Apart physically but watching out for each other
New York's Gov. Andrew Cuomo smiled wanly at his own play on words in a press conference earlier this week updating the COVID-19 situation in his state. "Stay positive," he said, then ruefully acknowledged that "positive" is a loaded term these days. No one wants to be positive in the coronaviral sense. Too many already are.
On the eve of a severe worsening of conditions in his state, the governor was making an important point. No matter whether President Trump would like to see the economy "opened up and just raring to go" by mid-April, the nation seems to be in for a long haul with the threat of illness, financial hardship and extreme changes in daily life. Cuomo urged listeners to look for ways to make each other's lives easier. Cabin fever, yes; new fears and frustrations every day, for sure; but also, he said, a chance for this challenge of a lifetime to be this generation's defining moment. And he is not the only one comparing this to the abrupt but long-term challenges faced by citizens in the time of World War II.
Federal help should be on the way at last, with Senate passage of a $2 trillion virus rescue bill. But whether Americans today will emerge from the pandemic as a successor generation to the one known as the Greatest Generation depends on how we pull together. Our heroes have alway been the ones who try to leave no one behind, while looking reality in the face.
We are seeing sudden heroes among the medical staffs and first responders saving lives at great personal risk. Among them are several hundred retired doctors and nurses at or near the age at which the virus presents the highest risk of death. We may find new heroes who invent and produce inexpensive face masks or develop life-saving vaccines. But we also depend on the heroes who are among us not only in times of acute crisis but also in the difficulties that chronically afflict people's lives.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut has created a new fund called Neighbors for Neighbors. The foundation is working with the United Way chapters of southeastern, northeastern and central Connecticut to provide a conduit for helping those suffering from the COVID-19 illness or its plethora of side-effects: layoffs, business closures, hungry children out of school, mental health effects from isolation. The list goes on and on.
The community foundation is managing the fund and seeking donations from neighbors fortunate enough to be able to give. Staff are fast-tracking "basic needs" grants to the organizations that even in ordinary times support people who are hungry, disabled, homeless or in need of basic human services. On its website the foundation has a list of resources for nonprofit organizations as they respond to the needs of their clients.
Ingenious strategies for reaching out are also cropping up in many places. Delivering meals by school bus, as they have been in Detroit and are now doing in New London, is quietly brilliant. Two major donors are paying for textbooks, laptops and tablets for schoolchildren who will be going to class from home for the foreseeable future. Legions of people are learning how to Zoom — and use other online conferencing systems — so they can keep running organizations like museums and nature centers that offer viewable and interactive materials for parents substituting as teachers.
COVID-19 is adding daily to the list of people suffering, with everyone affected even if they have stayed healthy so far. Mourn the loss of graduation ceremonies, the postponement of wedding plans, even the inability to hold a funeral, but also adopt the motto of the heroes we have known: let's not let anyone be left behind.
To make an online donation to the Neighbors for Neighbors fund, visit the Community Foundation website's donations page, https://www.cfect.org/Donors/Giving-Options. Or, checks or money orders should be made payable to the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut and mailed to the office at 68 Federal St., New London, CT 06320, with a note specifying that the donation is for the Neighbors for Neighbors fund. Donors may also specify that a gift is being made in honor or memory of someone.
The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.
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