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Column: Things to be grateful for in the age of COVID-19

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These past few weeks have been bewildering. Tiring. Worrying. I’m sure you can think of plenty of other adjectives.

As we have been hit with whirlwind of news the likes of which most of us have never seen before, it can be easy to feel a sense of anxiety and gloom. So in an effort to ease that just a little, I offer you a few positive things to keep in mind.

First, the cancellation of so many activities we enjoy or were looking forward to is disappointing, but it means that we as a society are addressing this threat head on instead of burying our heads in the sand, and medical experts say we are saving many lives this way.

There are examples everywhere of people putting their community’s health ahead of profits — in my own industry, despite losing significant advertising revenue right now because canceled events and closed businesses, news outlets are still lowering paywalls and sharing stories freely with their competitors in order to get important information to the public, even if it hurts our bottom line. Other industries are stepping up in their own ways.

Just over 100 years ago, the Hermiston Herald’s archives show, Hermistonians were disappointed by the the cancellation of movies, school, church, parades, the county fair and more to stop the spread of the lethal Spanish influenza. History shows that those measures were highly effective and were then able to be retired so that people could return to their normal activities.

Today, we are in far better shape than our ancestors a century ago. We have better medical technology and medications to fight illnesses and save the lives of some who would have died under the care of 1918 medicine. And remember that any measures we take to slow the spread of COVID-19 is also helping spare people from colds, influenza and other illnesses.

Those who won’t get sick but are merely waiting out the wave of COVID-19 cases are also far better off than our ancestors. We live in the golden age of streaming television and movies, not to mention more audio books, e-books, podcasts, games, news, YouTube videos and more at our fingertips than we could possibly consume in 1,000 lifetimes.

We have endless ways to connect with the outside world electronically while stuck at home, to fight loneliness and check on our friends and family with no risk of exposure. Using many of those same technologies, public health officials, school districts and other government agencies are able to get important information to us faster than ever before. We can order supplies online if we want to avoid the store. And while many workers have been hit by loss of income, technology has also allowed some to continue earning a paycheck from home despite their office shutting down.

Over the weekend, people in Hermiston were panic-buying everything in sight at local stores. While it might have felt alarming to see empty shelves that evening, we know that new truckloads of supplies are being sent to these stores each day. There is not an increased need or decreased production of products such as toilet paper, just a temporary spike in demand.

For years, including a column I wrote in September, I’ve been using my platform as a journalist to encourage people to follow the Red Cross and Oregon Emergency Management’s advice to be “2 Weeks Ready” by keeping two weeks worth of food, toiletries and other supplies on hand in case of an emergency. Two weeks, incidentally, is how long people have been asked to stay quarantined if they were exposed to a case of COVID-19.

The 2 Weeks Ready campaign was mostly designed with a major earthquake in mind, so the fact that it has been tested through COVID-19 instead is good news. Instead of the sudden loss of power, water and other resources, people have been given a much more slow-rolling timeline to see where their preparedness is lacking and buy extra supplies.

This can help people be more prepared on an individual level in the future, just as hospital and other entities will likely be more prepared with needed supplies in the future.

While the closure of schools in Oregon for at least two weeks is unfortunate, less than 24 hours after the governor announced the closure, every single one of our local school districts had a plan for making sure students who depend on school breakfasts and lunches will continue to have access to meals during the shutdown.

The last week hasn’t been easy, and we know that all of this won’t go away overnight. I don’t want to downplay the real harm that people have suffered. But I hope through all of this that everyone is able to remember to count their blessings, too.

As you focus on increasing your physical health through measures such as hand-washing, take care of your mental health too.

Read a book. Have a family (or solo) dance party in your living room. Make cookies. Write in a journal. Learn a new skill. Paint. Call a friend. Do whatever you need to during this time to take care of yourself and others.

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Coronavirus FAQ

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Can I get COVID-19 from my pets or other animals?

There is no reason at this time to think that any animals, including pets, in the United States might be a source of infection with this new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. To date, CDC has not received any reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States.

Pets have other types of coronaviruses that can make them sick, like canine and feline coronaviruses. These other coronaviruses cannot infect people and are not related to the current COVID-19 outbreak.

However, since animals can spread other diseases to people, it’s always a good idea to practice healthy habits around pets and other animals, such as washing your hands and maintaining good hygiene.

Should I avoid contact with pets or other animals if I am sick with COVID-19?

You should restrict contact with pets and other animals while you are sick with COVID-19, just like you would around other people. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the new coronavirus. When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick. If you are sick with COVID-19, avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with pets.

What about imported animals or animal products?

CDC does not have any evidence to suggest that imported animals or animal products pose a risk for spreading COVID-19 in the United States.

What precautions should be taken for animals that have recently been imported from outside the United States?

At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets and service animals, can spread COVID-19. As with any animal introduced to a new environment, animals recently imported should be observed daily for signs of illness. If an animal becomes ill, the animal should be examined by a veterinarian. Call your local veterinary clinic before bringing the animal into the clinic and let them know that the animal was recently imported from another country.