when faced with adversity our Country rights itself and comes back stronger.

For example, as devastating as the Great Depression was to the United States, there were several positive outcomes from that decade of unemployment, poverty, and political unrest. Roosevelt’s New Deal was spawned from the hardship of the Great Depression. Not without its fault, the New Deal spurred infrastructure projects, bolstered industrialization and encouraged technology. Hard to believe, but during a snippet of this dark period in our country’s history (1929 to 1932) life expectancy rose 6.20 years, from 57.1 to 63.3. The 40-hour workweek was born (but not for farmers), people embraced saving money and there was a sense of community and culture that hadn’t been felt previously in the 20th century.

Fast forward to the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. Sure, bad people are taking advantage of these challenging times and doing horrific acts that make your skin crawl, but for every report of ill-will, there are 10 heroic stories being shared. Maybe I want to be a Pollyanna (millennials you can Google it), or I am looking for the silver-lining or I want to believe the wine glass is half full, regardless – the American response to this crisis would make John Wayne proud. 

Pandemic Heroes – My top 10 observations:

#1 Medical Professionals and Caregivers: All of us are concerned with the possibility of being exposed to the virus – whereas the doctors, nurses, and other workers in the medical field know they are chancing fate. Healing and comforting without proper protective equipment and working long hours in less than ideal conditions, these folks not only are concerned for their own wellbeing but for the health of their loved ones as well. To prevent the risk of infecting others, many of these self-sacrificing heroes have quarantined themselves from their own spouses and children to help strangers.

#2 Farmers, Ranchers, and Processing Facilities: It would have been easy to point a finger at all the hoarders out there for a shortage of food on the shelves, but instead, America’s farmers, ranchers and all those businesses involved in the food chain stepped it up to increase production to refill the grocery shelves, most likely at higher production costs from increased employee safety practices. Although most consumers respect farmers for what they do, we find organizations like DxE exploiting the pandemic to further their propaganda and to suggest that animal agriculture be eliminated. To all of you DxE zealots out there – the few times I visited the grocery store during the initial Shelter in Place order, I saw empty shelves where milk, hamburger, and cheese should be but there was an abundance of coconut juice, tofu, and fake meat products being ignored by shoppers.

#3 Techies and Innovators: Where would be during this isolation without Zoom, Facebook, Google, Hulu, Netflix, and all the other tools available to help us stay informed, entertained and in communication with each other. And, these companies remain nimble and are already repurposing their facilities and staff to produce more personal safety gear and find vaccines and other cures to combat the virus. 

#4 Children: The ultimate optimists who are teaching us adults how to adapt to a new normal. As a grownup, we are probably working at a different workstation and communicating with our workgroup of maybe 5-10 people via phone, email or text. School kids had to quickly switch from the classroom learning environment where there was a trained teacher, dozens of classmates, great snacks and group recess to lesson plans completed at the kitchen table by parents trying to figure out how to maneuver Google Classroom. Yet every student I have read or heard about in this pandemic remains happy and positive- they know they will get through this. We adults need to glean their hopefulness.

#5 Teachers: With three siblings as teachers or are retired teachers, I have always had a great level of respect for educators. However, there are many heartfelt stories out there of teachers finding ways of keeping their students focused on learning and engaged with classmates. Further, based on the number of social media posts made by parents ranting about homeschooling, there is no doubt that in normal situations teachers are reducing the level of alcoholism in folks with school-aged children.

#6 Neighbors: Block parties with social distancing, young neighbors running errands and buying groceries for older or at-risk neighbors, birthday parties celebrated via car rallies and musical concerts performed from front porches, neighbors are assisting and cheering up neighbors. Mr. Rogers would be proud. 

#7 Grocery/Store Clerks: These are some unsung heroes. Not only is it difficult to maintain a 6-foot separation from customers, but they must handle money and touch dozens of handled goods as they checkout customers. And, how many times in a day do they have to hear toilet paper jokes? 

#8 Restaurants: One might argue that traditional restaurants that remade themselves into takeout locations did so as a survival tactic. In part this is true, but if you know the restaurant business, you know anyone in it loves comforting and feeding folks. Time and time again when our community experiences a crisis our local chefs, restaurant owners and employees step-up and work endless hours to keep our bodies and souls nourished. 

#9 Musicians: Whether they are live streaming it, YouTubing it or Facebooking it, professional and amateur musicians all over the world are playing to their communities from balconies or to a greater community online.

#10 Democrats and Republicans: I hate to award previous bad behavior, but it is good to see our politicians ignoring the aisle and working together, mostly. 

We are experiencing something that I hope no other generation ever has to live through again, but I am hopeful lessons will be learned, people will be saved and our World will make it through the gauntlet only to be stronger and more thoughtful on the other side. 

Be safe and be kind.

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