As the number of known cases of coronavirus continues to grow in the U.S., so does public anxiety and fear about the virus.
Older adults are among those most at risk of getting sick from coronavirus and, in Oregon, a woman stepped in to help an elderly couple in need.
Rebecca Mehra, a 25-year-old professional runner, said she was walking into a Safeway in Bend after track practice when she heard a woman calling to her from a parked car. She went over and found the woman and her husband in their 80s who asked for her help.
“She cracked her window open a bit more, and explained to me nearly in tears that they are afraid to go in the store,” she wrote in a tweet that has since captured national attention.
I went to the grocery store this afternoon. As I was walking in I heard a woman yell to me from her car. I walked over and found an elderly woman and her husband. She cracked her window open a bit more, and explained to me nearly in tears that they are afraid to go in the store.
— Rebecca Mehra (@rebecca_mehra) March 12, 2020
Mehra said the woman told her that Bend had just had its first case of coronavirus and she’d heard that coronavirus disproportionately impacts older people. Oregon health officials announced Saturday the state’s first death from the virus was a 70-year-old man.
The couple didn’t have any family nearby that could help them shop, according to Mehra, and they had been waiting in their car for 45 minutes for the right person to ask.
Mister Rogers said ‘look for the helpers’: Here’s how to help amid coronavirus panic.
As soon as she agreed to buy the groceries, the woman slid a $100 bill and a handwritten list through the crack in the window and Mehra went inside to do their shopping.
“There were certain things that were not very available. There was very little toilet paper,” she told USA TODAY. “There was basically no hand soap.”
Although certain aisles, such as the one for cleaning products, were completely empty, Mehra said she saw other acts of kindness inside the store.
“I needed hand soap and there were only two left and a woman grabbed two of them and then she gave me one,” she said. “In a weird way, this is kind of bringing us all together because it’s been so scary for everyone. I think emphasizing kindness and community and helping each other out is really important.”
Mehra bought most of the items, placed the bags in the couple’s trunk and gave them back their change. As soon as she got home, she wished she’d given the woman her phone number so that she could reach out if she needed help again.
Her boyfriend encouraged her to share the story on Twitter, where she was retweeted more than 100,000 times.
In a follow-up tweet, Mehra thanked everyone who shared her story and said it had been seen by more than 11 million people. She added that “most people I know would have done the same thing I did. I was just in the right place at the right time.”
She added, “I think that this was just kind of a small light in a dark time like a nice story of kindness that inspired a lot of people I’m grateful for that,” she said.
If you are at risk of developing serious illness from coronavirus because of your age or chronic medical conditions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends stocking up on supplies, washing your hands often, avoiding crowds and staying home as much as possible.
Follow N’dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Woman buys scared elderly couple groceries in Oregon amid coronavirus