I stepped outside our front door one day late last week to be greeted by bright sunshine, blue skies, the aroma of lemon blossoms, the sound of birds chirping away and the sight of plants sprouting fresh leaves in their annual rebirth.....the kind of inspiring spring day that nurtures the soul.

I appreciated the beauty of that moment.....it seemed such a striking contrast to the never-ending COVID-19 news, statistics and more which paint such a dire picture. Surely, the world could not be in crisis on such a glorious morning.

Yet there was a particular silence in the air that morning. No sign of life could be seen up and down the street. No cars came past our home, which is located between Orestimba High and Hunt Elementary....campuses which had fallen silent.

We are indeed in a crisis, the depth of which remains to be seen but certainly one that has us living in a much different world than we inhabited just two weeks ago.

Social distancing?

Who would have even known what that meant when the calendar flipped from February to March?

Now the practice has become ingrained in our daily life. The importance of keeping our distance and out of one another’s space to the greatest degree possible has emerged as one of the greatest tools against fighting the spread of the virus.

Along with hand-washing, of course, the importance of which cannot be overstated.

Governor Newsom’s unprecedented order last Thursday, directing that residents stay at home for all but necessary trips and that non-essential businesses close, did not come as a surprise given the course of the virus and measures already put into place elsewhere.

On Main Street, some small business owners closed their doors in compliance with the order.

Restaurants were reduced to take-out and delivered meals.

As hard as the order is for small business owners to swallow, there are types of businesses which simply do not lend themselves to the social distancing which is so critical in this time.

Others modified operations to encourage customers to do business by telephone or email, added delivery services for their products, or implemented curbside service....the city of Gustine went so far as to create a program using volunteers and police officers to deliver to-go food orders. That supports both the community’s businesses and its residents.....allowing people to stay safely at home while still having their needs met.

Make no mistake, even businesses which are allowed to stay open are going to suffer.....very few businesses, employees or just people in general will be untouched by the economic fallout from this crisis.

Our routines have certainly changed as well.

At the newspaper office, we are asking customers to do business remotely whenever possible and are not allowing walk-in traffic. Call us, and we will gladly bring out what you need. Inside, there are likely to be fewer folks as those who don’t need to be here aren’t.

I am doing as much of my work as possible by phone and email....and nobody seems to mind. That extends to attending meetings of public agencies via tele-conferencing, which is fast becoming standard practice.

Things which I would have done without a second thought just a couple of weeks ago.....shaking hands, handling store merchandise which I wouldn’t end up purchasing, being in close quarters with others and so much more, are now among the practices to be completely avoided.

One of the things I fully intend to do is to limit my shopping visits. I plan to shop far less frequently but more strategically.

This crisis is creating hardship for many if not most of us, to varying degrees.

But we are also seeing heroes in this crisis.....those medical workers on the front lines, the employees of truly essential businesses who show up to work every day to meet our needs, police, EMS and law enforcement personnel, the truck drivers who keep the flow of goods moving, and yes, those who simply stood down from their businesses in the public interest.

I’ve heard it said that in any crisis you will see “the helpers,” and indeed we have.

Temporary hardship and shared sacrifice are going to be essential to weather this storm.

Together, we can make a huge difference.

Dean Harris the Managing Editor of the West Side Index and Gustine Press-Standard. He can be reached at dharris@mattosnews.com or by calling (209) 243-8104.