On Tuesday, the world as we know it on the Midpeninsula ground to a halt.
The day before, health officials from six Bay Area counties and Santa Cruz County announced that starting at 12:01 a.m., residents are ordered to stay at home for all but "essential reasons" for the next three weeks in order to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
Businesses deemed nonessential were forced to close, sending employees who to work from home — if they were lucky. Some were sent home with partial or no pay, while others lost their jobs entirely. Downtown Mountain View, which has seen less and less foot traffic as [more local companies have adopted work-from-home policies over the past few weeks, became completely deserted, with small businesses shuttered and restaurants closing down or limiting service to takeout and delivery. Cars dotted the roadways and intersections they would normally clog, congregating at grocery stores in search of the elusive bottle of hand sanitizer or cans of soup.
While life has temporarily changed, one thing that has remained unchanged is our thorough coverage of local news, including this pandemic. Our office, as a media outlet, is deemed an essential business and has gone largely remote, with restrictions in place on how many people can be in the building or in a particular area at once. Those who do come in have access to cleaning supplies, and anyone who feels at all ill is staying home. Meanwhile, our reporters, photographers and editors have been working hard to bring residents the latest news and information on COVID-19, helping produce stories on how the outbreak has upended everything from schools and City Council business to restaurants.
This is an unprecedented moment in the world. The uncertainty has left many people feeling afraid, anxious and helpless, and the new measures announced Monday — while necessary — undoubtedly make people feel less in control of the situation.
If you're feeling overwhelmed or want to help, here's what you can do:
•Stay home except for essential activities, such as picking up medication or groceries, getting exercise, and caring for relatives. If you do go out, stay at least 6 feet away from those not in your household. Don't treat this as a time to set up play dates for your kids or have your friends over. Even if you're asymptomatic, you could unknowingly infect others, so it's critical to follow the order of local health officials.
•Take care of yourself. Go walking, running or biking, which you can do with a friend provided that you keep up social distancing. Make time to rest and relax. If you're feeling overwhelmed, reach out to a friend, loved one and/or a mental health care provider. Santa Clara County residents can get help 24/7 by contacting the county Behavioral Health Services Department's call center at (800) 704-0900 or the suicide and crisis hotline at (855) 278-4204. For tips on coping with stress during the coronavirus outbreak, visit the county's website at tinyurl.com/coronavirus-stress.
•Take care of others. If you know a senior citizen or someone else who is in the high-risk group, keep in touch with them and offer to help however you can. If you don't know anyone in that category, see if a neighbor needs assistance.
•Support local nonprofits and businesses. The COVID-19 outbreak has already dealt a significant blow to nonprofits, which have had to cancel or postpone major fundraising events, and small businesses that already faced challenges with paying the rent and retaining employees due to the high cost of living in the Bay Area. If you have the means, donate to a local nonprofit or buy a gift card that you can use later at your favorite shop or eatery.
•Stay informed. Check the Centers for Disease Control and Santa Clara County Public Health Department websites and visit mv-voice.com for the latest information and news. The Voice and our sister papers, The Almanac and Palo Alto Weekly, have lifted our pay meters to provide unlimited access to our websites during the health emergency. Although we will not be printing issues for the time being, you can find full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic — and anything else that's happening locally — online. Consider signing up for a subscription to support our important work at mv-voice.com/user/subscribe.
While limiting our activities outside the home and not being able to see some of our friends and loved ones can be difficult, it's a temporary challenge for the greater good. By taking these steps, we can serve as a model to other communities and could, by working together, slow this crisis. As San Mateo County health officer Scott Morrow said Monday, "This is the time to unite as a community, come to each other's aid and dig really deep."