Pinch of Salt Graphic (English)

There's a saying used often in my old Colorado stomping grounds.

"No use closing the barn door after the horses are gone."

That kind of says it all, doesn't it? We, and I mean all of we, are attempting to corral something that already is running free.

I have to admit, though, that I've altered my definition of the coronavirus situation as the week has gone on. It really doesn't matter how serious I think COVID-19 might be. Society at large is running scared, and I take that very seriously indeed.

I was gently chided after last week's column for thinking that the coronavirus and COVID-19, the influenza it causes, was something we could handle. I'm still of the opinion, and health officials agree, that even if someone is infected they'll likely recover. The problem, of course, is that in the process they may infect someone with other health issues (such as being old, like me), making survival more problematic.

So we have to respond. I get it.

But the real news these days is not the fight to cure the disease. Instead, the story is about how the powers that be have decided to stop, or at least slow down, its spread.

What are single parents struggling to keep food on the table and clothes on their kids' backs supposed to do when schools close? The childcare issue might be solved, though, with an even worse problem — the parent doesn't have a job anymore, or has been told to stay home until the business reopens.

There now is the real possibility our government is going to mandate people "self isolate" by staying at home. Apparently some counties in northern California are already there.

That potential is the only explanation I can come up with for the insane panic buying we've seen over the last week. I won't talk about the ridiculous lines to just get into a store, or the equally crazy lines to pay for whatever you've managed to scrounge off nearly empty shelves. I will say that I'm thankful I haven't seen any fights, or even arguments, over the last package of Ho-Hos. At least not yet.

What should be concerning us is the impact of bringing life as we know it to a halt, even for just two or three weeks. I have to believe there's going to be longterm after-effects — and not just economically.

Will we become a society isolated from one another? The "screen time" way of living has already taken some control over our children, even ourselves. It would be pretty easy for an entire population to say, "I think I'll just keep working from home. It's easier, and I get almost as much done."

Or have we seen the end of public celebrations, events and the like? Hard to believe, but then again, a week ago I didn't believe I'd be living in a town where people hoarded toilet paper.

I know it may not seem like it, but most of the time, I'm a fairly optimistic guy. And in recent years, I've managed to find a strong faith to lean on.

So I'll continue to believe we're going to get through this, and come out the other side. At least I will right now.

We'll talk next week. Maybe even in person.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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