This is a tough announcement to make. It was comforting for so many years to think of serious, lethal outbreaks of highly infectious diseases as having been confined safely to the history books or to fiction. The past several months have shown the world otherwise.

As a newspaper, we have prided ourselves on being open and accessible to the public. We believe that’s a fundamental responsibility, and an essential part of being connected to the community.

Right now, that responsibility is colliding with another requirement: keeping our employees and our customers safe by limiting contact. It’s not an easy balance to strike.

As of today, our office will be closed to people who do not have an appointment. We are recommending subscribers and advertisers use the phone to the extent possible. Our main number is (641) 684-4611.

But we also understand there is some work that simply cannot be done over the phone. We’re in the same boat there. Our reporters can accomplish a lot with phone calls. Some things, though, simply require being present. We are not banning people from our office. We are saying we need to know who is coming in and when.

The balance we need is one that protects our employees as well as our customers. It must allow us to continue bringing you information, while limiting the chance we or visitors to our office become inadvertent carriers of the COVID-19 virus.

To call the current times challenging is to understate the situation by orders of magnitude. It is not unprecedented, but it is something that has not happened in generations. Parallels to the 1918 pandemic are not overselling the point.

Limiting access to our office is something we had planned to do this week. The original timeline was for this to take place Thursday, to give time to clients and customers to adjust. In fact, a conference call Monday morning reinforced that timeline.

Events forced our hand. Less than an hour after that call, the state announced the first case of COVID-19 in Wapello County. The only responsible thing we can do is limit contact.

Let us be clear: we are not closing down the paper. Our employees are still working. Our press is still here. We remain committed to serving our community and to getting out the accurate information that is so badly needed in times like this.

The arrival of COVID-19 in Wapello County was expected. It’s still a shock.

This is unquestionably a challenge for our community, our state and our nation.

We cannot control whether we as individuals become ill, but we can control our responses. We can control whether we risk ourselves and others, or whether we act responsibly. We can control whether we follow recommendations from health officials or flout them.

Choose responsibly.

While difficult, we believe the decision to limit the people coming into our offices is the responsible choice. We hope you’ll agree.

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