Maxfield: COVID-19, An Unprecedented Test of Our Humanity


Many are stepping up and showing love in the face of considerable uncertainty. If you aren’t seeing it, you aren’t looking for it.(Courtesy Fairchild Air Force Base)

By Lynda Maxfield


I’ve often wished the world would stop for just a minute so I could catch up. Undoubtedly, my idea came from Piper of the TV series “Charmed,” who could freeze time by just flicking her hands into the air. But a full global shutdown due to the catastrophic effects of COVID-19 is a phenomenon I never considered or wanted. Yet, here we are.

Outlining the effects of this pandemic in broad strokes intensifies a collective sense of uncertainty. It fails to capture the positive human reaction, seen both in creative medical responses and in the uncountable acts of kindness happening locally and throughout the world.

Yes, millions of Americans have been told to stay at home. Most students are currently participating in home-based learning due to forced school closures. Many adults are newly working from home. A host of churches and businesses are reducing services. Thousands of missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are being sent home, with over 12,000 returning to Utah. In America, grocery stores are no longer taken for granted, and a significant number of jobs will be lost as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

But, there are also tireless health care workers making personal sacrifices as they can continue treating sick patients. If you think social distancing is painful, imagine having to temporarily live separately from your partner, spouse or child while continuing to perform an essential role within your community. Social distancing is easy by comparison.

I have seen social media posts of people freely offering to share hard-to-find staple food items. Many socially distanced communities are banding together, doing what they can to help take care of one another. Truck drivers are newly revered for their role in keeping our nation fed. Displays of support include providing boxed lunches and free meals throughout the country.

Gov. Herbert has encouraged Utahns to “buy local, eat local and support local businesses,” stating that “local restaurants are great sources of nutritious, secure and delicious meals.” Given the temporary closure of all inside dining, ordering takeout has become an essential step in protecting our local restaurants from economic destruction.

At no other time have I felt simultaneously connected to and separated from my fellow humans.

Being other-oriented is always important, but considering the well-being of our fellow man has never been more urgent. Humans possess a unique ability to love, show compassion and problem-solve. Utah is filled with many accomplished, considerate, good people. Many are stepping up and showing love in the face of considerable uncertainty — if you aren’t seeing it, you aren’t looking for it.


“Mindset Matters”

These wise words tweeted by Len Niehoff, a University of Michigan Law School professor, echo my thoughts — and yours too, I hope:

We must each find some measure of peace or gratitude amidst the chaos, take a breath and then look around to see whom we might be able to help. If we have nothing material to offer, we can still share our humanity — compassionate words and actions are enough. They are priceless.


Humanity — A Loss We Cannot Afford

Plans are being canceled everywhere, and few, if any, lives remain untouched by COVID-19. It may feel impossible to find any positives amidst so many negatives. Being kind won’t lower our chances of getting sick, but it will help us weather the storm with our humanity still intact. According to Dr. Kristen Race, “kindness shifts us from surviving to thriving.”

Staying home may feel like a punishing sentence, but it could also be the kindest act any of us can do for others during this crisis. Those who disagree with social distancing and believe it is an overreaction must participate anyway because this may not be as temporary as we all hope.

Many Utahns are in a financial crisis. Those who have money to donate should consider Silicon Slopes, United Ways of Utah and the Tip Your Server, established by Ty Burell. Each group is working hard to bring aid to those made financially vulnerable from COVID-19. Healthy individuals who want to serve can also visit UserveUtah for possible volunteer opportunities.


Pillars of Compassion

Countless stories of compassion demonstrate the ongoing acts of selflessness being shown by many Utahns. Many other occurrences frequently happen below the radar of news reporting.

Two Utah companies, Walker Edison and Homewood Creations, have found a creative way to support at-home students and parents by providing free desks to hundreds of households.

Another Utah company, Four Foods Group, is providing ongoing, discounted meals as part of their dinner relief pack program aimed to feed those on the frontlines. The company, together with investors, has pledged $1 million to be spent keeping the restaurants operating, employees working and families fed.


No Need to Panic

Speaking to the uncertainty a pandemic would bring, former Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt warned, “Everything we do before a pandemic will seem alarmist. Everything we do after a pandemic will seem inadequate.”

His 2007 advice is a cause for some reflection, and two points need highlighting. First, there will be an after. Second, no amount of preparation would have made us feel prepared. So, if you have been railing on your country or medical professionals, if you’re beating yourself up for not being “ready enough” — stop! Yes, we could have done better as far as testing goes. Yes, our president could definitely have done more. But negativity isn’t going to help anyone today.

Notably, Leavitt’s call to businesses, churches, healthcare systems and other systems was to “reach out to everyone with words that inform, but not inflame.” He said, “We need to encourage everyone to prepare, but not panic,” yet countless Utahns and Americans are panic shopping. The initial run on toilet paper has been followed by rising gun and ammunition sales — and interestingly, baby chicks.

Leslie Sarasin, Food Industry Association president, reminds shoppers that this is “a demand issue rather than a supply issue.” She asked Americans to scale back their grocery buying for the short-term, focusing on a few days or a week instead of buying a six-month supply. Nicholas Bertram, president of The Giant Company, similarly calls for shoppers to “limit their purchases to what they truly need right now.”

While empty grocery shelves are the primary effect of panic buying, empty food banks are a close second. Appealing to our humanity, Bertram asks us to “purchase only what you need and leave the rest for your neighbor.”

We all need to take a minute, take a breath, and listen to wisdom, now more than ever. Following sound advice will help us all shift back to a maintenance focus. No matter what comes, we must view ourselves in terms of our humanity — as a community working together, sharing what we can, doing what we can and making peace with what we cannot.


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Editor’s note: Signs and symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, dry cough, tiredness and shortness of breath. These symptoms are believed to occur between two and 14 days after a person is exposed to the disease. If you have these symptoms and have recently come into contact with a person who is known to have COVID-19, or if you have recently traveled to an area with community spread of the disease, you should call your doctor. Areas with community spread of COVID-19 are believed to include China, South Korea, Italy, Iran and Seattle. If you do not have a doctor who you visit regularly, please call the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707 or the University of Utah Health hotline at 801-587-0712. Do not go to a healthcare facility without first making arrangements to do so.


This article has been updated with the correct name of Ty Burrell’s fund. It is called Tip Your Server.