For some, caution is normal

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As Tom Barrett says, “Chaos in the world brings uneasiness, but it also allows the opportunity for creativity and growth.”     

In our small Wood County towns, we’re seeing amazing community creativity as residents come together to care for their friends and neighbors. While the elderly and the vulnerable hunker down for the long haul, others are banding together to take care of their neighbors.

Two social media groups have been created and, with a combined membership of almost 1,000 already, are helping senior citizens and homebound Wood County residents receive needed groceries or aid during these uncertain times. Group members post updates of things they need, things they have to share or information of where items can be located around town. Community members who are able to help, shop and bring groceries to shut-in residents.

Denise Hurst, at 64 years old, is considered part of the elderly population even though she doesn’t feel like it. When she went to the grocery store early one morning, she said people were nice and there was an element of kindness. 

“We will chip in and help each other; being in Mineola, because it’s a small town, is better than being in a city.”

As a cystic fibrosis patient and a member of the vulnerable population, I am very thankful that in such a scary time, I have friends and neighbors who aren’t waiting for me to ask for help. Almost daily, someone texts or calls asking me if I need anything.

CF is a genetic disease that primarily affects the respiratory and digestive systems. I have a lung function of only 52%, and there is no known cure for the disease. So, while I’ve always been scared of catching a cold or the flu, which could put me in the hospital for weeks, fear of the coronavirus is almost more than I can stand. Because a virus that attacks the lungs is almost sure to kill me, I’m being even more diligent than before.

I have been living my entire life with the restrictions the coronavirus has recently placed on society. CF patients always practice the 6-foot rule, staying away from anyone who has the sniffles or a cough, and away from each other at all times.

The risk of cross-contamination is so high between CF patients that we’re not allowed to be in the same hospital waiting area together. We can’t go into exam rooms after another patient has been in there until it has been completely sterilized and 30 minutes have passed.

CF patients are supposed to wear masks anytime we’re in public, especially in crowded areas and in medical facilities. We carry Germ-X with us everywhere we go and wash our hands with vigilance.

I’m not the only one in fear.

Mineola resident Danielle Dheil has systemic lupus Erythematosus, an autoimmune disease with systemic manifestations including skin rash, erosion of joints and even kidney failure.

To manage symptoms, she has to be on drugs that completely suppress her immune system. She is self-quarantining and allowing as few visitors as possible to her home. 

“If anyone is coming over, we ask that they shower and wear clean clothes, and they have to use hand sanitizer as soon as they walk in the door,” she says.

Her biggest fear is that her husband will unknowingly bring it home from work. While many people are having parties and continuing to gather because they’re not part of the vulnerable population, so many of us feel like there is no safe place to hide. 

Perhaps they think they would recover quickly if they get coronavirus, but I wonder how many people they will unintentionally infect before they realize the seriousness of the virus.

As of Friday, March 27, Johns Hopkins University Resource Centers reports 566,269 cases confirmed worldwide. In the 176 countries affected, 26,455 people have died. In a very short time span, the United States has outnumbered Italy and China in confirmed cases. 

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