Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz issued a stay-at-home order that is in effect until at least April 10. All signs point to it being extended. Minnesotans as well as millions across the country are being asked to stay at home, unless absolutely necessary, to avoid the spread of COVID-19. This should not be news to anyone.

What I am having a very hard time wrapping my head around is how this order is being either misunderstood or blatantly disobeyed by people in our community, including a few community leaders.

Despite defining essential as going grocery shopping, the pharmacy, caring for others, or seeking medical care, to name a few, I’m seeing adults in our community posting their violations of this order on social media.

Yes, exercise and getting outside is encouraged. That means when you are out on the trail, keep six feet away from anyone you encounter. This does not mean call four friends and make plans to take a walk, just stay six feet apart. Take that walk, hike or bike ride with your household or alone. Should you come across others, stay six feet away. There is a big difference.

Yes, you can go and pick up takeout from a local restaurant. This does not mean you call several friends, set up your lawn chairs in the Hazellewood Grill and Tap Room parking lot and have a happy hour. Even if you stay six feet away from each other. How is that an essential activity?

Despite the endless barrage of information shared with us about how a large number of people are asymptomatic, but capable of spreading COVID-19, this message is not getting through to some. Social distancing is for when you must be around other people, when engaging in essential activities. It is not the new way to socialize in person. The whole idea is to stop socializing in person, to slow the spread.

If you and your neighbors want to violate the order to sit outside together, six feet apart, that is a choice you are all making. It’s the wrong choice, but right now you might just get a warning, and not the $1,000 fine or 90 days in jail that violations can carry. Keep it up and eventually these penalties will start to be enforced, because asking us to use common sense failed.

If you are going to be among those whom the stay-at-home order doesn’t apply to, please stop promoting your carelessness on social media. Maybe you did take all precautions and did maintain enough distance. Maybe no one in your group has a high-risk person in their household. Though, we are seeing many younger people with no known underlying health conditions becoming incredibly ill and also dying. Maybe no one in your group was asymptomatic, maybe.

Someone with even less good judgement will see your post and take it as a green light to do the same. Especially if you are any type of community leader, or someone who has influence in the community. It creates a domino effect of monkey see monkey do.

That person might not take the precautions you did. People aren’t known for their common sense when consuming alcohol, which are what most of these gatherings are centered around.

Many of us are having very difficult conversations with our children and teenagers. Conversations about why they can’t see their friends at this time. Conversations about what the risks are. Conversations how a relative or friend is fighting for their life. How a relative or friend is in healthcare, continuing to show up to save lives, while being isolated from their own family. Conversations about the need to set a good example for other kids, and what it means to be part of a community.

Meanwhile some of the parents of their friends are violating the stay-at-home order and sharing photographic evidence of it on social media. Parents are doing the exact same thing we are telling our children not to do.

If your risks to COVID-19 is so low that you can sit six feet from someone while having a glass of wine in a parking lot or cul-de-sac, then you would make a great volunteer for the ICA Food Shelf, or could be a good candidate to deliver meals for WeCan.

There are many who regularly volunteer at area nonprofits, who have had to take a step back right now due to their own increased risk, or that of someone in their household. If you are so confident in your ability to prevent spreading or getting the virus, then how about using your position to put yourself out there in a way that benefits rather than potentially harms others?

Think about the healthcare workers and other front-line workers who are literally putting themselves at risk. Many of them can’t hold their own children. How do you think it might make them feel to see others twisting the rules to fit their own desires? On top of that, posting it across social media as a great idea.

If this pandemic hasn’t touched you in some way, count yourself as incredibly blessed. We are a community that depends on each other. What we do affects other people. Please, please keep that in mind when you make your choices about social distancing.

At a minimum, stop posting and encouraging these types of non-essential gatherings.

A woman on a recent news program said it best when she said that violating these stay-at-home orders isn’t suicidal, it’s homicidal.

You can learn more about Natalie Webster and her adventures in the Lake Minnetonka area at WebsterEffect.com.

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