Welcome back to Wrong Side of the Mountain, my column about what makes Boone County a good or bad place to live, depending on your perspective.
Over the last week or so, we’ve seen local staples of entertainment and community gatherings pull the plug on their annual events in the West Virginia Coal Festival and the Boone County Fair.
The festival cancellations come as scores of community organizations and businesses come to grips with the impact of COVID-19 on their activities and social gatherings.
From restaurants and hardware stores to realtors and thrift shops, local businesses have been scrambling to devise workarounds and survival tactics in the wake of West Virginia’s coronavirus state of emergency and quarantine guidelines.
As I write this column, The World Health Organization said that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 had surpassed 1,340,098 in the U.S. with 80,695 related deaths. We’ve had 1,467 confirmed cases in West Virginia and 60 deaths. In Boone County, we’re sitting at 9 confirmed cases and no deaths (that I’m aware of at this point).
If you start puking out comparative numbers of 12 months worth of the flu versus less than three months of coronavirus, I’ll likely consider you brain dead.
Can we stop politicizing everything for just a few months?
You can debate the accuracy of the WHO data, but we may also debate the integrity of your pastor if we were to analyze his/her web browsing history. In both cases, you have put your faith in something. You trust that professionals are doing their job until it is proven that they are not.
You can’t blame China for giving birth to a deadly virus and in the same breath publicly harpoon a group of volunteers for canceling a public event amid a related (according to you) pandemic. Well, you can — but you look really dumb, careless and contradictory in the process. This is what I’m seeing a little of on social media lately.
Thankfully, I think that I speak for 90% of Boone County when I say “thank you” to the organizers of these events for doing the right thing for the sake of public health and safety.
I had skin in both of these events, as my ‘80s rock tribute act “Hair Supply” was set to headline the fair and we were booked to play an ‘80s themed night at the West Virginia Coal Festival.
As a proud American Federation of Musicians member, I know many musicians who are losing income through the pandemic, and when you rely on live dates plus a teaching roster of 40 students, it has to be scary when the rug is pulled out. My band stands to lose about $20,000 in 2020 before expenses.
While music is more than a hobby and less than a career for me, I have much respect for those who chase that dream. Thankfully, I don’t rely on this for income.
We were talking within the band about pulling out of these events among others and I wrestled with the commitment that was made to play, versus the fact that if I played, I would not want my family to attend. This created a conundrum within my mind. If I’m protecting my family, I should protect my community as well by not taking the chance. As a band, we are taking it day-to-day and following what the state health department and Gov. Jim Justice are conveying as we draw closer.
In late June, we are scheduled to play the Freedom Festival in Logan. Organizers are meeting on June 1 to discuss the fate of that popular event.
I must say, Boone County has impressed me while being among the leaders in southern West Virginia with some tough decisions.
In the end I told myself, if I knew that there was a chance that my wife, daughter or stepson could be harmed if we crossed a line in the sand, would I proceed? The answer is “absolutely not.”
I believe there is a difference between being cowardly and being perspicacious. I’m not willing to gamble on the health of my family. That is my stance.
One of my jobs is to protect my family — this doesn’t always come in the form of a “gun hide” in my living room, bedroom, kitchen and office, either.
I suppose for me, one of the most frustrating aspects of covering the pandemic as a reporter has been what I call the “personal privacy versus preventative measures” angle.
I find myself wrestling with one question: What is the proper balance between protecting the infected patient’s identity and the public’s right to know — at the very least — the zip code of infected individuals while enduring a public health crisis?
I do not feel that saying, for example, that a woman in Nellis has tested positive for COVID-19 is a violation of privacy. This does not provide enough information to reasonably identify her, but it may persuade you to take extra precautions as you run your errands for your family because it brings it HOME in terms of, “This can happen in my community.”
Withholding potentially life-saving information goes beyond protecting privacy and cultivates anxiety and public mistrust in health-related agencies.
Too much of this is in flux to predict what sort of obstacles litter the path moving forward. But, as far as large gatherings are concerned, I suspect we’re beginning to get a glimpse of a new “temporary normal.”
I truly believe that our country will rebound from this and I’m glad to see us cautiously but purposefully moving back into motion. I’m no economic or public health expert, but I have noticed that some folks are “Facebook Certified” in these areas (rolls eyes, volitionally).
I’m proud to say that our local leaders aren’t taking unnecessary chances with our health. After all, it is our most valuable asset. Be well, neighbors.