“Oh, forget the guidebook, it’ll only scare you,” he said, his voice echoing off the deep walls of the canyon. “Head straight down the middle and watch out for the big hole on the left.”

Those cavalier words were mostly bluff, a typical joke made by crusty whitewater river guides. I was piloting one of a small flotilla of rafts piled high with all the gear and provisions required to see us safely through three weeks on the Colorado River without sign of civilization or hope of resupply.

The time for scouting the rapid had passed and the roar grew louder with each stroke of the oars. The channel narrowed as time compressed, distorting our senses just before the telltale splashes of whitewater burst up from beyond the horizon line, where the river disappeared over the edge.

The pace quickened as we slid onto the smooth, glassy tongue of the rapid, rowing forward into deafening white madness.

We are all swept into this river of life, connected by the invisible threads that bind our lives and futures together.

As a community, the Key Peninsula is like no other I’ve ever known. The strength of our collective character has been tested time and again, but like all communities across the globe, we must push away what divides us and rally together to resist impact of the coronavirus on our community. 

We are all swept into this river of life, connected by the invisible threads that bind our lives and futures together.

Living along the Cascadia subduction zone, preparation for natural disaster is a way of life. But the novel coronavirus pandemic is different. It may have far reaching consequences for everyone on Earth, whether they become ill or not.

A recent analysis published in Health Affairs projected that 20.5 million Americans could require hospitalization due to COVID-19. If the infection curve is not flattened and the pandemic peaks over six months, there would be a needs gap of 295,350 ICU beds. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in March that 38 percent of those currently hospitalized in ICU with COVID-19 range from 20 to 54 years old.

We are all vulnerable.

Gov. Jay Inslee has, as of press time, avoided a total lockdown of Washington state, believing instead in the people of Washington to do the right thing without curtailing civil liberties, which has happened in a growing number of other states with even fewer confirmed cases.

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-6th) joined a bipartisan group of 17 members of Congress from the Pacific Northwest March 20 calling for more ventilators to be sent to the region and to begin national manufacturing of more. Data collected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the American Association for Respiratory Care show that Washington, Idaho and Oregon have only 13 ventilators per 100,000 people compared to the national median of 21 per 100,000.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced he will provide 2,000 ventilators to HHS, noting resources are especially needed here.

The Key Peninsula benefits from a strong and resilient community, filled with people whose first thoughts race toward how they can help. “Put me to work. What can I do?”

To be of service to others we must remain healthy.

That means staying home. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be helpful. Call your friends, commiserate with your family, check in with your neighbors. The simple gift of hearing a friendly voice on the other end of the line is powerful emotional support in itself.

The difficulty here is accepting the fact that staying home, for all but essential personnel, is the ideal way to slow the spread of the virus.

Just because we don’t feel sick doesn’t mean we’re virus-free. Many people can and do carry the virus without developing symptoms of COVID-19. The vast majority of those who become ill will recover in time but could still spread it for up to three weeks.

There are local opportunities to volunteer, along with growing lists of local, state and federal resources available online at keypennews.org by clicking on our COVID-19 Resource Page for the most accurate and timely community information available on the KP.

But the very best way you can join the effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus is to stay home, work from home if you can, and follow all the safety measures you’ll find in this month’s edition of Key Peninsula News.

We need everyone in this fight to stop the pandemic. Collectively, we have far too many people dear to us to attempt anything less.

I believe in the power of this community to unite for the common good, with all of my heart. 

Keep the faith that we’ll all come out with the rafts right side up at the bottom of this rapid. And trust that if you do end up in the water, we’ll be right there with a line to pull you back to the boat where you belong.