With the new coronavirus and its effects creeping nearer to Pullman, I’m having to examine the situation with more care and decide what my reaction will be. Because of health reasons, I’ve been pretty isolated, but I’m hoping that will change this week when I can drive again. I’m making a big list of errands that I’ve been postponing — errands like getting the dog’s nails clipped, my hair cut, going to the bank and the like. I will be interested to learn how many of the places I normally patronize will be affected.

With so many of our businesses shut down or operating at less than full speed, I have a few suggestions that might help. Take restaurants, for instance. Might they benefit from thinning out their tables so they are further apart? Or, if they have a line of stools at a counter, might they temporarily remove every other stool? So many people depend on restaurants for their meals — people who live in single rooms without refrigeration for instance. In some large cities, grocery stores are far apart. Spacing customers might be the answer.

Another idea is for the wait staff to wear plastic gloves while handling patron’s dirty dishes or all the time then have a bucket of disinfectant to dip gloved hands into between customers. Someone else with more precise knowledge than I have should develop a protocol for this for all wait staff to follow. Should the patron’s spaces be wiped with disinfectant when they leave?

With services like dial-a-ride serving so many seniors, should the space they occupy be wiped down between rides? What about city busses and taxis? Should the driver wipe down seats, door handles, grab bars, etc., between rounds?

With WSU on partial shutdown, many of those who live in close contact with others probably won’t be back in town until the situation changes. It will be during the weeks following normal spring break when the economic damage will be more evident. I’m sure there will be a lot of uncertainty — will my job still be there if I come back? Will I have enough employees on the job to serve my customers? Will I have enough customers to be able to at least break even financially? Will contractors have enough help to meet their contractual commitments?

Let’s all try to be as kind as possible to our local merchants. Rather than order from Amazon. why not ask a local merchant to order the item for you, pay for it and have it drop-shipped? Our town needs these merchants and they need our business.

As we watch other countries like Italy that have almost totally shut down, we wonder what our new future will be like. I think we here are more fortunate spread out as we are. It will be easier to maintain distance if that becomes necessary. I believe we should plan for the worst and hope for the best. Even if that planning is not needed this time, we should file those plans away for the next emergency. When making plans for such things as town planning, for instance, we can draw on the lessons this situation taught us.

I’m frankly appalled at the lack of preparation on the national level. We should have stockpiled items like face masks, bandages, disinfectants, diapers, and the like and have them stored in at least six different warehouses scattered around the country. That way we will be better prepared for natural disasters as well as the man-made ones like this. For those items that have a limited shelf life, we should implement a first in/first out policy where we take items out for use before their shelf life expires and replace them with new. Warehouses should be located in transportation hubs so items can be dispatched where needed quickly.

Let’s nag Congress and the executive branch to implement this idea so we aren’t caught short again.

Lenna Harding lived her first 20 and past 43 years in Pullman. A longtime League of Women Voters member, she served on the Gladish Community and Cultural Center board. lj1105harding@gmail.com.ljharding.com.

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