It’s Sunday. I just came back from the grocery store, picking up a few items for a neighbour who arrived back from Mexico, now in self-quaranteen. Carts were being wiped down upon my arrival, customers nodded hello while keeping a safe distance, and the check outs were thoroughly sanitized after each customer. Like many of you, I’m still adjusting to our new “normal”.

In the last two weeks the Province has declared a state of emergency,  the Federal Government has closed our border to non-essential travel, the Town has closed all recreation facilities and the Region has reduced non-mandatory servicing and closed all facilities to the public (effective March 23). And yet by the time you actually read this, it’s entirely possible that there have been numerous other announcements and updates still to be seen. It’s hard to keep up with pace and frequency of updates coming at us. We are facing extraordinary circumstances and unprecedented times, and we’re just getting started.

The first case of COVID-19 occurred in China on November 16th. In four months it has spread to over 140 countries, resulted in over 180,000 cases and nearly 7,100 deaths. As of today, Canada has seen 1385 cases and 19 deaths.  Niagara has three confirmed cases. News on the virus seems to change daily, if not hourly. And whether you’re watching the news or tuning in on different social media channels, be prepared to be inundated with information. It’s utterly exhausting.

The advice of public health experts and the medical community is to take this very seriously. Self-quarantine if you’ve recently traveled. Work from home where possible. Exercise social distancing. Don’t go out if you don’t have to. Wash your hands, thoroughly and repeatedly. We must all do what we can to minimize the spread of the virus, keep our families safe and protect those in our community who are the most vulnerable.

At this time it’s also important to acknowledge the people in our community who day after day are continuing with their work and braving through the pandemic. This includes the doctors and nurses on our front lines of the health care system, who are helping us navigate symptoms and testing. This includes our public health department who keep us informed and are coordinating our response to new and potential cases. Our health care system is being overwhelmed right now and the best thing we can do is stay home to “flatten the curve”.

However, there are also everyday heros in our community that are making this situation more palatable. This includes the people who work at our local grocery and convenience stores. People who stock shelves, fill prescriptions or make deliveries. It includes the people who are pick up our garbage. All of these people put themselves at risk for us to maintain a sense of normalcy. They couldn’t be thanked enough for keeping calm and carrying on!

Yet, in light of all of this uncertainty I am hoping Pelham can do one of the things we’re best at; pulling together and supporting one another.  If I’ve learned anything about this Town over the last few years, it’s that we have a tremendous sense of community. From our annual food drive, to the work of our various service clubs, there’s an abundance of people who want to pitch in, lift up and rally behind the issues and people that need our help the most.

So I would urge you to continue this practice, albeit with a different lens and in a new context. One we couldn’t have imagined, nor expected, to be experiencing right now.

Touch base with your elderly neighbors. If you’re out picking up groceries, or need something from the pharmacy, ask if you can pick something up for them. Do the same for friends or family in self-quarantine.  You can drop items off at their door without making physical contact. Pick up take-out from one of our local restaurants. They are under incredible financial strain and need our support. And don’t forget to reach out to people via social media, video-chat or through a text message. Social isolation and loneliness can have a significant impact on overall health. We need to be mindful of counteracting these impacts where we can.

Coretta Scott King said that “the greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” Storms don’t last forever, and as we navigate these difficult times, we don’t have to lose our sense of self and our commitment to community. Whether it’s a difficult four days, four weeks or four months, we will get through this with a little help from our friends. Hang in there everyone! Things will get better.