In the past few days I have heard so much on social media and from the media that is truly disturbing. As a nation and especially as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we should be coming together. We should be finding the facts before expressing opinions and when we disagree, we should be saving that discussion until the crisis has past.

This is a crisis. People are dying and many more could die, but we can help. We can do as we are asked and practice social distancing and good hygiene habits. We should have stocked up on food and other supplies to afford us the opportunity to remain in our homes for 2-3 weeks. Limited contact with others works and can greatly reduce the length of time the COVID-19 disrupts our lives.

We can learn from the experiences of the past:  

Case Study for Self-Imposed Reverse Quarantine (SIRQ), Yerba Buena Island 

Yerba Buena Island is in the middle of San Francisco Bay – it is the island at the midway point of today’s Bay Bridge, but in 1918, it stood alone, connected only by ferries to the mainland.  

On September 23, 1918 Commandant Percival Rossiter of the San Francisco Naval Training Station ordered an immediate SIRQ of the island. All 6,000 people on the island, including civilians, were required to remain on the island. All contact with others living in the San Francisco Bay Area were halted except to receive supplies. Supplies were delivered to the docks and recovered only after the vessel delivering them had left. On the rare occasion that military personnel arrived on the island they were placed in a quarantine camp for several days. 

By early November new influenza cases were decreasing in the San Francisco area. On Thursday, November 21, after two months of SIRQ the ban on travel between the island and the mainland was lifted. This may have been premature as the first case of influenza on the island was reported on December 6, 1918. During December 1918 and January 1919, Yerba Buena Island recorded 3 deaths from influenza and 2 from pneumonia. Deaths during the Self-Imposed Reverse Quarantine: 0 

Gunnison, Colorado  

The city of Gunnison, Colorado took steps early to protect its citizens. In early October 1918 the Colorado State Board of Health issued a warning. Schools were closed across the county, with orders that they would remain closed. Large meetings were banned.  

With the news that nearby towns were being hard hit by the pandemic, Gunnison enacted measures to protect its citizens. Anyone entering the town was required to remain in a quarantine location for two days. Barricades were erected on the main highways and cars were warned to drive through without stopping. 

After three months, on February 4, 1919, an end to the protective sequestration and closure order for the town of Gunnison. Only one death had been recorded. When a third wave of the flu arrived, 100 cases were reported in Gunnison and 5 deaths occurred.  

Western Pennsylvania Institute for the Blind  

The Western Pennsylvania Institute for the Blind escaped the influenza pandemic even though nearby Pittsburgh was hit hard. When word of illness in nearby towns reached the school, officials announced that visitors would not be allowed to enter the school nor students allowed to leave. No cases of the flu were reported at the school. Students were allowed to return home for Thanksgiving and upon their return 12 cases of the flu were recorded at the school. The school was closed and students sent home until the flu subsided. 

Self-quarantine works.

Life in Italy has ground to a halt amid a nationwide lockdown to control the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. In Siena, Tuscany, neighbors filled the street with singing as they leaned out their windows and sang a popular song together. The country designated a time for everyone to open their windows and applaud health care workers thanking them for their sacrifices to provide care.

What a great example of calmly doing what is necessary to protect others, no complaints or judgements, just the desire to do that which is proven to help, even when it is not convenient.

After self-quarantine the next important thing to understand, do not, do not, go to a doctor or hospital if you believe you have the virus. Call first. One of the reasons testing and diagnosis has been slower than we all had hoped is people going to medical facilities and infecting health care workers who then need to quarantine themselves. We cannot expect the same great health care we are accustomed to in the United States if we infect those who are trained to help. If you have an elective surgery planned, cancel it, your doctor may do that anyway, but remember there are those who are ill and need that bed more than you do right now.

If you don’t have symptoms do not ask for or expect to be tested for the virus. There are limited tests available, that is changing as pharmaceutical companies are ramping up production of the tests. Remember you can not develop a test for a virus that you do not know exists. It is only once a disease shows itself that testing can be done to understand the virus and produce a test for it. A test for the seasonal flu will not detect the COVID-19.

Communicate with those in your circle of friends, family, and neighbors, especially those single parents or those living alone. President Nelson asked us during this coronavirus challenge to “look for opportunities to help those around us”.

A family member posted the following on Facebook today: “If the school closures have you concerned about your child not being able to eat breakfast or lunch, please let me know. I will do what I can to help. A cooked meal , A box of cereal, gallon of milk, bread, lunch meat and cheese, etc. Whatever it may be, I would love to help, so please DM me. Requests are completely confidential. Do not be ashamed, we all need help at times. Kids depend on these meals more than we think.” How amazing. Can you offer that to those around you?

We can make extra food as you prepare meals and freeze them for when we hear someone is in  need. Drop them on the doorstep, ring the bell and leave.

Can you make phone calls to those who may be alone or overwhelmed with kids 24/7? Just call and visit a few minutes, it can make all the difference to that person. Are you one of those who have listened to a prophet’s voice and are prepared? Why not put together a care package for an elderly neighbor or someone you know who could not afford to prepare, include some TP, canned foods, pasta or rice, and a brownie mix to help. In other words, “observe and serve”, there is much you can do from home.

What a great opportunity we have to strengthen our families. President Nelson encouraged us during this time to step up and embrace family centered study and to use the church videos. This is also a perfect time to work on developing habits that may have frustrated us in the past. Consider things like morning family prayer. You will not be rushing out the door so make it a habit now. We had this challenge in our ward a few years ago and the results were amazing. The kids began reminding their parents and it was the kids that felt the difference it made to their day. What could your family be working on, less screen time, holding family councils, eating together with no media or TV, etc.? If you need more ideas for keeping the peace and making great memories while quarantined see: What You Would Need for a Self-Quarantine

Yesterday I made my last trip to the grocery store until contagion drops off, at least two weeks. I was amazed how crowded the store was. I did not even attempt the two discount stores in town, there were no parking spots left. I’m so thankful there was no chaos but I’m afraid it may be coming. How can you help? Be patient and kind.

You can help, self-quarantine, do not go to the doctor without calling, do not ask for a test if you don’t have symptoms, serve others, embrace home centered church supported learning and be patient and kind with everyone.

This will be a great test for all of us. How prepared are we really? What else should we be doing to prepare for next time? There will be a next time, although it may not be a pandemic.

Visit Carolyn’s Facebook page and the Totally Ready website for Coronavirus updates and help with your self-quarantine and self-reliance preparations. Please share what you are doing and learning as you quarantine.