It’s a scary time to live in America. The United States reported more cases of COVID-19 in the month of November than most countries did for the entire year (yes, you read that right—year), and health experts have stated that cases are expected to “surge” over the next few weeks. Unfortunately, those numbers also include Oregon. Hospitals in Portland and Bend have seen occupancy rates rise to nearly 90% recently. That threatens to overwhelm local doctors and nurses, with many, like Jeff Absalon, the chief physician executive for the St. Charles Health System, saying those numbers will probably increase.
Even worse, COVID-19 has drastically affected communities of color. Black Americans are three times more likely to contract COVID-19 than white Americans and are twice as likely to die from it. Celebrity status offers no immunity, with Jeremih, Lamar Jackson, Scarface and, purportedly, even Kanye contracting the virus. Black-owned businesses have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19 too. Sadly, those disparities also extend to Pacific Islanders and Latinxs. In Oregon, Pacific Islanders suffer from the state’s highest rates of COVID-19 infection.
Those are tragic and terrifying numbers, but thankfully, there are many things Oregonians can do to reduce our own risks, contain the spread of COVID-19, and keep our families and communities safe.
The premise is simple, here. Take these easy precautions to help stop coronavirus from spreading. This isn’t just about individuals, but rather the community and the state as a whole. How we act during this time of crisis will have an infinite ripple effect because this virus is that contagious. One small precaution now can stop an exponential explosion of COVID-19 cases later.
First up, wear a mask or cloth face covering. It’s so easy. Just place it over your mouth and nose and voila! Now you and your community are already safer. Wearing a mask is particularly important when you’re indoors with people you don’t live with. If you go to the grocery store, for example, wear a mask. After wearing a mask, the most important thing you can do is wash your hands. Minimum of 20 seconds. Hot water. Get under your nails, the backs of your hands and your thumbs, and rinse thoroughly. Do this consistently throughout the day, especially if you venture out. If you do venture out, be smart. Keep six feet away from others, even while wearing a mask.
You should also keep your social circle small and close. Think of it as temporarily living in a bubble. Stick to seeing your household or roommates only. Trust us. Living in a “bubble” works. It keeps people and communities safe. Need more proof? Take it from the NBA, the shining light of sports-dom, which reported zero coronavirus cases from “The Bubble” during its revamped season and playoffs. You might even find that living in a bubble helps clear your head. Legendary Blazers star Dame Lillard said he found this NBA season “easier” due to its lack of “distractions.”
If you’re tired of being stuck inside, think of the things that you’ve always wanted to get done but haven’t had the time to get around to. Alphabetize your DVD or vinyl collection and then binge-watch and listen to your newly organized favorites. Clean out your closet and sell whatever you haven’t worn in months online for a quick hit of extra cash. Then, use that cash to cop a Complex-approved mask or one of the new video game consoles that happen to have dropped recently. If those are sold out, try these. Whatever you get, you can post up all winter to entertain yourself gaming.
Beyond that, there’s more to do inside than you might imagine. For the shoe collectors out there, you can take this time to clean your sneakers. Nothing says, “I’ve been doing nothing for eight months” like a collection of fresh Jordans. Plus, when we get ahead of this thing, your feet will be looking fire. Or, you can crush some YouTube tutorials, learning how to level up your web design and graphics skills. Or, ignite your artistic side and get to work on your hand style in a graffiti black book like the writers of yore. You could even learn to make beats or start skateboarding in your garage—both things that are actually easier if you first try them out alone. No matter what you choose, pursuing one of these safe activities will help you emerge from this winter a better version of yourself.
Plus, you can still see people safely online. Want to grab a safe New Year’s Eve drink with the homies? Easy. Gather online instead of in-person to avoid dangerous indoor groups. It’s worked for DJs like D-Nice and for the Verzuz franchise, which has brilliantly found a way to safely bring us legendary artist battles while attracting more viewers than the MTV VMAs, NBC’s The Voice, the Billboard Awards, the CMAs, the Latin Grammys, and even Dancing With the Stars.
If you get bored with these indoor activities, there are also safe ways to enjoy the great outdoors. But health officials insist that we have to be smart about it. If you have a back yard that allows for a minimum of six feet of distance between you and your guests, sit outside and catch up while donning a mask. Or, crack a cold drink on the front porch while chatting with your friends on the sidewalk. If you feel the need to venture out, you can, but please do it safely. There’s plenty of open air to be out there where you can go for a hike or a walk far away from large groupings of strangers. The Oregon coast and the vast, dense forests peppered with trails are good options, but please keep your distance from anyone you might encounter and wear a mask. Resorts have begun to open too, and there are ways to safely head to the hills for a day of snowboarding, whether alone or with your immediate household. Be sure to check the website of the resort you want to go to in order to review their COVID-19 safety protocols. Make a ticket reservation online first and get up-to-speed on how they’re operating. Bring your own food, eat it at your whip, ride the chairlift alone or with members of your household, and WEAR A MASK.
A vaccine for all is on the horizon and limited vaccination for those who need it most has already begun. Eventually, everyone will be able to get vaccinated against COVID-19. But things are still dangerous out there. We have a ways to go. Vaccine distribution will take months. So, we are asking you to do your part by following the advice above. If you can hold out this winter and make it to next summer, you’ll be helping Oregon get through this thing as safely as possible. Remember: This is life and death. Taking precautions will save lives while protecting your own health too. It’s up to you.