Editorial

We had a caller ask Friday whether it was true Texans were being barred from leaving the state.

A newsroom staffer hollered out the question, and we all assured her and the caller that was not even a little bit true. We don’t know where he heard this rumor, but we’re grateful he called to verify before spreading this on social media.

Your local newspaper serves as a clearinghouse of information. Whether we get phone calls, emails or comments on Facebook, we go to sources with direct information before publishing the facts.

This is more important now than ever. A pandemic is not the time to be spreading rumors.

While it might seem amusing to post on Facebook inaccurate or exaggerated claims about celebrities, such recklessness can lead to serious consequences during a pandemic. People might read such posts and decide to take COVID-19 too seriously or not seriously enough.

Instead, you can trust what you read in your local paper. We have journalists on the ground talking to those in Victoria and our surrounding communities. When people started calling last week insisting there had been confirmed cases at Victoria’s hospitals, we talked to the local officials who categorically set the record straight.

And when the Yoakum Community Hospital announced the Crossroads’ first COVID-19 case, we were on the conference call Friday morning with officials to share the news within minutes. This is what journalists do.

This is why we’ve set up a special www.VictoriaAdvocate.com/COVID-19 page. Along with posting all our coverage from each day’s edition, we have a place where readers may submit their questions.

We are dedicating our team of journalists to answering your questions valuing accuracy above all else. We won’t join in social media speculation about who the Yoakum patient was and where he might have gone in the small town.

We understand completely the intense interest in whether he might have exposed the virus to others in the small town, but it’s not helpful to spread rumors. As we get the facts, we will share them.

Of course, we encourage local public officials to do the same and see no evidence that they have done otherwise. As Dr. John McNeill, Victoria’s health authority said Friday, there are no secret COVID-19 patients stashed anywhere. The County health department will announce developments as quickly as they can.

Victoria County Health Department Director David Gonzales has told Advocate journalists he’s available 24/7 for any pressing questions that arise. The department also scheduled daily weekend updates to keep the flow of information going.

We are Victoria. We do not have to join the partisan bickering and finger-pointing. We do that best by sticking to the facts and supporting each other.

By all means, keep contacting us to chase down rumors you might hear. Rest assured, we’ll do our best for you and refrain from adding to the hysteria.

COVID-19 is deadly serious, but we encourage you to stay calm. Facts are the best antidote.

This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate’s editorial board.

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