Mayor Arrigo Op-Ed: It’s not just statistics
March 26, 2020
Every day since the Covid-19 pandemic invaded, occupying our hospitals, and paralyzing our economy, and dominating our discourse, we have been bludgeoned with statistics and projections and warnings and restrictions.
All of it is necessary and, certainly, everyone should follow the advice and directions of medical and public health professionals.
But this article is not about statistics, and it’s not about advice. There’s plenty of that. This is about our reaction to the threat and our relation as a community. I send this message to the people of Revere as your Mayor, but also as friend and fellow resident. It is completely understandable that we are worried, for ourselves and for our loved ones. What’s happening today in our country, in our state, and in our city is historic. The Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 will be the subject of history books, medical studies and emergency response procedures for decades to come.
So our level of shared anxiety is not unwarranted. In one respect, that is a good thing. Fear is a great protector: it steers us away from foreseeable danger and draws us toward safer practices. And so to the extent that we are afraid of Covid-19, it may activate our diligent compliance with the advice and direction of public health authorities. Those outlets have been telling us for weeks how to protect ourselves, but, frankly, it wasn’t until the general public started to feel a little scared that they appreciated the necessity of social distancing, self-quarantine, and washing your hands.
Another irony of Covid-19 stems from the lessons it teaches. As every one of us experiences the same sense of concern and takes the same measures to protect ourselves and our families, we are reminded of the true meaning of community. The ancient proverb “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” counsels us that differing factions can and must work together against a common enemy.
Covid-19 is a common enemy. It plays no favorites among the religion, ethnic background, political affiliations, economic status, skin color, gender, age, and preferences of its random prey. That is precisely why every one of us from every corner of our community must do our individual best to slow its harmful advance. Following the simple instructions—wash your hands, keep distance from others, avoid crowds, stay home!—will produce disproportionately beneficial results, for everyone. We can do that with ease.While public emergencies stoke fear and can fuel public panic, one wonders: where can we look for optimism?
I say: look around you. Emergencies also instigate people’s best instincts. Right now, people of all ages are making tremendous social and financial sacrifices for one singular purpose: protecting others. People are checking in on their neighbors, helping the elderly, and volunteering to help out with the effort to knock down Covid-19. They are offering encouraging words, and plenty of much-needed comic relief, on social media. Look, and you will witness the recognition that we are in this together.
Not only are the people of our medical community performing heroically, but so are thousands of others. Those who deliver food to our markets, stock grocery shelves, check out and bag our groceries are making sure we have food to eat. First responders, those men and women of our fire and police and emergency departments who are always at the top of the list of everyday heroes, continue to stand their guard over public safety all day, every day. Cafeteria workers in our schools have continued to come to work to make sure our students in need can get the meals they rely on. Those who maintain our public works infrastructure have not abandoned their posts, and will not.
The list goes on and on. Hardworking individuals make sure our trash is collected, that mail is delivered, that we have the supply of fuel to warm our homes. And in our laboratories and science centers, brilliant minds are dedicated to finding the answer that will end the spread of Covid-19. History tells us that they will. Until then, they need some help from all of us to buy some time. We can do that by the simple precautions we practice.
In a world that oftentimes spins too fast, generating anger and cynicism and worse, Covid-19 has brought most of us to a screeching halt. While we are at a standstill, it’s a good time look around. We need not be consumed by worry because we can find encouragement in the way we all respond to this threat. And we can remember our sense of community. People have enjoyed walks in their neighborhoods, a simple pleasure that many have never done before. They have greeted their neighbors—from a safe distance. We’ve observed the simple natural beauty of the outdoors, passively and in solitude. With so many activities cancelled, families have rediscovered the intimate pleasure of watching a movie or playing a board game or just hanging around together.
Yes, there is much to be concerned about, and more than enough hardship to go around. And unfortunately, there’s probably more to come. But Covid-19 reminds us that we are one people, struggling along with our lives and our individual challenges, and it also reminds us how strong we can be when we stand and work together.
When this is all over, when we look back on these days from the future’s safe perch, we may notice that we learned quite a bit about ourselves and our community during these difficult days. Let’s all stand strong, confident, and as one.
-Mayor Brian M. Arrigo