In this week’s cover story, we are introduced by Associate Editor Ahmad Graves-El to three of our neighbors who have suffered through recent weeks with the virus infection. Also, in our Community Update this week, we have reports of three more in our region who required hospital care; all three were on ventilators for a time. This puts the statistics of positive tests and deaths in stark perspective. We can hope that our region of the state does better with this than New York City and northern New Jersey. We’ve had more time to prepare and to practice social distancing and other guidelines. These next few weeks are critical ones.
Also in Community Update, on page 7, we address the mental toll of COVID-19 with tips to cope emotionally with the pandemic and all the stress triggers that go along with it—unemployment or fear of unemployment, new routines, cabin fever, the news, the numbers, the uncertainty. Columnist and mental health expert Melissa Niles gives general information and discusses the stigma surrounding mental health issues; Inspira Health offers coping measures specific to our times.
On page 6 of the Community Update, we hear from Theresa Booth, senior director of Child Development at the YMCA, who has resources for parents. These are especially important as the closure of schools and child care centers/services has parents being asked to take on the role of teacher as well.
In two of our “Faces of a Pandemic” cover story, the sick individuals put other family members in jeopardy. This is a worry of many, especially those who live with essential workers who are on the front lines.
In my own household, where four out of five work in healthcare settings—including two at a long-term care facility—this has been a concern almost daily for the entire six weeks we’ve been sheltering at home. It has forced us to come up with a plan for quarantining, in case one or more of us needs to do so. Our house is configured so that we can place the quarantined on the lower level, which has a bathroom. So, like news reporter Chris Cuomo and so many others, our quarantined will become basement dwellers.
Yet, these are necessary measures. As Vinelander Serafin Beltran, Jr. in our cover story said: “I was put into quarantine for 14 days because I was in direct contact with [my father]. It weighed heavily on my mind because of the fear of the unknown. It’s like being in a room with a time bomb and not being able to see the clock. Not to mention the fear of infecting someone in my family.”
This crisis is forcing us to live with each other. Really cohabitate, some of us with grown children and college students returning home and having to get along with each other, siblings bonding with siblings like never before. I’ve heard stories of blended families that have come together—ex-wives and ex-husbands, sometimes including new spouses—because they didn’t feel it would be safe, under current health guidelines, to have the kids traveling back and forth between Mom and Dad’s houses. It’s a great example for the kids how we can all help each other out with chores, teaching, and well, accommodating different personalities. It’s undoubtably tough at first—as any new routine is—but once the bumps get ironed out, new skills in conflict resolution and harmonizing are learned.
Someone asked me last week if I was going stir crazy yet. My reply: It’s easier for homebodies like me. But in these unprecedented times, we all have a tremendous amount of stress to deal with—physically, mentally, emotionally.
Be well and keep the faith.