Opinions on coronavirus — how it should be handled, how we should behave or how it will impact the future — are about as plentiful as the number of people in Haywood.

An individual’s response to the virus will be determined by a number of factors, but moving forward armed with common sense, a concern for others and the facts is a great idea for anyone.

Ever since schools were suddenly closed in Haywood in mid-March, The Mountaineer has reported on how COVID-19 has impacted the county, from the transition to home-schooling to business closures to the emergency/health response, the community outpouring of help, protests to reopen businesses and, of course, the number of infections.

For that reporting, we’ve been both praised and vilified. All seem eager to know how the pandemic is impacting their community as is shown through online readership, letters to the editor and Facebook comments.

Reaction to the stories has been mixed. Opinions range from people being downright scared of falling ill to being angry about their rights being curtailed.

We understand and appreciate all points of view and delight in providing a forum where all opinions can be shared, but would ask people to not shoot the messenger if the news stories they are reading aren’t to their liking. We at The Mountaineer are gathering and reporting the facts; we leave the interpretations up to our readers.

How each person proceeds on the information found in The Mountaineer is an individual decision. Personally, I’ve concluded following the sage advice of Public Health Director Patrick Johnson and County Medical Director Mark Jaben is a safe way to be out in public with relatively little risk of contracting COVID-19.

One of Dr. Jaben’s recent videos that made a significant impact on me discussed how the virus may be able to be picked up and transferred onto our body. However, since the virus doesn’t have legs, it can’t get inside of us unless we put it there.

We can stop it in its track if we wash our hands since soap easily kills the virus, don’t touch our face, wear a mask and stay at least 6 feet away from others when we go out in public.

As someone who has to be at work daily and who is considered to have several of the immune compromised conditions, I also make an effort to stay away from crowds as much as possible. With these precautions, I feel the risk of becoming ill with coronavirus is small.

My concern, of course, is not just my own safety, but for those I come in contact with. That’s not a universal consideration though. Health officials tell us many who have been told to stay home or quarantine as they await test results haven’t done so, and have carelessly spread the virus. I’m not sure whether their choice to disregard the advice is because they need to work to pay the bills or just plain selfishness. I would hope concern for society as a whole would supercede a temporary need to go about daily routines.

Like many pastors in the county, I see there are valuable take-aways from this pandemic. It presents an opportunity to slow down (for some) and learn what’s important.

It offers a chance to help or be helped, both equally present in scripture. More importantly, it is yet another sign there are things in life that we will neither fully understand or control.

Those are the times we fall on our knees and turn to God.

There are 40 videos from Dr. Mark Jaben on The Mountaineer website that offer a quick visual handbook on COVID-19. To get a video daily in your email, sign up for our newsletter at www.themountaineer.com. The service is free and all you need to do is enter an email address.

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