Appalachia Kentucky is open for business, but we have a critical role to play as customers to make sure businesses remain open. This is not only important to combat COVID-19, but it is also essential in keeping our economy moving forward.
Asking the people of Appalachia Kentucky to do their part is nothing new. When COVID-19 cases began to present itself across the Commonwealth, we did our part. We distanced ourselves, and it was not an easy task. We are a region where a handshake seals a deal, and a hug and embrace is part of our culture.
We continued to do our part as many of our community and technical colleges shifted 3D printing labs into around-the-clock manufacturing of personal protection equipment. Our children stepped up, raising money for charitable causes and some, like 14-year-old Cooper Hatton, began to make protective ear guards from his home in the small Letcher County community of Jeremiah. Local homemakers’ groups worked to sew cloth masks for those most vulnerable to catch the virus.
The acts of kindness were endless, and it proved, yet again, that the worst of times brings the best out of us.
By doing our part, the 54 counties in Appalachia Kentucky represent less than 10% of the state’s total COVID-19 cases and less than 15% of the state’s total virus-related deaths. While these numbers are good, we do not want to take away from the grief that many families across the region have had to endure because of COVID-19.
As we approach the coming days and weeks, it is my hope that we continue to do our part as many of our favorite businesses reopen through the state’s phased opening plan. As we begin to visit our favorite shops and restaurants, attend small gatherings, and attend church services, and get that much-needed haircut, it is just as important as ever to do your part to adhere to follow guidelines set forth by local, state and federal public health agencies. Some of the guidelines include:
• Practice Social Distancing (of 6 feet or more)
• Wear a mask when in public
• Use hand sanitizer frequently and wash your hands often
• Do daily temperature and health checks on yourself and those in your household
COVID-19 has taught us so much, perhaps most importantly the value of connectivity. As we isolated to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, parents and guardians became teachers as they filled in alongside teachers leveraging technology to allow children to complete their studies. Some of us even worked from home. We embraced connectivity to utilize telehealth services with our local healthcare providers.
When SOAR was created in 2013, citizens, business leaders, and local government made affordable broadband connectivity a cornerstone of our work. Through the work of the Center for Rural Development, KentuckyWired, local internet service providers, and leadership at the local, state, and federal levels, we are making progress to deploy last-mile infrastructure to connect all of Appalachia Kentucky.
This is important because many businesses affected by COVID-19 pivoted to a embrace the digital economy during this time. Others, who had already pivoted, weathered the storm when business locations were ordered to close. Connectivity is also essential for the roughly 3,000 people who are working remotely throughout Appalachia Kentucky for national and global companies.
This moment in time has proven the importance of community and connectivity. It has also reminded us that doing our part is not an action, it is woven into the durable fabric that has withstood many challenging times and makes Appalachia Kentucky special.
JARED ARNETT is Executive Director of Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR).