As I look at the news this week, I realize that it’s been a long year and a longer month (and we’re only halfway through November!). We made it through a challenging election season, to now face the concerning and rapid increase in COVID-19 cases across the United States. Here in Oregon, where I am writing, Governor Brown has implemented what she is calling a “freeze”—restricting social activities and closing some businesses entirely to prevent the virus from spreading further as we head into the holiday season.
All of us at Ocean Conservancy are sending our support and well-wishes during these unprecedented—and yes, concerning—times. We are also sending a huge thank you and an ocean of gratitude to frontline workers, including those in the health care, research, service and transportation sectors. After a long year, people are understandably eager to be with family and friends for the upcoming holidays. And yet, we need to remember how we entered this pandemic and do everything we can to #FlattentheCurve.
The last two weeks have been the worst for the United States since the pandemic began. According to the COVID Tracking Project, the United States has more than 11 million cases and more than 239,000 deaths. At this point, almost everyone knows someone who has been touched by the virus. Black, brown, Indigenous and people of color are being hit hardest by the pandemic; recent research shows that Black people are twice as likely to be afflicted by the virus as white people. As we head into the holidays, it’s important to be vigilant.
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Ocean Conservancy is a science-based organization, and scientists and experts are telling us to stay home, keep six feet apart when around others, wash our hands frequently, limit any indoor gatherings to small groups, preferably people in your “bubble” or household and to wear a mask when out in public. As CEO, my first priority is reducing the risk of exposure for staff—and I am encouraging everyone to follow the advice of health care professionals so we can #FlattentheCurve this winter.
While COVID-19 affects all of our lives, the challenges facing our ocean and the wildlife and communities that rely on it have not diminished. As I mentioned at the start of this pandemic, we are incredibly fortunate that we can largely continue our ocean conservation work (with the creative use of technology, social media and other tools) thanks to our dedicated staff, partners and supporters like you.
When I talk about ocean conservation to staff, friends and supporters, I often talk about the long-term, big picture—something that Ocean Conservancy is known for and is the hallmark of our durable ocean conservation work. Although at times the trials facing our ocean may seem insurmountable, I know that by working together we can protect our ocean and those who depend on it. I feel the same way about COVID-19: the heartening news this week about potential vaccines indicates that there is light at the end of the tunnel, but we still have a ways to go—we need to be vigilant and take steps to protect ourselves, and our families, friends and neighbors while the risk is great.
We will get through this, together. I encourage you all to be safe this holiday season, and look after yourselves and others.