Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday March 16, 2020.

It happened two days ago in a local store: the person in front of me bought $300 worth of hand sanitizer.

Here we are, increasingly engulfed by the reality that is the COVID-19 pandemic. It is happening and it’s getting closer. Some store shelves are empty – the mysterious case of toilet paper stockpiling is still ongoing, and the shortage of sanitizing products is troubling.

The message could not be clearer: do not stockpile. Have enough to last a few days but panic buying will not help the greater cause which is of course flattening the curve, and for that we need both supplies available for those who need it such as hospitals and care homes, and as few cases as possible to burden the system.  

The biggest concern I have at the moment is the determination of some to still go travel and not abide by the recommendation to self-isolate for 14 days upon returning from a destination outside Canada. I think traveling to emerging clusters within Canada qualifies too.

Some say they do not plan to self-isolate, even after traveling. That is what scares me more than the lack of toilet paper I must say. Not for fear of contracting the virus myself, but for how lack of responsibility can make a big problem much bigger.

It’s about those most vulnerable among us – the elderly, people with chronic health issues and compromised immune systems, but also the healthcare professionals at the forefront of this pandemic and people who are socially immersed jobwise.

Health care professionals are there doing their job and hoping for the best. The best, given the crazy circumstances we find ourselves in, is having enough supplies and not having an influx of unnecessary cases of COVID-19, mostly caused by people’s refusal to do their part and prevent the spread.

As I am writing this, the provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is announcing a second case in the Interior Health region, related to traveling outside Canada. Realistically, some sources say, one case identified may mean a few others around it. So it goes with viruses, they hop along. Doing our part to help reduce the risk to those at high risk among us, and also easing as much as possible, the burden on the healthcare system, I believe that to be a moral obligation.

Though the federal government has been criticized for not closing the borders and not being stricter in how they dealt with the virus, I dare say we are in good hands. But like so many things, governments, hospitals and organizations can only do so much. So much in what ultimately constitutes a success in dealing with a crisis like this lies with the community at large. And that means every one of us.

Let’s be aware of the fact that many small businesses in Canada will suffer and let’s do our best to support them; let’s be aware that the healthcare system works better when we all understand what we should and should not do; let’s not stockpile and thus create troublesome shortages and also waste down the road, and let’s not be willful factors in spreading the virus.

It can be done.

I’ll leave you with this sobering thought I came across on social media: ‘Your grandparents were asked to go to war. You are being asked to sit on the couch. Think about it carefully and act accordingly.’