Maintaining a Community during COVID-19

CLINTON, Mo – “Social distancing” is common terminology in our new normal as we address (Novel Coronavirus) COVID-19. Society thrives when we connect as a community but the best protection against this disease- and others transmitted by respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes – is physical separation. With the new approach, physical distancing does not need to feel like social distancing. We can protect ourselves and we still connect with family, friends and neighbors.
The first step in protecting ourselves and our community is practicing the same simple steps we take to protect ourselves from all respiratory diseases such as colds and influenza or “flu”. Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice) after you use the restroom, have been in a public place or blow your nose or cough. Always wash your hands before you prepare food or eat.
Soap and water is the preferred approach if it is available but, if not, use a hand sanitizer than contains at least 60% alcohol. Always cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow or cover it with a clean tissue, promptly throw it away and wash your hands. Stay home if you are sick or people in your home are sick.
The next step is avoiding close contact with other people. COVID-19 is spreading though the community. Staying or working from home is best whenever you can but, if you must go out for essential resources such as
food and banking, try to select a time with lower volume of people out in the community and keep 6 feet between yourself and other customers. If available, use disinfecting wipes to clean shopping carts handles. Avoid touching our face, nose, mouth and eyes while you are out and wash your hands thoroughly when you return home.
While we work to keep ourselves safe, the Centers for Disease Control guidance to maintain physical distance can feel isolating leading to feelings of loneliness. Persons with anxiety and depressions may experience their
symptoms even more strongly According to Laura Schopp, professor and chair of the Department of Health Psychology in the University of Missouri School of Health Professions, there are steps we can take.
“We can mitigate the effects of social distancing by reaching out to others in different ways. It is very empowering when everyone feels like they have a place to make a contribution.” Schopp suggests the following activities to maintain the sense of community:
 Call or video chat with family and friends. Connecting with others virtually can provide a sense of community in difficult times. We all get busy but this extra time at home may provide an opportunity to reach out to a relative or friend you have not connected with in some time. Write a letter or send a send a “Thinking of you” card as an extra special touch!
 If it is safe to do so, spend time with only one or two people in-person. The CDC defines “social distancing” as staying 6 feet of distance from other. Make sure to wash your hands and wipe down surfaces before and after spending time together. If the weather permits – with proper distancing- sitting outside on the deck or
enjoying time walking and enjoying nature will help relieve stress and, perhaps, provide much needed exercise.
 Cook a meal for a friend, family member or neighbors who can’t cook or deliver groceries to someone who is housebound.
This is a small way to make a big impact and brighten their day.
Consider leaving kind notes or a small jar of cuts flowers on their front porch. Make sure to leave your cell phone number with folks who can’t leave their home so they can call you if they need a quick errand. Make sure to ask if they have enough pet food/supplies and always consider leaving favorite magazines, books and videos for them to enjoy later.
 Greet someone with warmth without hugs or shaking hands.
There is no need to avoid eye-contact. Smile and wave at a neighbor or someone walking down the street. We are all in this together and the gesture is a great morale booster.
 Share resources, if you are able. If you have extra toilet paper, cleaning supplies or canned goods, share it with a neighbor or donate it to the local food bank. (Make sure to call ahead for operating hours.) Many families struggle in the best of times. Many families will be faced with additional challenges as they deal with
the virus. Local social service, community and faith-based agencies will need resources as they help address community needs. If you have something to offer them, call and confirm that they can use your donation and their hours of operation.
To flatten the curve of COVID-19 disease transmission cases and reduce community impacts, we must stay physically separated. With creativity and kindness, we can find innumerable ways to eliminate the feeling that we are socially distanced.