Though startling to hear, Friday’s announcement of Bradley County’s first confirmed case of the COVID-19 coronavirus seemed almost anti-climactic.
That’s because everyone — literally, everyone — knew it was coming. Certainly, all had hoped our community would be spared, but the odds were stacked against us … and they were getting even worse with every new confirmation among our neighbors.
Let’s be realistic. By Friday, our good neighbor to the west, Hamilton County, had reported its fourth and fifth cases. To our immediate south, Whitfield County in Georgia had already recorded its first case of the virus.
To our north, the Knox County area was confirming new cases of its own. Others will follow.
But, what’s done is done. It is here. And now, the question at hand is how we — a community — will respond.
By now, local residents have heard some key reminders — pleas, if you will — by our city and county government leaders, as well as the people-minded professionals at the Bradley County Emergency Management Agency.
Those urges have not changed. First, and foremost, among them: Don’t panic.
Surely, it is easier said than done. After all, we are human. Humans were born with emotions … a fear of uncertainty being among the most volatile. Yet, as cliché as it might sound, panic won’t help. If it would, our word of advice would be for all to charge into the streets, screaming at the top of their lungs until their final breath.
But, that won’t help.
What will help is for people to try their best to remain calm — although it will be difficult — and to remember what we’ve already been practicing for the past couple of weeks:
• Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, using soap and hot water if it’s available; if not, hand sanitizers — if they’re available — with a 60% alcohol content can also thwart germs and viruses.
• Avoid touching your face, most notably the eyes, nose and mouth.
• Stay away from crowds, and most definitely steer clear of those who are sick.
• If you don’t feel well, and especially if you have a fever, stay home; don’t go to work because you’ll simply be endangering your friends and co-workers.
• If you begin to show some of the tell-tale symptoms of coronavirus — fever, chills, fatigue, breathing difficulty — CALL your primary care physician first. DON’T just show up at the doctor’s door. During the call, your doctor will evaluate whether you should be tested. If so, you will be directed to a testing location.
We also offer this suggestion: Limit your visits to the grocery stores. Take what you need and remember those who will shop after you. As we are told, our local grocers have good supply chains that can keep the shelves stocked IF, and only IF, we as shoppers stick to our normal routines.
Yes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended stockpiling, especially among the elderly and most vulnerable in our population who live with underlying health conditions. But taking such advice to extremes does nothing more than worsen the public panic.
Go about your shopping routine. Buy what you need. And don’t return the next day for more of the same.
During Friday’s press conference, Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis and Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks signed Declarations of Emergency for our community, meaning local government leaders — in conjunction with EMA and the Department of Public Health — will do what is necessary to keep our people safe.
As of this writing, we don’t know what that will entail.
Whatever is involved, we urge our residents to follow instructions. Remember: We are in this together. And through togetherness we will move beyond the challenges posed by COVID-19.
It will take time, and it won’t be easy. But, as a community, we will get there. To borrow from a familiar adage, “Failure is not an option.”
We thank mayors Davis and Brooks, as well as EMA Director Troy Spence and Health Department Director Brittany Hopkins for their professionalism in conducting Friday’s press conference.
We didn’t get all the answers we wanted. Then again, those answers simply aren’t available; at least, not yet. But they will be.
Now that the coronavirus is upon us, we can stop asking, “When?” Now, we can roll up our sleeves and put our pre-arranged plans to work.
Our task lies ahead, and we will prevail.
In this closing to our readers and the entire community, we borrow from the words of our Cleveland mayor: “Stay home. Stay strong. Stay healthy.”