Pinch of Salt Graphic (English)

Things got pretty depressing around here Monday.

By things, I mean everything from a personal loss to a state and national crisis. And before I go any further, I stress that the situation is depressing, not hopeless. The difference is important.

First the personal. The Grunion family lost one of our own Monday when Fran Blowitz lost the fight against an aggressive form of cancer. You might be forgiven if you don't recognize her name — Fran and John Blowitz sold Gazette Newspapers (the Grunion) in early 2004.

But she and John were at the helm of the paper for 23 years, nurturing it from a small neighborhood weekly to the legitimate citywide news source it is today. Read more about her in the story on the front page.

Personally, the note on the bottom of that story is the most important. Fran and John hired me in March 1992, bringing me to the town I love and now call home.

We had our differences over the years, as anyone passionate about what they are doing will experience. But we always, always agreed on what was the most important — providing a quality news and entertainment source to our community.

Her death leaves a hole, much like the deaths of the many victims of COVID-19 leaves a hole in families across Long Beach, California, the United States, even the world.

There is one difference though. Fran's cancer wasn't found until it was literally too late to do anything. When it comes to COVID, there are treatments and, more importantly, ways to keep people from becoming infected with the coronavirus in the first place.

I find the coronavirus situation to be particularly troubling right now. Unless you have sheltered at home and turned off all communication devices, you know that we are in the middle of a huge surge of infections locally, statewide and nationally. According to health experts and political leaders, we're essentially back to the level of spread we saw in April.

At the same time, there's great news on the vaccine front, with three potential options nearly ready for use. If we can just hang on for a few more months, there should be an effective protection generally available, allowing us to climb back into something resembling normalcy.

It's those next few months that are key (and depressing).

The powers that be lean toward going back to the near-total shutdown and isolation that appeared to stem the tide back in spring. But restaurant owners, retailers and an increasing number of political leaders — tired after eight months of deprivation — are pushing back. Arguments are many, and vary from "there's no proof we're spreading the disease with what we're doing" to the slightly more sinister "COVID-19 isn't as bad as decimating the, make that my, economy."

And I haven't even mentioned the fight over what to do about education. How badly are we hurting our children, not to mention our daily lives, with this remote learning thing? But does it make sense to go back to on-campus activities and the inherent dangers there, at least until a vaccine is generally available?

Oh, and how about team sports?

I sympathize with the restaurant owners who have been asked to pivot, then pivot again to try to keep food on the table. Some of them are my friends, and they have a good argument in trying to avoid the pain imposed on the many people they employ — when they're open.

But. And it's a big but.

Losing even one person to COVID-19 when there is a vaccine on the horizon seems to be unnecessary suffering for a family somewhere. It doesn't take long to inflict that pain, either.

I've been fortunate to not lose anyone in my inner circle to COVID-19. I hope you can say the same.

The question is, what are we willing to sacrifice to keep that loss at bay? And how do we come to a consensus on what path we want to take, what level of risk we're willing to live with?

I certainly don't have the answers, although I'm willing to have the discussion. I can only say one thing.

I want to avoid the depression.

How about you?


Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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