- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, March 16

Proactive steps to combat COVID-19

Extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures.

And that’s certainly what we are seeing and enduring as America and the world ramp up their response to the COVID-19 coronavirus that’s racing across the planet.

The situation has been months in the making, and some countries have prepared relatively better than others. America is now working overtime in a feverish hope to catch up and minimize the damage as much as possible.



We are seeing drastic steps that are literally touching every aspect of life across the country, across South Dakota and Nebraska, and in Yankton and every community in the region.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has called off school for the coming week (at least), and the Board of Regents did the same for state universities.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts on Friday mentioned the possibility of closing schools in that state for 6-8 weeks, if necessary.

Indeed, events are being postponed or canceled in wholesale terms, from small local meetings to entire professional sports leagues and the NCAA “March Madness” college basketball tournaments. The NAIA basketball tournaments in Sioux Falls (for the men) and Sioux City (women) were canceled outright after the first day of action. The South Dakota Class B girls’ basketball tournament in Spearfish was postponed after the first round, and this coming weekend’s tournaments have also been postponed. Church service schedules are being altered. Even funerals are being delayed until the situation looks better.

These are dramatic steps.

But they are also important steps. They are strongly proactive in an attempt to slow the spread of the contagion, to protect as many people as possible and to avoid a crushing onslaught of patients on medical facilities, which would impact all medical care, even for non-COVID-19 patients. It’s part of what’s called “flattening the curve.”

Much of it falls under the label of “social distancing,” which is actually not a new concept at all - just one expanded to societal terms. This purpose is to create isolation and separation to slow the spread of the virus. In spirit, it’s quite sensible.

But in implementation, it is radical and will have a serious impact in other areas for some time to come. This is going to take a serious financial toll on a number of fronts, and states, cities and businesses must face those formidable battles. For instance, the cancellation of sporting events, which may seem minor to some people, will have major consequences on the cities and states that host these events, the vendors and other workers who make their livings from those events and so on.

In effect, our nation is being asked to step back from its normal routines, and this will be tough for many people. It’s forcing us to re-think some things we do, in terms big and small. The consequences, either way you look at it, will be difficult.

The debate over how we got here will be an important one, but the decisions we make in regard to what we do now are the most pressing. The government needs to do what it needs to do. And each of us needs to do what we must for the general good and health for both ourselves and those we know and love.

It’s a battle we WILL ultimately win - and as was pointed out during a press conference of Yankton’s COVID-19 task force last week, if we fight this fight well enough, it will seem like we overreacted. So be it. Let’s make the fight worth it.

___

Madison Daily Leader, March 10

Government works better when open to citizens

This week (March 15-21) marks the 15th Sunshine Week, a time to stress the importance of open government policies at all levels. The terms “Sunshine” suggests opening up government to the light of day.

Sunshine Week started after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on America, when there was a rush to close off government information to the public. Tim Franklin, associate dean of the journalism school at Northwestern University, said the shutting down of access to public records and public meetings was based on the “misguided, and sometimes cynical, notion that Americans are safer the less they know about what the government is doing in their name and with their money.”

That sounds a bit harsh, but we’re surprised how often we hear a phrase like “we don’t want the public to know this,” or “the public won’t understand this if we tell them.” At worst, we’ve heard “let’s not tell the public because it might cause a panic.” That’s what happened just recently in some countries with the coronavirus outbreak.

Not surprisingly, we believe instead in the public’s right to know. A government “of the people” is not a private business owned by someone. Local governments are owned by citizens/taxpayers. We elect officials to conduct our business, but they still report to us as citizens. We deserve to have input into their decisions, open discussion about their decisions, and a permanent record of how they spend our money. We deserve to know what is going on in public schools. We want to be in the room when a zoning change is proposed in our neighborhood.

We all need to be vigilant in asking for, and insisting on, open records, meetings and discussions.

___

Aberdeen American News, March 14

No more denying the uncertainty of COVID-19

If you’re not acknowledging the problem by now, you are part of the problem.

The problem is, of course, COVID-19. And it’s real.

There are many questions with unknown answers. And that’s what makes this such a slippery slope. That’s what’s sparking uncertainty and, in some cases, fear. That’s what makes this different from other viruses in the past.

We hope, a few weeks or months from now, everything happening - closed schools, canceled events, travel restrictions, the shutdown of sports leagues - will look like wild overreactions. That’s the best-case scenario. But whether we reach that point, it’s too early to tell.

In the meantime, here are some and inarguable facts to chew on:

- After initially downplaying the COCID-19 outbreak, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency Friday.

- That was hours after Gov. Kristi Noem did the same for the state. She wasn’t nearly as stubborn as the president. That said, the decision to kick media members out of a COVID-19 meeting earlier this week did nothing to instill trust.

- The NCAA didn’t pull the plug on March Madness and give up hundreds of millions of dollars to make the president look bad. Or to inconvenience you. Nor did the other sports leagues that have paused their seasons act with those motives.

Get over that kind of thinking. It’s petty, dangerous and foolish.

No, all of these steps - the unprecedented actions - were made for our protection.

Protection.

Protection.

Protection.

And that is all. So stop looking for other reasons.

That’s why South Dakota schools will be closed next week. That’s why college campuses will be empty next week. That’s why the state basketball tournaments have been postponed. That’s why there’s virtually nothing that’s not vital happening next week.

Now it’s for all of us to help. And that’s the easy part. Because it involves some simple steps we’ve been hearing about for weeks:

- Wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. (You should have been doing this all along.)

- Cover your mouth with your arm or a tissue when you cough or sneeze.

- If you don’t feel good, stay home. Work remotely if you can or have to.

- And avoid crowds if you are pregnant, older or have a weakened immune system.

- Keep high-traffic and high-germ areas clean.

- Oh, and don’t hoard toilet paper and sanitizer. Take what you need and leave some for the next shopper.

This is not a fun time. It’s stressful and sometimes scary. Nobody is enjoying it. Not the government. Not the media. Not people making difficult decisions.

Maybe, months from now, when with a little luck we are all looking back on this moment, we’ll see overreaction. Maybe the pandemic has peaked and it will start to backslide in the days to come.

There’s no way to know.

And that’s the reason for such drastic action. If we don’t encounter more problems, though, remember this time. Because the tough decisions being made now might be a big reason why.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide