By Joe Thomas
Ledger Editor 

Make sure you get good information


April 2, 2020

To quote the great Yogi Berra, it is deja vu all over again this week as we navigate ourselves through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since we first started reporting on the virus several weeks ago, I've been consistent in telling people to not pay attention to time and date deadlines, because they change daily and sometimes hourly.

Cities and states will tell us some things will resume at such-and-such date, but they really don't know. They don't know because those dates are based on the best information officials have at the time.

If you want to go back to the future for a while when we first starting reporting about the virus' effect we were talking about resuming high school baseball, youth sports and spring training for high school and college football.

I remember talking with Flomaton baseball coach Keith Nall and he was optimistic that that the season would resume at some point and that the Alabama High School Athletic Association would come up with a plan in hopes of having a playoff. That's gone.

Football's spring training is done; the NBA is done; Major League Baseball is done; college baseball is done and the fear erupted on sports radio and TV talk shows that the 2019 college football season could be canceled.

Schools are closed for the rest of the school year and graduations are up in the air. Most states have shut down 'non-essential' businesses and some have issued stay-at-home orders.

I've listened to all the blame, from President Trump not acting quickly enough to the national media trying to sensationalize the situation.

The bottom line is we have a problem – a big problem. Pointing fingers and blaming others doesn't solve this problem or any other problem.

I can promise you one thing, you will never read anything in the Tri-City Ledger concerning actions taken by the nation, the state or the municipalities that hasn't been verified and attributed to a source.

COVID-19 is our worst enemy right now. But I'll put social media right behind it.

I was scanning Facebook this morning (Wednesday) when I got to work and saw a post that the city of Brewton was about to impose a 7 p.m. curfew. The post said it wasn't official, but it was coming.

“Official!” What better source to call than Brewton Mayor Yank Lovelace. For some reason I figured if anybody in Brewton knew anything about a pending 7 p.m. curfew, it would be the mayor.

I talked with Mayor Lovelace and he said there were no plans in place to implement a curfew in Brewton. He also said if the situation comes to that down the road it would be a council decision made at a public meeting and people would be given notice from the city.

Before I reached Lovelace, I called Connie Baggett, who works for the city, to tell her what I had seen on Facebook. She said she hadn't heard it and felt like if something was in the works to set a curfew she would know. We laughed and I told her I only believe about one-third of the things I read on Facebook and she told me I believe one-third more than she does unless she knows the source.

Bad information is worse than no information at all and I encourage all of you to make sure you are getting good information before making decisions.

Last Friday when Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued her state of emergency and closed some stores beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday I had several telephone calls and other conversations that Flomaton police officers would be blocking traffic on Highway 29 turning back people heading into Century. When I asked where they got their information, I was told 'Facebook'.

Ironically, Tuesday night my wife, daughter and I watched the 1995 movie 'Outbreak'. It can give you chills to think something like that can happen.

Unlike some people, I have confidence in our local, state and federal government to do the best they can with the information they have to keep us safe. I may not always agree with them, but I do feel confident they are not letting the information they read on social media, blogs and Facebook dictate their decisions.

I have to quote Escambia County (Ala.) Clerk-Administrator Tony Sanks again when he told the county commission a few weeks ago that “It's not time to panic, it's time to make smart decisions.”

Those smart decisions all of us need to make need to be based on the best information we have and not something floating around on the Internet.


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