Sean Roney

Forget the panic. Everywhere you look, including this very newspaper, you see the fallout from coronavirus. There is a difference between logical response and panicked reaction. On one hand, you could be provident and prepared for any potential emergency, including an earthquake or fire, and on the other hand, you could be in a giant line to hoard toilet paper.

Whether the virus itself is weaker than advertised or overhyped isn’t of significance anymore. There are two major ways it will affect us all.

First, you might have to stay in your house for two or more weeks. This could result either from yourself or a family member being infected and ordered to self-quarantine, or because the government orders a lockdown, as they did in San Francisco.

Second, and this is the huge one, these shutdowns are a wrecking ball on our economy. Businesses are already suffering, and many will close locally and around the nation. Many people are facing smaller paychecks or are about to lose their jobs altogether. Even if it’s not your job or your business, you’ll likely know relatives or neighbors who get hit.

In either case, providence is the best option.

Don’t go bonkers and hoard a ton of supplies. Simply make sure you have between two and four weeks of food, housing essentials like toilet paper, and medicines. You can afford to go to the store now, so have an emergency response ready for general preparedness. Even if you don’t need a week’s worth of rice, perhaps a neighbor will be thankful you were able to help.

As far as food goes, non-perishable items like pasta, rice and canned goods are the best idea. Coronavirus is unlikely to disrupt our electricity, but for general emergencies like an earthquake, it’s not a good idea to have frozen food for emergency readiness. However, in this case, coronavirus may disrupt your ability to go to the grocery store, so frozen foods might be a tastier option to have on hand than another heap of rice and pasta.

There will be people who are out of work, meaning cash isn’t as free-flowing. Be ready to barter. Come up with skills you can offer neighbors in exchange for goods, and decide which skills you would want others to provide you. Trading spare food or supplies for yard work or car maintenance might become an option with neighbors in need. Also, trading allows you to swap out extra items for things you might be low on.

Entertainment is another valuable skill. I’ve seen videos of neighborhood concerts in Sicily. Perhaps musicians or even carolers could be ready to lift spirits in the event of a lockdown.

The hoarders wiping out store shelves of toilet paper, water, bread and other items are hurting their neighbors. They’re also not logical, since stores have to restock their shelves. Keep this in mind in case you want something that hoarders snatched.

For example, bread is harder to find. I went to Safeway on Saturday and was disheartened that I couldn’t get a loaf for the week. Rather than be scared, I asked the cashier when they restock bread. She said Monday morning. Sure enough, I went back Monday morning and there were plenty of loaves. They were already a bit ransacked by hoarders, but they were in stock.

Simply talk kindly to grocers or store clerks and find out when they restock whatever item it is you need. If that date is too far out, be ready to possibly barter with a neighbor.

Consider reusability, as well. Rather than single-use plastic bottles, now is a great time to purchase a reusable bottle, especially one with a filter. Speaking of which, a sink filter or pitcher filter is a great alternative to a heap of plastic-leeched water bottles.

Rattled economies go hand-in-hand with spikes in crime. It’s important to develop good morale in a community. Barter systems, community entertainers and general openness help to establish a better understanding between neighbors and reduce crime. This is a preventative measure, but an effective one.

As far as enforcement, people can offer to keep watch for each other, since there will be so many people, especially kids, at home for a few weeks. The stronger our neighborhood networks, the less prevalent crime will be.

Lastly, the matter of health is a concern. The naysayers might be correct that coronavirus is nothing to be scared of. Whether it’s a threat or all bark but no bite, doing what you can now to boost your immune system doesn’t hurt. This includes vitamins and healthy eating. Have those reaction medications ready, but don’t make a habit of them, since many of them are simply overdoses of things like Vitamin C, which aren’t good for you to take in such high quantities over a long term.

Improving your health with walks can also step up your immunity. Once the rains stop, walks around the neighborhood could not only help you, but also make it possible to chat with neighbors and get those morale and support networks established.

Remember that this isn’t a zombie apocalypse waiting to happen, but a medical concern where the authorities want to reduce the rate of infection. Their goal is to ensure hospitals aren’t overwhelmed by swarms of high-risk patients. We’re all going to be OK, but the economic ride is about to get bumpy.

The best way through this is with a level head.

Contact Sean Roney at [email protected].

Having a plan to deal with any emergency, whether earthquake or outbreak, is a more successful response than panic buying. (Photo by Sean Roney)
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Sean Roney is a freelance reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.


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