COVID-19

A novel coronavirus, named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019. (Photo Courtesy/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Editor's Note: The editorial board is made up of the editor in chief, managing editors and opinion editor and operates independently of the newsgathering staff.


On March 5, editors of The Red & Black met for a routine Thursday meeting. We discussed that day’s paper and the stories we planned to publish over spring break, before bidding farewell. I think I speak for all of us when I say we never expected it to be our last meeting of the semester.

A week later, still in the midst of the break, we scrambled to react to a cascade of announcements from the University System of Georgia, the Athens-Clarke County Government, the NCAA and other institutions. The coronavirus had come home.

Now, borders are being closed, the global economy is in a tailspin and Americans are being told to stay at home. For Red & Black editors, it’s the biggest historical moment in our generation since 9/11, which we don’t really remember.

Here in Athens, our local government has prohibited gatherings outside the home and non-essential travel. Students have been told to move out of their dorms, and campus is a ghost town as classes move online. Spring commencement has been canceled, leaving the class of 2020 with an anticlimactic end to their time at the University of Georgia.

Already struggling local businesses face a new, daunting financial challenge, as in-person shopping and dining halts. Many students, instead of returning to Athens from spring break, will spend their dollars elsewhere. Our vibrant artist community finds itself without venues to play in or audiences to play to. Museums and galleries have been shuttered as have community gathering spaces such as libraries. Kids are home from school. Workers have been ordered home.

All UGA spring sports have had their seasons cut short. Spring events like Twilight and G-Day, annual windfalls for the Athens economy, are postponed and canceled, respectively.

We don’t know when things will go back to normal on campus and around town. We don’t know how badly our communities will be hit, how many people will become patients or how many will die.

What we do know is that we will continue to cover the news as we tell the story of how this pandemic affects us. For 127 years, The Red & Black has operated to fulfill its twin missions — to inform the communities we cover and to train the next generation of journalists.

Our physical newsroom on Baxter Street is empty and, with print editions suspended, those red boxes won’t have new papers for a while. But we’ll be around, publishing daily at redandblack.com.

We’ve built a landing page on our website for all coronavirus-related coverage. We’ll look at this story from the angle of students, faculty, staff and Athens locals, from business and arts, to health care and politics, to schools and sports. This virus will alter nearly every aspect of life for everyone in our community, and we want our coverage to reflect that.

For our team, moving to this new format marks an unprecedented change. We know our experience is only a microcosm of what’s happening in the broader world. We’re figuring out some of this as we go along, but we won’t waver in our commitment to bringing you timely, accurate news that reflects the concerns of our community.

But, we need your help to tell those stories. We want to hear your experiences, publish your guest columns and share your photos and videos of life during a pandemic. In turn, we’ll do our best to keep you informed about goings on here in Athens.

Send us news tips, give us feedback, and most important: Stay safe, y’all.

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