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It's Starting to Get Real
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opinion columns
by Richard Harris

From the March 25, 2020 issue of The Journal
   Get ready, folks. Things with this coronavirus are starting to get real.
   Some local towns, including Buena Vista and Ellaville, have enacted curfews, and others are likely to follow.
   The local distillery (Swamp Fox in Buena Vista) has stopped making whiskey and started making hand sanitizer.
   Schools remain closed.
   Churches have been opting to stream their services online instead of gathering at the many local church buildings.
   Governor Kemp has issued an executive order banning most places from having more than 10 people present at the same time (see story on page 2 for details).
   Bars and clubs have been ordered to close.
   According to the Georgia Department of Public Health (GDPH), there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 inside The Journal's coverage area (Chattahoochee County, Marion County, Schley County, Stewart County, Webster County) as of noon on Tuesday, March 24.
   It should be noted that no confirmed cases does not necessarily mean no cases, as it can take a number of days for test results to come back.
   In addition, medical professionals say the community should fully expect confirmed cases in our area in the near future.
   In the words of one area doctor: "We will have positives in a week or so."
   When those first official positive test results come in, don't panic. Please don't spread fear across social media platforms. It's okay to inform. We all need information, but we don't need hysteria.
   Understand that this virus does not stop at any county lines and take precautions, especially by practicing "social distancing." When possible, stay home and avoid crowds. When that's not possible, keep distance between yourself and other people. Wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizer when hand washing isn't possible.
   Many local retail businesses have begun to adjust their operations in an effort to continue to serve the public while also increasing public safety.
   At the deadline for this issue of the newspaper there are local restaurants that are still open, but not seating customers. Some offer delivery, while some will allow you to pick up your food without interacting with other members of the general public.
   Many other retail stores, including local grocery stores, remain open at this time. Please help them stay that way by acting responsibly. If you shop, wash your hands (or use hand sanitizer) before you enter the store. While in the store give other customers space (six feet is preferred). After you leave the store wash your hands (or use hand sanitizer) again.
   Oh, and please don't make shopping a family outing. One person can pick up whatever the family needs. If you have elderly neighbors, offer to shop for them and leave their bags outside their door.
   As of Tuesday, statewide the total of confirmed cases was at 1,097 with 38 deaths attributed to the virus.
   These figures have been changing rapidly and significantly across the state each day. Local residents are urged to stay up to date with the latest data. The Journal will plan to share the GDPH's official figures on its Facebook page each day.