It is a quiet Sunday morning as I write this to you. I live in town, and normally this time of year there would be a hustle and bustle already, even as the sun still heads toward the top of the sky. Like many residents, I have suffered from the noise and the sometimes overwhelming number of people in town and wished for peace and quiet. And now, it is quiet, but it does not feel truly peaceful, because I am worried about both the physical and economic health of our community as we navigate the unprecedented global pandemic of COVID-19.
In a normal year, we would be coming off the economic lean times of winter and into the rush of spring. Businesses would be hiring, there would always be some big event going on, and the town would be hopping. A trip to the grocery store might mean hearing three different languages spoken by tourists, in addition to seeing a dozen friends and acquaintances. But, as we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended all of that. With public health-based prohibitions placed on traveling and gathering in larger groups, there is almost no tourism happening in Moab. Our main economic driver is effectively canceled, for now, and it is not clear when normalcy may resume.
At the Moab Sun News, this has meant a loss in critical spring ad revenue – to keep the news free for readers in print and online, we rely on advertising – just as the local news has become more important than ever. Like local news outlets all over the country, we are having to do more with even less, and our future is not guaranteed.
Since the coronavirus pandemic has hit us where we live, the news has happened fast, to put it mildly. Our editor, Maggie McGuire, and our staff writer Rachel Fixsen, have been working overtime to cover breaking news on our website and our social media – such as new local case counts, public health orders, an updated list of cancellations, and closures and policy changes – as well as putting together in-depth articles for our weekly editions. We have written about the pandemic from all sorts of angles, getting the perspectives and insights of medical providers and other health officials, examining the effects on schools, daycares, the homeless and severely mentally ill, as well as impacts to businesses, nonprofits, and municipal services in Moab.
And, while every news outlet in the world is covering the coronavirus right now, we are doing something different and important in our coverage because we exist to inform and also uplift our community. We consistently write about the positive responses in Moab to the challenges before us, such the mobilization of local quilters and sewers to make dozens of masks and gowns for undersupplied hospital workers; the ways local businesses and nonprofits are finding ways to serve the community even amidst their own hardships; the food program for seniors and at-risk community members run by The Grand Center; volunteer efforts to facilitate locals helping one another, a resident resource list, and information about restaurants and other Moab businesses to encourage support of all our local small businesses.
In addition, we bring the stories of populations whose perspectives are historically underrepresented to our pages, such as our recent story titled “It looks like a ghost town” about the coronavirus public health crisis on the Navajo Nation where, in addition to other challenges, nearly one-third of residents cannot easily follow medical advice to frequently wash their hands because they do not have access to running water.
We are proud, also, to publish the work of our guest columnists. In recent weeks, this has included a licensed therapist, Alicia Cooper, who wrote about how to care for children’s mental health during the pandemic, and the experienced gardener, Jon Olschewski, whose column spoke to the value of growing one’s own food, especially in a time of supply disruptions.
During this time, we have been averaging thousands of visits to our website every day. On some days it is in the tens of thousands. We know from reader correspondence that the Moab Sun News is being read throughout the region, and we are honored to share vital information and compelling, important stories with such a broad base of readers.
Dear readers, if you value what we do, please support us. We will not be putting our work behind an online paywall or charging for print copies, especially right now when the news is so exceptionally important.
Our supporters receive an e-Edition delivered to their inbox a day before the print copies hit stands – a particularly convenient service in a time when we are all limiting our potential virus exposure. It is $5 for a month and $50 for a year to get the e-Edition, though we happily and gratefully accept donations of any amount. We have engaged with Local Media Association and now have the ability to receive tax-deductible donations specifically to fund our COVID-19 reporting. Please become a supporter today at www.moabsunnews.com.