Beginning a new normal depends on us

(Greenfield) Daily Reporter

On May 1, Gov. Eric Holcomb rolled out the state’s plan to gradually resume activities amid the pandemic.

It is highly detailed, laying out five stages that gradually increase the size of gatherings that will be allowed and where those gatherings will be allowed to take place.

If all goes well — and that’s an enormous “if” — the state could be fully reopened by July 4.

This week, we officially are in Stage 2, which means travel restrictions are lifted; groups of up to 25 may gather as long as they practice safe social distancing; and manufacturing businesses that had been considered non-essential may reopen under social-distancing guidelines. Retail businesses may reopen as long as they restrict traffic to 50% of capacity, and libraries and some license branches will be allowed to reopen. By this weekend, some indoor church services will be able to resume. (You can read the full list of guidelines and timelines at the state’s new site:

The success of the governor’s plan, of course, depends on the one thing that isn’t explicitly addressed in any of the dozens of bullet points the governor unveiled on Friday.

That’s us.

For any of this to work, we are going to have to do our part. We are, for example, being urged to wear masks in public. (The earliest that masks become “optional” attire, according to the plan, is mid-June.) We are being urged to maintain social distancing. We are being told to limit the number of people who gather in one place at one time.

There is reason to be skeptical. Anyone who has carefully donned a mask and ventured inside a store for a few “necessities of life” the past several weeks knows mask-wearing is not universal. Neither is social distancing.

So, we still have some work to do. Holcomb acknowledges that. Anyone who can continue working from home should do so, he said. And those who are especially at risk of exposure — those at least 65 and those with medical conditions — should continue to stay home. Those recommendations underscore the calculated risk the state is taking. It won’t be safe out there for a long time, but it’s up to us to decide just how dangerous COVID-19 will continue to be.

We can do this. We can look after those who are most vulnerable and still begin to turn the gears of commerce. We can adapt to a “new normal.” Hancock Health CEO Steve Long, in a video last week, suggested this would be a good time to become germophobes. He has a point.

The novel coronavirus is not going anywhere until a vaccine is available or mass immunity reaches a tipping point. If we can’t wait that long, we’ll have to delicately navigate this new age. That means paying attention to those around us and doing our best to keep our respiratory droplets to ourselves.

Long, in that same video, suggested that from here on out, we should simply practice the Golden Rule. That’s a good place to start.

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