Rachel Stovall

“Welcome to the Twilight Zone.”

The famous words of Rod Serling spoken in the iconic television show seem perfect to describe our lives as Americans right now. As we deal with the fear of the specter known as the coronavirus — watching reactions to it has been a strange mix of horror, science, fiction, drama, comedy and superstition.

Social media amplifies all of these. It takes work to wade through the layers of conjecture, fear and at the worst, hysteria. But we shall try.

According the Centers for Disease Control, we have an outbreak of a respiratory disease caused by a new strain of the common coronavirus. COVID-19 can cause mild to severe illness; the most severe in adults over 60, or those with severe chronic conditions.

When you look at our population of 330 million people, COVID-19 is not an epidemic. As of Monday, there were 7,038 cases in the United States including our 50 states and 4 territories resulting in 97 deaths. Our officials are working closely with public health partners, on all levels to respond to this situation.

A state of emergency for our state has been declared by Gov. Jared Polis. As a reaction, in our largest cities, a quiet hysteria is setting in with residents emptying hoarding food, buying excessive amounts of toilet paper and even fistfighting in grocery stores over supplies.

In other parts of our state, mostly rural, people are walking past the alarmist coverage and simply sticking to established routines. They favor quiet preparation including frequent disinfection. And rural residents often maintain a one-month supply of food including nonperishables as a family habit, so they are not shopping in a state of panic.

Which raises the question – How can we create mass calm instead of this panic epidemic?

In the book “The Unthinkable”, author and journalist Amanda Ripley reveals why, under the same circumstances, some people caught up in a disaster survive and others do not. She shows us why some people are hopelessly crippled by panic resulting in irrational behavior and why others are filled with strength and lead others to safety.

In the book, Ripley tells us, “We tend to think of disasters as acts of God and government. Regular people only feature into the equation as victims which is a shame, because regular people are the most important people at a disaster scene every time.”

Creating calm is not only the role of media, or government. The most powerful people to spread calm during this pandemic are you and I — regular people.

In the “Psychology of Pandemics” author Steven Taylor tells us, “I realized how important psychology is in how a society reacts to pandemics. In previous pandemics there was racism, panic-buying, the rush of the worried-well into hospitals and people becoming distressed about self-isolation and other forms of social distancing.”

So, the book disseminates a simple truth. Pandemics are more quickly contained when everyday people agree to do the precautions recommended by the experts.

We can help to bring this crisis to a close faster by doing simple things. Pandemic resilience is built in a few ways. Preparedness, stress management and social connectedness.

Get the facts at the official Center for Disease Control site. Do everything that it recommends, especially the handwashing, social distancing and testing if you have symptoms.

Create a family preparedness checklist that includes a family communication plan and emergency contact information. Buy a reasonable amount of food.

Manage your anxiety. Keep a positive view. Exercise. Get plenty of sleep. See this as a learning process.

Work on alternate ways to feel connected to people. Use technology to stay social at the correct distance.

Finally meditate on the words of St. Augustine. “This awful catastrophe is not the end, but a beginning. History does not end so. It is the way its chapters open.” Yes, right now life feels like an episode of the “Twilight Zone”. But like the television program, this pandemic has a beginning and therefore it has an end.

Please take care.

Rachel Stovall is a longtime community advocate and organizer. Also a fundraising, media and marketing consultant, Stovall is most known for singing with her dance band Phat Daddy and the Phat Horn Doctors.

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