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Changing times and things you can count on

Last week was a doozie.

Seven days ago, we were just hearing that the novel coronavirus was starting to spread through the United States from the initial pockets of infection on the coasts. Already, it has arrived here in Belmont County.

During the days in between, we saw our colleges and universities tell students not to return from spring break. Our public schools were ordered closed by the governor. Sporting events at all levels were canceled. And store shelves were cleared of basic supplies, such as rubbing alcohol, toilet paper and bottled water.

As the situation unfolded, things didn’t just change on a daily basis. The pace was much more rapid than that, with new developments announced hour to hour.

We are now living under declarations of emergency at the state and federal levels. Schools are preparing to teach students remotely using online lessons and other formats. We can no longer visit friends or family members who are in hospitals or nursing homes, or even the county jail.

These things are not likely to change soon. Officials say we should be prepared to live under these conditions for weeks or even months, until the threat of COVID-19 has passed.

I don’t want to sound like a broken record (that phrase dates me, doesn’t it?) and remind you all to wash your hands and keep a safe distance from others. So instead I will share some suggestions I heard from Gov. Mike DeWine as he announced sweeping restrictions and updates about Ohio’s efforts to combat the pandemic on Friday.

DeWine suggested that Ohioans spend time outdoors during the three weeks when schools will be closed and large gatherings discouraged. He pointed out that our state parks offer plenty of space where families can enjoy an outing without exposing themselves to others who may be infected.

I think getting outside during this unusual period is a great idea. As spring arrives on Thursday, it may be a good time to start your yard work or to prepare a garden plot. Get your home in better shape or pick up litter around your neighborhood (while wearing gloves, of course).

Maybe you could take up a new, outdoor hobby. Walking or running for your health might be a good idea. Or perhaps you would prefer to pick up a fishing pole and head to a nearby lake or stream.

Here’s another idea: Pick up a good book.

Reading can be a wonderful way to pass some time. Books can teach you about almost anything, or they can transport you to another, fictional world.

In addition to reading on your own, consider reading to or with any children in your household. Not only might that be a great bonding experience, but it can also help fill the learning gap that may occur while schools are closed.

Speaking of reading, don’t forget to look at your local newspaper daily. We have no plans to stop publishing during this crisis.

In fact, we feel it is our responsibility to keep bringing you accurate, up-to-date information on what is happening here at home, as well as across the state and nation and around the world.

We will continue to do our very best to keep you informed. We will let you know what officials at various levels have to say, but we also intend to tell the stories of real people who are being affected by the coronavirus — whether they have contracted the illness or are struggling to find child care while they work.

In some ways, our coverage will be more limited. Obviously, our sports pages will have a lot less local content. That is due to the fact that schools are closed, so no high school sporting events are taking place. The same is true at the college level, and even many professional sports teams have suspended their seasons.

That doesn’t mean we won’t continue to bring you inspiring stories about individual athletes or coaches, or about teams members preparing to return to the field or performing good deeds in the community.

We would also like to hear from you during this challenging time. If you know of good stories that we should be telling to all of our readers, let us know. Or, send us a letter to the editor to share your thoughts about the outbreak, the government’s response to it, the primary election and its results or any other topic that you may feel you need to speak out about.

We are easy to reach. You can contact me directly by email at jcompston@timesleaderonline.com.

You can also call our offices at 740-633-1131. My extension is 731, but there will be a receptionist on duty throughout the day as usual to help you reach any staff member you’d like to talk to. Individual phone extensions also can be found in the contact section of our website, timesleaderonline.com.

You can also send mail to us at 200 S. Fourth St., Martins Ferry, OH 43935.

Finally, you can follow us on Facebook, where we share our articles and accept message and comments.

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