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This column reflects the opinion of the writer. To learn about the differences between a news story and an opinion column, click here.

Opinion >  Column

Rob Curley: Look to us for news, not risk to your health

She was scared. Or at least worried enough that she wanted to cancel her subscription.

The longtime subscriber to The Spokesman-Review had heard how this virus that has radically changed our lives over just the past few weeks was incredibly contagious and could live on some surfaces for days. Well that and she also was in the exact demographic of those who struggle the most with COVID-19.

Either way, she thought it might be best to put her subscription on hold for at least a few weeks.

She didn’t need to worry. That’s not my advice. That’s coming from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those of us in the newsroom – which is wild to say because we’re literally not working in the actual newsroom now – have been so busy writing the most amount of daily local stories to ever appear in our newspaper and on our website that we hadn’t even thought that some people might be afraid if traces of the coronavirus were possibly on our actual pages. Over more than 135 years, a newspaper gets used to the idea that some people – mostly bad people – are afraid of us.

But not our readers. And definitely not this time.

We were told about a handful of people who recently canceled their subscriptions out of fear of this virus. Both the WHO and the CDC say it is safe to receive packages, including newspapers, at your home.

“In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures,” the CDC said on its website.

This is because paper isn’t particularly conducive to the virus’ ability to stick around. In some conditions, the CDC said the coronavirus could survive on thicker cardboard up to 24 hours, meaning your packages and mail are safe unless they are next-day delivery. Which isn’t happening right now regardless of who is delivering it. And even if it were possible, the chances are incredibly low.

So don’t be worried about your mail or packages, either.

And with paper, unless someone sneezes directly on it and then immediately hands it to you, the chances are almost nonexistent. So your newspaper is completely safe.

That brings up another point. COVID-19 can survive up to three hours in the air, but only at close distances. This is the importance of why everyone is being told to stand at least 6 feet apart from each other.

We’re taking other precautions here at The Spokesman-Review. Just in case.

The paper and ink that we use are both produced through highly mechanized processes with little, if any, contact with humans. Same with the polybags and rubber bands that wrap our paper. Both are produced in factories where human contact is limited. Additionally, our stock of supplies were manufactured a fairly long time ago, and then sat in a warehouse for even longer.

We are sanitizing our production center and distribution facilities daily, using bleach and other disinfectants. This includes all human touch-points in our press area, including equipment and bathrooms.

We no longer allow walk-in traffic into our main building. Even family. But most of our reporters and photographers have been out of our building for more than a week. We’re taking every care for not only our subscribers, but also for our journalists.

Now you know why the World Health Organization agrees with the CDC’s assessment.

“The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, traveled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low,” the WHO recently published in a Q&A about the virus.

The organization also recommended that people should do all they can to “keep informed and follow the advice of the local health authorities.”

I’m not saying they’re telling you to subscribe to your local newspaper, but it sounds a little like that. At least to me. But I’m the editor of a local newspaper. This newspaper.

When it comes to our newspaper, no other news organization in Eastern Washington comes anywhere close to having the amount of journalists that The Spokesman-Review has covering this story. And every other big story in our community, for that matter.

There’s a reason why during Gov. Inslee’s address, he called out local media as one of the state’s “essential services” that must continue in this quickly changing environment. Inslee accentuated that point by calling local news organizations “absolutely critical.” The federal government’s guidelines do, as well.

Now, more than ever, local journalism is essential. Reporters across Spokane are providing our community with fact-based, fact-checked news and information that is needed by our neighbors. It is our social responsibility – especially at this exact moment – and we have every intention of printing a newspaper every single day and keeping our website updated 24 hours a day.

More importantly to some, you can feel absolutely safe about having our newspaper delivered to your home.

So there’s no need to cancel your subscription. Come to think of it, it’s probably a good idea that you get subscriptions for any of your friends and family who aren’t reading The Spokesman-Review daily.

And next time you’re worried about things like this, just give me a call.

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