Trying to Reason with COVID-19 Season Blog 4

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March 17, 2020.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. I’m not wearing green but since I’m quarantined, you can’t pinch me. Nor can you kiss me (six-foot distance, please) even though I am part Irish. So there.

How are you doing today? Me? OK.

We at Mississippi Today have taken up the Slack. OK, that’s a dad joke but for those of you who don’t know what Slack is, it’s an online platform we’re using to help navigate our new COVID-19-shaped world. It keeps us connected and accountable. As of last Monday, our office is closed and we’re now all spread out, working from our homes and wherever the story takes us. 

Like you, we’re figuring out how to keep doing our job in this new abnormal normal. 

Linden Potts checks on the numbers — and incoming missiles.

I miss the office. I miss the daily interaction with my coworkers. Their energy is contagious (good contagious, not COVID-19 contagious) and I loved feeding off of it. Yesterday, I got this photo of Linden Potts, who manages the business finances and operations at Mississippi Today. He has set up a NORAD-worthy display on his dining room table to keep track of all the dollars and cents. Our CEO Mary Margaret White, working with her two precious (and energetic) children running around the house, has been sending us tips on how to stay healthy. Our reporters are also setting up home offices — but they’re getting the story to you.

Our engagement team, led by Lauchlin Fields and includes Sereena Henderson and Elizabeth Hambuchen, is (along with yours truly) offering new ways to interact with you. This blog is a great example. We have also launched a COVID-19 landing page where all of our reporting can be found, as well as a reader survey to assess your needs. 

Alex Rozier, our data expert, is making sense of the numbers through graphs and interactive maps. Eric Shelton will continue bringing us world-class images as the story unfolds, with a special focus on the community response to COVID-19. Our Capitol team members are staying on top of the soon-to-be-shortened 2020 Legislative session. Adam Ganucheau AND Bobby Harrison are covering the disagreement on what path forward to take with the session. Kayleigh Skinner let us know that the state superintendent wants to cancel all state testing for 2020 (since most classes will be canceled). Rick Cleveland has been on top of both collegiate and high school sports cancellations and the ramifications on your kids. Aallyah Wright and Kelsey Davis will bring you what’s going on in the Delta and what’s happening with education. Erica Hensley, our public health reporter is on top of the medical community’s response and needs as the COVID-19 outbreak starts to spread. Yesterday, as I was drawing in bed (long story), my Slack notifications lit up. The whole newsroom was pulling together to get you this story about how the state’s biggest employers where reacting to the virus — and how it may affect you. 

And, we’re not only covering COVID-19. Our editors Ryan Nave and Harvey Parson are ensuring we are on top of the stories that might get missed amid the chaos. Anna Wolfe continues to dig deep to see where TANF funds are being spent while Michelle Liu‘s most recent story tells how former Mississippi Corrections Department commissioner Pelicia Hall is now working for the state’s prison phone contractor.  

The bottom line is this: We’re not in the office. We’re out there working hard to bring you stories that affect YOU. 

Of course, you’re a big part of this, too. Your generous support has made this possible (we’re a nonprofit, after all, who gives you all this coverage for free).  So thank you for your past support and THANK YOU for your future support. We at Mississippi Today are committed to letting you know not just the numbers but how those numbers will change your life. 

I encourage you to donate what you can to keep these resources free to all Mississippians. (Did you know all news outlets can reprint our stories free of charge? Pass this along to your local news team if you aren’t already seeing Mississippi Today stories in your hometown paper.)

P.S. One of the advantages of working at home is that I now have a second editor. Her name is Pip and she works for belly scratches and treats. 

•••••••

Earlier today, I posted on Facebook about my son’s girlfriend’s loss of the rest of her senior year. She’s a sharp kid and understands why we’re now social distancing (flatten the curve) — but still, it’s emotional for her, her 2020 classmates and their parents. Here are a few of the comments:

Monique : I have been thinking SO much about this. I keep thinking about the events that have been canceled that kids can’t get back. Tough. I wonder how this will shape this generation of teenagers – if it will make them better at living in the moment, more compassionate, more patient, etc. People often like to criticize young people, but I see a heck of a lot to admire.
Ashley: If I didn’t have a high school senior, this would be pretty easy. I’m letting my child be in denial a little bit for right now. ?
Molly: I have been broken-hearted for them all! It’s especially hard for teenagers because they are in the development stage where friends are their most important connections and where they naturally pull away from family. We need to give them grace and understanding if they are acting less than ideal.
Holly: It’s so heartbreaking for all the seniors and parents (and even a little more painful because she’s an only child) Tears are flowing daily. I just think about the void they’ll always carry because they didn’t get the finality of a graduation ceremony. (Still praying it doesn’t get canceled too)
Sheila: Look at it this way, in years to come whenever HS is mentioned she will have a perfect memory of what happened and the best story.
Jose: I am feeling it with my oldest daughter 2020 graduation too!!!
We are trying to be positive and look at the bright side that we are together as a family.
Dawn:  My nephew is a HS senior who plays baseball for his HS team. He is devastated at the thought of possibly totally cancelling the rest of his senior season and any chance of some small college coaches seeing film and offering a final spot on a team. My heart breaks for him. ??
Layla: I saw my daughter’s lunchbox on the counter today and realized she’ll likely never take it to school again.
? little things but still it’s crushing.

Have questions about COVID-19? The Mississippi Department of Health has a hotline: COVID-19 Hotline: 877-978-6453   Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Click here for Mississippi Today’s Coronavirus coverage.

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