COVID-19’s impact on the Amish

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ARTHUR, Ill. (WCIA) — We are all affected by COVID-19, but in different ways. One community we have not heard from during this outbreak is the Amish.
We talked to a leader in the Amish community about what it’s like from their point of view.

People in the Amish community live a simpler life, but when faced with a stay-at-home order, how does it look to them? Torah Bontrager is the Executive Director of the Amish Heritage Foundation, although she does not wear Amish clothes. She says most Amish people are following the governor’s order.

“Across the board, the Amish communities are observing the state mandate, and it’s largely because they’re concerned about maintaining an image of being law-abiding which is driven by the fear that, if they don’t follow the state mandate, their religious freedom will be revoked,” said Bontrager. However, understanding what a pandemic is and why these things are happening is hard for them. “They don’t have a grasp of the pandemic because we only have an Amish 8th grade education, which forbids science, technology, world politics, world affairs,” she explained.

However, a temporary shutdown is familiar. “In the case of the Arthur Amish community, for example, the schools shutting down is actually not a new experience for them, because they have, in the past, voluntarily shut down their own schools when there was a measles outbreak,” said Bontrager.

Bontrager adds that members of the Amish community usually try home remedies for treating health issues, and they’ll be very hesitant to go to a doctor. Part of that is because they don’t have health insurance.

“Whether you’re coughing or your knocking at death’s door, they’re not going to see a doctor. They’re going to put it off as long as possible.”

Bontrager said there will likely be some lessons learned at the end of all this , and she hopes it changes her community for the better.

“If anything comes out of this pandemic, I hope it’s that we need a better education system across the board.”

Bontrager says she has been told there have been 65 tested in the Amish community, but she says the data is really unclear and it could be 65 people or 65 households. She also says they don’t know how many have been positive or negative.

The Amish Heritage Foundation has resources available for anyone who needs help.

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