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Relish the opportunity to stay at home

Stay home!

That seems easy enough. Goodness knows that at many workplaces in America, you hear all too often how your coworkers just want to go home.

Now that so many Americans have the perfect opportunity to spend time at home with their families, it seems that many of them would rather be anyplace else.

I’m not just referring to the college age spring-breakers, who seem completely unphased by the threat of COVID-19. I’m also talking about many residents of the Ohio Valley — our friends, our colleagues and our neighbors.

Certainly, people need to get supplies to be prepared to stay at home for several days at a time. But there is no need to stockpile enough toilet paper to last a couple in their 30s until retirement.

Yet even after Gov. Mike DeWine ordered schools, bars, restaurants, salons, spas, gyms and other “non-essential” businesses closed in an effort to reduce person-to-person interactions that can easily spread the novel coronavirus, many people in our region continued to go out and about last week. Parking lots at grocery stores and other shopping destinations were packed with cars on Thursday, for example, and gas stations, convenience stores and other open shops were bustling with activity.

I know this because I, too, was out and about. I wasn’t shopping or looking for entertainment, though. I was on my way to and from work.

That’s because newspapers and other media outlets are considered to be “essential “ businesses, especially during times of crises. It is critical that we continue to provide the public with the information they need to remain safe and healthy, and right now we are striving to do just that.

Other truly essential workers who are out and about working for you are the health care professionals who are risking their lives every time they see a patient for any reason during a pandemic.

Already, they are running short of supplies and necessary protective gear in many cities across the nation.

I have several family members who work in the health care field. While I am incredibly proud of each of them for what they are doing now as well as for what they will do before this outbreak is over, I also am extremely worried about the risks they are taking every day in order to help others.

Each and every time one of us makes an unnecessary trip to the store or gets together with a large group of friends because we have become bored at home, we are putting our own lives and the lives of our family members and those caregivers on the line.

I am not trying to incite panic with this column. I do understand that for many people, the symptoms associated with the novel coronavirus are relatively mild. The vast majority of people who contract the virus will recover, government and heath care experts say.

But there are portions of our population that are more vulnerable than others. Older Americans and those with pre-existing health conditions — such as heart disease or diabetes — are at higher risk for pneumonia and other serious complications.

Those of us who have less reason to fear this illness need to keep other people in mind. If we go about our daily business without keeping them in the fronts of our minds, we are much more likely to behave in ways that place them in danger.

Some people will become infected with the virus and never have any symptoms. Others will simply feel as if they have an ordinary cold. But as those individuals continue to frequent businesses and interact with others, they can spread the illness without even knowing it.

For that reason, it truly is important that we take this situation seriously. The best thing we can do for ourselves and for each other is to stay at home as much as possible.

Of course, that will become boring and frustrating for many people. And it is impossible for others. Some people must report to work. Law enforcement officers, power line repairmen, water department crews, garbage collectors and many, many others do not have the ability to perform their jobs from home.

Because they all will be out in the community working for you, if you have the ability to stay home most of the time do that for them.

There are plenty of ways to pass the time if you do. First and foremost, reconnect with your family members. Spend time talking, playing board games, watching movies or reading books with the people who share your home.

It also is perfectly safe to spend time outdoors, away from other people. Hiking, biking, jogging, fishing, walking, bird watching and yard work are all perfectly safe activities to perform. In fact, the fact that they will get you moving means that your health could actually improve during this pandemic if you take the right approach.

This situation is likely to last for quite awhile, so settle in and adapt. Change your behavior in smart, positive ways and we will all reap the benefits.

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