|The Bell County Health Department's Leighann Baker brings groceries|
to Alan Smith, who is quarantined. (Photo by Pat McDonogh, Courier Journal)
"We’ve got a small health department, and we did get a little overwhelmed," Harlan County Judge-Executive Albey Brock told Kenning. "Contact tracing is no joke. It’s laborious. They keep daily communication. If we have 104 active cases, they each have to be called every day. That’s on top of having to track down people they've had contact with, getting them a letter, let them know to quarantine.
Local officials and local newspapers can be an effective combination, Rural Blog Publisher Al Cross writes in his fortnightly column on Kentucky politics. He notes that the Licking Valley Courier of West Liberty did a story about Morgan County Magistrate Donnie Keeton's notice on Facebook that he has tested positive.
Keeton, a Democrat, said he voted for Trump because “It’s kind of hard to go with the national Democratic Party right now,” but he had the president’s words in mind when he told the Courier's Miranda Cantrell, “It’s not a hoax and it’s probably not going away anytime soon.” Trump implied Feb. 28 that the pandemic, or Democrats’ criticism of his response to it, was Democrats’ “new hoax” after their failed impeachment of him. He walked that back, but Keeton told Cross that the phrase probably gave a lot of people the wrong idea.
Cross writes, "Trump was elected partly because a lot of Americans, especially in rural areas, thought they were being left behind and disregarded by the urban elite. Many if not most of those people have never liked elites and experts telling them what to do (remember the debates about seat belts?), and Trump appealed to their resentment. That approach turned dangerous when Trump started contradicting public-health experts and scientists . . . "
He concludes, "It’s more important than ever for public officials at all levels to set good examples. . . . and in an age where social media have more sway than news media, it’s important to hear covid-19 stories from authoritative victims. . . . Cantrell put a note at the end of her story about Keeton asking other victims to tell their stories, because locals wonder 'whether the effects are as severe as mainstream media outlets have reported.' Yes, they can be that severe, but many don’t trust those outlets – especially after four years of 'fake news' bashing from a president who has uttered more than 20,000 falsehoods. Local news media are more trusted, so they need to step up, tell these stories and help their audiences understand how to deal with the pandemic. The politicians can only go so far."