ON THE AVENUES: Keep calm and carry on.

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You win some, you lose some — and there’s a little known third category, pandemic, because when the virus comes calling and compels a major shift in the news cycle every half hour (or less), there comes a point when the words aren’t working, and a writer might as well wait until things make better sense.

And: they will make better sense. I’ll use what thoughts I have and do what I can with them.

In the interim, does the black market for toilet paper still run out of the back door at the street department, and is the secret code G-A-H-A-N-23?

Asking for a friend, of course.

To purloin the words of Twitter analysts Mike Madrid, Carl Quintanilla and Patrick Monahan (respectively), COVID-19 has gotten so bad that Donald Trump is prohibiting white people from coming to America. The same stock market terrified of Bernie Sanders’ socialist agenda now pins its hopes on corporate rescue bailouts from big government — and the coronavirus itself has announced it will self-quarantine after possible exposure to Ted Cruz.

It would be a great time for America to come together, except we’re being urged to remain at least six feet apart.

Social distancing? Isn’t that what we’ve been doing ever since 9-11?

Actually, social distancing is a way of describing steadily escalating efforts to flatten the curve, or to try as best we can to lower the number of people requiring health care so that the nation’s medical apparatus isn’t completely overwhelmed; to slow the onslaught if not to cure the virus, primarily because there is no cure.

Certainly we owe it to the most vulnerable of Americans — the elderly and those with compromised immune systems — to exercise these precautions, even if it means losing our beloved games. If cancelling, postponing or suspending events and gatherings with large numbers of people succeeds, then perhaps the expedience of full-bore quarantining can be avoided.

Because while I’ve always been perfectly willing to be an Italian, at this precise moment none of us do, even me.

Obviously I have a personal interest in this discussion given my employment in the food and drink segment, both at Pints&union and Food & Dining Magazine.

For a very long time I’ve been explaining to anyone who’ll listen (as well as too many who won’t) that the food, drink and retail “boom” in places like downtown New Albany rests on exceedingly thin ice, with future occurrences like Sherman Minton Bridge reconstruction in 2021 an active threat to what has been achieved by independent local business owners.

The potential economic ripple effect of food and drink establishments forced to close for any length of time would be staggering. I sincerely hope it doesn’t come to that, and we can get through it.

As for restaurants and bars being places where customers congregate, the Courier Journal’s Dahlia Ghabour made some very good points in an article two days ago, explaining to those readers who somehow didn’t already know that responsible food and drink operators always adhere to a strict regimen of health and sanitation codes.

Our friend and fellow operator Beau Kerley was quoted.

Kerley, who owns restaurants such as 812 Pizza Company in Georgetown, Indiana, the Standard Plate & Pour at 207 E. Main St. in New Albany and Dos Gringos and the Early Edition at 149 Spring St. in Jeffersonville, Indiana, said the stringent safety requirements and inspections are so thorough they do “a great job at keeping guests safe.”

“It’s a two to seven-hour course to get certified with ServSafe at the Louisville Metro, there’s already so much there,” Kerley said, referencing a food safety course. “We’re still learning a lot about the coronavirus and how it’s transferred, but there is already a lot of great protection built-in with restaurants to protect the guests, our food and our plates.”

Washing hands in a restaurant, Kerley said, is a two-minute process that involves washing up to the elbows, rinsing and drying properly. It’s even more intense than the 20-second wash time suggested by the CDC.

Kerley bought sanitizing pump stations for each of his restaurants for guest use as an added precaution, but he’s not worried.

“My restaurants are constantly monitored and protected,” he said. “We take very seriously the sanitation of every plate and how we store things.”

Ghabour added:

For consumers worried about catching the new coronavirus going about their day to day life, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the best course of action to stay healthy is frequent hand washing with warm soap and water.

And while that might seem like “new” instructions to some, it’s a commonplace practice for restaurants and food service institutions that follow stringent health department and food safety codes all the time, not just during spreads of cold, flu or the coronavirus.

“The one thing to keep in mind is that COVID-19 is not a foodborne illness,” said Department of Public Health spokesman Dave Langdon. “You won’t be in any more danger of going to a restaurant than you would be going to a neighborhood meeting or anything else.”

Since the virus has spread to the state, the Kentucky Restaurant Association has distributed information from the National Restaurant Association reiterating the importance of washing hands and of sick employees staying home.

This is the reality. We were doing these things before COVID-19, and now we’re doing more. Joe Phillips posted earlier tonight.

We want everyone to know that during this challenge we at Pints&union have been taking all necessary steps to provide a clean and aware environment. Our sanitation standards have always been high, but now we are raising them higher. Constant cleanliness is our focus, including (but not limited to) sanitized tables, chairs and door handles, as well as awareness for staff. Thank you for your patronage.

Gallows humor wasn’t invented this past Monday. For years hundreds of thousands of Americans have “joked” about living paycheck to paycheck, and being one medical catastrophe removed from bankruptcy.

We may be arriving at a juncture when these lamentable conditions are even less funny than before. Very few of us have experienced a destabilizing situation like this one, although some immigrants surely have. As Joe wrote, it’s a challenge, and to meet the challenge we’ll need to work together even if we’re following the sawbones’ orders and standing apart.

Be sensible about your interactions with other people. Do what the public health experts say and practice good hygiene: hand washing, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, and staying home if you’re sick. Think a bit. Be part of the solution, not the problem.

Joe again: “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

We can argue about the political ramifications later.

Recent columns:

March 5: ON THE AVENUES: I’ve got the spirit, but lose the feeling.

February 27: ON THE AVENUES: There is a complete absence of diversity among regular News and Tribune columnists.

February 20: ON THE AVENUES: For downtown New Albany, escaping reality might soon be a bridge too far.

February 13: ON THE AVENUES: War. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.

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