Opinion

Kyle Troutman: Positive takeaways from COVID-19

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

These past five months have been a whirlwind of news, facts, figures, developments, rules and lifestyle changes, all thanks to COVID-19 (coronavirus).

Disagreements about virtually every aspect of the virus, from its viability to mask effectiveness and so on, can leave a bad taste in the mouths of family and friends who all just want life to return back to normal.

However, every cloud has a silver lining, and even COVID has taught us some things about ourselves or led to some unexpected positives.

For one, local cities and counties have been the beneficiaries of a rise in sales tax revenues. In March, the uncertainty of the situation led many governmental bodies to tighten their fiscal belts.

While some are reluctant to loosen a notch, the numbers paint an unexpected picture. In August, every Barry County city saw a rise in revenue compared to 2019. Cassville’s August total was 19 percent higher than last year, and Barry County’s to half-cent taxes are both more than $125,000 ahead of last year’s pace.

No doubt this boost in revenue has come from a variety of factors, including the federal stimulus checks. But now, that money seems far in the past, and people are still spending. In Barry County, according to Google user data, grocery and pharmacy shopping continues to be above the baseline, only below 10 percent higher the week of June 27. It was up 20 percent the week of July 17, 16 percent the week of July 25 and 19 percent the weeks of July 31 and Aug. 7.

Another boost may be coming from tourism. At the Roaring River State Park annual meeting recently, it was noted numerous times that attendance at the park has been up significantly — and there are many new visitors.

With social distancing so prevalent, and with things like concerts and major sporting events sidelined, people have taken to discovering the outdoors. In June alone, Roaring River attendance was up 15 percent compared to June 2019.

Each of these visitors travel through the bi-county area, stopping for gas or possibly eating at local restaurants. A boost in tourism is a good thing for everyone locally, and it’s an opportunity for us to show the best of what we have to offer and hopefully get more people to return to the area.

The virus has also shown us how strong we are as a community. Almost immediately when the quarantines first started, a Facebook group called “Monett, MO Coronavirus Help” popped up. It bills itself as “A place for for physical, emotional, and spiritual support, and education of C19.”

The group also cites showing compassion as a reason for existence, and it does not allow political posts, names or addresses of positive cases or businesses.

This group was instrumental early on when the county faced a toilet paper shortage, and it was a resource for elderly or parents who needed certain items but were not able to go get things themselves.

This neighborly spirit is what makes small-town living so great.

Also helping in that spirit is Life 360, which delivered snacks and milk to children across the county as schools’ wellness breaks began. Schools themselves also did a fantastic job of delivering or making available breakfast and lunch for children who needed them.

Schools also have been thrust into a new era of learning. The fact that local districts moved to a 1:1 system with things like Chromebooks and iPads for every student is paying off now more than ever.

Teachers have also become more innovative in their teaching methods and had to find ways to reach students unconventionally, while still delivering high-quality instruction.

As COVID hopefully fades away, these new tools in their boxes could provide ways for students in the future to learn remotely if needed. Schools will be more prepared.

Finally, as much as the jokes flew around in the beginning, COVID has brought many families closer together. All that time spent under the same roof was a learning experience and a way to better connect with loved ones.

Possibly out of boredom, many discovered new hobbies, adopted a new pet, mastered a new skill or gotten closer with their family members.

Yes, COVID has clearly been an adjustment for most everyone. But, it’s what we do in times of strife that make us who we are — and we are still doing great.

Kyle Troutman has served as the editor of The Cassville Democrat since 2014. In 2017, he was named William E. James/Missouri Outstanding Young Journalist for daily newspapers. He may be reached at 417-847-2610 or editor@cassville-democrat.com.