Our View: The World Turned Upside Down

Editorial.

Theater fans will recognize the headline above as a line from the song “Yorktown” from the musical “Hamilton.” The coronavirus crisis may not be on the same level historically as the Revolutionary War, but during the past week, it sure feels as if our world has turned upside down.

After Governor Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency for Massachusetts March 10, things seemed to come off the rails. The stock market plunged after President Trump's attempt to reassure the nation on Wednesday, and by Thursday events were being canceled faster than we could keep up. And not just for the next week or two, but into April and beyond. Shops, restaurants, theaters, everything seemed to be closing. Were people overreacting?

They weren't, it turns out. The United States, by the accounts of most experts, is already behind the curve in terms of getting a handle on what the World Health Organization has designated the COVID-19 pandemic. Safeguards that should have been instituted weeks, even months ago are only now being put into place, and people are finally taking the situation seriously, keeping away from large gatherings and practicing social distancing, the new buzzword that will no doubt be one of the ultimate takeaways from this situation, along with “flatten the curve,” something we can only hope is finally happening.

With Cape Cod's first confirmed case Saturday, the region went into further emergency mode, with the Chatham Selectmen declaring a town-wide emergency and most towns canceling just about all public meetings and events. By Tuesday most towns had closed all municipal buildings to the public. Concern was heightened in Chatham when it was learned that the Sandwich man who was diagnosed with coronavirus had attended a class at the community center Feb. 29. None of the staff are symptomatic, thankfully. What remains to be seen, however, is how fast the number of cases escalate after drive-in testing is instituted this week. Expect the numbers to jump. Significantly.

Like any crisis, this is bringing out the best and worst in people. When word got around that some summer residents were coming here instead of riding out the pandemic in New York or Boston, there was a vitriolic reaction from some people on our Facebook page. That's totally uncalled for. There were also numerous examples of people offering to help their neighbors, especially those unable to do grocery shopping or visit the pharmacy because of age, infirmity or fear. These, we expect, far outweigh those who are being less charitable.

We urge our readers to stay home unless necessary; get some fresh air, by all means, visit a conservation area or just take a walk, but try to do it without interacting with too many others. Read a book, binge a TV show, listen to music, Facetime family members who live elsewhere. If we all follow the advice of health professionals, it will be weeks, rather than months, when some sort of normalcy returns. That could mean the difference between what will likely be a slow summer season as opposed to no summer season. And that would certainly turn our world upside down.