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Sunday, March 29, 2020
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We’ll have to work together to lessen impact of pandemic

Spreading more rapidly than the novel coronavirus, the resultant societal changes mean each day brings new measures, altering our daily routines.

Even to this point, there have been only a handful of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the region – it’s a safe bet there are others, either in the form of mild cold/flu symptoms or those who are asymptomatic – yet we’ve seen increasingly stringent measures aimed to curbing the spread. There’s no halting the virus, but slowing it’s progress both reduces the strain on the health-care system and gives researchers more time to develop treatments and vaccines, the later being rushed into human trials at this moment.

Schools are shut, public events cancelled and employees being told to work from home, where applicable. New measures introduced by the province this week place more restrictions on public gatherings, forcing the closure of restaurants and bars, among other public gathering spots. All kinds of activities, from minor sports to book clubs, have been put on hold or cancelled outright.

Here, we haven’t seen the same kind of curtailment of public movements imposed on the citizens of other countries, some of who are now under martial law, all aimed at preventing the spread of the virus. That’s not to say, however, that such measures aren’t being contemplated if the situation is deemed to warrant them.

What we are seeing, however, is a slowdown in the economy, a global phenomenon, as business as usual isn’t an option, from workers being told to distance themselves, typically by staying home, to outright closures. You can be sure government officials everywhere are aware of both the current harm to the economy and the prospect of still more should the crisis drag on. Right now, everyone is erring on the side of caution, but decisions will have to be made eventually. In the meantime, there will be significant costs, the government actions eventually repaid by all of us.

Here at The Observer, we’re well aware of the fallout from the current crisis. Much of what we do is cover the goings-on in the community, and right now there’s very little going on. It’s an unprecedented suspension of activities, from children’s events at the library right through the first-ever cancellation of the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival. That all-of-a-sudden reality is reflected in the paper, as the stories reflect the coronavirus, and the absence of activities … due to the coronavirus.

Against the backdrop of calls to remain calm and avoid panic, that kind of news coverage seems more than a little ironic: all COVID-19, all the time does add to the sense that there’s something to worry about. Of course, there are precautions to take, and trusting in the pronouncements of health-care officials is the only logical course of action. The coronavirus has become as standard a topic of conversation as the weather, at least for the time being, though the former will eventually exit the stage, leaving us to return to the latter as the faithful standby.

For now, we’re looking to bring you facts about the outbreak, as well as stories about the impacts on our communities. As with other organizations, how that will play out remains up in the air: we’re planning for all kinds of contingencies, including the closure of our offices and the distancing recommended by health officials, despite ours being a fairly social undertaking at times. We are committed to keeping you as informed as possible, no matter what the develops.

As noted, the rapidly-evolving social changes, albeit destined to be short-lived, mean none of really know what’s coming down the pike tomorrow, let alone the day after that. We only know this crisis will pass, and the only way through is together.


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The province knows it can only push so far in shutting down facets of the economy.


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