I’ve made the decision to close The Independent’s office to the public for two weeks, with all of us working from home, and spending minimal time there. The decision didn’t come lightly, as we don’t want to add to the panic that is already gripping the community in the form of wiping out the stores of toilet paper, sanitizers and food staples.

The vast majority of the people who come through our doors at The Independent are over 60. In the past two weeks, we had a handful of people on oxygen visit us.

At 54 years old and in good health, I’m not likely to die from COVID-19. But with a split second to think about it, I can come up with dozens of people I know who fall into the high-risk category. It’s not about protecting myself from infection, but about protecting those people who are more vulnerable than I am. Whom do you know over 60 with health conditions like diabetes or asthma? Whom do you know with a compromised immune system? Those are the people we should be keeping at the forefront of our minds right now.

At The Independent, we’ll be working hard to let you know what resources are available in the community during this pandemic. We’ll let you know how local businesses are faring, and what you can do to support them. For example, many area restaurants are now offering curbside pickup of your take-out meals. Many businesses have a website where you can place an order.

The small businesses in our area need your support now more than ever.

I was behind an elderly woman and her son at Smith’s the other day. She was piling items into an already brimming cart. “Should I get three of these?” she’d ask. “No, Mom, you don’t need three of those. You don’t even need one.” “What about this? I should get this, shouldn’t I?” “No, Mom, put that back. You don’t need all that stuff.” Mom did not put it back.

In that same trip to the store, I checked out behind a woman with three shopping carts, full to brimming over. She was telling the cashier that when she heard people were buying all the toilet paper, she figured she better stock up on everything because otherwise the shelves would be empty. She said this immediately after emptying the shelves.

We owe it to each other to stay calm and think about ways we can help each other.

I’ve seen a few groups pop up on Facebook, places to share information about available resources. Look for one and join it. Make sure you stick to solid, credible sources when you share information about this pandemic. We at The Independent will do our best to continue to be that kind of source in our local community.

Our actions right now are about limiting the spread of the coronavirus, so that our hospitals and medical system as a whole doesn’t get overloaded—as is happening in Italy right now. It’s a serious issue, and I hope you take it seriously. However, I always try to keep a sense of humor, and so I’ll mention to you that in the event of a widespread toilet paper shortage, we have easy access to plenty of newsprint.