The hope that we could begin to ease our social distancing restrictions by the end of March has not come to pass. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has extended the measures by another two weeks as we work to …
The hope that we could begin to ease our social distancing restrictions by the end of March has not come to pass. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has extended the measures by another two weeks as we work to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and help ease the burden on our health care system. Our society has adjusted to a new normal of social distancing and separation. Unfortunately, these past few weeks are not an anomalous event that will go as quickly as it came. We are in a new normal for the foreseeable future and are all adapting to a changed world.
Over the last few weeks we have all gained a new understand- ing of what constitutes an essential worker. We have always known our most essential workers to be those on the front lines of every disaster. Police officers, firefighters, and EMT professionals have always been viewed as essential because they are the ones we look to in times of crisis, putting themselves in harm’s way to help others. And they have continued to be worthy of our admiration and gratitude in this crisis as well. We have also thought of our medical personnel as being essential. Our doctors and nurses have been there after every disaster to help care for the sick or wounded. Their importance has never been more apparent than in this crisis. The medical professionals are overwhelmed as the number of sick patients coming to the hospitals continues to grow, and their heroism in face of catastrophe is nothing short of awe inspiring.
There are other groups of workers that we now think of as essential to keeping our society operating in a time of crisis: our grocery store workers, telecom and information technology professionals, transportation workers, and many others. These people are the ones who keep the store shelves stocked, bring our meetings online, and provide the essential services that people need in a time of unprecedented hardship.
Grocery workers in particular are at the forefront of this crisis. While there hasn’t been a shortage in the food supply, people have understandably flocked to grocery stores in droves to make sure their homes are well supplied in case they need to quarantine. By the end of each day, many of the shelves are empty from an eager public, but come the morning they have been restocked and ready for another day. Grocery store workers are coming face to face with hundreds of members of the public at a time when the rest of us are keeping our distance. We all owe them our gratitude.
Transportation and delivery is another sector that has been critical in this time as well. For grocery workers to keep the stores stocked, they need truckers to distribute products from around the country. During a time of uncertainty and difficul- ty, the transportation industry has kept the supply chain mov- ing, giving reassurance to the public that there won’t be short- ages of the things we need. Furthermore, many supermarkets have moved to deliveries of groceries. These delivery drivers are getting food to vulnerable and sick people who cannot go to the store. They are making a huge difference in the lives of people who would be putting themselves or others in danger by being out in public.
Part of the new normal is an incredible reliance on the internet. Schools, businesses, and doctors’ offices have moved operations online to help keep people in their homes. With that shift to the digital space comes a whole set of technical challenges. IT workers quickly moved people into home offices and into online meetings that have helped keep huge portions of our economy viable. At the same time, employees of telecommunication companies continue to work to make sure enough bandwidth is available to stream those meetings, conference calls, remote education and of course, entertainment. Without their tireless efforts, we would find many more businesses unable to operate, more employees out of work, and children unable to continue their education.
Finally, I want to point out one other group that I have always considered to be essential, but they have proven it in spades over the last weeks: our government workers. The employees of Suffolk County have continued to work to provide essential services to the public. These are the Department of Health Services employees who are testing the sick and providing guidance to a worried public. These are the Department of Social Services employees who are working to provide benefits to those who are going through a very difficult time. These are the Department of Public Works employees who are providing the critical infrastructure that we need. They are the Office for the Aging employees checking in on our most vulnerable population to this disease. The list goes on and on. I am proud of the job that Suffolk County is doing, and that is because of our workers.
While many families are at home practicing social distanc- ing and doing what they can to stop the spread, we should all remember that there are people who are going to work every day to keep our society moving. I am grateful for their service to the community and I hope you join me in thanking them.