It’s been a surreal week.

Various state and national announcements about the spread of coronavirus have led to a string of cancellations, closures and restrictions across the Braselton area. There’s been a rush on grocery stores, with shoppers targeting the toilet paper aisle (baby wipes as an alternative), the meat section and the bottled water display.

While the coronavirus and its spread have been in the headlines for weeks now, it didn’t really hit home until this past week.

At Mainstreet Newspapers, we’ve all been glued to our computers and phones since Thursday, March 12, posting announcements and updates online, just in time to have 10 other announcements sent in while we’re doing so.

Schools began announcing cancellations, as did local civic groups.

In an extremely rare move, local churches temporarily closed the doors to their sanctuaries and moved Sunday morning sermons online.

And then we got the news that there were two confirmed cases at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton.

The coronavirus is no longer just something we read about in the national or state headlines. It’s home now.

And it will affect all of our lives for many weeks — if not months — to come.

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There are some people who say this is all hype, that it’s a political tactic or an overreaction by the media.

Some Braselton News readers may think this week’s front page is over-the-top with too much space dedicated to COVID-19.

But this virus has the potential to impact the Braselton area in a unique way, given the demographics of the town and its growing retirement population. Even those who never contract the virus will still feel the impact of it in their daily lives.

It’s our responsibility at The Braselton News to report on that and to offer reliable and relevant information to the community. It’s our responsibility to share accurate information, combatting the rumors and misinformation that often circulates on the internet. It’s our responsibility to show how this virus is impacting our readers — from first responders to local businesses.

And while we hope the community wants to support that effort by subscribing to the paper, we also recognize that not everyone has the means or desire to do so.

For the next few weeks, we’ll be offering our online coronavirus stories free to the public. During such an uncertain time, we feel it’s critical that everyone have access to all the reliable information they can.

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Call your neighbors. Check in on your elderly friends and family members. Stay well.

And wash your hands.

Alex Buffington is the editor of The Braselton News. She can be reached at alex@mainstreetnews.com.

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