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Taking flattening the curve seriously

Saturday Nikki Hamilton, a friend of mine from church, died of the COVID-19 virus. She was a member of the Skagit Valley Chorale, which made the decision to practice earlier in March. That decision was based on public health guidelines. Now the group of 60 is a “cluster” and Skagit County Public Health has found thta “more than half of attendees who were at this gathering are now confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19.”

Sunday folks from at least Seattle and Everett were shopping on First Street and picnicking at the pocket parks on the boardwalk. Know what? Without testing, no one knows who is healthy and who is carrying the virus. As much as merchants want – need – their business, we don’t want out of towners here.

Our rural Skagit County has the fourth highest number of cases in the state as of Tuesday. The young nurse in Shelter Bay under self-isolation this past week-plus was one of the first four in the County and the first La Conner case. Several members of the Skagit Chorale are greater La Connerites. Who have they hugged or even walked too closely to on a trail in the past two weeks?

Two weeks. On March 10th the Skagit County commissioner declared a public health emergency. The first COVID-19 case in the County was also announced that day. There were four cases that week, seven a week later and 18 cases March 19. It was up to 28 cases by the 21st. The 45 cases and the first death listed Tuesday are only yesterday’s totals. The numbers will continue to climb.

COVID-19 is here and, as the Town of La Conner stated on its website: “We must act now to mitigate the spread of this dangerous disease.”

Every day is day one. Every day we are at ground zero. This is a real life version of a bad “Ground Hog Day” movie. It is a nightmare. It will get worse. You can be safe, or your coffee buying customer can be safe today, and tomorrow either of you may have gotten too close to someone who is carrying the virus. Any person might be infected.

We are told to hunker down. Washington, folloiwng other states, has now mandated that people “Stay home, Stay safe”.

How long is hunker down? When the British hunkered down in London’s subways for safety against the German air attacks in 1940, that Battle of Britain lasted almost four months. Prime Minister Winston Churchill famously said, “we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

The duration is just that: until the end. This community has pulled together in defense of our restaurants. The duration might be too long and our population too small to pull all our locally owned businesses through. We need to – and will – keep ordering take out, but our resolve may be larger than the dollars needed for owners to pay their bills. This week, next week, as long as they are open, call them up and place your order. And then do it again with another meal at another place.

This is, literally, a world defining moment. All of a sudden, this is our time. Defending our Town means defending ourselves. This moment is not merely a moment, it isn’t only going to be a month and the length of the season isn’t now known. Our fight is going to last longer than we want, perhaps longer than we believe possible. We are only at the start. We are nowhere near the middle. Don’t believe the end is in sight. That is whistling in the dark.

Nikki Hamilton loved to see her name in print. She will not read this, of course. How many more Skagit County names will be printed as fatalities, victims of this virus? Working to minimize the spread is the work of every citizen.   – ken stern


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