I.C. MURRELL — Coronavirus fear takes loss on local level

Published 12:08 am Friday, March 13, 2020

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Often taken as serious as any kind of virus, fear can win the day over common sense.

No matter what public official says in reaction to the coronavirus, fear in itself can weaken a community, even an entire nation. (For what entity is ever founded on fear?)

As far as I could tell, such anxiety has not been cast over the Nederland Heritage Festival this week. If ever people wanted an outlet from the worries of the world, they’ve found it on Boston Avenue.

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Nederland has just set an example to all who will pay attention that staying vigilant against a novel sickness shouldn’t disrupt the pursuit of happiness in any community. Who in one’s right mind would want to be suspended in mid-air on a Ferris wheel while sneezing his or her face off? Is the Waffle Dog the best choice of diet to ward off sickness?

Common sense would suggest resounding answers in the negative.

Those who choose not to live in fear — but in fun — may find a source of respite in these lovely pleasures a community festival can offer.

Good for Nederland for keeping the festival going. Good for our communities, too.

(That being said, Port Arthur Health Department Director Judith Smith cautions that anyone 65 or older avoid mass gatherings as much as possible, regardless of health.)

Organizers of larger-scale events, however, are throwing absolutely no caution into the wind.

Much of the fear of coronavirus may rest in its “novel” state. It’s a newly discovered sickness. (The World Health Organization terms coronavirus as COVID-19, the number representing its discovery last year.) A cure or vaccine against this sickness, the risk of which is reportedly lower than the flu or common cold, has not yet been discovered.

Seeing 938 cases of COVID-19 in America, let alone 267 in Washington state, can be a bit alarming, in fairness. That pales in comparison to the 34 million to 49 million flu illnesses and 20,000 to 52,000 deaths from last October through February the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate.

Yet something so novel has created a lot of fear among organizers.

Instead of using basketball and other large-group events as a table of discussion for promoting good health, college athletic conferences just Thursday morning canceled the entirety or remainder of their tournaments. Beforehand, some restricted admission to their tournaments, as the University Interscholastic League did on the high school level in Texas.

The Southland, American Athletic, Big Ten, Big 12 and Southeastern conferences took a page from the National Basketball Association. Either keep going with access to everyone or pause the season altogether. (Each league chose the latter.)

The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments were canceled Thursday afternoon, so we won’t get to experience any shining moment. Otherwise, continuing to put its most precious resource — the athletic teams — in close proximity and safeguard everyone else would have been a great hypocrisy.

Still, what’s more concerning is that the coronavirus lived up to its name almost everywhere in America. The fear of it got crowned over vigilance in pursuit of pleasure.

Except in Nederland, Texas.

I.C. Murrell is the editor of The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at 409-721-2435 or at ic.murrell@panews.com.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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