Schools are closed. Many parents are working from home. Grocery and big box stores are empty of toilet paper.
But we can't lose our cool. We must not feed into mass hysteria. Kindness, common sense, and forward-thinking will get us all through this together. Here are my 10 best tips for surviving this pandemic:
1. Social distance yourself and your family
This means, if you can, you should go home, stay home, and limit your exposure to people. People can be infected with COVID-19 and not show symptoms for up to two weeks. Experts suggest we distance ourselves, not just for our own good, but to slow the spread of the disease. So listen to the experts. Distance yourself as much as you can. But that doesn't mean you can't get outside and get some fresh air together. Go for daily walks or bike rides to keep moving.
2. Don't clear the shelves
There are some necessities we all need and should have extra on hand. Medicine, baby formula, and diapers come to mind. But it's unlikely you are going to need 100 rolls of toilet paper before you have a chance to buy more. Leave some for the rest of us. Take advantage of store pickup and delivery options, if you have them, to limit your exposure to crowds. Leave a big tip for the person doing that type of work for you.
Also: Try to shop locally-owned grocery stores, pharmacies, and stores if possible. They need your support right now.
3. Check on your elderly neighbors by phone
Exchange phone numbers with your elderly neighbors now. Check on them. Make sure they have toilet paper, meals, and their medicine. Make sure they have a plan. Let them know they can call you and you will be checking on them via telephone, and not in-person to limit their exposure.
4. Cancel service calls and cleaning services
Cancel non-emergent service calls, tutors, and cleaning services. Give them the time off to socially distance themselves too. If you can afford it, consider still paying them. If they can tutor, teach piano, or provide a speech therapy session virtually, go for it! It will keep you busy ... and help keep them in business.
5. Postpone parties, meetings, conferences, and other big gatherings
Look at your calendar and think about, as the news evolves, what makes sense to cancel now. Don't make people have to make the hard decision of whether they should come out or not. Cancel meetings and parties, but leave your deposit with the business (they need those funds right now!) and reschedule for a future date when life will have likely returned to normal.
6. Stay out of emergency rooms, healthcare facilities, and urgent care centers if you can
By all means, if it is an emergency ... GO. Don't wait. For non-emergency medical issues, consider rescheduling. Right now we need to make sure health care workers at these facilities can concentrate on true need cases. Call your doctor's office and ask about rescheduling if you have an appointment already, or consider doing virtual doctor visits if your insurance allows it.
Are you a couponer with a lifetime supply of everything? Do you happen to have a chest freezer full of food? Share with your neighbors who may not have made it to the store. Did you go a little crazy and buy four jumbo packages of toilet paper at Sam's Club and are now rethinking that decision? No shame. It happens. Just share, if you got a square to spare.
8. Be respectful
See someone with a mask? Don't laugh. They may be wearing it because they are protecting you from what they have. They may have a compromised respiratory system and are protecting themselves. See someone with 3 packages of toilet paper? Maybe they are purchasing for elderly neighbors and parents. Be respectful and kind. Did someone ask you to back up or deny you a hug? They are just trying to protect their family and you. Is the cashier a little testy? Be kind. You have no idea what they have seen and put up with today.
9. Stay home if you are sick
Fever? Stay home.
Flu? Stay home.
Under the weather? Stay home.
Think you've been exposed to COVID-19? Stay home. 100 percent stay home.
Wash your hands. Wash your clothes. Clean frequently touched surfaces. And for the love of humankind, cough and sneeze into your elbow and then wash that shirt at the end of the day.
10. Don't hug me. Don't hug my kids. Don't shake my hand.
We can all hug later when it's safe. Keep your distance so I don't have to tell you to back up. Don't make this awkward.
If we all have a little grace and common sense, we will make it through these challenging times just fine.
Jessica Newcomer is the publisher of Macaroni Kid York, Pa.