This morning, as I sit in my easy chair, a shawl wrapped around my shoulders to ward off the chill that pervades the house, my thoughts are on the world at large. The fire is starting to take hold in the wood stove and the kettle will soon be boiling for the much needed first cup of tea of the day. Normally, I wake up and the first thing I feel is gratitude and thankfulness for having a new day stretching out before me. Today I woke up and still felt a sense of gratitude, but also a desire to write and share my thoughts on the situation that faces the entire world at this time.

COVID-19, a wee little bug, that is creating havoc wherever it surfaces. Striking terror in some, nonchalance in others but still evoking strong feelings as it makes its way relentlessly across the globe. The news media, for the most part, seems to add fuel to the fire by continually painting a doom and gloom picture along with their reporting. A picture that often minimalizes the good things coming out of this crisis and emphasizes the negative. Hard as it may be, one can always find a silver lining if one looks for it.

Living in a small community, a community that has a large population of older citizens that are considered very vulnerable to this new virus, it cannot help but create worry and stress. Most folk living in the countryside tend to keep their pantries well stocked, their freezers often chockablock with frozen meats, veggies and fruit. That is often in part to living miles from a large city and the huge department stores city folk are used to having close by. However, our little family owned grocery shops do a wonderful job of keeping us local villagers well supplied with all manner of goods from fresh veggies to dry goods and much more. Folk in the country tend to be much more self-sufficient than our city counterparts. While many in the big cities were dashing to the shops to stock up on toilet paper, country folk were feeling thankful for the venison and elk in the freezer, courtesy of hunting season last year!

As the virus spread from country to country, then across the United States, the realization that this relentless bug might — no, would — eventually make its way to Eastern Oregon became a certainty as county after county saw cases pop up. Plans were made by health care facilities such as clinics, hospitals, county health departments and ambulance services to prepare for the worst yet hope for the best. Maybe, just maybe, because we are somewhat isolated, somewhat away from the big cities, our county could be spared for a while. Ah! Wishful thinking!

The Oregon government has done a very good job some might say of keeping its citizens informed of the statewide spread of the virus. Before long, Deschutes County to the west of us and Umatilla County to the north had their first cases. It was creeping closer. The day the Grant County Health Department announced our first confirmed case of COVID-19, local social media lit up like a fireworks display on the Fourth of July! Everyone wanting to know who it was, how had they got it, where had they been, who was next? All of a sudden it was as if common sense flew out the window and mass panic cunningly slipped in and took its place! Neighbor started to look askance at neighbor, rumors started flying like shrapnel through the air — all because of a nasty little bug.

Yes, this is a nasty little bug! An insidious invader of our shores that is wreaking havoc left, right and center. Disrupting our schools, our work environments, in many cases our livelihoods. Small businesses are being devastated; our local restaurants and many little specialty shops may well be forced to close their doors. This is a trying time, yet we are strong and will get through this! My mind firmly holds on to the old adage, “This too shall pass.”

Yesterday, as I was heading home after teaching my EMT class in Spray, I passed numerous campers, trailers, cyclists and other “outsiders” along the road. They were camped at almost all the parks alongside the river. Even a couple of camps were set up on the gravel bars down by our old farm outside of Kimberly, folks no doubt from the big cities, wanting to get away and enjoy our country air. At first, I must admit, a grumbling issued from deep inside me. What were these people doing here? What were they thinking? Do they realize how much they could be straining local resources such as the local grocery shops or if they get sick, the local health care facilities? Then I realized who would not want to get away from the hustle and bustle and stress of the west side of the state at a time like this! It was inevitable our wonderful little piece of heaven would be a balm to their soul.

So during this time of stress and uncertainty, let us think thoughts of good health. Let us face tomorrow with a smile for our friends and neighbors. Oh, and let me add… when someone is sick and we EMTs turn up at their door dressed like we are about to enter a home full of alien invaders sprouting tentacles and covered in contagious slime, please know it is just protocols we have to follow. It does not mean the person we are helping has the dreaded bug; it means we are out there helping folk in their time of need. So give us a smile and thumbs up too as that protective gear is hot to wear!

Spring is here! Blossoms cover the trees in the orchard, bees are on the wing, birds are singing and frog songs fill the evening air. The sun continues to rise and each morning we wake up is a blessing. What will come will come, and we will all get through this. What wonderful little communities we live in out here in the wilds of Eastern Oregon!

Rose Howe is an EMT in Grant County.

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