It’s not quite time to shrug

Check out the full NC Local newsletter from May 11 for more from the Workshop, including industry news, job postings and applause for journalists statewideSign up to get NC Local in your inbox every Wednesday.

By Eric Frederick, NC Local Newsletter Editor

COVID found me on Friday.  

I’m slowly getting better, but I’m still not well. My testimony: This pandemic is far from over, the variants are real and not a political ploy, and even if you’re healthy and have been pretty smart about this virus, it can still pack a punch. I had two vaccinations and a booster, and I’m glad I did — they’ve made this more like a bout of flu than the deadly terror it has been for too many. 

What amazes me, frankly, is how many of my acquaintances also have it. (Non-contact acquaintances, that is — I’m not “patient zero” here.) Cases are rising again in North Carolina and elsewhere — and probably more than the state dashboard shows because some people, using only home tests, may not be reporting their results. And some aren’t even testing. Fortunately, most of the cases seem mild to moderate, but people are definitely sick.

The brilliant Ed Yong of The Atlantic wrote eight weeks ago that America is moving even quicker than usual through its usual epidemic-response cycle, from hair-on-fire panic to shoulder shrug. I see his piece as a gauntlet tossed at the feet of the news community.

Thing is, while a lot of people have “moved on,” a lot more are still curious about what’s going on, and they need information: How contagious is this variant, do I need a second booster, can my kid get a shot safely, is another wave coming? And broader issues still need reporting — the systemic inequities in health care that leave some folks more vulnerable; uneven and misused funding for COVID mitigation; a shortage of resources that is actually getting worse; myopia in the preparation for future waves (and future pandemics); the effects of long COVID; the strain on health care workers; the real struggles of people who have lost loved ones. And even if you only care about economic concerns, think about how my experience of the past five days, multiplied by many thousands, is affecting workplaces.

These topics and more, explored soberly and through a local and human lens, are still our responsibility.

NC Local News Workshop