15 September 2021

When laughter turns out to be the best medicine for Yass

| Sally Hopman
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Max, Quinn, Paul and Frances outside their home in Yass, holding signs

Max, 11 (right), with his brother, Quinn, 8 (left), and father, Paul, holding Frances, 2, outside their home on Merriman Drive in Yass. Photo: Sally Hopman.

There’s something about a crisis that brings out the best in country people.

When Yass was sent into sudden lockdown on Monday, 13 September, there was still toilet paper on the shelves at the supermarkets, and locals took to social media to alert and check on loved ones, as well as strangers.

By the end of Tuesday, 750 people had been tested for COVID-19. That translates into one person being tested every 41 seconds. Most folks had their results by late that afternoon.

Throughout that day, cars snaked their way from the main street of town along Merriman Drive and up to the Walker Park sports complex where the COVID-19 team was set up.

People sat in their cars for up to three hours. Some ran out of petrol, and they were helped by the kindness of strangers. Others suffered flat batteries, and more strangers came to their rescue with jumper leads.

Local police went down first thing to check the nurses and other health staff had enough coffees to get them through the day, while local bakery Clementine’s dropped in boxes of goodies.

As the cars snailed along Merriman Drive, there were no sounds of impatience in the air, just a few spurts of laughter.

For Max, 11, whose family lives on Merriman Drive, that sound simply made his day.

Hours earlier, he spoke to his mum, Lizzie, about all the cars lined up outside and how hard it must be for people to sit in them just waiting.

COVID-19 community message on whiteboard

Eleven-year-old Max’s message to drivers waiting in the queue for COVID-19 testing on Tuesday, 14 September. Photo: Sally Hopman.

So with mum’s help, Max wrote a sign – “We Hope You’re OK Yass” – and stuck it on the wheelie bin outside their home.

Then he went back inside for a while with brother Quinn, 8, and sister Frances, 2.

“We were a bit nervous to come out because there were so many cars outside,” says Lizzie. “But when we did, it was great – everyone was smiling at us and laughing at the sign.

“People said they loved it and it helped make the wait a lot easier.”

Max, who attends Berinba Public School, says: “It was a bit hard to go outside because there were so many cars with people in them, but I’m glad I did. I even saw two of my teachers in the line and they smiled at me.

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“I said to mum, ‘I actually love how this makes me feel. It made people happier.'”

Buoyed by his success, Max posted another sign on Wednesday, 15 September, saying, “Stay Positive but not COVID… Yass”. With dad Paul’s help, Max upgraded the sign from a wheelie bin to a whiteboard.

But the youngster has saved his best for last with another sign: “Kick COVID’s Yass”.

Although some people waited in line for three hours to get tested, the mood has been positive. Especially from one three-year-old who said it was so good he wanted to do it again.

The Yass testing clinic is open from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm daily at the Walker Park sports complex until further notice. People are asked to pre-register prior to queuing to help speed up the process and eliminate paperwork.

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