Unprecedented. Bizarre. Unbelievable. Scary.
There is no shortage of words to describe what the country – and our own Central Valley communities – is going through right now.
As we deal with the reality that is the coronavirus, life as we know it has changed dramatically in the space of a relatively few short days.
It was on Friday, March 13 that our newspaper General Manager Drew Savage told me, “Marg, you should write a column about all this.” In turn, I replied that anything I would say as I wrote the column on Monday (for publication in the Wednesday, March 18 issue) would most likely be null and void by the time Wednesday rolled around.
But that actually then made sense, because everything is changing so fast, that’s what we can address. How does that saying go? The only thing we really know for sure is that we just don’t know.
Something to that effect.
There have been so many announcements of cancellations, postponements, schedule revisions, closures of facilities, scaling back of operations … there seems to be very little that hasn’t been impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.
And whether you believe the virus is a major threat or not, the very real fact is that wholesale changes are being made in our lives, like it or not. Members of the Escalon City Council were planning to space themselves out around the council chambers for their Monday night, March 16 meeting and one councilman planned to attend via phone only.
“Social distancing” is now a term we know. Stay six feet away from each other.
That will work for our office, as we have a small staff and can find a way to do our work while steering clear of our co-workers. But that’s not the norm; we are not used to isolating. Especially in this business; our job is to be out there among the crowd getting the story. We can still do it; there just won’t be much of a crowd. And, as time goes on, there might not be much of a story, as events are being cancelled right and left.
Just a handful of notables: The Civil War reenactment due in Knights Ferry on March 21 and 22 and the accompanying Saturday night spaghetti dinner there, not happening. The annual Relay For Life, set for early May, likely to be scaled back and held at a later date. The annual Escalon High School Sports Boosters dinner-dance-auction that was scheduled as a sit down event on Saturday night, March 14 in Escalon was turned in to a drive-thru dinner. Local schools are closed, with San Joaquin County making that decision on Friday; the closure went into effect Monday, March 16 and will last at least through April 5 with classes potentially resuming April 6. Stanislaus County followed suit, with the closure of schools due to take effect Thursday, March 19 (unless that changed between Monday and Wednesday).
It’s like being in a movie, almost, as you gape at the empty shelves in the stores and hear stories of people buying up all the toilet paper their linen closet can hold. Several advertisers have pulled their inserts from the newspaper – one grocery store indicating that they couldn’t guarantee they would have the sale items available – or much of anything, for that matter.
So much is being impacted; it will take some time to figure out what our ‘new normal’ is going to be. There’s a lot of uncertainty and yes, the situation is incredibly fluid. Information is coming in at record speed and I spent some of my time over the weekend just trying to keep updated information posted on our website and Facebook pages.
This is the time of year when I would normally enjoy listening to preseason baseball or catch a hockey game as time allows; not right now. My weekdays would be busy with photographing high school sports after school; not right now. It honestly doesn’t seem possible. And yet, here we are.
The paper comes out once a week; we are continuing to stay open and do our job. That will also include providing the most accurate and up to date information possible on our social media platforms in between publication dates.
Again, while there are those who downplay the virus and yes, it is true that more people have died from the flu, it is the coronavirus and the unknown surrounding it that has prompted this unprecedented nationwide response.
Life today is a million miles away from where it was just a couple of weeks ago. Expect even more upheaval before things start to get better. Stay safe out there.
Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times, The Oakdale Leader and The Riverbank News. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.