Takeaways from the pandemic

03 N2004P64024CWe began the month of March secure in our work and personal lives and routines. We ended it sheltering in our homes, apart from our families and friends, unsure of our own and our nation’s futures. Many, if not most, of us, are reeling both from the speed of change and the unknown nature of what we face as individuals and as a country in a global economy.
In no particular order, here are several observations about our situation. Some are mine, and some have been triggered by lots of reading during my confinement. Each of us undoubtedly has our own thoughts about the pandemic and its implications.
We do not know yet and may not know for some time when the pandemic “curve” has spiked, and when we are on the downside of it. This will be different in different parts of our nation for months to come. There will likely be smaller, scattered outbreaks as we weather this storm.

The pandemic is an equal opportunity threat, neither Democratic nor Republican. Our response to it is startlingly partisan, though. Pollster Nate Silver noted last week that detected cases rose by 31% in states Trump won in 2016 and by 21% in states taken by Clinton. This means it is rising faster in the South and Midwest and slower in California; Washington, D.C.; and New York, outside New York City. We can all interpret these numbers however we choose. Still, many observers speculate that red states are following Trump’s lead that the virus is not as threatening as others say while blue states are following social distancing advice of medical experts. The good partisan news is that Congress, both the House and the Senate, overwhelmingly passed a desperately needed economic stimulus package that will help people of all political stripes.
Human beings are herding creatures. Proof of this can be found in most any grocery store’s shelves empty of toilet paper, disinfectants, canned soups and certain other consumer products. If our neighbors are stocking up, we feel compelled to do the same.

There is a dark joke making the rounds that we are likely to see a baby boom in the coming months — as well as a spike in divorces and more than a few “justifiable homicides.” It is a way of saying that enforced and sudden togetherness, even with people we love, can be trying. Working parents whose children have been in day care or school are finding hands-on, 24/7 parenting challenging. Couples who enjoy each other’s company are getting too much of a good thing. Some of the solitary walks we have been taking may not be just for exercise.

This is going to go on for a while. Even after the pandemic subsides and our economy begins to reopen, flareups will continue as will some degree of social distancing. Experts say we should brace ourselves for a year or longer.

Americans are a clever bunch. All across our country during this bizarre and frightening time, we are laughing out loud as funny after funny scrolls across our screens.

Pictures of people who have been cutting, coloring or otherwise doing their own hair without much success. Clips from late-night TV comedians. Photos of rolls of toilet paper encased in birthday and holiday wrap. I crank up the computer every morning with a smile.

Not much is certain right now, but we can have faith that this will end at some point. Researchers will develop a vaccine and the world will move forward again, however changed we all may be.

County leadership proactive with economic-impact survey

02 careerpicturesEDITWith COVID-19 impacting our country’s economy, nearly every industry sector is feeling the effects.  As part of our efforts to support our business community and better understand their needs during this time of uncertainty, we have released an economic-impact survey for our local business leaders. Created through a partnership of the city of Fayetteville, Cumberland County, FCEDC, Cumberland Community Foundation, Center for Economic Empowerment and Development, Cool Spring Downtown District, Greater Fayetteville Chamber, and Fayetteville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, the survey’s goal is to inform recovery efforts and direct aid where it can be most effective. 

“We have incredible and unique businesses in downtown Fayetteville. We want to make sure we understand the impact COVID-19 has on their business models,” said Bianca Shoneman, president and CEO of the Cool Spring Downtown District.

Designed to automatically self-customize based on the respondent’s input, this 21-question form should take roughly five minutes to complete.  Participants have the option of remaining anonymous or can request to receive program information and one-on-one assistance from corresponding partners.  Entrepreneurs and industry leaders in Fayetteville and Cumberland County can participate by visiting 

Survey questions cover topics including COVID-19’s impact on supply chain, workforce, customers, markets and operations. Also included are opportunities to share specific needs and direct connections to local agencies ready to help. “The results will be critical to maximize local, state and federal recovery resources and help our community get back to work as quickly as possible,” said Robert Van Geons, FCEDC president and CEO.

Together, your community and economic development partners are striving to quickly and efficiently combine efforts, working as a central resource hub for every type of employer.  From restaurants to manufacturers, from military contractors to independent retailers, we want to do all that we can to help your business weather this storm, with hopes for rapid growth once it passes. 

Finding ourselves in uncharted territory, we are all navigating new paradigms and doing our best to quickly adapt to a constantly evolving economic landscape. Our community has a proud history of standing firm when confronted with adversity.  Working together, we can protect both our people and our economy.  Please help us be as effective as possible by visiting today. 

To take the COVID-19 Economic Impact Survey or to learn more about local resources for your business and employees go to

A 'thank you' to the community during trying times

Greetings Readers, Friends and Associates.

 These are trying times. However, we are Americans. We are resilient and possess the intestinal fortitude and determination to get through this COVID-19 crisis. It’s in our DNA.

As a community newspaper and member of the North Carolina Press Association, Up & Coming Weekly will continue to be published and distributed throughout Fayetteville, Fort Bragg and all the Cumberland County municipalities during this critical time. In addition, U&CW is available FREE online by subscription at After all, what would a Wednesday morning be like not reading Margaret Dickson’s stimulating column or scratching our heads to one of Pitt Dickey’s imaginative creations or wondering why Karl Merritt isn’t writing for The Wall Street Journal or why he hasn’t won a Pulitzer Prize for embracing humanity?

We will continue to keep you updated on the COVID-19 situation, local news, views and, of course, the features and articles by the writers you have gotten to know and enjoy over the last two decades.

We encourage residents to visit, a centralized resource that includes up-to-date factual information on the COVID-19 situation. Don’t depend on the erratic, sporadic and flawed information flooding the social media networks.

Thank you, advertisers, for your continued trust and support. Keep your message out in the community and know we are here for you. Contact us first if you have message to get out or story to tell.

We know we could not exist without our readers. You are the greatest — and the most significant reason Up & Coming Weekly newspaper is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Please continue to support the people, businesses, organizations and institutions that support us — and you. Their messages, products and services serve you and support this community.

Many of our writers have been with us for over two decades and some just a few years. We know that we wouldn’t be who we are without you. You give voice to organizations, people and causes that matter. You make us think, make us laugh and keep us informed. Thank you for your dedication to our community and to our readers. Your love for this community and for humankind shows in every issue. There is still so much to write about and so many stories to tell. We can’t wait to read what you write next.

We are committed to supporting this community and showcasing and accentuating Fayetteville’s unique quality of life. We know it is our readers, advertisers and writers who are responsible for our 25 years of success, and we will keep serving you. We’ve been through hard things before and come out stronger for it — as individuals and as a community. We will do it this time, too.

Thank you for your continued support.




April Fools' Day has a long history

14 April FoolWhat do you get when have a select group of people who didn't get the memo that the calendar had been modified and the start of the New Year was now pushed back by three months? April Fools' Day, that's what. Although the tomfoolery that occurs each April 1 may not feel very old, April Fools' Day traces its origins back several centuries.
One legend states that April Fools' Day originated in the 1500s and has remained a day for hijinks ever since. Prior to the 1500s, the western world relied on the Julian calendar to keep track of time. According to the Julian calendar, years began on March 25. However, since March 25 fell during Holy Week, the new year festivities were pushed back to the first day of April. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII decreed the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, which switched New Year's Day from the end of March to January 1.

Many people were informed of this change, yet those who lived in rural areas, or had not heard about the calendar change, continued to celebrate the arrival of the new year on April 1. These people were mocked, and some  people in the know would try to confuse people into thinking that April 1 was still New Year's Day and that they were receiving a New Year's visit. From this tradition grew the one that is observed today, with people trying to fool unsuspecting individuals with all methods of pranks and trickery.
In France, jokes may have involved placing paper fish on the backs of the gullible. These poisson d 'avril (April fish)symbolized a young, easily caught fish, or someone who was easily pranked.

Others suggest April Fools ' Day is connected to pagan festivals celebrated during the change of seasons. On Hilaria, Romans would dress up in disguises. Some historians speculate that April Fools' Day is connected to the vernal equinox, when people were fooled with unpredictable weather.

April Fools' antics eventually spread outside of France to Britain and then around the world. While pranks were once simplistic in nature, many are now more intricate. According to Snopes, a popular April Fools' hoax dates back to 1957 when the BBC convinced its audience that spring would arrive early, and with it, an early spaghetti harvest in Switzerland. Video showed peasant women harvesting spaghetti from trees, now that the ravenous spaghetti weevil, which had caused havoc to past harvests, was finally defeated. The station received scores of calls asking to view the harvest or inquiring how they could get a spaghetti plant.

In 1996, in the United States, the popular fast food chain Taco Bell convinced the public that it had agreed to purchase Philadelphia 's Liberty Bell and wanted to rename it the Taco Liberty Bell.

In 2016, the Texas state comptroller's office announced that redback paper money would be reissued in the state for the first time since 1840, and it would feature Willie Nelson 's face on the $10 bill.

April Fools' jokes have evolved throughout the centuries. Although the exact origins cannot be accurately pinpointed, the fun ensues nevertheless.

The survivors’ club

09 jasmin sessler egqR zUd4NI unsplashIt is hard to get our heads wrapped around the Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. March 2020 is not the same America we knew in February of 2020. It is hard to understand the size and scope of this virus. To put this in perspective, this disease was first reported in China, on December 31, 2019. On January 11, 2020, the Chinese government announced the first death. On January 23, the World Health Organization declared that the virus does not yet constitute a public health emergency of international concern. On January 21, the U.S. announced the first case. On February 22, California announced its first case, and the White House said the president put Vice President Pence in charge of the response. On March 9, Europe went into lockdown. In an election year, and a world of 24-hour media, it is easy for anyone to take shots at the government and the captains of industry, but to put these things in perspective, as of March 12, Jeffery Dahmer had eaten more people than had died in this country. Just for reference, he ate 17 people. So, it is hard to understand how fast pandemic can spread.  This is probably one of the first times in history that we have had so much access to information in real-time, which makes us helpless spectators.

COVID-19 challenges us with science and arithmetic. While the smart people figure out what to do and how to contain this, we all know we need to take a deep breath, but our mind conflicts with what we see and what we do.

In Ed Sherwood’s book, “The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science that Could Save Your Life,” we learn lessons about where is the safest seat on an airplane, where is the best place to have a heart attack, why does religious observance add years to your life and how can birthdays be hazardous to your health. He also talks about some terrible choices that people have had to make to survive in terrible situations. That is how the world feels this week. While the medical community hunts for answers and cures, we have been hunting for toilet paper and water. If you are one of the lucky ones that found some, you were faced with a moral dilemma: Should you buy more than you need? How much do you need? When will it be available again? And, the big question — should I buy more than I need?

We are living in that space I like to call “strategic space.” This is the space where the government has to do something but also has to come up with something to make it appear everything is under control to create distance between our emotions and chaos. Closing schools, activities and telling people to say home is probable good advice in this situation, as we know that the virus takes up to 14 days to manifest itself.

In Cody Lundin’s book, “98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive,” Lundin stresses that a human can live without food for weeks and without water for about three days or so; but if the body’s core temperature dips much below or above the 98.6 degree mark, a person can literally die within hours. Temperature is one of the first symptoms of CORVID-19. According to the CDC, symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure. Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you develop emergency warning signs, get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include:

•  Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
•  Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
•  New confusion or inability to arouse
•  Bluish lips or face

*This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.

Until there are enough test kits and reporting mechanisms, there is no way to figure out who, where or how many people are spreading the virus. Couple that with the knowledge that the science community is telling us it may take up to a year-and-a-half to test and get the data back for a viable vaccine. This is a large gap to deal with.
As for the run on stores, we live in Fayetteville. In the last few years, we have had water mains break, hurricanes, tornados and a variety of other challenging situations. Having water, food and medical supplies on hand should be part of your everyday life — no matter where you live.

We all know that fear and greed drive the stock markets. We’ve heard that our whole lives, and if you listen to most news outlets right now, it’s absolute hysteria.
Do you believe that the American economy is doomed and that it will never return? Do you believe that all of the companies that you are invested in within your individual investment portfolio are going under? I don’t think this is the case, but as the stock market bounces up and down, remember to buy low and sell high.

Dr. Spencer Johnson’s book, “Who Moved My Cheese?” is a wonderful parable about the different ways we respond to life’s changes and how doing so skillfully can help us find more success and happiness in our lives. What is changing as of today?  Kids will learn to do homework, practice distance learning, and learn more computer skills. Employers are looking at teleworking. Many jobs are computer-based anyway.  You will learn about social isolation — or the joys of working independently. The entertainment business will take a hit, but the internet streaming businesses will be up. We may have to learn to cook, grow a garden or learn to go out and have a picnic.

It is easy to criticize the government for not having enough test kits or vaccines for everyone in America when the majority of people didn’t have enough toilet paper or water to get through a couple of weeks. Your beliefs will either build you up or let you down. Remember, your beliefs are yours alone, and your choices are yours.

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