EDITORIAL: Better way to say thanks

THIS ISN’T MUCH of an editorial. At the moment the job of plotting the future of The Columbia Paper–in print and online—is the priority.

More about that below. First, please join me in thanking Jack Mabb, the county director of public health, and Supervisor Matt Murell (R-Stockport), chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, for the clear, timely sharing of Covid-19 data and the local policy and procedures shaping our pandemic lives. Having the data, which is terrifying, is better than ignorance. Cling to the facts or drown in misinformation, distortions and lies.

Statewide, Governor Cuomo has set the tone. His actions and humanity reassure New Yorkers and the world that our democracy still produces effective leaders when we need them most. Read more…

EDITORIAL: How’re you doing?

AS IF THE FLOOD of information about the pandemic weren’t disorienting enough, suddenly having a little spare time on my hands made me more than a little confused. Mental health caregivers might call my condition anxiety. Well, yeah.

These jitters aren’t only from overexposure to the charts of illness and death that thrill the national media. And I understand conflicting advice about the best way to voluntarily quarantine yourself is bound to happen at a time like this. We need to know what we’re up against, and if the rules on best behaviors can seem fuzzy, it’s because we know so little about this particular coronavirus.

Every week for the last 11 years I edited and coordinated production of The Columbia Paper. For those 11 years our small, talented team wrangled thousands of words and scores of images into a snapshot of life in Columbia County. Most weeks we were only seconds shy of missing our press deadline, flirting with a disaster that threatened paychecks for the 20-or-so people it takes to create this community newspaper each week. And as soon as one paper was done we started on the next. Read more…

EDITORIAL: An apology, not a farewell

I APOLOGIZE to all our readers, especially our subscribers. We suddenly find ourselves collateral damage from the pandemic. I didn’t give you more warning of this because I didn’t see it coming.

In the past two issues we have reduced the number of pages in The Columbia Paper by a third. It didn’t offset the withdrawal of some of our best advertising customers. Washing hands more often helps ward off COVID-19 but it doesn’t pay the printer’s bill.

This week I decided we must temporarily suspend publishing the print edition of The Columbia Paper with this March 26, 2020 issue. How long will “temporarily” last? I wish I knew. I hope it will be no more than four or five weeks. It depends on how long it takes for the illness to abate. No one associated with this newspaper is aware of having been exposed to the virus and we want to regroup and find the support we need to return to publishing the weekly newspaper you tell us you love. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Waiting for the virus

TUESDAY NIGHT IN CHATHAM, walking the dog. A family–parents and a handful of kids–strolls by. Two of the kids kick a soccer ball back and forth on the pavement. A car with super-bass sound system rumbles past. The kids with the soccer ball move to the sidewalk. These days you’d call this a lot of action.

Earlier that day the Columbia County Department of Health issued this terse report: “As of 3:30 p.m. on March 17, 2020, Columbia County has 0 positive cases of COVID-19, 4 individuals under mandatory quarantine, 22 individuals under precautionary quarantine. We have received 32 test results completed for Columbia County residents, all with negative results. We continue to work closely with our local healthcare partners and community members on a case by case basis to evaluate testing criteria as issued by the CDC and NYSDOH.”

It’s hard to process such momentarily positive news. Those 32 tests are in a county of nearly 60,000 residents. Not a very complete statistical picture. Don’t blame the health department. Look to the White House for that. Even in the absence of diagnosed cases here, schools are closed now and businesses are locking their doors or cutting back to judge from an unscientific look at local storefronts and a sampling of local business email traffic. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Break the transmission

WE HAVEN’T DONE MUCH planning yet for how best to produce a newspaper during a quarantine. But as of Tuesday, March 10, there were no positive test results from Columbia County for the coronavirus exposure. Should we bother to prepare?

We already function like a semi-quarantined business. We gather news by phone and digital contacts as well as face-to-face; stories are written wherever reporters choose. There’s no bustling newsroom. No roaring printing press either.

As for how an epidemic would affect us, a local doctor said last week, “that epidemic is already here.” It’s the flu, and nationwide the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that from last November to the end of February 2020 the flu virus caused as many as 52,000 deaths in the U.S. and up to 49 million illnesses. Read more…