COMMENTARY: Stop and smell the roses (because it may go out of business)

by Mar 31, 2020OPINIONS





I tried several topics for discussion this time. Everything seemed to pale in comparison to the ongoing virus crisis. And, you are being bombarded with information about that – some disheartening, some encouraging, and some is downright astonishing.

Most of us are at home, dusting things that have been untouched for years (like Bibles) and cleaning out closets full of decade’s old unnecessary stuff and heading to the secondhand stores. It is quite interesting that secondhand stores are open, considering, depending on which doctors you listen to, the virus can live up to nine days on some materials, and COVID-19 is literally a secondhand killer. I guess the thought may be that most things in secondhand stores are brought by locals who hopefully have not been exposed to a great degree yet. 

The Office of the Principal Chief, the EBCI Public Health and Human Services Division, and the many other health and emergency services entities of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians have done an amazing and swift job of implementing a COVID protocol that is slowing the transmission of the disease on the Qualla Boundary. Both Executives and the Tribal Council have been at work strengthening the community’s position as this virus attacks. Municipalities adjacent the Boundary are also trying to keep the lid on spread.

There are many quasi-medical pundits out and about saying many different and contradictory things about COVID-19. There are many people on Facebook and other social media broadcasting faulty data and erroneous information. As we have said in the past, gossip typically has a grain of truth and then as it passes from person to person, many grains of drama are added in. Please don’t be a catalyst for chaos by participating in any rumor mills about this virus. Listen to the Chief and local health leadership because it is their jobs to be as right as possible and provide the community direction that will save lives and reduce sickness. This is no time for hurt feelings, grandstanding, or politics to mix in. 

I have been saddened by the reaction of some folks in our country who think it is cool to congregate because, for them, worst case scenario is that they get a little sick and then go on with their lives. This is a part of the citizenry that doesn’t fall into the “most vulnerable” category of potential victims of COVID. 

According to the Surgeon General of the United States, the coronavirus is similar to other pandemic diseases in that it will spread among the general population pretty extensively. H1N1, or “Swine Flu”, in 2009 had 60.8 million confirmed cases according to the CDC. The Center for Disease Control estimated that as many as a quarter to a half million died as a result of swine flu. Based on those numbers, it is a safe bet that many of us will contract coronavirus. But, each day you can manage to not contract it is another day of research and preparation to heal you and me instead of the alternative. Most of us get that and are adhering to policies, procedures, and laws set out by our health experts on the Boundary and off. 

However, there are a few folks out there exhibiting sociopathic behavior. We have all seen the reports of people showing their “bravado” to the public with regard to the virus by videoing themselves licking, sneezing on, touching items in big box and grocery stores, presumably showing they are unafraid of the virus. So far, these have been young people who think that chances are, if they contract it that they are in an age group that has been identified as likely to have milder symptoms if they catch it. One young lady was made famous on a nationally-syndicated talk show for licking a toilet rim on a commercial airplane. Her comment? “I am going to live my life the way I want to live it.” 

Even if it is true that these folks would likely not have critical effects from infection, they must know that the virus is highly contagious and their actions will endanger hundreds, if not thousands of lives. And yet, they do not seem to care. 

We have all seen the beaches full of spring breakers and others who openly defied recommendations by government health officials. Some have COVID 19 parties, gathering with the specific intent of flaunting their disregard for community health. My wife and I visited Max Patch in Madison County about a week ago. There were 30 or 40 cars up there in that remote area of western North Carolina. About 90 percent of those were from a variety of states. We didn’t bother to get out of our car.

Everyday, the researchers get closer to finding ways to mitigate the effects of COVID 19. There are those working on finding ways to test people for antibodies so that doctors will be able to tell us more exactly who can survive it. Better, faster testing is in the works to help identify and do tactical quarantine more effectively. Doctors are identifying more treatments that patients may respond to and at least one vaccine is in clinical trials. It is critical that we give the health community the time they need to work up solutions instead of making it more difficult to contain. 

While having freedoms taken away is not a pleasant thing, it is not something that our government takes lightly. They are not getting any joy from restricting freedoms. It is a necessary evil in the face of waging war on a miniature army that might enter your community and home on the most innocuous item or the most healthy-looking person. As community spread widens, it will be impossible to tell who might carry the virus to you. Even close family members could be a carrier. So, drastic measures have been taken. Needed actions have been taken by your governmental leaders and health officials – not to spoil your fun, but to save lives and reduce harm to the community.

There are so many who are stepping up to the plate to assist us with this order to isolate. Businesses we want to stay open are retooling their operations to make shopping safer and keeping social contact to a minimum. For some businesses and their employees, this is causing hardship that goes home with them. The financial system is being stretched like it hasn’t been stretched in years. Every week, we see more businesses who say they will not be able to reopen once the virus is under control and business may return somewhat to normal. Some businesses are doing like they did during World War I and II, switching operations to produce what is needed for the war against COVID; turning car manufacturing plants into ventilator manufacturing plants. Families are buying materials and sowing together masks for local hospitals and health care workers. 

From the White House to the Capitol, to the other municipalities, and to the EBCI Executive Office and Tribal Council, our leaders are dealing with community crisis to the best of their ability. It sickens me to watch folks bicker over who did what late or wrong while a war for the health of our people is raging. When people approach you to engage in that kind of behavior, disengage. People who focus on tearing down during a time like this need a therapist, not a coconspirator. Thank you is not enough said when it comes to our health care professionals, emergency services, EMT’s, hospital workers, police, fire, social services, IT workers who are keeping us connected, sanitation workers, and the many who are considered essential to the continued operations of our governments and our lives. 

I think some of the most under-appreciated servants in the health care field are nursing staff and nursing home attendants. They are the ones who must get the closest and most “hands-on” with patients of all sorts. Those workers are the ones who are in positions of front-line responsibly, the soldiers in the COVID 19 war. 

They deserve our respect, gratitude, protection, and support. 

And, I want to thank all of you who are sheltering in and adhering to the edicts that have been put in place to protect us, especially those who are doing it not necessarily for their own protection, but for those who may be most vulnerable to COVID 19. None of this is easy for anyone, but I appreciate those who observe the protocols put in place that might slow the spread long enough for the medical community to find the answers and healing that we need. 

I challenge each one of us to do better, even if we are doing it well already. Whatever you are doing to make life better, do a little more. Something simple that I saw on social media was folks encouraging each other to post images of places that they have been, reminding us of what we have to look forward to after this crisis is over. In many ways, it is a time of thanksgiving. And, let’s not be critical of each other. Folks are sending around a bunch of jokes and some are getting offended, commenting that this is not a joking matter. Everyone understands that. But, the way many of us deal with fear and pain is with humor. In fact, it is one of the things that the Cherokee people are known for. So, instead of wearing our hearts on our sleeves, let’s put our hearts to work for the common good. If a statement offends you, delete or leave it, move on to a more positive place for you. Combat evil with good and the good will prevail. 

The COVID 19 virus has shown that it is definitely no respecter of persons. It has infected the beggar on the street, the sports star, the movie star, and even the Prince of Wales. Riding this out is costly for us as a Tribe and a country, both medically and financially. We need to learn to pull together now because we will need to pull together well into the future.