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Together Apart

Keeping community and our distance

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As of 12:01 a.m. March 20, Humboldt County residents have been ordered to shelter in place, sitting tight at home to protect one another from the spread of COVID-19, the international death toll for which has topped 16,500 and climbs each day. We at the Journal thank each and every one of you taking these precautions and all our safety as seriously as the moment demands. That means only making essential outings to essential businesses like grocery stores, hospitals, pharmacies, emergency services and food service, or (bless you) reporting for work at one of them.

Even on essential outings, we need to stay a minimum of 6 feet apart. That's not easy for a county of salsa dancers, jammers, performers and huggers. It's tempting — even reasonable — to dismiss the importance of book clubs, live music shows or exercise classes in the face of a global pandemic, but without them we are more than physically isolated. We lose the very human contact and support that would buoy us in hard times. Fortunately, in the 21st century we don't have to choose between social distancing and social connection.

Humboldt's reputation for independence is built on its tight-knit communities — some bonded by shared history, some by common cause, some by our passions — that have persevered behind the Redwood Curtain. So how do we maintain the social distance necessary for our health and still hold our community together without the gatherings that define so much of our daily lives?

For our part, the Journal's Calendar now includes a community bulletin board (an expansion of our Heads Up section), where you'll find opportunities to take or give a helping hand. We've also shifted to replace canceled physical gatherings with virtual events to keep us together online. You'll notice events with "Virtual World" followed by information on where you can log on and join in remotely. As fast as things are changing out there, the creative folks in Humboldt are finding ways to connect in real time, using online platforms like Facebook Live and Zoom, some dropping payment app info like a virtual tip jar that allows the audience to throw a little cash their way.

We want to help build a local virtual community — one that, while occupying the vast online world, is Humboldt through and through, connecting neighbors with neighbors, offering people creative outlets and escapes (and some familiar faces) while perhaps putting money in local people's pockets in the process.

So here's what we need from you: If you've got information about a virtual gathering or performance, upload it to our online calendar at www.northcoastjournal.com, and hit the red "Submit an Event" button, so we can share it with readers in print and online. (Need help? Email calendar@northcoastjournal.com for walk-through directions.) And if you've got something to share — a talent, a teachable skill — we want to help you get it streaming, even if all you've got is a smartphone. Contact jennifer@northcoastjournal.com and visit our website for tutorial links in this editorial — then let's get your music/yoga class/one-woman comedy show to the people of Humboldt. This might be your Tiny Desk Concert moment, musicians. The homebound folks of the North Coast also need NA and AA meetings, support groups, cooking lessons, coffee klatches and book clubs. They need your busking and burlesque, your DJ sessions, spoken word, personal stories, lectures on local history, live painting and aerial routines. Parents need your story time reading (we're looking at you, library volunteers), puppet shows and crafting tutorials. If you can show us how to re-pot orchids or do drag makeup, don't keep it a secret. The more we stay connected in real time, the more supported we're all going to feel and the easier it will be to do what we have to do — stay home — while retaining a sense of emotional wellness.

The impact of COVID-19 and the vital actions to fight its spread will be hard on us all mentally and socially. It will be particularly devastating for local businesses. In all frankness, this is true for our paper, too — if you're holding it in your hands reading this, you likely feel how thin it is. A glance at our staff box will show you our numbers have thinned in order to afford keeping information flowing to the people of our county. You'll find us at fewer newsstands as open businesses dwindle. (We're also sticking to newsstands by essential businesses to hopefully minimize our readers' outings.)

The whole Journal team is going to continue bringing you vital news — like this week's story on navigating our new COVID-19 reality — and soul-feeding entertainment. We're proud to do so in print, especially for those who don't have access to internet. But if you do, visit www.northcoastjournal.com for the latest updates and information on the spread of the virus and the official response.

This is our home we're reporting on and running ads for. And we cannot let the bonds of our community slip along with everything else we're losing. Look around and see what you can contribute to our online Humboldt community, whether it's banjo solos or a few bucks. In the coming weeks, scan our calendar listings to find what you need, whether it's an enrichment activity for your kid, a peer-support group or some live music. As long as these dark times last, in their aftermath and beyond, we're going to need each other in real life.

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill is the Journal's arts and features editor and prefers she/her pronouns. Reach her at 442-1400, extension 320, or Jennifer@northcoastjournal.com Follow her on Twitter @JFumikoCahill.

Thadeus Greenson is the Journal's news editor and prefers he/him pronouns. Reach him at 442-1400, extension 321, or thad@northcoastjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @thadeusgreenson.

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