Slouching Towards Reopening*

*Yes, I do realize that is my second allusion to Yates’ poem during this pandemic. What can I say? I love the poem, and find it very appropriate right now. If you want to read my first reference, including the poem itself, click HERE.

My state of North Carolina is easing up stay-at-home and commercial restrictions as new cases seem to be flattening in my state. Here are my thoughts…

Yesterday I received an email that totally lifted my spirits. I had been bemoaning the fact that I had run out of Smoked Spanish Paprika, which is an essential ingredient of a couple of new recipes I wanted to try. Now, I know that is a MINOR issue compared with what so many are dealing with, so I didn’t make a big deal of it. I didn’t want to just buy some more at my next weekly grocery trip, because I really wanted my beloved Paprika Smoked Spanish Style spice from Penzeys, a company that I am devoted to for their politics as well as their products. So I just moved the recipes into the “Later” file in my mind.

Then I got an email from the company that the local store in Cameron Village in Raleigh had reopened. YAY!!!!! They invited me to send an email if I was interested in buying anything. So I did, and today here I am with new stocks of my favorite spices that I had used up: Paprika Smoked Spanish Style, Chipotle Pepper Ground Red, Crushed Red Pepper, and Pepper (can you tell that my family likes its food hot, lol).

One of the reason I would wait to buy Penzeys instead of grocery story alternatives is that I appreciate their commitment to larger social issues and “doing the right thing” over focusing solely on profits. While I imagine the local store could have stayed open as an “essential business,” Penzeys closed their central processing operations until they could ensure it was as safe as possible for employees as well as customers.

I think they demonstrated that commitment through their opening procedures. I emailed the central office that I wanted to buy something, which they forwarded to our local store. I got a call to ask what I wanted. They checked their stocks and found they had what I needed. I gave them my credit card information over the phone and made an appointment for picking up my purchase. The next day, I drove to Cameron Village, parked right by the store, and called to say I was there. The sales associate left my bag outside on the box shown above and returned to the store, at which point I left my car, picked up my order, and returned home.

That’s the type of reopening businesses that I support. Others…not so much, at least at this time.

Compared to some of our neighbors in the South, North Carolina is taking a more conservative approach to restarting businesses. The Governor, Roy Cooper, is adapting the stay-at-home order at the end of this week to allow most retail stores to open if they follow cleaning and social distancing protocols (so-called Phase 1 of reopening the economy). If infection/hospitalization/death rates remain flattened, two to three weeks after that (Phase 2), bars and restaurants can provide services inside, gyms and hair salons can reopen, religious and entertainment venues can host events with reduced numbers, and the like (again, with cleaning and capacity restrictions). If all goes well, Phase 3 would increase capacity and returns things closer to “normal.”

That seems like a reasonable approach to me as long as these decisions are made based on data, not politics or protesters or pundits. I believe this is a time when we should be listening to the experts: medical professionals, scientists, and number crunchers.

For me, one of my guiding principles was this data that my NC State Senator, Jay Chaudhuri, sent out after the Governor’s briefing on April 6. Researchers from UNC, Duke, and RTI International predicted the following trajectories of the disease in our state based on our social behavior (maintaining stay-at-home restrictions through May or lifting all prohibitions):

For me, seeing a huge different in projections developed by non-partisan but respectable sources (OK, so I don’t know RTI International, but I trust the expertise that abounds at UNC and Duke) makes it easy for me to know what to do, regardless of the conflicting viewpoints on the news.

Through May, regardless of what the official policies are, I’m staying at home except for limited, socially-distancing, little-to-no interaction, and relatively-necessary excursions. I will do that for my own wellbeing and for the wellbeing of my family and my community. Plus, I think the best way we honor the bravery and service of the medical community is to do whatever we can to keep the burden on the healthcare system at a manageable level. To me, that looks like staying home and practicing healthy hygiene to reduce the likelihood that this disease will overwhelm our hospital capacity.

So yes, let’s try slouching towards reopening…in a slow, deliberate, data-based manner with the realization that we may have to stop or even backtrack if infection rates rise. I know how much it meant to me to be able to get my spices, and realize for other people it could be sporting goods or electronic devices or whatever their passions are. So I want us to walk that tightrope of allowing business to reopen without endangering lives more than they already are. I think North Carolina is approaching this in a smart way, but its success depends on each of us behaving in a smart and responsible way.

I hope we will all step up to the challenge.


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