The COVID-19 pandemic is real and scary. On February 1, I was worried because fatalities had climbed to 250 people. When I checked the ncov2019.live website created by Avi Schiffmann, a 17-year-old Mercer Islander, on March 15 at 2:40 p.m., the number of deaths worldwide was 6,448. As of March 17, the World Health Organization reported 7,529 deaths.
At the time of this writing, Italy is our major wake-up call. Italy has lost approximately 1,809 people to COVID-19. The U.S. population is roughly 53 times the population of Italy, and China’s population is roughly 4 times that of the U.S. If the U.S. spread matches Italy more closely than China, we would face the deaths of nearly 96,000 people before we’ve come close to stopping the spread. If we are closer to China, the number of lives lost would be closer to 800. That comparison, which is flawed on many levels, makes an argument for social distancing, which is one of the differences between China and Italy’s initial reactions.
Social distancing strives both to reduce the number of people who are infected and slow the rate of infection. Fifty people infected over the course of a month is easier to treat than 50 people in week.
Social distancing doesn’t mean everything shuts down. We need each other too much to totally shut down. We need stores with food and other products (cashiers really are the front line in this pandemic), we need electricity, plumbing and garbage collection. We need emergency services. We need our courts.
Social distancing is minimizing time in public when it’s unnecessary. Trying to keep the numbers small when in public.
Social distancing is hard because in addition to meeting basic needs, we are hardwired for connection. We strive for community, whether it is through sports, coffee shops, the theater, book clubs or the thousands of other activities we do — we want to be with others, to be a part of something.
Perhaps one of the best ways to be a part of community in this time of need is to find ways to help. We need to support our current organizations that provide help to those most in need. In Bellingham, that includes places like Opportunity Council, Lighthouse Mission, local food banks, Whatcom Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services, United Way and local religious organizations.
In Seattle, the Mutual Aid Solidary Network has formed and created a tool to help those most vulnerable stay away from places like grocery stores and pharmacies. They are even coordinating payment for these things and the delivery service.
We also need to connect with each other. Technology is a powerful tool — for those of us with access. Google Hangouts mean you could still do a form of a happy hour with friends. Facebook livestreaming can provide a substitute for some events. Take care, remember to call your people, drink some water, and wash your hands.
Jill Mullins is an intersectional feminist, attorney, activist and much more. She has written for NW Lawyer, King County Bar News and LGBTQ outlets.
Read more in the Mar. 18 - 24, 2020 issue.