Editorial: Community must operate with common set of facts

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 5, 2020

Suffice to say, we’re living in a moment unlike any other in history.

The spread of coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, has altered our collective way of life and shuttered large parts of the economy.

Technology means we’re more connected to one another than ever, instantly sharing pictures, videos and snippets of our life. But abiding by the governor’s stay-at-home order induces a feeling of isolation even with the connections we enjoy because of our smartphones, computers, smartwatches, smart TVs, fridges and other appliances that can access the internet as well as, most notably, social media.

Modern-day technology also allows some businesses to continue operating while employees work from home, but the spread of COVID-19 means that others with large amounts of human-to-human interaction have been ordered to shut down. Some chose to close their doors preemptively out of caution or because of a downturn in business. Results of a study by the Rowan County Economic Development Commission last week showed dozens of local businesses are reporting no change in income at all while a majority see a sharp decline.

In another time, a depression might creep along insidiously, but that’s not the case here. Hundreds of thousands of our fellow North Carolinians are suddenly without a job in an economy that was booming just last month. Single parents now suddenly find themselves unable to pay for basics like diapers for their children. And depending on the store, some basics are still in short supply for those who are able to purchase them.

At grocery stores, clear panels separate customers from cashiers to help prevent the spread of the new virus. Stickers on the ground encourage customers to stand 6 feet apart, but close proximity and social distancing have been hard to adhere to while shopping because aisles are only several feet apart.

This is also a moment unlike any before because, depending on your beliefs, partisan affiliation and where you get your news, COVID-19 started out as an overhyped creation of the news media, a phenomenon that society wasn’t treating seriously enough or a pandemic for which the president was directly at fault. The federal government either fooled around while it should have been acting more seriously to prevent COVID-19’s spread or was concerned about from the start but could not have seen the virus coming before it began. All of us — Rowan Countians, North Carolinians and Americans — are living within realities that differ slightly. It was that way before the coronavirus outbreak and the disorienting crash in the economy and changes to the world around us have not helped.

But if our community and nation hope to emerge from the current moment in a stronger, more resilient position than before, a common set of facts must be the starting point. The community’s leaders are on the same team, but there are too many people in the general public not rowing in the same direction.

So, here are some facts:

• One person has died and the number of COVID-19 cases more than tripled — from 14 to 46 — in a week. On Saturday, 11 people were hospitalized.

• In three weeks, nearly 4% of the state’s population has filed for unemployment, doubling the percentage of North Carolinians who were unemployed.

• The virus has a 5% infection rate here.

• People must practice good hand washing techniques, social distancing and listen to other guidelines, including staying home as much as possible. Otherwise, they’re risking contributing to a rise in cases and, potentially, an additional strain on local health care facilities.

By starting with the same set of facts, Salisbury and Rowan County can unite around achieving a common goal: to make simple changes to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and work together to help those who are affected by our economic crash.