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Strange times



The world feels like a weird place to be right now. Quiet and full of anxiety. Questions about the future hang in the air, unanswered, as we wonder what the next couple of months hold in store for our communities, state, and nation.

Maybe there's a little solace in knowing that we are facing the COVID-19 pandemic together, no matter what happens. I honestly don't know. I do know, though, that like so many, New Times is trying to figure out what needs to happen so we can make it to the other side of this. You aren't facing this alone and neither am I.

I went to the grocery store yesterday evening to try to find some meat, because the stores were out of almost everything over the weekend, and I have this sudden urge to ensure that I have food in my freezer. The checker was exhausted, and all I could think about was how many people he'd been exposed to in the past week as residents flooded area stores to stock up on what they could before they were forced to hunker down. This man who asked me whether I wanted a receipt with my purchase had put some grueling hours in over the last few days with more ahead.

And I appreciate him. Because without him, I wouldn't have food in my pantry right now.

On the way home, I drove by the National Guard Armory in Atascadero. It was deserted. Beige trucks parked in neat little rows, fenced in, and waiting for an emergency. I wondered if that time was coming. If these trucks would be in motion soon to protect us from ourselves. And oddly enough, I smiled to myself, thinking that these times we are about to witness are unlike any we've experienced in our lives.

We are about to live through something we've never known, a test of human nature and the strength of society. It's not the first time mankind has been tested like this, and it certainly won't be the last. Maybe I'm being a little dramatic, but it's hard not to feel a little bit on edge with so many questions without answers battering my brain.

As of press time, San Luis Obispo County's Public Health Department had confirmed seven cases of coronavirus in the county. The number will likely grow, along with the restraints placed on us by local, state, and federal governments eager to stem the pandemic and prevent it from overwhelming our health care system.

It seems strange to say this when the future looks so uncertain, but I believe we will get through this, together, knowing that short-term economic losses and discomfort are better than the alternative. Taking it day by day as we wait for news of what comes next can be difficult for a society that thrives on certainty.

Updates constantly stream into my email inbox from city, county, and state agencies; businesses; entertainment venues; people in need; those offering aid to others; and sources of misinformation. News alerts are by the minute. It's hard to keep up with, as well as take the time to parse through to determine what's real and what isn't.

For now, Gov. Gavin Newsom has recommended suspension of group gatherings and the closure of bars, night clubs, and large events. SLO County issued a shelter-in-place order. Restaurants are take-out only. Because of this, New Times is taking a revenue hit, similar to other area businesses. With a chunk of our income coming from events-related advertising and more than a few pages dedicated to promoting arts and entertainment in the area, we will be reducing the size of that section of our paper.

The New Times office is currently closed to the public, but we are still working, and you can reach us via email or by phone.

The situation is fluid and evolving, but we will do our best to share what we know with you in the way that we've always done it. With a thoughtful, big-picture view of the situation and an eye for what's important—knowing there is more happening than virus spread. We aren't a breaking-news kind of a paper, and we have a tendency to look for things that aren't being covered by other local news outlets. But you already knew that, and hopefully you know to expect that in the coming weeks.

I think we can all agree that everyone will be affected by the COVD-19 pandemic, whether directly through infection, hospitalization, or self-monitored quarantine and/or indirectly through business and school closures, travel restrictions, and the economic hit that will accompany them. The measure of a community's strength comes after we've weathered the storm of uncertainty and all that it brings.

How we come together, lean on one another, support our neighbors, and deal with adversity—even through the obstacle of social distancing—will be the yardstick with which this crisis is measured. We want to help this happen in any way that we can.

With adversity comes innovation, and we are already seeing it happen. Restaurants are moving to curbside pickup, the need for delivery services will surely grow, as will online classes for everything from art to fitness, telemedicine, and who knows what else. Although some sectors of the economy will shrink, new ones will grow. It is a novel situation that some will surely take advantage of while others will lean into it with grit and determination.

I'm not sure what the near-term future looks like and how it will change the long-term, but we will certainly find out—eventually.

We want you to let us know what you're concerned about, what you need help with, and what you're willing to help with. New Times wants to be able to let the community know what's open, closed, and in the works; what's out there to help, to connect, and to share.

Email slothevirus@newtimesslo.com with information. Δ

Reach Editor Camillia Lanham at clanham@newtimesslo.com.

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