Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

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March 25

The Columbus Dispatch on balancing public health and the economy:

There is, of late, much talk about the cure being worse than the problem when it comes to the nation's response to the COVID-19 virus.

In the simplest terms, it's a question of whether the nation's economic health should be sacrificed to protect the nation's public wealth. In reality, it is really more of a question of finding the proper balance between those concerns, one that recognizes that economic shutdowns produce serious consequences while also appreciating the gravity of the growing national health crisis. It's worth remembering that economies come back, but lives, once lost, do not.

It's a debate that is being staged not only in Washington D.C. but in state capitols, county and city board rooms and even kitchen tables throughout the country.

Both in Mississippi and in the Golden Triangle, the challenges presented by the virus grow less and less abstract. Mississippi currently has the 12th highest COVID-19 infection rate in the country, based on confirmed cases per 100,000 resident. As of March 24, there were 320 confirmed cases in 54 counties, including 13 cases in the four Golden Triangle counties.

It's against this backdrop that the Starkville Board of Aldermen met March 24 to consider further public safety measures a week after approving changes that limited operations at restaurants and restricted social and business gathering to 10 or fewer people.

The proposal would have closed any establishments with a high "likelihood of close person-to-person contact," including but not limited to shopping centers, community centers, parks, bars, gyms and beauty salons. The mandate would have lasted 15 days so the board of aldermen could revisit the topic at its April 7 meeting.

That proposed measure closely resembles those in recent days by the city of Columbus and Lowndes County.

In a 4-3 vote, aldermen rejected the proposal, which accomplishes two things - neither of them helpful.

First, it sends a mixed message the citizens who are looking for leadership to determine the proper response to the crisis. Does the aldermen's vote mean citizens can continue to go to bars, shopping centers and other businesses as normal? Or should they exercise caution and avoid such gatherings?

on March 24, the aldermen essentially shrugged their shoulders.

That's not leadership. It's an equivocation.

Second, the aldermen seem to have based their decision on present circumstances with little regard for what may lie ahead. They are betting that the current conditions will prevail. In this particular case, that's a dangerous approach.

The best tool we have available now is prevention.

Those who argue the board can always take up the subject when and if conditions worsen, miss the point: This virus — largely due to it's ability to spread without symptoms — becomes a major problem before communities even know it.

What we do now will in large part determine the severity of the crisis in the days and weeks ahead. Taking up the matter later may be akin to shutting the barn door after the cows have gotten out.

We do not minimize the hardships these precautions create for our businesses. We are a local business and feel the effects of this slowdown, but we also believe that acting in caution now may ultimately mitigate that damage later.

Some may argue that as a nation we already accept many very dangerous threats without shutting down the economy to find a cure. Driving automobiles (36,000 deaths per year), widely-available guns (40,000 deaths per year) and even other viruses such as influenza (61,000 deaths per year) come to mind. This is true.

But at this early stage of the virus, we cannot know which precautions are reasonable and which are aren't. It's simply too early to know.

Until we have some clarity about the scope and scale of the virus, it's impossible to strike the perfect balance between legitimate concerns over economic health when weighed against the serious threat to public health.

In light of that great unknown, we urge communities to take a more cautious approach until we better understand how the virus behaves.

Online: https://www.cdispatch.com

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March 24

The Vicksburg Post on community resiliency during hardships:

It wasn’t that long ago when we were talking about the threat posed by heavy rains and severe weather.

It wasn’t that long ago when we were talking about rising floodwaters, control gates and roads closing.

It wasn’t that long ago when we were talking politics, going back and forth about which candidate and which party to support in the presidential primaries.

It wasn’t that long ago when we as a society were worried about what we had to do next, what meeting to attend, what practice our children had to be at and how to work that all around making sure we were at church on Wednesday nights or home in me for supper.

It wasn’t that long ago.

In a matter of weeks, the things we worried about as a society, the things we concerned ourselves with has suddenly changed. No longer are we worried about what school function our children need to prepare for. We are now worried about how to prepare ourselves to help lead our children through an online lesson. No longer are we worried about what practice our child needs to get to, we are now worried about how many children are in the group they are interacting with in the front yard, on the street or in a park. Life has changed, and while the change may be both necessary and temporary, it has been no less of a struggle adjusting to that change.

We read or watch the news with worry about when a positive test — or how many positive tests — will be reported in our county. We wait for word on the next societal shutdown or restriction admittedly made with the public’s health and safety in mind.

As a community, in the past year, we have faced a laundry list of horrors, all or most beyond our control.

We have faced a historic flood and the aftermath, and we have watched as many of our roads and historic treasures have fallen victim to or are threatened by landslides and saturating rains.

But in those moments — and throughout our history; a history that includes a prey important “Siege” — we have withstood the so-called barrage and returned.

We have been knocked down, whether it be manmade or from Mother Nature, and stood up each time, often stronger and beer prepared for the next punch.

As we have said before, Vicksburg and Warren County is a community that rallies and supports one another not because it is what we are called to do, but because it is who we are.

In the coming weeks, our friends and our neighbors will be struggling with the economic downturns caused by the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Some businesses will have to temporarily close and some people will lose their jobs, hopefully temporarily.

It is up to us to li them up, as it is their job to li us up. We are a team, a community and nothing can change that. Our bonds and our faith may be strained but we have proven it will not be broken.

We are stronger than a flood, we are stronger than a siege, we are stronger than a storm and there is little doubt, we are stronger than a virus.

Online: https://www.vicksburgpost.com

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March 24

The Tupelo Daily Journal on helping neighbors during crises:

Fear of disease, fear of economic distress, fear of the future. There is much uncertainty and worry that grips our nation today, and our own community is not immune. No quick or easy remedy appears likely to intervene. We await relief from the federal government. We await the impact of efforts to slow or halt further spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. But until these things come about, we have each other.

Here in Lee County, at least, there are far worse resources to have at hand. Our region has long prided itself on a sense that we’re all in it together, both socially and economically. A spirit of cooperation, solidarity and a strong civic fabric propelled Lee County from dire economic straits in the early 20th century into a manufacturing and retail hub.

That spirit continues today, amid new and unexpected hardships and we will likely require a good bit more of it to persevere.

As with any crisis, these difficult times have revealed the worst in some, including price gougers and other profiteers seeking to exploit misery for gain. But it has brought out the best from many others.

Covering the story of the new coronavirus pandemic and its impact on all our lives has required long hours and dedication from our news reporters. Our readers need reliable, accurate, timely information and we aim to deliver.

But readers also need signs of resilience and hope. We also aim to deliver that. In an edition of the Daily Journal this week, reporter Danny McArthur explained how our community continues to serve the homeless while maintaining safety for both the homeless themselves and those serving them.

For example, the Saints Brew breakfast at All Saints Episcopal Church has shifted its program to a grab-and-go takeout. This is a more costly option, but the service continues.

Other agencies, like Mississippi United to End Homelessness, have staff out in the field directly interacting with the homeless and unsheltered to explain the pandemic and how best to practice good hygiene.

In another edition, more stories like this appeared. Eight Days of Hope and the American Family Association will partner will other local community members to provide 20,000 meals to local residents in need. Food will be delivered directly to the door and left, so as to minimize contact.

You’ll also find photographs from the Tupelo-Lee Humane Society. The society hosted a drive-thru fostering. Fostering can be short term and could be a great option for individuals staying at home right now. Pets offer companionship, and many are sorely in need of just that right now.

Our journalists will remain busy over the coming days, weeks and beyond to give our readers the facts they need to navigate a quickly changing world. Some of this news may be discouraging. Other news, we hope, will remind us that, even in a time of social distancing, we’ll ultimately need each other to surmount the challenges ahead.

Online: https://www.djournal.com

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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