Growing up in Alaska has been a gift. I was encouraged and supported by parents, neighbors, teachers and the community. As an educator and Homer City Council member, I wish to give encouragement and support back to the community. I am a survivor of the 1964 earthquake and tsunami. I saw first-hand how Alaskans work together in a crisis. That is our way of life in Alaska, a way of life that I cherish.
We know one another. We look out for one another. We greet each other with a handshake; we embrace one another. It is because of that way of life that I know we will get through the current COVID-19 pandemic together.
Community transmission of COVID-19 is now happening in Alaska. The long incubation period of COVID-19 (meaning you can carry the virus and expose others long before you present symptoms) and the higher mortality rate make this a serious threat, regardless of what you might read on Facebook. Flattening the curve is our new social responsibility, our new social embrace.
The concept of flattening the curve is simple. If a large number of people get sick all at once, we will experience a high peak in the curve, meaning our hospitals will be overwhelmed by individuals needing intensive care, ventilators and other services. There simply is not enough equipment, facilities and trained personnel to handle that scenario. That would not only threaten our older and vulnerable residents who need help battling the virus, it would threaten people who are experiencing other health care emergencies such as heart attacks, appendicitis or injuries from a car accident.
To flatten the curve is to slow down the rate at which the virus spreads (the curve) so that the peak of the infection (the height of the curve) doesn’t overwhelm our health care system. As a community we do that by following all the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) health mandates and advisories — rigorous hand-washing, covering coughs and sneezes, social distancing, quarantining if you’ve traveled or feel sick, staying home even when you feel well, and encouraging at-risk populations to self-isolate from family and friends.
Collectively, knowing and following all the DHSS recommendations is an investment in our community, actions we can all take to ensure a speedy civic recovery. Individually, it may be one of the more selfless things we can do, right up there with sharing that extra pack of toilet paper we stashed early on and dropping groceries on the doorstep of our elders or our friends on a 14-day quarantine. It is the equivalent of sharing a hug with our family and friends.
As schools close, grocery stores limit hours, many trade sectors close their doors and our state government mandates social distancing and travel limitations, we are all going to experience anxiety. While I personally worry about my family in Wasilla and Minnesota, my relatives in Canada, and my students who are currently participating in distance classes, I know that by maintaining my distance, I’m showing them the best kind of love — a love expressed without an embrace, a greeting without a handshake, a lesson without a pat on the back. I’ll temporarily sacrifice those face-to-face interactions knowing that it is important for flattening the curve.
I urge all of us to remember that Homer is a tough, resilient and caring Alaska community. Our greatest asset is our people. Coronavirus has changed our lives in ways we couldn’t have imagined a mere two weeks ago, and it’s going to change our lives even more before it’s over. We see that unfolding before us in other parts of the world. But the more strictly we adhere to the best public health advice, the flatter we make that curve.
Thanks for joining me in flattening the curve. It’s a matter of caring deeply for our community.
For up to date information on COVID-19 state health mandates visit coronavirus.alaska.gov; for local information go to cityofhomer-ak.gov. KBBI AM 890 airs local updates during the Tuesday newscasts and will have a weekly Covid-19 listener call in show at 9 a.m. on Thursdays. The City of Homer has a Covid-19 Information line at 435-3197 available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.