Stay at Home: ‘Your grandparents were called to war. You’re being called to sit on your couch.’

By MAYOR TOBY BARKER,

If you have spent any amount of time on social media over the past week, you have likely noticed the above saying spread among a particularly plentiful supply of COVID-19 related memes. 

While clever, its truth is beyond question. The sacrifices we are being asked to make – stay home and avoid in-person contact with other people – pale in comparison to the task my grandfather was called to in the early 1940s.

And yet, the requirements of proper social distancing seem particularly exhausting for a society and especially a city that thrives on the idea of community and doing life together.

I get it. Doing things differently is uncomfortable. It is unsettling and disruptive to our normal and desired way of life. When we think of the real potential of having to deal with this for the next few months, the implications can seem overwhelming.

However, it is nonetheless necessary. It is the right thing to do in order to protect ourselves. It is what we must do to protect the most vulnerable among us.

The truth is that we are about to see many more people in our community get sick. Many will recover. Some will not. Many have – or will soon – face dire economic consequences and lose their livelihood. Physicians, nurses, other medical personnel and our entire health system will be stretched and tested like never before.

I've been in multiple brainstorming meetings where the question has been posed, "What else can we do to slow the spread?" The answer from some of our most experienced physicians has been this - "Stay home."

In the words of Dr. Rambod Rouhbakhsh, "This isn't about whether you will get sick - it's about how to keep it from spreading to our most vulnerable and to those who might not recover."

Stay home. Avoid in-person contact with other people.

If absolutely necessary, pick up essentials from the grocery store or take-out from a local business, but then, most importantly, go home.

Stay home.

Every society, at some point, must demonstrate what it values the most. It must show that it can rise to the occasion and overcome a threat – even if that threat is unlike any we have seen before.

I know Hattiesburgers are doers. It is the heartbeat of what is best about our city – its people. But in this case, I’m asking you to do the very opposite.

You’ve heard it on every national news report down to the most basic level of government: “Stay home.”

I... our health care workers... our seniors... our most vulnerable... the now-unemployed who need this crisis to be over... we all ask you...

Stay home.

Toby Barker was elected mayor of the City of Hattiesburg in June 2017.