June 4, 2020

Grant County Herald

Community news from the prairie to the lakes

None of us are immune from economic hardship

Our newspapers have been publishing since the late 1800s. We’ve never missed a publication – not during the two world wars, not during the polio outbreaks during the first half of the 1900s, not during The Great Depression of the early 1930s, and not during the devastating 1918-19 flu pandemic. 

We kept publishing to bring the people of our communities not just the news of how their leaders were working to keep us all informed and safe, but also the stories of how our people and businesses were coping with difficult times.

We see the impact locally of the coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, as hundreds of area employees are laid off, temporarily, and businesses are forced to close. We are not immune from the financial impact. As with many businesses in the community, we’ve had to cut hours and lay off staff. It’s painful. Our employees are like family. Deeper cuts may be ahead, depending how long our communities’ businesses are shut down. 

You may notice your newspaper getting thinner in the weeks ahead. It is an economic reality not a choice. Each week as we lay out the newspaper, we look at how much advertising we have to pay for salaries, printing, postage, mortgages, utilities, vehicles, internet and phone services, and a host of other costs of doing business. When revenues don’t add up to cover the costs, our pages are reduced. 

Newspapers are a barometer of community economic vitality. When a community’s business community is suffering hardship, so do we. And our business community is suffering. If a business hasn’t been shut down, it has had to reduce hours as customers stay home. They are conserving their cash against even harder times. It’s understandable that their advertising budgets have gotten much tighter.

Many local events we report on such as spring sports, prom, and graduation have been all but eliminated unless there is a miraculous end to the coronavirus pandemic. We aren’t going to plan for that to happen as we look to the weeks and months ahead. With the lost reporting comes a substantial loss in advertising. Many of these school sports and events, and community events, were also opportunities for our advertisers to show their support.

With all the businesses in our community, the speed at which the shutdowns came were hard to grasp, leaving little time for preparation. We saw the reporting out of China, Dec. 31, of a new respiratory virus emerging, and Jan. 11, the first death in China. January 20, the first case of the new virus was confirmed in the United States in Washington State.

January 30, fewer than 10,000 cases were reported, but the new virus had spread to 21 countries. By Feb. 29, nearly 90,000 cases were reported, and the number was rising exponentially.

March 15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended no gatherings of 50 or more, with U.S. cases now at 4,300 and 62 deaths reported. In the next 14 days, the number of cases grew to over 140,000 and the number of deaths to over 2,500. It is now projected that America could see 100,000 to 200,000 deaths from COVID-19.

In Minnesota, we went from reporting the first case to all bars and restaurants being closed in nine days. It was only 18 days from the first case that the governor asked all Minnesotans who were non-essential workers to shelter in place for two weeks.

March 7, Minnesota’s first case of COVID-19 reported.

March 13, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz declares a peacetime emergency, and the Minnesota State High School League suspends all sports activities.

March15, Walz orders Minnesota schools to close.

March 16, the University of Minnesota suspends in-person classes. 

March 16, Walz announces closing of all bars, restaurants, gyms, and other public gathering places. 

March 25, Walz orders Minnesotans to shelter in place unless working for an essential business. 

As of Sunday night, there were 503 cases with nine deaths reported in the state; that number is expected to grow rapidly as the disease spreads, and as testing improves.

It is in times like these that the value and responsibility of a community newspaper takes on particular weight. We will be reporting on the actions of our city council, the school board, local health care efforts, what our county is doing, and what economic development efforts are underway to help our businesses. We will report on how the laid off employees are coping with the stress of lost incomes and how our school students are dealing with the loss of so many milestones in their school lives.

We will be a source of information you can’t get anywhere else. We will bring together the fragmented information that helps create common knowledge in the community about the challenges we face and how we are dealing with those challenges. With that common knowledge, we can create a common purpose to carry us through these unprecedented times.

Your newspaper keeps you in contact with your community, your friends, and neighbors at a time we are all supposed to be social distancing from one another. Usually when adversity strikes, a community comes together to console those who are struggling and lend a helping hand. In that gathering and helping, there is healing. 

But we are now forced apart in our effort to “flatten the curve.” It’s necessary, we get that. By reducing the rate at which the coronavirus spreads, we can prevent our emergency rooms from being overwhelmed, and our doctors and nurses, and their support staffs, from being pushed beyond their limits.

Let’s store up that desire to gather and lend a helping hand for when this passes and then unleash that pent-up energy to help our fellow citizens and businesses recover. 

In the meantime, we will keep you connected. We’ll be here when this crisis passes to inform you about how our community is helping local businesses get back on their feet.

As an essential business in the community, we continue to work. We can’t say how much we appreciate the dedication of our staff at our newspapers to come to work every day to ensure you get the news you need. We can’t express how much we value our employees at Quinco Press, who go to work every day to produce the 36 publications we print every week. And, we can’t express our deep appreciation for our subscribers and advertisers who are struggling like we are to get by day to day.