Charles Owens mug

Charles Owens

Our region has been somewhat of an outlier throughout this long and difficult pandemic.

I say this simply based upon what I have observed over the past 18 months or so. 

Wait? Did I say the word "pandemic" in the first paragraph of this column? Of course I did. Remember back earlier in the year when we were all being told that this nightmare would finally be over with by the time fall arrived?

Well it's September, and the virus is still with us. It's also raging right now.

Some people may not want to admit it, but new variants of various sorts are dragging this public health emergency on.

With that being said the pandemic played out quite differently here in rural America than in say the big cities. I'm talking about population centers like New York or California where residents hunkered down and lived in great fear of the virus.

Locally, we had our two state-ordered shutdowns, along with state of emergency declarations. But after about two months, most businesses that survived the crippling shutdowns opened back up. Whereas some of the big cities stayed in a lock down mode for months, if not for the duration of 2020 and well into 2021.

In those big cities, people embraced masks, school lockdowns and business closures. They even accepted digital vaccine passport requirements in order to go about their daily lives.

That was not the case in the greater Southern West Virginia, Southwest Virginia region that is sometimes referred to as Four Seasons Country.

Masks were never popular here and lockdowns proved harmful, particularly to smaller businesses. Locally, officials also worked to get kids back in school as quickly as possible. That's in comparison to some of the bigger cities where virtual learning continued well into the spring months.

In California, you were expected to wear a mask while eating for a period of time. Here in the mountains, it was a rarity to see anyone inside of a restaurant with a mask. 

Life, and the normal routine for folks, never really slowed down here in the deep south counties. Not even now during this troubling surge that is impacting the local area. 

We continued to work, travel, shop and eat out — even if it meant drive-through only for a period of time.

Beyond masks, social distancing also proved to be divisive for locals. And I'm not really for sure why on that one. 

From day one, many in the region were either unable to or simply refused to comply with the six-feet distancing rule, which is still largely ignored to this very day.

Some in our region simply never took the pandemic seriously. Others were all but oblivious to it.

But how can you ignore a pandemic? And how can you ignore all of the personal freedoms that were lost during this past year and a half. It's almost as if the whole world has been flipped upside down.

Politics also slowly but surely creeped into the pandemic debate, and social media has seemingly become the latest battleground in this debate.

While there is some truth to the argument about big tech censoring conservative viewpoints, I haven't seen much censorship locally. As folks on both the left and the right haven't been holding back their feelings on social media as of late.

Nor is their much middle ground to be found anymore. You are either in one political camp or the other.

Of course, you also have a few designated trolls online who believe it is their job to refute any opinion they disagree with. I guess, in a way, these individuals have become a part of the so-called cancel culture. It's best just to avoid arguing with these people because their opinions will not change regardless of what you may say to them.

It's sad that we are so divided in America today. It's also unfortunate that we are still dealing with this pandemic, and one new variant after the other. Will life ever truly return to normal?

Sure we can pretend like everything is perfectly normal. We can try to ignore the pandemic and all of the virus-related restrictions and mandates that keep piling up on us, but doing so is also choosing to ignore the current reality that we are still dealing with.

The virus is still surging right here in our region.

And the problem won't simply go away by choosing to ignore it.

— Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s managing editor. Contact him at cowens@bdtonline.com

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