Opinion

Self-isolation – the sequel

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What a difference a day makes? Look what has happened in a week. Last week I wrote of the airlines, my bank, and the nearby farm store, doubling down on cleanliness as a precaution against coronavirus. I wrote also of local grocery shoppers hoarding toilet paper and soap.

 

This week much of the country is self-isolating. I’ve worked from home, part- and full-time, since the 1990s. Self-isolation is part of my job. I predict the nation will see positive trends resulting from our self isolation.

 

But right now, for families, fellow workers, and businesses we frequent, these coronavirus preventive measures are having a tough, significant impact.

 

Normal life is topsy-turvy and shaken. Like most people, I’m still trying to figure it all out.

 

I have a family member who works for a payroll company that closed up for a few weeks. Instead of her normal weekly commute to the office, her work gear — laptop, phone, and other electronics — is with her at her new workplace: home.

 

Six-year-old Grafton’s school and daycare center closed. As recently as last week, Grafton was riding the bus to school, then back to daycare for a couple of hours until mom, dad, or I picked him up. Or I would get Grafton right after school, going on adventures, not daycare, until his parents’ workday ended.

 

Effective this week? That entire routine has collapsed and is being rebuilt.

 

Millions of parents and grandparents across America this week are in the same boat.

 

“I feel like everyone I know has divided into two camps: those who are in their pajamas, binge-watching Netflix and rediscovering hobbies, and those who are looking after kids, surrounded by half-eaten PB&J sandwiches, flailing at homeschooling and already at wits end,” wrote cellist Zoe Keating in a March 18 Tweet. Ms. Keating is a widow, single-mom and professional musician.

 

I support taking common sense precautions, even being extra cautious in shielding people most susceptible to serious illness or death from the virus. But, while I can’t help wondering if some of the measures are over-the-top, I also admire spirited workarounds people are using.

 

The federal government’s putting a stop to visiting nursing home residents, brought back feelings of regret and frustration at  the difficulty of having basic communications with parents living in an assisted living home far away.

 

Eileen’s friend has the advantage of her mother living in a nearby nursing home. When the feds said no more visitors, Eileen’s friend stood outside her mom’s nursing home window. The two could see each other and talk with each other using cellphones.

 

Still, I am skeptical and bothered by the escalating “emergency” measures of state and federal governments. California Gov. Newsom ordered “all individuals living in…California to stay home or at their place of residence except as needed to maintain continuity of operations of the [sixteen] federal critical infrastructure sectors…” https://www.cisa.gov/critical-infrastructure-sectors.

 

Gov. Newsom’s order is directed at 40 million people.

 

I worry about our local small businesses; the shops, the eateries, the barbers and hair stylists, the concert halls, the pubs, and all the other businesses we frequent. They are getting crushed.

 

What if government decides all of America should stay home? What happens then to our economy?

 

What happens to the millions of Americans who are the economy?

 

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board this morning (3/20) must have been reading my mind, writing, “If this government-ordered shutdown continues for much more than another week or two, the human cost of job losses and bankruptcies will exceed what most Americans imagine. [F]ederal and state officials need to start adjusting their anti-virus strategy now to avoid an economic recession that will dwarf the harm from 2008-2009.”

 

I’m not an alarmist, but I’m even less of a believer in total government solutions.

 

Scott K. Fish has served as a communications staffer for Maine Senate and House Republican caucuses, and was communications director for Senate President Kevin Raye. He founded and edited AsMaineGoes.com and served as director of communications/public relations for Maine’s Department of Corrections. He now works in the private sector.

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