The Newspaper and Coronavirus

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The Coronavirus, or COVID-19, threatens to completely upset all aspects of our lives for an unknown period, and its impact is being felt here at the newspaper. We’re used to fast-breaking stories, but this one may be the most startling and all-encompassing that I’ve experienced in my 40 years at The News-Gazette. I don’t think even 9-11 compares in terms of the upheaval we’re looking at in all of our daily lives.

Just within the past week, we have discussed with our news, advertising and administration staff measures to protect ourselves and our customers, while continuing to serve the community with the most up-to-date and accurate information we can provide. We are following the advice of frequent hand washing, using disinfectant wipes on hard surfaces and our keyboards, phones and devices, and using hand sanitizer when we can’t get to a sink.

We have also installed software that will allow our reporters and editors to work from home, though some people may have to be in the office at certain times because some functions like page layout can’t be done remotely. Fortunately, we’re pretty spread out in the building, so we’re already practicing “social distancing.” We don’t plan to change office hours at this time, though we may opt to close our front office to walk-in traffic. Most of our information comes in via email and phone these days, anyhow. We will have people here to answer phones, as always, though they may have to relay messages to those people working from home.

We intend to publish the newspaper on Wednesdays, and urge our readers to remember that news and information received throughout the week goes up every day on our web-s ite, www. TheNews -Gazette. com and on The News-Gazette’s Facebook page.

Like many other small, locallyowned businesses, we’re worried about the economic impact on our business. Already, we’ve received cancellation of a number of ads for cancelled events in the area. Some of the large retailers that insert sales circulars in the newspaper have cancelled future runs, probably because they can’t predict whether stores will be open or what effect this pandemic will have on prices. The News-Gazette will muddle through. We’ve seen disruption before, albeit not with such rapid onset. The newspaper has survived wars, depressions, and the rise of the internet. It has adapted to meet each new challenge. We will take this one head-on, and continue to provide, to the best of our ability, accurate and timely information to you.

I urge you to think about other local small businesses. Many local restaurants offer take-out meals this would be a good time to do that rather than eating in. Quite a few local shops offer on-line shopping and will ship to you. Patronize them rather than Amazon or other mega online retailers. At least one local grocery store offers grocery pickup, where you can place a grocery order online and pick up at the store. That cuts down your exposure. Likewise, a locally-owned pharmacy offers delivery in Lexington, and several have drive-up windows.

Besides planning the newspaper’s strategy for getting through the pandemic, I’ve thought about what Lynne and I will do for the next weeks, or even months. We had a trip planned to visit her sister in Florida, which we’ve cancelled. I had meetings in Washington next week — cancelled. But on a positive note, we both love to read and have several books we’re looking forward to. We hope to get our bikes out and do some riding on the Chessie Trail. I’ve threatened to paint the living room and hallways in our house. I will have work to do with my bees, and in the yard clearing winter debris and preparing for spring. And, we will be staying in touch with friends and family more regularly than we have been.

This plague is real, and though experts say that a majority of us that contract COVID-19 will fully recover, a significant number of people, particularly older folks and those with health conditions, may get very sick. The concern is that these very sick people will overwhelm our local medical resources. We owe it to all of us to do what we can to cut down on the spread of the virus so that our local doctors and hospitals can manage the surge that will occur. Keep in mind, also, that the surge in rural areas like ours may lag by weeks what may be seen in larger cities around us.

I’m confident that the community will come through this in time. I hope that, by following the guidance of medical experts on sanitation and distancing from others, that we will not see the deaths to the extent seen in China or Italy here in the United States. I hope that by sometime this summer, life will be returning to normal in the Rockbridge area. But optimism itself without a plan of action personally, for our businesses and for our community is wishful thinking.

As the old Sarge on the TV show Hill Street Blues used to say, “Let’s be careful out there!”

The News-Gazette

The News-Gazette Corp.
P.O. Box 1153
Lexington, VA 24450
(540) 463-3113

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