Over the weekend, I could not help but take a few moments to contemplate how things we took for granted just six months ago could look when we have finally brought COVID-19 under control, here and around the world.
Our first responders have become especially vulnerable in contracting this virus and will continue to be so as time goes on. Whether it be COVID-19 or some other contagion, those men and women within the fire/rescue, EMS or law enforcement field will be facing these challenges on a more regular basis as we move into the future.
In New York City itself, the most recent figures I reviewed listed 31 NYPD officers as fatalities from the virus and the numbers continue to grow. Multitudes are being sidelined and hospitalized from the disease which puts a strain on the department’s ability to respond to other calls. Those numbers continue to rise throughout the nation as more and more officers fall victim to the virus.
The same unfortunate numbers continue to grow within the fire/rescue and EMS service ranks. Those deaths can be seen in large departments as well as smaller ones. In the cities as well as in rural areas all through the country.
Changes in protocol will have to be made in how we interact with subjects in the field and the protective gear that we provide to those that come into contact with those they are dispatched to serve. The planning for that has to begin now as government acts to protect its employees.
The idea of “social distancing” will be another area that we have not heard the last of, even after this latest pandemic begins to abate.
The custom of the handshake did not begin out of a gesture of friendship or congeniality. Instead, its origins came about to ensure the person we were about to meet did not intend harm against another and harbor a weapon in their concealed hand. It was only after time that it evolved into a gesture of greeting and/or friendship.
In the last several months, we have steered clear of that old custom and adjusted our greeting gestures to avoid possible transmission of unseen carriers of the virus. For some of us, myself included, it is a hard habit to break. My dad taught me that a firm handshake was an indication of sincerity and confidence, rather than that of weakness and insincerity, which is indicated by a limp grip.
I am not sure a fist bump or an elbow tap will ever suffice or replace that of the firm handshake, but I understand the reasoning behind the concerns regarding the handshake.
The concerns regarding social distancing have also invaded the grocery stores we frequent so often. We find the aisles have now been made one-way to provide appropriate space to allow for a more comfortable space that we may shop within. The arrows on the floors as well as the spacing indicators at the checkout to provide 6-foot intervals are being seen in more and more of those stores.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the young man or woman who provides us with a “sanitized” cart to place our purchases within. That and the diligence which the checkout clerk cleans his or her area after each customer passes through.
I did mention to both my grocery checkout person and the clerk at the pharmacy the other day how I thought the addition of the plexiglass barrier between us with a good thing, not only for the protection of the customer, but for their protection. They both agreed and hoped they would be maintained, even after the end of the COVID-19 challenge.
As we look at expending large taxpayer dollars on capital improvements in and around the city, are their changes that should be looked at. Should we be reevaluating the design of the structures we will be building and improvements to the public areas within parks?
We could be looking at spending well over $20 million in building a new fire station and doing capital improvements within Veterans Community Park. Are there lessons we should be learning from these latest challenges dealing with the Coronavirus or are we simply relying on how buildings have been built over the years?
Jamming too many individuals into a building, whether it be a public space, or a municipal building may not be the best idea. As we look at redoing a Comprehensive Plan for the city, should we be taking some of these lessons into mind?
What about our own personal responsibility in all these items? Are we doing all we can to be better citizens? Washing hands more frequently or making a concerted effort to carrying tissues or a handkerchief on a regular basis might go a long way to improving our own personal hygiene.
When I traveled to many of the countries for business in the 90s, it was not unusual to see those residents cover their faces with masks or scarfs. The purpose of that dealt with the pollution in the air. We are fortunate that in this nation we really do not have that issue, but we have had a wake-up call with this invisible enemy during the last three months and we must take it seriously. It will require some changes in our habits and maybe a little sacrifice on our part, but together we can overcome it and be stronger as we emerge if we take the lessons seriously.