In the Midst of Crisis Our Community Comes Together

COVID-19. A new medical term that evokes fear throughout the community and sends people scampering to their nearest retail store to stock up on items they consider essential for daily life.

While pandemic levels of coronaviruses are not new (SARS in 2002; Swine Flu H1N1 in 2009; MERS 2012), they were specific to influenza. COVID-19, however, is different in that it affects the respiratory system.  The virus is officially named SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes is Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19.

With no symptoms until up to 14 days after infection, it cloaks itself as a sinister and potentially deadly disease.  According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), older people and people of all ages with severe chronic medical conditions — like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example — seem to be at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness. Reported illnesses have ranged from very mild (including some with no reported symptoms) to severe, including illness resulting in death.

Fortunately, as of Wednesday, Dr. Noelle Bissell of the New River Valley Department of Health reported, “As of right now, there are no confirmed / presumed positive cases of COVID-19 in the New River Valley Health District.  Test kits are overall very accurate (90% or more).  There are a limited supply of test kits in the district (NOT at the health department), so if someone has symptoms, they need to call our call center, 540-267-8240 for guidance.”

Bissell advised, “We want to provide the best guidance possible and make sure those at highest risk for COVID get tested.  We need to remember that someone could test negative today, be exposed and be positive by the end of the week.  That’s where personal / community responsibility for good infection prevention and control come in.  Don’t go out when ill.  Stay away from sick people.  Wash hands. Handwashing in general is not well practiced.  Wash after using the restroom, before eating, or after handling commonly / frequently handled items.  Make a conscious effort to not touch the face (people do this hundreds of times a day subconsciously).  Don’t shake hands or get intimate with hugging / kissing.  Practice social distancing of at least 3 – 6 feet.  Cough / sneeze into the bend of your arm or a tissue; wash hands after.  Don’t share drinks, cups, utensils, etc.  Wipe down common surfaces with disinfectants (doorknobs, light switches, counters, phones, keyboards).

Life in the USA drastically changed on January 22nd when the first Coronavirus case was discovered in the state of Washington.  Since that time, the “new norm” for Americans includes self-isolation, social distancing, community spread, no groups converging with over 10 people at a time, empty store shelves, closing of schools,  restricted hours of operation for businesses and restaurants … and the list grows daily.

But fortunately, we live in a pro-active community where people see past the immediate problems and look for solutions.  Several local leaders, restaurant owners, pharmacists and businesspeople have put their personal fears aside and are finding ways to help others in Pulaski County.

Patty’s Kitchen in Dublin, Tom’s Drive-In in Pulaski and Tha’ Dawg House in Pulaski are offering free take out breakfasts to school age kids from Pulaski County.  “We couldn’t let the kids go hungry,” Patty Pelton at Patty’s Kitchen said.  So, she is serving pancakes and bacon for breakfast and hotdogs and french fries for lunch for school kids Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.   She may provide drive-up service and delivery service in the future, depending on how things transpire over the next week.

Tom’s is serving breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m., which includes pancakes, sausage and a juice box.  Owner Ronnie Caudill stated, “Instantly, when I heard they were going to be off school and so many of the kids count on the school to eat, I knew I had to do something.   It’s hard for kids to understand why they don’t have food.  As long as I can help them, I will.  I have young grandchildren and I can’t stand the thought of kids in our community going hungry when I can help.  Some of my customers have given money and donations to help me buy food through next Friday, March 27th, when schools might return to classes.  We’ll see what happens after that.”

Martin’s Pharmacy is trying to pre-order enough prescription drugs to have on hand in case of a delay in delivery and so there won’t be a lapse in their customers receiving their medications.

According to pharmacist Ashley Williams, “We are encouraging customers, if they are comfortable with it, to get three to six months of their prescriptions. We’ll help them and work with their insurance companies to have a supply of their medications on hand.”

Customers can use the drive through for free or delivery service for only a $1.00.

Because hand sanitizer is out of stock in many places, Martin’s experimented with making its own hand sanitizer and produced their first batch on Wednesday.  “People can bring in an empty 6 oz. – 8 oz. bottle and we’ll fill it up for $3.00 – $4.00,” explained pharmacist Williams.

Several churches in the area are making food available including Cowboy Church and Taking It To The Streets in Pulaski and without a doubt several others will join in the endeavor.

Pastor Mike Pierce of Heritage Church advised, “Heritage Cares Food Pantry will still be in operation for the hundreds of families we serve.  Food will be distributed at the door in a way that will keep our visitors and staff safe.  These times dictate both faith and flexibility and we covet your prayers.  I have full assurance in my Lord that He will see us and our nation through this time in history.”

Pastor Gary Hash of Jubilee Christian Center in Fairlawn is concerned about the necessity of social distancing during this crisis.

“There is lots of anxiety, fear and panic going on right now.  When people isolate, that can lead to depression.  People may be reaching out for prayer and counseling, so we have our church counselors and staff available to talk.  Anyone needing prayer can call us at 540.639.5672,” he said.

While public schools are closed for the next two weeks, it doesn’t mean students should stop learning.  Chris Stafford of the Pulaski County Public Schools suggests that students continue to study, even though the work may not count toward a grade.  Putting aside some time each day to study and do classwork will help students keep focused and ready when classes resume, he said.

It doesn’t  have to be all study and no play!  If you are a parent or grandparent who remembers what it was like growing up before 24-hour TV or Nintendo, help your kids enjoy family activities again.  Pull out the old board games, 500-piece puzzles, read good books (by yourself or to each other), watch episodes of “I Love Lucy,” “Carol Burnett,” “Andy Griffith” … shows that make you laugh out loud (encouraging endorphins) and are good clean fun.

Also, get outside in your own yard and play or plant a garden, sit on the porch and talk to each other.  Remember, Vitamin D helps build the immune system.

Rekindle your love for God, family and the love for America.

Both Peggy White, Executive Director of the Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce and Pulaski County Administrator Jonathan Sweet reflected optimism during their “Tuesday’s Topic” online program this week while discussing how we can work together and become problem solvers as a community.

“These are unprescented times and real issues we’re all contending with – business, industry, schools, homes are affected.  This provides a good opportunity for us to be collective problem solvers.  Communities really need to help each other, neighbors need to help neighbors and corporate neighbors need to help each other,” stated Sweet.

“Out of everything that’s happening, it can have some positives for our community coming together.  We can focus on how we can help our local small businesses,” responded White.

“Small businesses are crucial to our community and a large part of our economy.  Who knows you better than your local businesses; and can provide appropriate customer service.  If you can’t physically go to your local business, you can shop online or maybe buy gift certificates to use later.”

They suggest that we don’t become self-focused and don’t panic, but be optimistic, creative, supportive and neighborly.  They agree that we want our local small businesses to survive and find opportunities to thrive.

“There can be blessings in disguise in this – a new perspective as we look back on this,” comments Sweet.

“We are thinking about them and our community … prayerfully about our situation.  We are being very responsible and encouraging our community to think locally, buy local.  This is a great opportunity to really showcase what Pulaski County is.  We are a community.  This is our home, our family, and it is a time to showcase our community.  We’re going to weather this.  We’ll be fine,” encourages Sweet.

“We’re going to do it Pulaski style,” added White with a characteristic optimistic smile.