Every day brings new, dramatic reports on the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of this writing, there are nearly 400 confirmed cases in Los Angeles County, and more than 330,000 cases worldwide. We are told to expect the numbers to grow exponentially as more testing occurs. By the time you read this, I expect it will have.
The federal government has fast-tracked legislation for both the medical crisis and the economic downturn. State and local government agencies invoked emergency powers to close dine-in restaurants, bars, sporting events, and large gatherings (now anything over 10 people). In Los Angeles, “Safer at Home” orders mean most of us are operating remotely, and non-essential government employees are assigned to work from home.
In San Pedro, many businesses are temporarily closed; restaurants are limited to take-out only; cruise ships sit idle on docks, and streets are quiet. But that is only the view from the outside. A deeper look inside reveals a virtual and connected San Pedro that is vigorously active.
Despite a few who panicked (not unreasonably) and emptied shelves of toilet paper and bottled water, the vast majority acted in the interest of the larger whole. We responded in helpful, generous ways: by researching and sharing information and best practices for combating the virus; checking in on neighbors; starting campaigns to support our local restaurants and businesses; adapting to working and schooling at home; faith groups worshiping online and reaching out to the vulnerable; our museums and institutions sharing curricula for remote classes, and we continue to innovate new ideas to keep moving forward. While physically distancing from one another, we remain virtually connected.
We’ve been through crisis before. In each instance, we felt that the world had changed forever. In some ways it had – for instance, we will never forget the heroism and valor of the police and firefighters who responded on 9/11.
Once again, the world will change – we will come out of this remembering the selflessness of nurses, doctors, and medical providers, whose heroism will be on the front line in the weeks and months to come. Nor will we forget the sacrifices of grocery workers, service employees, airline personnel, and many more hard-working women and men who will be impacted.
But when do we get back to “normal?” The answer is that recovery takes time. We don’t know the day, but history and our persistent resiliency tell us that that we will get back to normal. More importantly, what will we have learned about ourselves while getting back to normal?
We will see that we are capable of great acts of kindness, selflessness, and can face any challenge together, as an engaged and active community. During the crisis, we must commit ourselves to the daily sacrifices that keep people safe and allow us to meet the challenge. But while we are in the midst of it, we need to also keep one eye on the future. What do we want our new normal to be?
Do we want a healthcare system that is ready for the next pandemic? Social networks that combat the isolation of our most vulnerable: seniors, children, the sick, and the poor? An education system that adapts to the changing world and prepares our children for the future? A resilient local economy of good jobs that embraces the future of work? Sustainable, healthy, natural environments that benefit our lives and lives to come?
The answer can be “yes” to each. If we can join together to “flatten the curve” and give scientists time to beat this virus, we can and will achieve all these and more. We’ll do it by putting the interests of our communities and future generations ahead of our own. We have done so in every generation and at every crisis point in our history and have shown ourselves to be ready and willing to do it again. We will shape our future together. spt