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Better air, better health

The public health of our communities is — and should be — our collective priority during these unprecedented times. As our families, friends and neighbors face the challenges posed by our ever-changing reality, we must also reflect on the role that a healthy natural environment plays in sustaining our lives.

Reliable, affordable and accessible energy resources are critical now that much of our population is home-bound. Clean, viable water is crucial to maintaining our personal hygiene. Proper waste management procedures sustain sanitary homes and communities. And, our natural world is an important source of joy, providing many people with physical and mental respites as we practice social distancing.

But right now, our most necessary asset is one that we cannot even see: our air.

This spring, air quality has been at the forefront of the media more than ever, as researchers have discovered that air pollution is one of many factors in the spread and severity of the novel coronavirus. Conflicting reports about air quality abound. Stunning images reveal crisp, clean skylines in cities that are usually buried in a cloud of smog. Other reports claim that, in some areas, air quality is at its absolute worst. One fact is certain, though: better air means better health.

Clean air is essential for everyone but especially for those with respiratory issues such as asthma and emphysema. On rare occasions when our air is considered to be unhealthy, each breath becomes more of a concern for all. Now that our society faces a virus that adversely and indiscriminately impacts our respiratory health, our air quality is one natural resource that we simply cannot take for granted.

We are typically blessed with clean air in the Sandhills. In fact, our area boasts some of the best air quality in the state of  North Carolina. But, we must not become complacent if we want to cultivate that distinction further.

Several organizations are leading the charge for healthier air. We can attribute our air quality successes to the vigilance of agencies such as the Fayetteville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, Sustainable Sandhills, and the Air Quality Stakeholders. Their initiatives to improve and manage the air quality of our region contribute to our public health and the quality of our lives.

Each resident of the Sandhills is also a key player in the efforts to enhance our air quality. May 4 to May 8 is National Air Quality Awareness Week. You can care for our air by adopting habits that foster healthier air in the Sandhills. Simple steps — such as riding your bicycle instead of driving your car, fueling your vehicle when temperatures are cooler and properly inflating your tires — can have significant impacts. You can also learn about the Air Quality Index. The AQI is a forecast of the air quality in a region, ranging from “good” or “Code Green” to “hazardous” or “Code Maroon.” Most weather reports include the AQI. You can learn more about the Air Quality Index and other issues at airnow.gov or sustainablesandhills.org/airquality.

Our society will undoubtedly learn many valuable lessons from these uncertain days. By using our resources responsibly and protecting the natural assets that are so vital to our lives, we can protect our residents and build healthier, more vibrant, more resilient communities that can withstand any threat — today, tomorrow and forever.

COVID-19 in North Carolina

08 N2005P70039CAs of the end of March, Cumberland County had 24 positive COVID-19 cases, according to Health Director Dr. Jennifer Green. That is the fewest of North Carolina’s largest metropolitan areas. Mecklenburg County had the most reported cases in the state, with 420. Wake County had 186, and Durham County reported 122. The Cumberland County Department of Public Health is conducting contact investigations and will notify contacts who fall under the guidelines for additional monitoring and testing.

Meanwhile, Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin has imposed a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily curfew in the city. Police officials say they are prepared to enforce the curfew but urge voluntary compliance.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines a “close contact” as being within 6 feet for 10 minutes or more. Avoiding close contact with sick individuals requires frequently washing hands with soap and water; not touching the eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands; and practicing good respiratory hygiene. These are preventive measures but there is no vaccine. The health department has suspended a drive-thru testing pilot program.  The department is following CDCP and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services guidance that most people do not need a test.

The Health Department is prioritizing testing for symptomatic patients in high-risk settings like nursing homes or long-term care facilities, health care workers and first responders such as EMS, law enforcement and firefighters on a case by case basis. Individuals in these categories should call 910-433-3655 for assessment and screening.
“In general, patients in noncongregate settings who have mild symptoms that are not worsening do not need testing for COVID-19 and should stay home,” Green said. “When you leave your home to get tested, you could expose yourself to COVID-19 if you do not already have it.”

There is no treatment for COVID-19. Health care providers recommend getting enough fluids. Water is fine. So are fruit juices and electrolyte beverages. You may want to stay way away from caffeinated drinks, because caffeine is a diuretic. Herbal tea with honey can soothe a sore throat. And yes, chicken soup has value. Mild symptoms are defined as fever and cough. If one suffers from shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest discomfort, confusion or blue lips, he or she should call the doctor or 911 right away and tell them about your symptoms and any potential exposure to COVID-19.

North Carolina had at least 1,512 reported coronavirus cases as of March 31, and eight people have died. Researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation are predicting that 1,721 people could die of COVID-19 in North Carolina before the outbreak subsides and that the need for hospital beds statewide should be sufficient in the coming weeks.

“This is a great example that if you implement social distancing, you will see the impact,” said Dr. Ali Mokdad, a professor at Washington’s Institute. The pandemic’s peak is still weeks away in North Carolina. University of Washington’s latest model predicts the North Carolina peak will be April 22.

After the ride

14 After The RideA few weeks back, I wrote about riding to Sturgis, some of the preparations I did beforehand and some ideas to help make your future rides more comfortable and enjoyable. Today, let us talk about after the ride.

 For Sturgis, we rode over 4,500 miles. When I returned, I unpacked and let her sit for a few days. My bike, named Traveler, was pretty dirty. A few days later, I washed her off and then brought her into the garage and broke out my cleaning supplies and my tool kit.

 I usually start from the top to bottom. I remove the windshield and set it aside. Then I apply Honda Spray Cleaner and Polish around the bike to give a sharp-looking polish and clean. I have used this product for years. More recently, I have bought it by the case on Amazon. It does a beautiful job of cleaning my bike, plus it makes me touch every square inch of the bike.

 As I go over every inch of Traveler, I take my tools and ensure that every nut and bolt is tight. During your travels, something will inevitably start to come loose. This little preventive maintenance will save you a lot of time and money down the road if something pops off.

 As I use my bike's tool kit, I am also checking to make sure that I have every tool I need for it. This trip, I discovered I was missing a #4 metric Allen wrench. Having a couple of bikes, I also put colored tape around each of my tools to make sure that I have the right tool for the right bike.

I use window cleaner on the windshield and replace it on the bike.

Lastly, I take the GPS off and download my route and any extra waypoints I saved and clear up my GPS's memory.

 Once the bike is finished, I know she is ready for our next adventure.

If there is a topic that you would like to discuss, you can contact me at motorcycle4fun@aol.com. Ride safe!

A terrifying responsibility

15 ParentingIn 2017, I was pregnant — not “super” pregnant, as in I could still see my feet but could still rest a soda can on my belly without it spilling — and I stumbled upon a video on Facebook of a college acquaintance and her 2-year-old son. She was sitting on the floor folding laundry while her son ran around the room giggling and playing. As I watched, I noticed she was asking her son a series of simple questions about God, called catechisms, most of which required an answer of only a few words.

The series of questions went something like this:

Mom: “Who made you?”
Son: “God!”
Mom: “And what else did God make?”
Son: “All things!”
Mom: “Why did God make you and all things?”
Son: “For his own glory!”
Mom: “How can you glorify God?”
Son: “By loving him and doing what He commands!”

Tears. I cried big crocodile tears as I watched it over and over again, joy beaming from the child's face as he responded to her questions, sometimes on his own, sometimes with her guidance. She was teaching her sweet 2-year-old boy who God is and how much he loves him — the call that is on every person's life if they claim to follow Jesus. That was discipleship (teaching and instructing others  about who Jesus is) in its simplest form and I needed to take notes.
That has always baffled me. Where do you even start with someone, anyone, much less a child,  to tell them that there is a god who created the universe and everything in it, who specifically thought of them and formed them in their mother's womb, who has a plan and a purpose for their life, when they have no framework for who he is? How do you tell them that he sent his son Jesus, who is also God and part of the Trinity — pretty confusing, to Earth because of this ugliness called sin that's inside the human race, to die for them and save them from sin, so they can know him and his love and spend eternity in heaven? Yeah, say that five times fast. For someone who didn't grow up in church or around church, or has a bad taste in their mouth from people who call themselves Christians, it sounds absolutely insane, and I see that.

But on the other hand, what a weighty, beautiful, glorious responsibility to start with a blank canvas — a child. Its almost too much to bear. It's terrifying. Disciple-ing my son means not only am I telling him about Jesus, but I'm teaching him. He's an eye witness to my life — my life with all of my sin, selfishness, pride and mistakes. He's going to observe how I'm living, and eventually what he will think about Jesus will be colored by whether or not I was a big, fat phony, or whether I truly tried to live for what I say I believe. He will see how I handle relationships, discipline, my health, blessings, heartbreak, finances, our home, apologies, loss, tough emotions, asking for help, hard work —the list goes on.

My relationship with Jesus directly affects my son's future relationship with him, but here's the crazy thing about all of it: There is nothing I can do in and of myself to make him believe. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. The Holy Spirit must do something miraculous and supernatural with my measly attempts to show who he is and how he works. Then my son must make his own decision. I just pray with all my heart and soul that God will burn the “fake” out of me, that I learn to trust him more and that what was promised to the prison guard in Acts 16:31 was a promise for my family as well — “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
May he choose you, Jesus. I pray I will, too.

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