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Flexibility is key

Like many other public bodies in our area, Steubenville City Council has not really been meeting during the past few months.

Because of COVID-19, they and other city officials — including those in St. Clairsville, as well as several boards of education — have been connecting electronically.

That may end soon.

During their electronic session last week, Steubenville City Council members agreed they need to begin work as soon as possible on the municipal budget for next year.

There also seemed to be a consensus that the only way to do that properly is by in-person meetings.

Absolutely.

At least for now, precautions such as physical distancing and use of face masks may be necessary — but sitting down, face to face, is the best way to handle complicated discussions such as those on the budget.

That said, some city officials’ ages and health circumstances may make in-person meetings risky.

They should be permitted to continue joining budget meetings electronically.

Other communities and school boards should determine when to meet in person again, taking things at their own pace and taking the rate of infection in their communities into consideration.

In the meantime, we should all be grateful that we live in an age when the internet, cellphones and online tools make it possible for people and officials to connect without having to be physically exposed to one another. In many instances, students across the country are able to continue their educations this year via online classes, at least part of the time.

Flexibility is key to making such arrangements work well. So is careful monitoring of local infection rates, through communication with local health departments, keeping track of announcements and designations made through statewide alert systems and simply staying in touch with community members.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to COVID-19, so situations may differ for many months.

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