Editorial: Local silver linings abound during COVID-19 crisis

As with any emergency, there is no shortage of bad news.

The Verde Valley is no exception.

But in our case, there are many silver linings to find in the COVID-19 pandemic that has gripped the nation.

First and foremost, we are doing everything right. Beginning Sunday and continuing through Monday, clubs, organizations and major event venues throughout the region announced cancellations of their events through the end of this month. We are wisely heeding the call to practice social distancing and avoid gatherings with 25 or more people.

At the order of Gov. Doug Ducey, all public schools have been closed at least through March 27. Better safe than sorry.

Verde Valley leaders are to be commended for being prompt and forthright about the risks we all face from COVID-19. We are well-informed about the risks we face and the actions we should take to minimize those risks.

It’s important to remember the lessons of transparency from 1918 and the Spanish Flu pandemic that killed 600,000-plus Americans and an estimated 50-million people worldwide. In 1918, the national policy of President Woodrow Wilson was to downplay the severity of Spanish Flu out of concern it would diminish America’s effort in World War I. Newspapers that reported the truth about Spanish Flu faced prosecution under the wartime sedition act for creating “depressed morale.”

For the record, Spanish Flu eventually would kill more people than all the fatalities of World War I and II combined.

As for the possibility of government-ordered quarantines because of COVID-19, a refresher course on the history of Spanish Flu is again in order. In America, the 1918 pandemic followed an east-to-west migration. As a result, Americans in the western United States were better prepared for Spanish Flu than their eastern counterparts. Quarantines were a reality in the West, and the Verde Valley was no exception.

Local historian Helen Peterson reported in 2009 that quarantines were ordered, and enforced throughout the Verde Valley.

When influenza cases began to manifest in Jerome in October 1918, “Dr. A.C. Carlson, Jerome’s health officer, banned public gatherings in the city,” Peterson reported. “Movie houses closed their doors, dances were canceled, no crowds could congregate on the streets, and poolrooms had to limit the number of customers in their halls. The sick were isolated in a separate ward of the hospital or in their homes while Dr. Carlson advised local doctors to report any illness suspected to be the flu.”

Within a month, police were ordered to prevent people from gathering on the streets, Peterson reported. “The town of Jerome was under quarantine. No one could leave or enter without a special permit. Health officials directed the United Verde and Pacific Railroad to cease carrying passengers in or out of the city, and they suspended shuttle service between Jerome and other Verde District towns. Guards stood at all entrances to town to prevent cars from entering or leaving town.

“No one could leave or enter Jerome, Clarkdale, Cottonwood or Verde without special permission. Officials strictly enforced the quarantine and arrested one man for attempting to travel between Jerome and Cottonwood.”

Despite all that we are doing well locally in dealing with COVID-19, there are some things that are sadly lacking.

The run on local retailers’ inventory of daily necessities and food items is selfishness at its worst. Even more damning are those who are buying large quantities of such items and selling them at inflated prices on Facebook Marketplace and e-Bay.

Those currently, or even considering, hoarding items such as toilet paper, sanitizing agents, and food need to ask themselves the degree to which they are putting our community’s most vulnerable at risk. Seniors over 60, especially those with chronic conditions, run the highest risk from COVID-19. Let’s not add insult to injury by also depriving them of the basic necessities of life.

Please, let’s all remember, at all times, that we are all in this together. There is no room for a “me-first” mentality during an emergency such as this. This is not a time for selfishness, but, rather, one of sharing, kindness, concern and a willingness to offer a helping hand to those who need it most.

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