Coronavirus leads to changes


Let's clean out the notebook:

• I have to say that I have been impressed with much of what the state has done to date on the COVID-19, as we have needed some orders along the way to clarify that people need to be restricted or encouraged to stay home, stay apart or close altogether. I think legislators have been impressed with Gov. Kay Ivey and especially the state health officer, Dr. Scott Harris, as he has been even-handed through all of this. (Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has also become the most trusted man in America in the virus situation; he's the one I want to hear on the national level.)

I would have hoped that the state and Walker County would have taken more of a lock-down approach. I know it is not easy with businesses being as they are. I would point out that Marion County's quarantine order did give exceptions such as work, take-out orders or grocery trips, and didn't require papers or roadblocks. It can be done. And with Walker County having the seventh largest number of cases in 67 counties, and with us being next to Jefferson County, which is exploding with cases where many commute to work, I think we need a stronger response. I understand the reluctance, and I think the commission are trying to be careful, but I would humbly submit we have to get much more stricter to decrease the curve of cases over the next month, as the president notes the next two weeks are gong to be awful.

• This crisis has put a crunch on newspapers across the nation and elsewhere, what with a decline in advertising as businesses close from the virus. The Journal Record in Hamilton is now printing the front page in black-and-white for the first time in years, and told readers it had to deal with some major layoffs. They are scaling back photos and such, and also having, like us, to work on the phones more.

The irony, of course, is that newspaper readership in print and online, has gone up dramatically; you might want to go back and see publisher James Phillips column on the subject on the opinion section of TV stations and networks are also seeing major increases in viewers.

I would also like to say I'm proud of the staff and administration of the Eagle for allowing us to take our virus coverage from behind the paywall so more people could get information they urgently needed. That will taper off to the most important stories, but I think our print, web and Facebook coverage did about as well as we could, and everyone pitched in well.

I also want to say a special thank you to Jeffery Winborne, our new media coordinator, who worked around the clock making sure stories got online quickly, and who has been instrumental for helping me get my stories and photos set up while I am sheltering at the apartment. He is not only an outstanding co-worker, he is turning out to be a good friend, and many other people are beginning to notice his talent and hard work as well.

• To me, viewers appreciate seeing TV reporters and anchors who have to stay at home to work; it actually is interesting to also see their living quarters. But I think it shows they are doing the right thing. Some of the technology has been different and so has the quality, which is not minded. I have read some TV people across the nation are using TV satellite trucks in their front yard to get a better reception.

On the other hand, I appreciate what the late night TV hosts are doing, especially Jimmy Fallon, who is shown trying to put together skits, jokes and interviews, all while dealing with daughters who interrupt - which a lot of parents can appreciate right now. I also like how some artists have streamed concerts. The Grand Ole Opry continued, with three of its artists on stage and spread out, with an announcer, almost taking it back to its start with George D. Hayes as the announcer and Uncle Jimmy Thompson on the fiddle. Meanwhile, the TCM Film Festival was cancelled, but they have decided to have a virtual film festival on the network, with interviews and movies from past festivals. And in addition to all those educational clips we hear about, I am happy to say SiriusXM is allowing free streaming of its radio channels for the moment.

• Except for going to the emergency Walker County Commission meeting, I've pretty much done my work at the apartment. It has worked out too well - no interruptions, just work. I worked on five stories Friday. I want to go back to the office so I can get some rest. On top of that, my Mac mini won't update, so I purchased a full fledged iMac, shipped in by Apple. Don't worry about the box germs--it has sat there in the box since Monday. I'm so busy I haven't had time to set it up.

I think I've taken all the precautions. Dad sometimes comes with takeout and an occasional pie or tea, but I make him sit at the end of the table, and he doesn't stay long anyway by nature. I didn't think I would mind the commission meeting until Probate Judge A. Lee Tucker came in with a mask and said he was still waiting for test results. I appreciated that, but that didn't stop me from going home and wiping down everything in sight, not to mention washing all my clothes and washing my face. I mean business.

• I was a little surprised the county commission did not use teleconferencing to hold its emergency meeting Wednesday, as Cordova and the Walker County E-911 Board have held those under the governor's emergency orders to do that and distance themselves. I do worry some jurisdictions will get used to that when normal times come, and that someone will want to change the law to do it then. I think it causes problems when one is not there to participate in the meeting. But during this emergency, I can't blame any board for doing it now during a virus emergency.

• Please note that if you think about shopping for essential goods at the websites of Walmart and Amazon - especially as Amazon says they are concentrating on home goods and groceries to help people - well, take that with a grain of salt. They are still very limited in the items they can offer. Rice, Lysol spray, and other things are near impossible to get. I am happy to sometimes get takeout from the restaurants - and find it amusing when, as there are usually no lines, bored staff sit at the window and want to talk to you for a minute.

Ed Howell is news editor for the Daily Mountain Eagle. He may be reached at 205-221-2840 or