Look out for thy neighbor

Crises have a way of bringing out the best in people. As the CN&R has documented repeatedly since November 2018, Butte County residents too numerous to count rose above and beyond when the Camp Fire devastated whole communities. But critical conditions, such as the spread of the coronavirus, also bring out the worst in people: Witness the recent hoarding of toilet paper and cleaning supplies.

The COVID-19 pandemic has most everyone worried. (We say “most everyone” because some live lives of obliviousness or disregard.) Government decrees this past week have restricted gatherings. Numbers of cases and fatalities keep escalating, though fortunately not locally—as of press time, Butte County remained at no confirmed cases. Many folks are hunkering down as if in a storm.

In a way, we are in a storm. Reaction to the outbreak created a psychological tsunami. The coronavirus’ toll overseas has swirled fears over here. This week in Healthlines, Ashiah Scharaga speaks with practitioners of therapy and meditation to gain methods for coping. But the effects go beyond emotional distress.

Our hometown is hurting financially. Local businesses, a vital source of sustenance for the community, have taken an abrupt hit as a result of social distancing. Restaurants, bars, coffee houses, shops, theaters, schools, activity spaces—myriad establishments face hard times, for as long as health guidelines discourage public groups. We don’t need to give an economics lecture on how a business slowdown impacts jobs—it’s enough to say the ripple is ominous.

In these uncertain times, there’s something we all can do to help: Look out for our neighbors.

First and foremost, take note of those living around you, particularly elderly residents who have no one else to check on them. (The Camp Fire claimed the lives of seniors left behind, unaccounted for; let’s learn from that tragedy.) Schools provide day care and meals for thousands of children countywide, more than 13,000 in Chico alone, so offer to watch the kids next door when you’re home and their parents need to work. Little things like this go far.

Beyond the block, support local businesses. We often raise this call, but it’s especially important now. If you can’t go out, buy a gift certificate—that infusion of cash will make a difference until the wave crests and you can visit the business again.

Coronavirus concerns are legitimate. With sensible precautions and sensitive reactions, we’ll get through this together.