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"Affliction is a good man's shining time."

-- Edward Young, English poet, philosopher

What’s the point?

As Northwest Arkansas steps further into the covid-19 pandemic, a commitment to steady resolve in the face of challenging times is needed.

Northwest Arkansas last week joined a growing list of regions receiving confirmation that the coronavirus is in their midst. It should come as no surprise.

Spreading from person to person is what viruses do. Indeed, as of Friday, the number of cases identified in Arkansas stood at 96, which represented the largest day-to-day growth since the state's first case was reported. Washington and Benton counties as well as Boone and Pope counties had reported positive tests by Friday. One-third of the state's counties now have confirmed cases.

If Northwest Arkansas was some remote locale hardly influenced from beyond, perhaps it would have had a delayed entry into the populations affected by the worldwide crisis. But as the region's advocates promote in the good times, Northwest Arkansas is amazingly interconnected with the world whether it's through the mega-corporations, educational institutions or a diverse population with roots all around the globe.

As a region, there's really no escape, as much as we may wish differently.

Covid-19 isn't something any part of the state is going to avoid. It's something every part of the state will have to deal with.

Acknowledging that, we've been impressed with the responsible way most residents and businesses have adjusted to this new environment. Development of screening hotlines by local hospitals and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences as well as establishment of drive-through screening locations are giving people tools to obtain reliable advice and, when needed, treatment.

Some businesses that rely on crowds voluntarily closed.

People are helping each other and looking for creative ways to do more, whether it's visiting an elderly neighbor through the safety of a storm door or stores that set aside times for older Americans to shop before other, less vulnerable shoppers.

Customers are doing what they can to help their favorite businesses make it through difficult times.

"All three cafes in our small town were nearly deserted for lunch," state Sen. Jim Hendren of Sulphur Springs advised in a tweet Friday. "They're normally packed. We have to support these businesses through this or we will lose them for good. Order carry out. Don't cancel gym memberships. Tip large!"

Acts of kindness have always been contagious, too. We've heard nothing about the coronavirus that suggests the pandemic has the capability to diminish people's capacity for good deeds.

Thankfully, people have become a little more aware or openly mindful of the so-called service people who make everyone's lives easier and, certainly, tastier. The economic impact of the coronavirus will hurt them, but many have stepped up by offering bigger tips, by continuing to buy from local businesses as much as possible.

Meanwhile, as Arkansas Health Department Secretary Nate Smith advised, the situation is serious. "We're going to need to make some pretty dramatic changes in our lives in the short term," he said last week.

Fear doesn't help. Preparedness does.

It's important that people do what they can to reduce their anxieties, as difficult as that might sound. Take some breaks. Monitoring the situation doesn't have to be a 24/7 sort of existence. Even as many are practicing not just social distancing but as much isolation as they can, it's still important to get outside, to take some breaths of fresh air, to let the wind blow across our faces. Exercise remains as important as it ever has been, and that can help with the stress.

Don't worry, just accept that our lives are going to be different for a while and, yes, there's a virus out there that can be dangerous. Listen to the state's health care professionals and apply their words of wisdom to how you live. Don't panic. Just pay attention and respond to the challenges calmly. Hysteria does nobody any favors. There's no sense in going berserk for 10 minutes only to find yourself right back where you started, facing the same challenges as your neighbors.

Let's recognize that the number of cases are going to explode once the state-run and private labs expand their capacities to process the tests for the coronavirus. The numbers will appear scary, but doesn't change the efficacy of the recommendations we should be applying within our own sphere of influence. Control the world you live in. When the test results in Northwest Arkansas grow to 50, then 100 and beyond, recognize that the measures you've put into action continue to be your best defense no matter how big the numbers grow.

And remember this: While we all hope for a vaccine as soon as possible, nobody should today believe the steps we're asked to follow are designed to quickly eradicate covid-19. Rather, we're in a battle to slow the spread, to give our medical facilities and crews time. It makes perfect sense that 1,000 cases spread over, say, two months is far more manageable than 1,000 cases discovered in two days.

With the global scope of this crisis, it's easy for individuals to fret about not being able to make a difference. Making a difference, however, remains as achievable as it's ever been through individual action. The governor and other civic leaders continually remind us that we're all in this together and it's never been more true. Progress, as always, will be made through individual action, whether that's sitting six feet apart from each other or stepping up to donate blood (which is vital in normal times but desperately needed today) or visiting an elderly neighbor from a safe distance.

For all its negatives, social media is a bit of a lifeline in this time of isolation. Sure, there's still all the craziness and volumes of misinformation that we hope social media users will evaluate with healthy skepticism, but when our face-to-face contact with each other is limited, social media is also serving to give us glimpses of the humor, resolve and compassion with which our neighbors are handling these circumstances.

It's great to be alive, Northwest Arkansas. Celebrate that, even as we might acknowledge living in the best of times and the worst of times.

Nobody ever promised smooth sailing in life, but many Americans have experienced it for a lot of their time on this planet. Now we face an enormous challenge together. What will be said of our response?

As Winston Churchill advised, "If you are going through hell, keep going."

Commentary on 03/22/2020

Print Headline: These difficult times

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