A special thank you to a new class of first responders – our community responders!

A special thank you to a new class of first responders – our community responders!

Of all the things we have in common, there is nothing in anyone’s memory like the COVID-19 pandemic, and its disruption to our health, economy, workplaces and personal lives. While we share the hope that we never again see anything like it, let’s pause to look at the good that has emerged from these troubling times.

When calamity hits, we often look at our first responders – the men and women who courageously serve, protect and often put their very own safety in harm’s way. It’s with great respect that we applaud these healthcare and public safety workers who have answered the call. We deeply appreciate their personal sacrifice and all that they do to protect our local Florida communities and families alike.

We’d also like to recognize and thank another group of heroes, those providing essential services to the public who may not be on the front line of the healthcare portion of the battle, but without whom we’d make no ground in our efforts to contain and manage the scope of the pandemic. These are our community responders.

Close to my heart, both personally and professionally, are our newspaper journalists, editors, producers and support staff members have been on top of local and statewide events to ensure you are getting the news you need in your cities and towns. Newspapers continue to provide an essential service – the communication of relevant information – in times of uncertainty and crisis. Paywalls for public service information relating to corona virus issues have been dropped. It has always been the newspaper’s job to provide accurate, reliable and critical news about what is happening in our communities, and it is even more important now. We are grateful for the loyalty you have shown your newspapers who strive to continue to meet your high expectations.

In addition, a new class of first responders has emerged in these uncertain times. These are the responders serving on the frontlines of our food and products supply chains, in particular our local grocery stores. These loyal employees dutifully show up to work each day and provide needed food and other supplies for their local communities.  Among those that are leading the way, here’s an example from Publix who remains committed and ready to deliver products in a safe and useful manner by the installation of plexiglass shields at registers, customer service desks and pharmacies in all stores, in-store signage and public address announcements reminding customers and associates of social distancing, visual reminders of appropriate six-foot spacing via marked lines at registers and they adjusted store hours to allow more time to conduct additional disinfection measures and restock shelves. All of this reflects great efforts by these important community responders to protect both their customers and employees.

We are all in this fight together. We will all benefit from these day-to-day activities by community responders and customers that promote good and best practices.

It is still unclear how long we will experience these unsettling departures from everyday life. While there is still plenty of uncertainty, our hope is that one aspect will remain steady for you to all count on—this new class of first responders, our daily, weekly newspapers and online news sources and our retail outlets including grocery stores.

The next time you are reading your newspaper in print or online or shopping at your local retailer or grocery store, consider taking a moment to think about the needed support and services these “community responders” bring to our local cities and towns.

Be well. Be safe.

Carolyn Nolte is the President and CEO of the Florida Press Association and Intersect Media Solutions.



This op-ed may be republished in FPA member newspapers.