Monday, March 16, 2020
It's a toss-up for me about which was the worst response I saw or heard to the coronavirus pandemic this week. It was either all the images of mostly young people who think they're immortal crowding into bars in cities around the U.S. or packed onto Bourbon Street.
Or, it was the Starkville, Miss., doctor who released a video a couple days ago that looked like an awkward fake press conference with him telling people that it was fine to go ahead and go to church and get on with their everyday lives like normal as long as they weren't symptomatic or knew of contact with someone who has COVID-19.
Meantime, both state health officials and, later, Gov. Tate Reeves, told people in the last several days to not go to church or be out in other crowds. It's basic medical science: the more people you come in contact with, the more you can make an epidemic explode—even if you're not sick—by sharing the virus you're carrying or by picking it up yourself by being there and then spread it. Just stop it.
These examples—whether the partiers or the don't-worry-go-out doctor—are equally absurd and show a remarkable lack of understanding about how viral pandemics spread and how they can at least be contained without a full breakdown of the health-care system, leaving some countries like Italy now deciding who to help and who to let die.
And it shows a certain hardened cruelty to laugh about the "boomer killer" disease, and I say that as someone who isn't technically a boomer and who thinks "hey boomer" is funny. The truth is that what all of us do, or don't do, down to how we talk about the pandemic, can literally save lives and not only of our parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles. It can save the lives of anyone with lowered immunity, and it can save young people's lives. Check out how many serious, life-threatening cases in France are people under 50, for instance.
It is time to stay home if at all possible or, at the very least, limit how often we go into public. For instance, our reporter Nick Judin has attended press conferences in the last several days (and filed vital work on COVID-19), but he's working at home to limit how the contact he's had could possibly affect other people. And he is following all safety procedures.
Other staff members are choosing to either social-distance or fully self-quarantine, including me with my recent health issues, and others are choosing to spend reduced time in the office for now. We have had no contact that we know of with anyone who has the virus, but we all know that with the limited testing in the state so far, it's impossible to know.
Read breaking coverage of COVID-19 in Mississippi, plus safety tips, cancellations, more in the JFP's archive.
On the other hand, panicking won't help, and it can hurt, not the least from what stress does to our health. I tend to stay calm, at least in recent decades, and I try to bring a sense of zen to everything I do. I've sometimes found that people who panic want others to panic with them. I refuse to do this because I need to be clear-minded. And certainly in our business, where our first job in a crisis like this is to get as much information out to you as quickly as possible, I need to be clear-headed. And I need to feel like I'm helping others by using my particular set of skills.
My advice is to settle in at home if you can stay home; set up a comfortable work spot; and focus on both getting your job done and, if time, how you can help others. Focus and get the work done so you can relax and breathe deeply afterward. Use social media not just to argue about politics (that can wait), but to spread around resources and information that can help your fellow Mississippians and others. We have a ton of resources going up in our COVID-19 archive with more on the way. Take a look at jacksonfreepress.com/coronavirus and pass the word.
Also, starting today, Ashton Pittman and I are releasing statewide COVID-19 information on the new Mississippi Free Press, a separate nonprofit statewide news outlet that Kimberly Griffin and I are founding. Ashton's husband, William Pittman, created an interactive map of where confirmed cases are that is up there already. And Ashton's first official MFP story in his new main gig goes up later this afternoon.
Ashton and I will add more statewide information to MFP as it comes in, and we're about to create a space there for people across Mississippi to tell us about your COVID-19 experiences. We are using the temporary site to do this for now; watch for the new website under construction hopefully to go live hopefully within the week. With the state in crisis, there is no better time than the present to use every resource at my disposal to get information out to all of you. Meantime, send me COVID-19 and other news tips outside the Jackson metro to [email protected].
These are tough times, no doubt. My Jackson Free Press partner Todd Stauffer and I don't know what it all means for our small business that in turn relies on small-business support so we can print our newspaper and pay our staff. But we will use our resources and tools to help other local businesses as best we can, even if we must do it from home. Todd has a number of creative possibilities in the works. Meantime, tell Dustin Cardon about anything your business is doing to navigate these tough times. Meantime, we invite you to join the JFP VIP Club now if you can to help us continue doing leading coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak as we all navigate this crisis together.
So to recap, email [email protected] about state COVID-19 tips; [email protected] and [email protected] about capital-city tips; Dustin Cardon about cancellations and other business efforts at [email protected]. We are here for you, Jackson and Mississippi; tell us how we can help and get needed information out the door.
Meantime, take good care of yourselves, as we will do as well. We're in this together, folks.