My initial thought when I began the series on COVID-19 was to run the series for a minimum of six weeks. The topic had reemerged as we faced another wave and COVID-19 questions appeared to be at the the top of everyone's list of issues to discuss. Controversy was generally following such questions. However, readers seemed to be engaged and receptive to the series as my email was filling up with questions regarding the pandemic. 
Readers’ feedback, accompanied with integrity, is given my highest priority . So, when I received the following feedback this week in regards to the series, I took it very seriously. 

“We received issue number three of your paper at our residence and were dismayed but not surprised to see right-wing jingoism. You have an editorial titled "The War on Truth," that contains Covid misinformation and slants heavily to the right. We will not be subscribing to your "paper" until you begin adhering to basic tenets of journalism. What you are currently offering is not news, it is a mere recitation of already existing uneducated public opinion in this county. Please do better by our citizens. People want genuine news. You could at least try to be unbiased, rather than assuming that everyone in the county wants a "Fox News" style paper. How is this community supposed to grow and become diverse when our community newspaper hearkens back to 1988?”

To the person that provided the feedback, thank you. I can't stress how vital input from the community is to our organization, and someone with a strong belief and statement such as the one received regarding our publication should be taken seriously, addressed directly, and quickly. For readers who may not be familiar with the term jingoism, the definition is extreme patriotism that often calls for violence towards foreigners and foreign countries. Generally speaking, someone referenced as a jingoist means they strongly dislike people from outside their borders. 

The reader stated there was COVID misinformation and slanted heavily towards the right. In this particular article (part 3 of the series), I chose three questions from readers and researched reputable resources that would represent both standpoints for and against a specific topic. The source where I gained the information was listed so readers could review the material themselves. If misinformation was found, please send it to Cassie.roth@whitewaterpublications.com. I will review the information, and if any error is found, a correction will be issued immediately. 
I can assure all readers that we pull nothing from any national news source to run in our publication. If a statistic from other news sources is used in an article, it will be identified as such. We also do not use articles from the Associated Press in a genuine pursuit to keep our newspapers local.
 Lastly, progression is the ultimate pursuit of our newspapers. It is always our goal to inform, never to sway. After I reread the feedback, it occurred that my editorial had become a source of controversy, which was the opposite of the purpose behind the series. Because of that sentiment, I decided part 5 of the series would be the final installment.

The reader's mention of progression and its importance inspired what I chose to end the series with, a glimpse of how America endured a similar situation in 1918 when the flu pandemic was causing chaos worldwide. If you begin to read the history from 1918 with the preconceived notion I am supporting or not supporting how the pandemic was addressed,  it will be easy to skim over the article and look for an angle. I want to remind readers there is no angle.  Instead, I am sharing with you one of many ways I learn: studying history. What did we get wrong? What did we get right? What did we learn? How have we improved? It is not my responsibility to decide the answers to these questions for you. Still, I am happy to share America's history to help you identify your insight and opinions based on past experiences.

Throughout the pandemic, last year especially, it seemed as though I spent all my time researching COVID-19. I felt an enormous burden of responsibility as a journalist to get as much factual and relevant information as possible to the community without overwhelming readers. The newsroom was being inundated with data from the local to the federal level of government. Information was being provided by the CDC and WHO as well. Every day, the team sorted through information received and checked for additional sources to verify the information was reliable.
 During the pandemic, when community members had been isolated to their homes, our office continued working since newspaper employees were considered essential. In addition, during the pandemic the main highway I lived on had been closed for repair, causing a detour that took me home through familiar country roads. I often used the drive to unwind and slow my racing mind. I rarely passed another vehicle on the roads, and often enjoyed the solitude the drive home offered, but that day I didn't gain peace by the solitude of the roadway. Instead, a wave of sadness washed over me. I missed seeing people outside. Cars were in driveways, and most were home, but the community appeared desolate from the road. Suddenly, I felt a longing to pass another vehicle. I didn't, though. 

Phone calls to the newsroom were regular. Many searched for answers, fell in the high-risk category, were lonely, and needed to talk to someone. It tugged at my heart strings, and the truth was, I was scared too. I did my best not to let fear creep in because I was supposed to know what was going on, right? Yet I was terrified to misinform a community full of people I loved. As I sought answers, I was statistically overwhelmed, so I went to a trusted resource that offers a different and grounded perspective: history. How did we face a deadly pandemic 100 years ago? I sought to find reassurance in the resilience of America as I had many times before. 

I was doubtful anything could compare to COVID-19, but in 1918 the Indianapolis Star illustrated the catastrophic effects of the 1918 influenza pandemic through featured headlines and articles: "Epidemic Closes Public Places in City and State; Flu Pandemic State Calamity - Governor calls on every county to form health commissions - Disease runs wild, health board ban ordered on all crowds - churches, schools and theaters must shut doors this morning under local and federal law; Must Placard Homes Having Cases of 'flu' - Health officers will not establish absolute quarantined on houses. Signs serving as warning to public; 6,OOO CASES IN STATE." 

It was eerie to realize I used some of the same headlines in 2020. The 1918 Influenza Pandemic lasted somewhere between one and two years and reportedly came in three waves. The first wave was comparatively mild and had tapered off in some areas, but a second more lethal wave began about August or September in 1918. During this wave, pneumonia often developed quickly, with patients dying just two days after experiencing the first symptoms of the Flu. Social distancing was enforced, and the second wave began to die down. However, after those measures were relaxed, a third wave hit, and although not  and as deadly as the second wave, it still claimed a large number of lives. In 1918 flu outbreaks occurred in every inhabited part of the world. However, unlike COVID-19, roughly half of the deaths arising from influenza were among 20 to 40-year-olds. India was estimated to have suffered at least 12.5 million casualties during the pandemic, and in the United States, about 550,000 people died. It was estimated 500 million people worldwide were infected, and estimations of the death toll ranged between 20 to 50 million deaths. Citizens were ordered to wear masks, and makeshift morgues were needed as fatalities continued.

In 1918 there were no effective vaccines or antivirals. The first licensed flu vaccine didn't appear in America until the 1940s. However, many vaccines started developing and were administered in 1918 and 1919, although they proved non-effective. Medical students were utilized as hospitals were understaffed and overloaded with patients. Schools and churches were being used as makeshift hospitals.
 Aspirin was the first recommendation made by medical professionals and advised patients to take up to 30 grams per day, considered a toxic dose. Many deaths were attributed at that time to the treatment of the Flu.

It was detrimental to the economy. Businesses closed down because too many of their employees were sick. The pandemic even hindered mail distribution. In addition, state and local health departments closed for business. With the workforce already challenged due to World War 1, unemployment in the U.S. was 1.4%. After the pandemic hit, unemployment rose to over 11%.
The pandemic finally ended as those infected either died or developed immunity, and America began a remarkable recovery.
 Although there are many differences between the Flu Pandemic of 1918 and the COVID-19 pandemic, I believe Americans will step up and find a way together to not only survive but see our country once again thrive.