On Monday, Governor Ralph Northam ordered all Virginians to stay at home, turning the “suggestion” that we all keep our distance into an official command. While the announcement likely won’t change much in Charlottesville, where schools, universities, and most businesses are already operating remotely, the order’s timeline—it’s in effect until June 10—was a forceful reminder that this crisis isn’t going away anytime soon.
Social distancing is vital–Virginia has over a thousand cases of COVID-19, and climbing. Staying at home is an act of responsibility for those in our community who are most at risk. But it’s worth noting that the burden doesn’t fall equally on all of us.
Here in Charlottesville, our wealthiest (and whitest) neighborhoods tend to be the ones with the most trees. A friend in Ivy has a lawn the size of a soccer field (complete with nets); in my own neighborhood, kids can wander down to the creek and ride bikes on the Rivanna Trail. Meanwhile, the city has closed the parking lots to most of its parks and even removed the rims from the basketball hoops.
It’s always been true that some people have more private resources than others. But now, our great levelers—public schools, public parks, public libraries—are out of reach. It’s more important than ever that we figure out how to take care of each other.
They say you can judge a society by how it treats its most vulnerable members—children, the elderly, the sick, and the poor. You can also judge a society, or a person, by how they act under times of stress and difficulty.
In the past few weeks, many in our community have responded to this crisis with resourcefulness and compassion: from fundraising to sewing masks to staffing food banks.
Now, we’re in it for the long haul. We’ll need to learn new ways of maintaining community, while staying apart.