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Shutdown and consequences

West Virginia welcomed me in 1987 and educated me at Parkersburg Community College and West Virginia University. Camden Clark Memorial Hospital, United National Bank and Frames Etc. are Parkersburg businesses that afforded me wonderful opportunities early in my career. Wild and Wonderful West Virginia is not the home of my birth, nor is it the home of my childhood. It is the home of my children and grandchildren. West Virginia is the home that gave me the tools and experience to reach for and capture the American Dream.

I know these are anxious times. I understand that no one wants a loved one to get sick. In the last few weeks, I’ve stood in my driveway and listened to the eerie quiet at 5:30 in the evening. I’ve heard the surreal announcement at Lowe’s reminding us to stay safe and social distance. As bizarre as all this is, we have done a great job and slowed the spread.

The financial burdens of this pandemic are not evenly spread. Many Americans are not employed in industries where work at home alternatives are possible. As we watch athletes compete in driveway horse challenges on ESPN, or watch our entertainers and politicians talking to us from homes with fully stocked refrigerators and bank accounts, we must remember that most Americans are not swimming in pools, cash, food or certainty. Most Americans are as afraid of financial ruin as they are this virus.

Every day we hear newscasters, celebrities and political leaders imploring everyone to stay inside their homes. In the last three weeks, we have seen 20 million of our fellow Americans lose their jobs. These are not faceless numbers.

I think of the faces of my friends that own and work at JP Henry’s and The Hill House. I think of the faces of my friends who work at Applebee’s and pick up their children at Vienna Elementary School where I pick up my grandson. I see the faces of the self-employed men and women that work alongside my wife in the salon industry. I see the faces of my children and their friends entering the very beginning of their careers.

I cannot imagine dealing with this pandemic in the early stages of my pursuit of the American Dream.

I think West Virginians are smart enough, courteous enough and caring enough to follow hygiene and social distancing guidelines in order to continue to protect our most medically vulnerable without completely destroying the futures of our most economically vulnerable.

I hope that our doctors, politicians and business leaders worry not only about the medical needs in our communities, but understand the needs and long-term consequences of this economic shutdown on those in the pursuit of obtaining or holding onto their American Dream.

Sean P. Keefe

Vienna

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