Readers, we’re in the crisis of a generation right now. In the 38 years I’ve been roaming this planet, I’ve never experienced anything like what’s happening right now with the Coronavirus threat. For all my background in history, reading about the plagues that ravished Europe in earlier centuries, learning about the diseases that killed thousands in this country in its early infancy, it never, ever occurred to me that living in this day and age that I might live through something like what we’re facing.

But here we are; threatened by a virus we truly know very little about, that can spread easily and vastly, and our best defense against it is staying away from each other. There’s a lot of rumors about what works and doesn’t work to stop the spread of COVID-19, a lot of cleverly-parsed together memes, and a lot of talking heads on the television. All of this has added to a culture of fear-mongering that we need to stop as much in its tracks as we do the Coronavirus.

Now’s the time, more than ever, to get your facts from the people who have made public health their job. Keep your eye on what the Jackson County Health Department is doing and saying; they’re making decisions and recommendations that are going to be in our best interest. Pay attention to what Jackson General needs you to do, because they’re trying to make sure they can treat everyone to the best of their ability. Listen to your family and friends in the medical field, especially the ones who work in respiratory fields; they’re being prepared for the worst, so find out from them what you can do to make their jobs easier.

Just as importantly; now is the time to break the cycle of fear-mongering and begin the cycle of care-mongering. It’s been proven that doing acts of kindness not only lowers stress during trying times, it also gives us all a sense of community, of being on the front-lines of this battle together. Sitting in your house and waiting for a possible impending doom is only going to heighten your stress and make this experience even worse (not to mention its effect on your at-home kids!). So instead, take time to do some care-mongering in your community.

Have to go out for groceries? Call your neighbors and see what you can pick up for them. That’s less people in the stores, and for the people who shouldn’t be out at all, a lifeline of supplies! Need a night off from cooking? Get takeout from a local business (you can find lists of our eateries offering takeout on the Main Street Ripley and the Jackson County Development Authority Facebook pages). Has being inside made you realize you need some updates to your home and wardrobe? Shop our local stores online, or contact them on Facebook, to pick out a new pair of leggings or a cute home accessory that’ll make things feel “new” even when we’re day 10 into social distancing.

But the best way you can promote care-mongering right now; stay home. Y’all know I’m the biggest proponent of getting out and supporting your community, rain or shine. But right now, the best way to show you care for your community, for your neighbors, for your family, and for yourself, is to stay home when you don’t need to be out. It’s not because you should be afraid of catching COVID-19; it’s because you don’t want to be the person who exposed everyone you care about to it, when you didn’t have to.

Go to work, practice good hygiene habits while you’re out, then go home and stay there. Shop for supplies only when you have to, get your meals to-go, then get back to your house and stay put to the next day. Because every day that we spend social-distancing now will be paid back in the coming weeks, with less infections, less people needing treatments, and a shorter amount of time we have to self-quarantine.

Even if you don’t think the Coronavirus is a big deal, even if you think people are going overboard, even if you believe in your soul that we’re all going to look back on this time and think how ridiculous we were to go all-in on flattening the virus curve; I’d rather you be able to tell us all “I told you so,” instead of “I wish I’d taken this more seriously” later. Better that we take the chance now on looking foolish than take the chance later that we didn’t do enough while we still able.

So listen to our experts, and do the things they ask. Practice good hygiene, practice social-distancing, and practice care-mongering. Because when this is all over, if the worst that happened to us was that we all came away from the COVID-19 crisis a little cleaner, spent a little more time away from each other, and acted a little kinder to our community, then I’d say we weathered the virus far better than so many other people, and other communities would wish they could say the same.

Stop fear-mongering, start care-mongering, and stay safe Jackson County.