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…

EDITORIAL: This we can do

CONSIDER A PROBLEM we could fix. It would cost less than doing nothing, and doing nothing would only make things worse. Fixing this problem could help kids and they’d like it too. Most of them, anyway. That would be a change, wouldn’t it?

Let your teenagers sleep later. That’s right. This doesn’t require washing your hands more frequently. You don’t have to choose a candidate, either. Just sleep.

Research published in ScienceAdvances, a journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, estimates that teenagers are sleeping an hour less than they were a century ago. That may not sound like much when you account for the glowing, blinking, buzzing red, green and yellow haze that now surrounds most of us every night. But kids need sleep to grow and learn, and what the science tells us is that the sleep patterns of teenagers are different from adults. Read more…

EDITORIAL: The bag story

HEY, BUDDY, CAN YOU SPARE A BAG? Not if it’s a single-use “carry-out” bag and you want it in New York. In case you haven’t yet gone shopping, we are switching to “bag-off” mode starting Sunday, March 1.

Bag-ageddon! Most of us will not—or at least shouldn’t–be able to obtain the thin plastic bags that shoppers have used for carry their food and household needs from the supermarket checkout to the parking lot for the last 40 years. Instead, we’ll all have to get used to bringing a re-usable bag that’s full of re-usable bags into the store so we can wrangle groceries or other purchases to the car. You could buy new, reusable bags at the stores every time you shop, but eventually you’ll have so many bags, there won’t be any room left for groceries.

The state law banning many types of plastic bags was signed by Governor Cuomo almost a year ago. (Seven other states around the country have similar laws.) Back in 2019 the law got some attention but, with implementation delayed by a year, other news stories captured our attention. The delay has given bag providers and bag users time to adjust. But if the state Department of Environmental Conservation was alerting the public to prepare for the bright bagless future, it didn’t register around here until last week. So who needed anything else to worry about? Read more…