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Reopening state is vital for economy, but remain cautious

Mississippi began reopening up this past week, slowly lifting the shelter at home request. Time will tell if the timing was correct. Without a doubt we have to reopen the economy across the state, but so too do we have to keep Mississippians safe and healthy, for without healthy workers and shoppers the economy simply will not respond.

I shudder driving through downtown Brookhaven seeing the empty streets that were busy with traffic in late February and early March but now with signs on almost every door notifying of businesses closed for the COVID -19 pandemic. The question is will some of those businesses ever reopen? Some very well may not! Others will adjust to a new normal, for the old normal is not going to just reappear at 8 a.m. one morning.

But some 45 days so into our stay-at-home quarantine, the impact has been hard on everyone, from those who have lost jobs, been laid off or hours cut to family events canceled, such as weddings, graduations or — more sadly — funerals that must go on but without friends and sometimes even family. It has been a humbling experience for us all.

For those same 45 days or so, on the front lines have been our first responders — the police officers, firefighters, ambulance drivers, doctors and nurses, as well as the store clerks and cashiers even our garbage collectors who have had to adapt — many without sufficient personal safety equipment. Frankly, all of these folks have risked their personal health to take care of the rest of us. They are all heroes in my book.

I have had the honor and privilege of being a member of the Board of Trustees of the King’s Daughters Medical Center for the past five years. While always impressed by the professionalism of our hospital and local medical community, for the past 45 days I have been in complete awe! But so too have I been unimpressed, frankly angry, with the poor response from state and federal officials that left our hospital staff with less than adequate safety supplies called PPE. The lack of response has been eye opening! There was a period our PPE supplies were down to two days’ worth!

Lincoln County has been a COVID hot spot both in cases and deaths sitting at the 11th ranking statewide in confirmed COVID cases and around fifth in deaths! Despite the deaths we had many successes, one even called miraculous! What you may have heard in the news about New York was the situation at KDMC — on a much smaller scale! Yes, we had ventilator issues too. The third floor of the hospital became the COVID floor where 32 confirmed cases were housed and another 100 suspected cases required a similar level of care. Our ICU beds at times were at capacity.

KDMC doctors and nurses as well as housekeeping personnel were, and are still, on the front lines — risking their own personal health and safety doing their jobs protecting us.

They are heroes! Each and every one of them!

Now back to the economy. We have to reopen it and Governor Tate Reeves is handling it with caution in his actions of a slow, gradual opening. Each of us has the responsibility of doing so cautiously and carefully for our own personal safety, for the economy’s success and the safety of our tired and exhausted first responders on the front lines.

So as you go about the coming days and weeks, do so with caution, wear a mask, wash your hands and continue practicing social distancing. The COVID pandemic is far from over and could easily come back with a vengeance.

Be careful out there.

Bill Jacobs is a Brookhaven businessman and former owner/publisher of The Daily Leader.