I have never seen anything like this.

Even though I am nearing my sixth decade of life and have been a reporter for 36 years, the coronavirus or COVID-19, is unlike any news story I have worked on over the years.

I was only a year into my newspaper career when the Challenger explosion occurred and I remember watching the news footage over and over with other disbelieving colleagues in the Sun newsroom.

On 9/11, I was getting ready for work when I saw the plane slam into the Twin Towers in New York and then the second and third planes crashed.

I went straight up to the newsroom at the Press-Enterprise and saw every staff member filling the room.

I was not directly involved with the 9/11 story because I wrote for the weekly newspapers.

But I saw reporters, editors, copy editors and the whole newsroom typing away, watching TV reports, trying to get stories written and edited so we could put out a special edition that day.

There is an adrenaline that goes through journalists when a large news story strikes and 9/11 was one of the biggest stories anyone had ever worked on.

I was not as familiar with the COVID-19 story when it became more ingrained in our lives, hearing about the people feeling sick in China and others becoming ill on cruise ships earlier this year.

I had my own work to produce in the Beaumont area and was not alarmed.

The last few weeks have sent everyone into a panic and to be honest, the news and the facts keep changing every day.

First, the school districts were closing down for three weeks and only the child nutrition services, maintenance and operations, and fiscal services would stay open in the Beaumont school district.

The council meeting was streamed online, like it usually is, but this time, three of the council members participated through teleconference, and the mayor, another council member, city manager, deputy city clerk, city attorney and various staff members sat six feet apart in the chambers.

There were three seats for the public, but no one showed up.

The city’s community services department closed its doors, along with alot of recreational activities, sports events and classes.

Then, the community events we cover at the Record Gazette were cancelled or postponed due to Riverside County Department of Public Health and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s directives to shelter at home.

I think a lot of residents are adhering to this mandate. They may not like it, but they understand that we have to put health and safety first.

We can visit the grocery store or go to our doctor for a medical emergency, but the more we go out, the more likely we could infect someone with a weak immune system or even make ourselves sick and exposed to the virus.

The two words that will be forever associated with the coronavirus are: social distancing.

You should not be dining in a restaurant even if you are six feet apart or are one of 10 people in a room.

Yet some people will underestimate that length and continue to break the rules.

I will not play that game with my life and others.

Yes, it is hard, but we all need to work together to get through this pandemic.

I asked family and friends their thoughts on whether they think we will learn something from this international crisis.

One man, in his 60s, said he did not think it would change the way we behave.

He pointed out how the country came together after 9/11 and we bonded and helped each other through our disbelief and grief.

He said that he is more middle of the road when it comes to his political beliefs and that he has seen more leadership from Gov. Newsom than President Donald Trump during this crisis.

Another woman, who is 70 and works in retail, sees customers want to come into the store and stir the pot by saying things to get a rise out of the cashiers and employees. She believes it is a new form of bullying that is not acceptable.

When I decided to write this column, I wanted to express my views, which I try to be careful about as a journalist.

I always strive to be objective in my news reporting, but this pandemic has really made me think about society and the way we are behaving.

One of the issues that has struck a chord with everyone I talk to is the hoarding of items — especially toilet tissue.

The county public health department states that people can go to the grocery store. But people have become so scared about being quarantined that they feel the need to take more than what they need and not think about others who need that same item.

Two weeks ago, I drove around on a rainy night around 5 p.m., searching for toilet tissue.

One grocery store was cleaned out. I have never seen them have an empty shelf like that. I went to another grocery store. Same thing.

For the next store, I sat in my car and called them and asked if they had toilet paper. No, they did not.

Another retailer was next door and I called them and they had toilet paper.

They had just got a shipment in.

I zoomed into that store and got a 12 pack for $5.

Another shopper encouraged me to get another 12 pack.

I did not want to be greedy.

The treasure hunt for toilet paper will resume this week.

In the past few days, stores are limiting one pack per person.

I just want to tell people to stop hoarding items.

I have seen other store aisles bare of soup, rice, beans, water and produce.

With all of this driving around, another issue is that of traffic.

The past two weeks have been easier with less traffic on the roads and freeways.

But residents in Banning and Beaumont know how the increased amount of traffic on Highland Springs has caused a lot of anger and a lot of it has to do with the new shopping centers and stores opening up in Beaumont.

Now that a lot of the stores are closed and you cannot eat inside of a restaurant, the traffic is reduced.

And can you believe that the gas prices have gone down too, well below $3.

My point in writing this column was to make people think about what we have learned from the coronavirus.

I hope that it has given people an idea of looking out for their neighbors and friends and family.

If they need groceries or prescriptions, then offer to shop for them and ease their fears during these troubling times.

I also hope that people will appreciate others in their lives.

Go back to driving and be considerate of other motorists when you are stuck in traffic.

For future disasters or national emergencies do not panic.

One of the many devastating realities of Covid-19 is that many businesses had to close their doors, and not many industries are hiring during these uncertain times.

Employees have either been laid off or their hours have been cut.

Which has lead many people to file for unemployment in the last week.

For the week ending March 14, there were 58,208 claims processed, a 34 percent increase over the previous week, according to the California Employment Development Department.

It is overwhelming to look toward the future and wonder when life can get back to normal.

We all want to be assured about this crisis and it is difficult with facts and information changing every day.

Enjoy time with your family, keep in touch with friends and take a break from the news.

Yes, I said take a break from the news every once in a while to keep your mind peaceful, we will get through this together.

Staff Writer Julie Farren may be reached at jfarren@recordgazette.net.


(1) comment


In her excellent column on the impact of coronavirus, Julie Farren writes: "I have never seen anything like this." I couldn't agree more.

During every other national crisis I have experienced, from JFK's assassination to 9/11 and everything in between, Americans have pulled together and left their politics and self-interest behind.

Not this time. Whenever we hear medical experts warning about the serious threat of COVID-19, some non-experts claim that the threats are "overblown", that this is all just a political "hoax", that the virus is "no different from the flu." Others say, "I don't care; it's time to party."

The amount of misinformation has reached new highs: Everything from Ibuprofen danger to martial law conspiracy theories are being spread with little effort by readers to get the FACTS.

At the same time some are calling to lift restrictions by Easter, medical experts are saying that April will be the worst month for the virus. Riverside County public health officials have even warned that our county could have up to 50,000 cases and 1,000 deaths by May 1. Is it any wonder so many of us are confused?

And believe it or not, we have had a few politicians saying that some seniors would be "willing to die" from the virus if it would help get the economy rolling again. Not me, thanks. I don't believe the economy is worth more than human life.

America didn't win World War II by just saying we were "exceptional." We won it by pulling together our resources and sacrificing. That's what is required of all of us today.

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