There are all sorts of suggestions out there for what to do with time spent at home during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Of course many people are working from home, which doesn’t necessarily leave a lot of free time, and still others have kids who are no longer in school but who still must be cared for, educated and entertained. In short, many people’s choices about how to spend their time are still, in large part, made for them.
But most folks will stumble upon a few hours here and there for doing what they want to do, rather than what they have to do. Meanwhile, some things that once filled those hours — going to the movies, the zoo, shopping, visiting a museum, watching sports, dining out with friends, you name it — are currently unavailable, stay-at-home orders and closures being what they are.
Thus the suggestions, which range from focusing on fitness and improving mental well-being to tips for upping productivity. Staying connected to others, through whatever technological means available, is widely recommended. There’s something for everyone.
But in addition, keeping in mind that the current, suppressed state of our society is not a new normal — is hopefully a one-time dive to the depths of the abnormal — there are things we can do to prepare for the inevitable establishment of the true new normal.
At some point in the not-too-distant future, that new normal will begin taking shape around us, involving, hopefully, a heightened level of personal responsibility aimed at keeping ourselves and those around us safe — and realistically, involving at least some level of personal risk and uncertainty most are unaccustomed to, at least until a vaccine is developed. It’s within an imperfect framework that we’ll begin moving forward.
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So besides working out, organizing our closets and hoping to not be Zoombombed, what should people with more time on their hands than usual be doing?
It might be tempting to believe that while many government functions are essential, politics is not — but this is an election year, so no such luck, and with the June primary bearing down, it makes sense to begin devoting time, as time allows, to becoming familiar with the ballot choices we face.
This isn’t just a presidential election year. New Mexicans are deciding on races for Congress, the state Legislature and local offices. It’s been virtually impossible for candidates to campaign in New Mexico in the traditional sense as the state’s been locked down in response to the pandemic and races have received scant media attention at times as COVID-19 has dominated the headlines. But there’s still a lot of information out there — including at rdrnews.com — and this is the sort of research that can be done from home, at one’s own pace.
It will be more difficult than in most election years, but with a little effort we can still make informed choices.
Another suggestion? If you haven’t already, respond to the census online (my2020census.gov) or by phone or mail. Local response has been good so far, but the push to exceed 50,000 in Roswell (current estimated population: 47,635) will require maximum participation.
When contacted last week, Marcos Nava — who heads the local Complete Count Committee working to encourage response — provided an update. “As of (Wednesday) 51.3% of the city’s households have self-responded” to the 2020 census questionnaire, Nava said. The census deadline has been pushed back, and a key element of the process — in-person collection of data in the field — has been knocked off track by the pandemic. It’s hoped field work can resume June 1, Nava said.
As a result of the virus, an already challenging process now has more moving parts — making it even more important that each of us go ahead and check this important item off our to-do list. Population totals tallied by the census determine not only representation in Congress, but how billions in federal funds are distributed to communities. That’s well worth a few minutes of any down-time created by the pandemic.
Looking inward is fine, and at a time like this, is necessary for many. But we have to keep looking ahead, as well. Some aspects of the new normal are sure to be beyond our control, but not all of them, and where we know we can make a difference, it’s never too early to start.
John Dilmore is editor of the Roswell Daily Record. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this column are those of the author.