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We will overcome the challenge

This column was submitted by Mark Buys, chairman of the Vicksburg Warren Economic Development Foundation, Sheila McKinnis, chairwoman of the Vicksburg Warren County Chamber of Commerce and Don Brown, chairman of the Warren County Port Commission.

I had initially decided to write a column without mentioning COVID-19, but some recent observations changed my mind.

The past few months have been a new experience for all of us. It’s been a time of confusion, uncertainty and a crash course in medicine. The effect of our concern is visible every day; traffic on the city’s main arteries is less active than it was in January and the beginning of February. Restaurants are now serving patrons at the curb instead of inside the business. Some businesses and government functions have shut down or put on maintenance schedules.

Over the past few months, we’ve learned new vocabulary. There’s “social distancing,” “shelter in place,” “asymptomatic,” “symptomatic,” “teledoc,” “telemedicine” and “self-quarantine.”

Fears over COVID-19 and the potential of sheltering in place for an undetermined amount of time or self-quarantine for 14 days has unleashed a city and nationwide shopping spree that has cleaned store shelves and decimated certain items, and the hottest item in town is toilet paper. Toilet paper is now the new gold, and people brag about getting the last two packs of bum fodder at a certain store, or being able to order a 48-roll pack from a distributor like Amazon.

And the virus has caused a situation where some in some instances state and local officials have shown more proactive leadership than the officials in Washington, D.C., with some governors trying to get ahead of the virus’ spread. The move locally by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and the Board of Supervisors to implement steps in an attempt to keep people safe was a good move and shows they are taking this threat posed by the virus seriously.

The Vicksburg Warren School District has put in place an online program, including providing laptop computers to help students continue their school work and ensure they get their credits and seniors will be able to graduate. 

It is an obvious statement that COVID-19, whether we ever contract the disease or not, has changed our lives, and a big question is will we be better or worse for the experience. Will we learn from this that we have to take better care of ourselves physically so we can be stronger and less susceptible to future diseases?

Will our leaders learn that we have to improve our national healthcare system, not only to be better prepared to address future potential epidemics, but to make healthcare more available and more affordable to people in the U.S. so that when an outbreak of any illness occurs, people will be able to get the help they need when they need it.

COVID-19 hit us, not because we were unaware of the disease — it was well-known in January — but because we delayed planning a response to the illness.

We must make sure we never let that happen again.

John Surratt is a staff writer for The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at john.surratt@vicksburgpost.com.