This op-ed is written by Muskegon County Public Health Officer Kathy Moore and HealthWest Executive Director Julia Rupp.
COVID-19 is here in Muskegon County, and it is taking a painful toll on our neighbors, friends, and families.
It’s easy to turn inward in a time of crisis, to try and protect yourself and those you love. Particularly when it seems our only weapon in this fight is physical distancing.
But that’s the cruel irony that comes with this disease — it shows how very connected we are.
While we need to remain distant, we must do so together.
This defense is only effective when we work collectively to protect those we love and preserve the life we enjoy on our sandy beaches, at our vibrant businesses, in our bountiful lakes and rivers, and throughout our seemingly endless expanse of forests here in Muskegon County.
We must do this together, no matter your age, race, income, job, religion, or politics.
The initial panic and disbelief that came with COVID-19 aren’t surprising. It’s a natural reaction to such a traumatic and painful event.
But it’s now time for Muskegon County to fight and care for each other.
There are several things Muskegon County residents can do:
- Stay home unless it is necessary to go out.
- Wear a cloth face covering when you must leave the house.
- Keep a minimum of six feet from others.
- Wash your hands often.
- Make face coverings for others if you’re able.
- Become an in-person or virtual volunteer to assist those most in need.
- Call, send cards, or email friends, family, neighbors, and even strangers.
- Be an example for others.
- Help those you care about to understand the severity of this illness.
- Donate to the Muskegon COVID-19 Response Fund to help people right here in Muskegon County.
This fight won’t be easy, and like every great battle, this one, too, will come with sacrifice.
For some, this sacrifice means staying at home and missing work, family, or fun, only traveling out when you need essentials like medication and groceries.
For others, particularly our medical professionals and first responders, this sacrifice means putting yourself in harm’s way and fighting this outbreak face-to-face.
Both sacrifices are painful but are critical to our entire community’s health and safety.
Protecting Muskegon County residents is a genuine community effort.
There is emerging evidence, which is consistent with other communities throughout the country, that COVID-19 is having a more significant impact on African Americans and communities of color due to factors such as health disparities, structural racism, and population density.
Our diversity makes Muskegon County a vibrant, welcoming place to live, visit, and work.
Pandemics shed light on existing issues in communities, and this is an opportunity for us to come together and harness the diversity in our community as one of its greatest strengths.
Muskegon County is no stranger to struggle and adversity. But more importantly, we have a long history of hard work, dedication, and overcoming anything that stands in our way.
Our local history is filled with icons like businessman Charles Hackley, whose lumber helped build America but whose generosity revitalized our own community; like abolitionist Jonathan Walker, whose selflessness helped bring freedom to our fellow man; and like Pastor Moses J. Jones, whose compassion improved countless lives of those who were most in need.
Now, it’s time for every one of us to add our names to that list and use our generosity, selflessness, and compassion to overcome this newest adversity facing Muskegon County.
Together, we can make a difference.
Stay home. Stay safe. Save lives.
Public Health Officer, Public Health – Muskegon County
Executive Director, HealthWest