Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday, March 23, 2020.

The verbs du jour alternate between ‘social distancing’ and ‘self-isolating’, but in order to remove the negative connotations of the first, we are advised to call it ‘physical distancing’. Because we are, in many ways, closer than ever. Whatever you call it, please make sure you abide. Which brings me to the question that pops up a lot in social media circles: are we making too much of it?

Short answer: no.

And here’s the long answer: This is not just another flu virus. People argue that thousands have died every year from influenza. True, but were you ever close to being scared when out in public because ‘what if’? Careful yes, but not to this level. I know I wasn’t. Were you looking at strangers in the same store wondering if they had been in contact with someone who was sick of influenza? I wasn’t.

Are you more on edge now? I am.

Another argument is that ‘only the elderly, immune-compromised people and people with pre-existing respiratory conditions are at risk.’ That makes me shudder, and I found it perfectly worded in a friend’s social post: ‘Your ‘only’ is my everything.’ She meant her son. No comment.

In the face of that, could the rest of us still say that we’re making too much of it?

Here’s another thing to consider: should a family member contract the virus, do you have a way to have him or her properly secluded until contagiousness is no longer possible? My family would be struggling with that because our home is not a large one and we have only one bathroom. We wash our hands a lot and do our part to help flatten the curve.

We have never pondered over these questions and yet, here we are, being asked to put the grown-up hats on and expected to act accordingly. Which is, among others, abiding by what health authorities are urging us all to do: stay home as much as you can, get outside for exercise but keep your distance and self-isolate if you have been traveling or come in contact with presumptive cases, wash hands often and properly. Also on the to do list but of a different nature, please support local businesses during these harsh times. We will all be better for it when the crisis is over.

We have no idea how many cases are in Kamloops. Our mayor said there might be some, but he is not aware of any. Fair enough, he is not a healthcare professional and it is not in his mandate to provide such information. The reality is that there are cases here. I have learned of two last week, and another possible one was undergoing testing. This is not fearmongering; it is the argument for why we should keep our distance as advised and help reduce the spread.

As for things to do… There are myriad of online classes and activities offered at no cost. That’s one way of passing time. There is reading, and gardening – my husband and I have raked lawns, pruned fruit trees and got the garden beds ready. Next is some home renovations and reinstating game nights with the boys.

Here’s to hoping that we all resolve to find the silver lining(s) in this big mess: that we will have learned the value of companionship and the joy of belonging to a community even when togetherness as we know it is being redefined; that we will have rediscovered the simple pleasure of homecooked meals shared with our loved ones; that we will have had the opportunity to reflect on issues such as selfishness and altruism, and that we will have understood why compassion and caring for our fellow humans is what will see us all safe.

Also, that we will have all humbly resolved to never hoard food or items that everyone needs in times of crisis. It’s better to belong to the ‘people helping people’ demographic. In challenging times, some show their best and others their worst. It’s a choice.

Stay healthy, or as a friend recently said, stay sanitized. I would add ‘stay far enough away physically, but together’.

This too shall pass.