March Madness has become March Sadness. After-work drinks with friends at our favorite watering holes are out. Gone, too, are those stress-reducing sojourns to the gym. It’s as if we’re all stuck in the throes of the 1978 Blizzard, without any sense of when society’s shutdown will end.

Most of us have had a taste of this before: we’ve survived hurricanes, nasty flu seasons, nor’easters.

At least we all have the electricity that fuels binge-watching, social media and our ubiquitous mobile phone addictions. Many of us are dealing with chapped hands, anxiety and social isolation. We miss worship services. The 401ks that so many retirees depend on have dropped to 201ks or worse.

Human life looks fragile; nature has thrown us an invisible enemy that evidence shows isn’t easily defeated. Look no further than Italy for what can happen here.

Closer to home, Governors Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island have relied on medical experts and stepped up to keep citizens informed. After this fizzles, we can debate whether casinos should have been closed earlier and whether the weekend St. Patrick’s Day pub crawls in Newport and Boston should have been tightly shut down. Too many young people displayed an irresponsible invincibility as they partied on.

Yet Raimondo and Baker have made clear to citizens that stopping the spread of this virus is not possible. Containment is the only strategy.

It’s hard to overestimate the impact on working people, those who live paycheck to paycheck.They aren't checking the Wall Street reports. Many go to work sick because they can’t afford to stay home. With schools closing, child care arrangements will become more difficult. 

Many of us are upset about the cancellation of events that provide life’s lovely distractions, such as college and professional sports, concerts, theatre, museums, parades and conventions. But in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts, we must focus on the folks who work at these venues.

I’m thinking about people like Ruth Ferrazzano, longtime owner of Murphy’s Deli, a tavern and restaurant in the shadow of the Dunkin Donuts Center and the Convention Center in Providence. On a recent afternoon, just four tables were occupied for lunch. A lone man sat at the long bar. Usually this time of year --particularly during the Big East Tournament--Murphy’s would be filled with fans bunking work to catch the Providence College Friars. But the games were cancelled and Ferrazzano is worried about the business she and her family have devoted their lives to.

Or Patrick Griffin, an Irish immigrant and owner of Patrick’s Pub. His Smith Street Irish pub is a few blocks from the Statehouse. March is his busiest season, as Irish-Americans celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with toasts and corned beef. Griffin worries that things are about to get even worse, with the cancellation of the college commencements that fill hotel rooms and restaurant tables every spring.

Restaurant and hotel workers can’t telecommute. They can’t work from home. It’s time those who can afford take-out meals make sure to tip servers. And time for government to heed the words of former vice-president Hubert Humphrey, who years ago said the moral test of government is how it treats children, the sick, elderly and the needy.

Our federal and state governments need to provide support for the vulnerable, those who are threatened physically and economically.

The Federal Reserve has spent more than two trillon dollars to prop up the financial markets. Now government must help those whose lives and families are at risk.

Scott MacKay’s commentary can be heard every Monday morning at 6:45 and 8:45 and at 5:44 in the afternoon.