It was recently brought to my attention that SNJ Today newspaper, more than a year ago, was the first in the area to publish news of the coronavirus. Kenny Pustizzi, president of the company, dropped by my office one day late in January of 2020 and we discussed how to inform readers of this new flu virus without sensationalizing or inciting panic. On January 29, 2020, our front cover (in the space that now begins our Community Update in each issue), we printed a notice from Inspira Health about the novel coronavirus, its suspected origin in China, and cautionary measures to take if you developed flu-like symptoms as well as reference to the CDC website for more information and updates.
At the time, few of us could have imagined how COVID-19 would change our lives, or that it would still be with us a full year later. In February of last year, we watched hotspots occur in other areas of the country, then closer to home in New York City, and in early March we were preparing to work from home as we anticipated a lockdown that occurred around the ides of March.
On March 14, 2020, Cumberland County and the surrounding region in southern New Jersey had no known cases of anyone testing positive for COVID-19, but we were stopped in our tracks as businesses and restaurants shuttered, events were cancelled or postponed indefinitely, store shelves were emptied, and our holiday gatherings were scaled back as we refrained from visiting or embracing family and friends.
As the year wore on, we all endured heartbreaking losses—whether it was a job, a way of life, or saddest of all, loved ones.
The Community Update has become a regular section of this paper that we hope you have found helpful in living during pandemic times, when news evolves rapidly. Through a content sharing agreement with the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University, we have been able to bring you some local and state news that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to with our small staff.
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More than a year ago, a few months before words like pandemic and quarantine were everyday words, a friend of mine was already isolated from family and friends. She had been diagnosed with lymphoma and was undergoing a stem cell transplant that required her to spend about four weeks in an isolation ward at a Philadelphia hospital.
She communicated with her husband, children and grandkids via Facetime. I thought about her each and every day as she spent Thanksgiving (2019), then her birthday and weeks afterward in that sterile space. I endeavored to reach out to her each day by texting her a message. I was gratified when she told me that on many days the words were just what she needed. I do feel that God guided me in choosing a message each day.
Many of the messages were verses from the Old and New Testaments, since she and I share Christian beliefs. Several were not Biblical (“I believe in the sun even when it is not shining…. I believe in God, even when he is silent.” —Anon.). Others were fun words that we’d read repeatedly to our kids (“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem….” — Christopher Robin in Winnie the Pooh).
As we move forward in Year Two of COVID-19, in these dark days before the dawn that takes us out of the pandemic, I’m wondering if you know of someone you might reach out to with words that uplift. These days there are so many ways to send our positive vibes, whether it’s in an e-mail, a text, a card or note, or a message on social media. As I helped my friend through a rough period with words, my search for them each day was a great comfort to me as well.
I guarantee you will lift your own spirits in spreading joy to others.
Be well and keep the faith.