By Kari Bray / Snohomish Health District
In keeping with the social distancing measures that are necessary to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), many of us are having to change plans for events, holidays and milestones.
Our community has made progress in reducing the spread of COVID-19, and it would be easy to assume the worst is over. However, the worst won’t be over if we let up now on social distancing measures.
Everyone should continue following the statewide Stay Home, Stay Healthy order, which remains in effect until at least May 4. That means people should continue to stay home unless they are out for essential work or errands.
We know this is causing hardship socially, emotionally and economically. People want to get back to normal, especially now that local case counts don’t appear to be climbing as rapidly. However, the virus is still in our community.
Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters said it’s like having a 10-point lead in the third quarter of the big game – we’re on track to win, but we’re not done yet. It’s important that we don’t declare victory too soon only to lose our lead when it matters most.
Social connection is important for mental and emotional health
Since we can’t host or attend gatherings beyond our household members to mark holidays or events, finding other ways to stay in touch and acknowledge special days is crucial.
If a remote option is available, consider changing plans for celebrations or get-togethers rather than canceling entirely. This time is stressful for many, and coming together socially – even though we need to stay separated physically – is critical for mental and emotional health.
Were you looking forward to annual traditions like holiday meals with friends or family, or a community egg hunt? Schedule a call so you can visit before your meal, or a video call so family or friends can participate remotely while children hunt eggs at home.
The list of what’s been disrupted isn’t short – birthday parties, weddings, funerals, baby showers, family traditions for holidays like Easter or Passover, picnics or camping trips to welcome the sunshine. There are also the more routine but equally treasured times, like family dinners, playdates, sporting events, or happy hour with friends.
For the events we can’t or don’t want to experience remotely, like weddings or graduation parties, start making plans for the future. It’s still too soon to set a date, but it might be just the right time to start gathering ideas for a rescheduled celebration. Don’t lose sight of the important stuff. These are things we will be able to enjoy and treasure again, but we need to pull together to get through this pandemic.
Faith communities play a key role
Sharing traditions and companionship, particularly around days of significance in your faith, is deeply meaningful for many in Snohomish County. People are feeling the loss of congregation and are eager to get back to faith-based activities and services.
We encourage faith leaders to explore options for remote services and events in the meantime. This could include live-streaming the service, having a conference or video call, or providing emails to members of your faith community with key messages and/or links to pre-recorded videos. If use of technology is discouraged overall or on certain holy days, letters or other mailings with reminders, prayers or scripture may be another option. More ideas and guidance for faith-based services are available on our website.
We also ask that members of faith communities continue to stay home and participate in remote services or other options as they are able. The goal is to keep you and those around you safe and healthy.
There may be other ways you can help serve and honor your faith, too. Are there members of the congregation you know who are older than 60, have underlying health conditions or are pregnant? You could offer to pick up what they need on your next grocery shopping trip and provide doorstep delivery – without ever being within six feet of them. Leaders in your faith community may have other good ideas of how you can help while maintaining social distancing.
Support children and teens
On April 6, it was announced that school will continue to be closed and learning will be remote through the end of this school year. This means disruptions to major highlights for children and teens, like graduations, proms, concerts or plays, sporting events, club activities or competitions, and more.
Parents should talk to their children about these changes and explain the necessity – social distancing is being done to save lives. They should also listen to the concerns their children have and brainstorm ideas to make sure they are staying connected.
Consider having high school students dress up, take photos and share a playlist of their favorite songs online with friends for a virtual prom. Perhaps teammates or club members could channel their competitive spirit into virtual challenges, or board and card games played over video chat. We’ve heard of local dance, gymnastics and sports clubs moving to weekly online classes.
Support teachers who are working to provide remote education. Monitor communication from your school district and your children’s teachers for updates and resources.
Talk with other students and parents about how you might start planning events for after we emerge from this pandemic. Once again, it’s too soon to set a date, but a plan can be a good way to remind kids that their accomplishments matter and won’t be forgotten.
Good intentions, but still not safe
We have been approached by a number of schools and organizations with well-intentioned, creative ideas on how to stay connected. These have included drive-in concerts, drive-by parades or drive-thru Easter egg/basket donations. While beautiful sentiments, and we know hearts are in the right places, it is the Snohomish Health District’s recommendation not to proceed.
In addition to these being non-essential outings, they also send messages to community members that aren’t supportive of the Governor’s (and our Health Officer’s) order to Stay Home, Stay Healthy.
Instead, look for phone or virtual opportunities for staff to share their well-wishes, or perhaps send special mail. Kids (and adults) can draw pictures and mail them to loved ones, or even strangers who might need a little cheering up.
Take care of those around you
Many of us are missing the people we can’t be with in-person right now. That makes it more important than ever to be there for the people who are near you. Support your household members or, for essential workers, your coworkers. This is the time for courage and compassion. Be ready to listen and offer a friendly reminder: We’ve got this. We’re in this together. We’re all part of the team.
You matter, and so do the traditions and events you’d been looking forward to. We’re grateful that you are making sacrifices to stay home, stay away from others, and help the community fight this disease.
The Public Health Essentials! blog highlights the work of the Snohomish Health District and shares health-related information and tips.