June 3, 2020

Stevens County Times

Your spot for community news in Stevens County, Minnesota

Knowledge Will Help Keep Our Communities Safe

This is an extraordinary time in the lives of most Americans as our way of life is radically changed in just a few short weeks.

Who would have thought that as spring approached our schools would all be closed, that there would be no church services, that all sports from our high schools to the professional leagues would be cancelled, that people would be hoarding toilet paper, and that grocery stores would be seeing people buying stockpiles of food as if Armageddon were imminent?

Who would have thought the sky-high financial markets would be in freefall and that the Federal Reserve would cut interest rates to zero in an attempt to stem the flow of red ink? Who would have thought that states would be ordering bars and restaurants closed?

Fear of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, has reordered our lives. It could be weeks, or months, before a semblance of normality returns. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now recommending that people avoid gatherings of 50 or more people. We are supposed to practice frequent hand washing and social distancing – staying 6 feet away from people when we are outside our homes and apartments.

All these measures are an attempt to “flatten the curve.” If we can slow down the progress of the coronavirus through our country, state and communities, we just may keep our medical facilities from being overwhelmed. One very real fear is that the disease will so overburden our hospitals and clinics that people with critical but treatable medical conditions will die for a lack of proper care.

It is essential that people who are sick, or feel like they are coming down with something, stay home. If they need medical care, call first and make medical personnel aware that you are coming in. One person infected with the coronavirus could incapacitate our clinics or hospitals if not properly handled when walking in the door.

Minnesota reported its first case of COVID-19 March 6 and since then it is has rapidly expanded in the state. From 14 cases Friday the number jumped to 35 by Sunday. As we write this column, the number is climbing. It was also reported that we now have what is called “community spread” of the virus. This means that people are getting it without having traveled to a foreign country and have no idea who might have given the virus to them.

COVID-19 has been confirmed in Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Olmsted, Ramsey, Renville, Stearns, Washington, Waseca and Wright counties. It is just a matter of time before it comes to our communities.

As we live through this frightening and uncertain time, being adequately informed about the steps that are being taken in our communities to keep us safe will be vital to our peace of mind. With knowledge we can help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. With knowledge we can know what to do to care for ourselves and our loved ones should we, or they, contract the virus.

Newspapers will play a vital role in our communities in the days and weeks ahead as we provide essential information to citizens to keep them updated on the measures being taken at our schools, cities, counties and health care facilities. This information will be provided in our printed pages and on our web page – stevenscountytimes.com.

This is Sunshine Week in America. It is a time when newspapers tell their communities about the critical role we play in shining a light on how government works and how those we have elected to serve us are performing. Often it seems like an academic exercise to our readers. But this year the effectiveness of our leaders from the local level to Washington, D.C., could literally mean the difference between life and death of our residents.

Newspapers are a public good, much like our educational system, our roads and bridges, our water systems, law enforcement, and our national defense. We are an essential service. Through this trying time, we will continue to report on the actions of public bodies and health agencies in our communities. We will provide the information that is vital to our readers, our business community and local leaders as they assess steps necessary to ensure our community’s health today and in the future. We will give you the stories of the steps your local leaders are taking to ensure your safety and keep the community working smoothly despite the expected challenges.

We are in this together. We will come through it together. Our home was built in 1904. It was just 14 years later that a family stood looking out the front window worried about the safety of their loved ones as the 1918-19 influenza epidemic swept the globe.  We chronicled that struggle in our pages binding the community together with a common story and a common purpose.

Unfortunately, we hear a few people grumbling that it is all an over-hyped story, a drama unnecessarily ruinous to our communities and country. They criticize the press. They couldn’t be more wrong. We should not fear over-reacting to the spread of the coronavirus, Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press. If through “over-reacting” we can save thousands of lives, we will gladly accept the criticism now. 

“People need to understand that things will get worse before they get better,” Fauci said. “What we’re trying to do is to make sure they don’t get to the worst-case scenario. That’s what we need to do.”

It is our duty to inform you – avoiding the worst-case scenario is our goal as well.

Reed Anfinson