Pandemic panic


Pandemic panic


Friday, March 20, 2020

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I don't know about you, but I am suffering from COVID-19 overload and I have been seeking out remedies for this serious problem. For the most part, I've been finding ways to distance myself from the constant stream of coronavirus consternations and confusion. I've been reading more, listening to some nice tunes, watching the birds flit from tree to tree, and enjoying the beauty of a quietened community. But like the croaking lizard who noisily announced his presence on my veranda, I find it is only for a time before my mind is brought back abruptly to the situation at hand.

The news that we have recorded our first death from COVID-19 complications was jolting. The gentleman was said to have several health challenges and, while in the process of being prepared for transfer to the University Hospital of the West Indies for further treatment, he passed away.

His family have since expressed their opinion that his demise was not related to the current health scare.

The Ministry of Health has been doing a pretty good job in keeping us abreast of the infection rate and the isolation/containment efforts. The question is: What happens next? We can't remain in limbo, so what happens when we resume some semblance of regular life?

Talking with a friend of mine who has some health-care training, she pointed out that this time of restricted movement is really just a chance for the authorities to prepare for the next phase. “While we keep out of bars, businesses, and church and reduce the chance to be spreading the virus, the health officials can take this 'lull' to outfit wards with more critical care equipment. The rough times are going to come, but the hope is there will be more ability to look after those persons who will need a lot of attention.”

In the meantime, she advised that we take the information seriously, but don't panic. She was disturbed to hear of the incidents of stigma surrounding people thought to be infected by the novel coronavirus. “There needs to be a common-sense approach to what is going on,” she said. “Sickness is nobody's fault. You can't blame them for being infected. Cussing them out and shunning them not helping a thing.”

Another friend who lives in a country where the virus has been spreading since February shared his tips:

“Watch what you touch and come in contact with when you're out and about.

“Keep your hands to yourself and keep them out of your face.”

He had some more advice: “Do what grandma used to do: Leave the shoes near the door. Change out of your 'outside clothes' once you get back home. Wash your hands… wash your hands… and wash your hands.”

The mantra sounds like a schoolroom chant, but right now the neighbourhood schools are quiet. No children ramping out their soul-case, or teachers pleading for them to calm down and listen to the lessons they are trying to impart. For now, the children are at home, subject lessons are to be delivered by technology or lesson plans sent out by their schools.

How are they managing? Can they stay motivated to keep up with their studies in these times? A few friends have told me they are trying their best to keep on top of things by ensuring their children are doing the work, and checking to see that they are also handling the stress that has come with the global pandemic.

One of my contacts is a Jamaican mother in the US state of Georgia. Luckily for her she is a trained teacher and has been able to keep her son properly occupied. Her state officials have closed school for the rest of the term, which would have ended in June. She is currently working from home, but that arrangement may not be on the cards for the entire time her son is out of school. She wonders what will happen when she has to go in to work and she will have to find other means of monitoring her child.

This worry is facing many parents as we speak. How will they balance the restrictions and the necessities of life?

Not everyone is able to work from home and so some must go out to make their daily bread. There are still others who are facing lost income as businesses are grinding to a halt. I think of the many men and women who make their living selling to students going back and forth to school or to workers who would normally be filling offices. Driving through Kingston the other evening, the normally traffic-choked roads were eerily empty. Even the windscreen wipers seem to be less in numbers. How are the day-to-day earners going to ride this out if it continues for months on end?

Finding compassion for our fellow man is going to be important in times like these. If you have the skills and training to help, why not offer to check through the schoolwork of a neighbour's child? Instead of sussing cross the fence, how about a fact-filled chat on a topic of interest.

This weekend, many people will be staying home instead of venturing out to church. For the low-tech ones among us, give them a call and share a word of prayer, sing a hymn or a chorus. Touch base and keep the connections going with people who may need an extra word of cheer.

If you're in the business world, don't watch the time clock like a hawk. Your employee may need an extra half-hour to set up their family before they come to do your work. Let's extend some kindness and patience in these times.

Barbara Gloudon is a journalist, playwright and commentator. Send comments to the Observer or

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