Editorial: Reopening

We’re back.

After almost 80 days of being closed to walk-in traffic, the Homer News opens today for limited hours and entrance. Our new hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday -Thursday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday.

We reopen with some trepidation, because COVID-19 remains a real and deadly threat that won’t go away until we have a workable vaccine or effective antiviral medicines. Still, thanks to months of hunkering down, good social distancing and hygiene, and restricted travel into Alaska, our state has been spared the devastation of other regions. We have 10 deaths and 505 cases as of Wednesday. Compare that to Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, where my nephew works as an ER doctor, an area with about the same population as Anchorage. They have almost 3,800 cases and 228 deaths.

The pandemic could be worse — a lot worse.

That’s why we’re being cautious at the Homer News, and why we hope Alaska also treads carefully as we move toward phased reopenings of businesses and institutions. For us, that means the following:

• Please, only one visitor or party in the office at a time.

• Use hand sanitizer upon entering.

• If possible, contact us by email or phone.

• Contact surfaces will be cleaned hourly.

• If you’re sick or showing symptoms, please stay home.

• We wear face coverings. When not at our desks, and when visitors are in the building, staff will wear face coverings.

• As a customer, please, wear a face covering. This is a requirement both from the company that owns the Homer News and at our office. If you cannot wear a face mask or face shield for health reasons, we can assist you by email or phone.

Our own Gov. Mike Dunleavy encourages the wearing of face coverings. As he said in a May 8 press conference, “If you see people with masks, they’re just trying to help you. Because the masks, from what we understand, help limit or slow down a projection, whether it’s a sneeze or a cough.”

In the past week we’ve seen more than a dozen new cases of COVID-19 in residents of Homer and the southern Kenai Peninsula. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said she thinks that spread has come from a celebration here where one infected person spread it to others, and then more infected people spread it.

“Keep your social circles small,” she said, meaning, don’t hang out with a lot of other people. Your risk of catching the virus increases the longer time you spend with people outside your household and in confined, poorly ventilated spaces. If you were an astronaut in the Dragon X space capsule and had COVID-19, by the time you docked with the International Space Station, your fellow space companion would likely be infected. Don’t hang out in the equivalent of Dragon X.

Alaska also has seen recent increases of COVID-19 cases, with 27 new cases on Sunday, another 20 on Tuesday and 18 on Wednesday. The increase in cases indicates wider testing, but it also shows more community spread. That’s why we shouldn’t be complacent and should treat COVID-19 seriously.

We hope and pray there will be no more hospitalizations and deaths, but we should brace ourselves for more tragedy. From people we know who have gotten COVID-19 and recovered, it’s a wretched, scary disease that leaves people exhausted even after they’ve gone through the worst of it. If getting the flu is like getting run over by a clown car, getting COVID-19 is like getting run over by a snow plow. We will get through this, hopefully together — remember that together part, please.

As we move through the pandemic, we will be here at the Homer News, as safe as we can be, giving you the news and information you need to make educated decisions.

— Michael Armstrong, Editor