Aaron Stone, chairman of the CVRD. (File photo)

Guest Column: COVID-19 greatest challenge of a generation

We’ve rapidly moved from business as usual, to a series of measures that are anything but normal.

By Aaron Stone

Hi Cowichan. How are you all holding up?

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks to be sure. As we’ve struggled as a community, region, province, nation, indeed as a world to get ahead of COVID-19, we’ve been caught in a wave of daily and drastic changes in how we live our lives.

We’ve rapidly moved from business as usual, to a series of measures that are anything but normal. We’re now working from home, caring for children, checking in on loved ones to make sure they’re healthy and comfortable.

Some of us are uncertain about our job security and whether we’ll be able to make a mortgage or rent payment in April, let alone another month from now.

I understand this is hard for everyone, myself included as a husband, father, small business owner as well as your mayor and regional chairperson.

We’ve watched, read and listened as COVID-19 spreads across our country and around the world. We get daily totals of the numbers of confirmed infections, a daily accounting of the lives lost. These aren’t just numbers on a screen or statistics in a news article, these are friends and family, coworkers and community members. These are loved ones.

It can be overwhelming. I feel you.

This is also happening in a social media world where fear and skepticism collide into a hodgepodge of conflicting information. This is contributing to a level of societal anxiety I’ve not seen in my life. It makes a very challenging situation even more difficult. I feel that as well.

The cold reality is that COVID-19 is a very real threat. The greatest challenge of a generation.

This is something we as a society haven’t faced before. As a community leader, this is something I never imagined having to work through. Frankly, it’s a nightmare. Right now, getting a grant for some safety improvements or our latest economic development project just isn’t important. What is important is our health, our families and our friends. All of us.

So, what can we do?

We can start now. We can give ourselves over to this new short term reality and embrace what we need to do. Dive in head-first to what must be done. The sooner we do this, the sooner we actually do what is being asked of us, the sooner and the better this ends. Every day we distract, deny or delay is many more days it will go on. Let’s not kid ourselves that more people will be lost. So let’s do this!

I’m asking us all to listen to our medical professionals. I’m asking us to honour our loved ones. I’m asking us to make simple but difficult changes in our lives over the next few weeks to see if we can lower the infection rate and get ahead of COVID-19.

It’s going to be hard. We are going to be dealing with the fallout for a while but we will get through this together.

Ladysmith council has cancelled all regularly scheduled in-person meetings for the foreseeable future and will instead be holding virtual special council meetings using Zoom — a remote and secure conferencing service.

I encourage you to check for more information on our website in the coming days on how you can tune in to watch these meetings from home and stay informed on the decisions impacting our community.

We are all in this together. The entire world is in this together. We will find a way to rebuild after this is done but for today we need to do some simple things.

In the meantime, practise information hygiene and only get your information from trusted sources, such as the facts and links to public health agencies available through the Town’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage: www.ladysmith.ca/covid-19.

We all need to do whatever we can to flatten the curve. So, this is what normal looks like for a while:

• Stay home, if possible

• Work from home, if you can

• Go for a walk alone or with members of your household ONLY. Or hike or run or ride

• Physical distance and social distance when we must venture out for essentials

• Don’t hoard food and stockpile. Buy only the food and essentials that you need

• Stay connected with friends and family by text, phone, Skype, FaceTime, Zoom

• No group activities with anyone outside your household

• Wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds minimum and then rinse well

• Don’t touch your face! (Being on Zoom has been a good reminder for me. I do it constantly!)

• Clean surfaces frequently.

This is so critical for you, me, and everyone we love. Even those we don’t know, who have others that love them too! We can beat COVID-19 together.

I’m with you. We’re all in this together.

Aaron Stone is the mayor of Ladysmith and the chair of the Cowichan Valley Regional District.

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