I am writing this column from my hotel room in Las Vegas. As we arrived at the Las Vegas airport last night, I was struck by the lack of travelers in the terminal. Not our flight; it was full of Montanans either willing to risk their lives for the sake of a chance at a big win at the slot machine or dismissive of the Coronavirus hysteria. Since I don’t gamble, I suppose I am in bucket “b.” It’s not that I don’t believe Coronavirus will hit Montana — it surely will. But like most Montanans, between my addiction to coupon shopping and a fear of the zombie apocalypse, my family, fortunately, has sufficient reserves to hunker down for an extended period.
While the “toilet paper scramble” is an overreaction, Coronavirus does present a call to action for our community. Coronavirus can be fatal for those with compromised immune systems. We have many vulnerable adults who may not have the resources to hunker down in their homes for weeks. Now is the time to donate to the food bank, drop off pre-made meals to those who will need them, and to ensure our elders and those with chronic illness have adequate medication supplies. For those of us who are reasonably healthy (at least according to my reliably practical pulmonologist friend), Coronavirus is unlikely to be fatal. Thus our obligation is to serve those who need help preparing for the virus. Kids, in particular, seem resilient to the illness. That said, loading up on books and activities that kids can entertain themselves with at home seems wise in the event schools close.
While the fear may be overhyped, none of us are immune from the economic consequences of Coronavirus. The stock market reaction has been swift and severe, bringing back nightmares of 2008. The good news is Americans are saving more money than they did in 2008, and those of us who felt the consequences of the last recession have done a better job preparing for the next downturn. These next few months may be a test of our reserves and our tolerance for another economic shift.
It’s essential to be prepared, but fear should not paralyze us from living our lives. The adversity Montanans live with as a function of living in a sparsely populated, severe weather state embeds resilience. Since we are at most two degrees of separation from knowing everyone who lives in Montana, we are connected in a way that larger populated states are not. Help those who cannot or do not know how to prepare. Coronavirus will surely test our resilience, but our connection as Montanans and our homesteader-like vigilance will see us through.
Tammi Fisher is an attorney and former mayor of Kalispell.