This is an opinion editorial. It is not news, rather it reflects the editor’s opinion on a topic. If anyone who follows the rules set forth on the OPINION page of The Ledger would like to submit a written opinion, even if you strongly disagree with what follows, we will be glad to publish your opinion too.
Lexington County, SC (Paul Kirby) – Despite a warning from the US Surgeon General Jerome Adams, many people across Lexington County are still putting themselves and others at risk by disregarding social distancing warnings. As proof of this, drive past your local Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, Home Depot, or grocery store and you will see the parking lots packed, not as if it were a normal work day, but instead the day before Thanksgiving or Black Friday when the Christmas shopping officially begins.
In an interview on Fox News Thursday, Dr. Adams led a live briefing and took some questions from the gathered reporters. In an answer to one question, Adams said he couldn’t see how you could practice one of the only proven methods for the general public to prevent themselves from the spread of COVID-19 right now, social distancing, if you went grocery shopping during most hours.
For anyone who’s been completely out of touch as more than 273,000 Americans have contracted the deadly virus and more than 7,000 have died as of Saturday, April 4, 2020, social distancing is the practice of staying six feet or more away from anyone that doesn’t live in your home and that’s been staying put there with you. What has made people suddenly need to pack stores to stock up more frequently than they did prior to the attack of something so deadly that you can easily become infected and die, yet you can’t see, smell, hear or taste it? If I would venture a guess, I’d probably say panic, the need to feel like you are doing something, or in some cases boredom.
Dr. Adams’ point was that with stores packed to the point that so many shelves are constantly bare of necessities, he didn’t believe you could possibly stay far enough away from others as you should. So, every trip you make, you’re putting yourself in danger of contracting the COVID-19. As you walk through the stores, even if you are taking this pandemic seriously and are trying your best to steer clear of others, you see many people acting as if there were some invisible shield around them that would protect them from the virus. They have stopped cart by cart to chat with neighbors, are still shaking hands, and certainly have to say, “Excuse me, could I get past you?” in the packed aisles at least a dozen times. At the checkout, even though many grocers have erected shields to protect their employees from you, shoppers stand just the length of a shopping cart or a little plastic basket away from others. This most certainly is not six feet, the recommended length!
Although no one has come up with a plausible explanation for why so many must go for food or other items right now when they didn’t pack stores like this in February, they certainly can come up with some interesting excuses. You hear things like, “I like fresh fruits and vegetables, so I have stop very day and get some.” Certainly, I much prefer fresh too, but I also like living a little better. Others will tell you they can’t ever decide what they want for dinner until later in the day. These folks shop every afternoon to grab ingredients. This is something I used to be guilty of until these extraordinary times hit us. How about this one. “Well the children aren’t in school, so I need more.” They weren’t in school last July either. Was the grocery’s store this hard to get into then? Now, our family makes a list and we shop for a week at least. We eat what we have and stay home if we possibly can. I’m eating canned vegetables, yuk, when I always had fresh, but I think it’s got to better for me than playing bumper carts in the aisle of the store.
In other instances, we’ve had people shopping for furniture, clothing, spring flowers, and more items that are certainly not necessary. Perhaps not having a beautiful yard would just make you die of embarrassment if the neighbors saw. Instead, you head down to your local home improvement store, brush shoulders with someone looking for the prettiest tray of flowers and stand in a long line to check out. That certainly couldn’t be bad. It is and could really kill you according to scientists and doctors across our country. Much of that should finally stop when one of Gov. McMaster’s latest orders takes effect Monday at 5:00 p.m. Certainly, US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams would say that the virus takes a break and waits right outside the Home Depots’ nursery section before it becomes a killer and dangerous again; Not! When you really think about it, you might begin to understand social distancing isn’t a just a good idea, it’s necessary. This thing is not a joke! Remember, you can pick it up and never get sick. Someone in your home can pick it up from you and it will kill them.
Just Saturday morning, I got a message from a Lexington County resident whose spouse delivers furniture for a major chain. The husband just tested positive through his physician and the entire family has gone into quarantine at the doctor’s request. Prior to that, why did people just have to have new furniture more than they had to stay COVID-19 negative. This guy could have had it for weeks and shown no symptoms. Is the furniture retailer going to notify every customer who had something delivered by this employee; who knows?
I am not an alarmist. I don’t think we need to build high fences around our schools with razor wire atop every time there’s a tragic school shooting somewhere. I never heard of a bicycle helmet until I was in my 30s. We rode hordes around in the back of a pickup when I was a teen. I often ease up about 10 mph over the speed limit on the interstate when I think I can without getting caught. However, I do wear my seatbelt because as a former firefighter, I’ve seen dozens of people who would probably have lived through a collision if they had been wearing one. If that's being an alarmist, then I'm guilty I guess. I trust in God to protect me if it’s His will, but boy I sure don’t tease or tempt him.
I do go to my office a few hours each morning to give you Lexington County's news. There are three of us in the building. We’ve separated ourselves in the office by about 15-feet and just talk a little louder across the room. When our morning work is over at 8:30 a.m., we go home and work from there the remainder of the day. If you are an essential worker, please go to work. If you work at a restaurant's with drive-thru or curbside, you are needed. After all, some older people just don't cook anymore and some shouldn't start now! The police, firefighters, EMTs, and the men and women who keep the lights on all need to eat while on-duty. They really need you. If you keep our country's big rigs rolling or disseminate the latest news on this virus, pretty please go to work. We'd be in huge trouble if you folks didn't.
The point of all this? Do the thousands of people rushing to our stores or other places to do whatever they're doing during the pandemic realize they are immediately putting themselves and others in greater danger of getting the killer the moment they step inside that crowded store and get near others? Think about that the next time you go to a store and pick up something you don’t absolutely have to have. Ponder that a minute thinking about why you bought that beautiful Easter dress for a child or another new pair of shoes. Almost every doctor I’ve heard speak says the child should stay at home and watch the church service via virtual means anyway. Little girls should not be parading around at church while everyone pats her head and says how beautiful she looks. Do you think the church cancelled services and went to live steaming because most people didn’t want to dress up and make the drive? No, they closed the actual doors and went to virtual because it was the safe thing to do.
Take a suggestion from a diabetic man who also has COPD and other health issues, stay home. I haven’t been in a grocery store since this all started; use your God given brain before making that unnecessary trip to your favorite store to casually browse. Just don’t do it if it isn’t truly necessary.
Make a few commonsense decisions when you must shop. Make a grocery list of enough items to last you several weeks. Then send the healthiest member of your family to make that run. Don’t drag along young children if you don’t have to. Call others in your family to see if they need anything while you are at the store. When the designated shopper gets home, have them immediately wash their hands after unloading. My shopper is healthy, but the gift that could kill me could very easily hitch a ride from my favorite store via them.
The surgeon general said in that press conference this week that even though it’s not in the published guidelines, when he shops, he brings all his items inside. He uses rubber gloves to take groceries out of the bags and stacks them on his table. He puts the perishables away but leaves the canned or boxed gods sitting out for three or four hours. After that, he wipes down those items’ packaging with a disinfectant wipe if available or a clean, damp rag dipped in a container of water with a few small caps of bleach mixed in before putting his things in the pantry. After all, who sneezed or coughed on that can or box while you were over one aisle.
Again, I am not an alarmist. I’ve ridden a four-wheeler without my helmet. If I was about to crash, at least I could say, “Oh h*** this is going to hurt,” before I hit the ground! I used to love rushing into burning buildings when others were running out. I did some things growing up on the lake that should have killed me. All that was nuts but at least it was a nutty act I could see! I’m the guy that used to chuckle under his breath when I saw people using those wipes on the buggy’s handle at the store. I laugh no more because of a wonderful, very close friend. I talked to him at length on a Friday and he was great! By Sunday he was in the hospital and by Tuesday he was in ICU on a ventilator. Did I mention his health was much better than mine? That sort of changed my cavalier attitude.
I am now over 50 with a suppressed immune system. I am the one that would probably die if I got this virus. I would rather have been invaded by China and be at war with something I could see, men; a war where I could shoot at the enemy instead of dealing with this silent, unseen killer that’s floating around out there. Something someone who sneezes because of the pollen could pass this my way. This is a killer that aims for our very young and our old and sick, something even most evil regimes consider out of bounds in wars. We now have a Lexington County sheriff’s deputy that’s tested positive. Don’t you think he’d rather be attacked by a man he could shoot back at? I think so.
Still feeling invincible young and healthy? Check a reliable national news source for stories of all the people who’ve been hit in their teens, 20s, or 30s. Most of that crowd has lived but read their stories about how tough it’s been on them.
Ah, the economy, what about the economy? Stopping most of this crazy shopping spree would ruin our economy right. The current COVID-19 package pays the unemployed $600 a week more if they are laid off or furloughed than when they worked. Small businesses can get loans to keep employees on the payroll and pay their company’s rent and utilities. There are loans that can eventually turn into grants for small businesses. Most Americans can expect cash in their bank accounts soon from Uncle Sam for doing absolutely nothing! When this is over, you can go on a spending spree and help the economy come roaring back. Right now, if you are truly non-essential like the man delivering furniture, stay home and chill!
Unless you’re some doomsday prepper, you’ll eventually have to go get some groceries. I didn’t say stop buying food, I said stop buying food like the next meal will be your last. A grocery store parking lot should look like it did before this all started. It should look like it did in late February and not like the apocalypse is coming or were doing an episode of The Walking Dead!
In closing, I think you should go to the store if you’re out of something to eat. If a pipe burst or your water heater stops working, certainly go to the home improvement warehouse and get what you need. If you don’t really NEED something, stay home! This is not the time for casual shopping. It is not the time for your teen to play a pickup game of basketball with friends down the street. It’s not time for little Johnny to have a sleepover with another kid from school. It’s time to educate yourself through a reputable news source about the little they know about this virus. It is time to talk and get to really know your children. It’s time to find a book and show your kids books really do exist. It’s time to talk to a loved one on the phone or eat with the family members that live with you at the table. Yes, gather around the table and actually talk to one another. Binge watch Netflix or play a board game, take in some air from your own porch. America, it’s time to slow it down and just stay home!