I've got an announcement: The Memphis Flyer will temporarily be going to an every-other-week print schedule. Next week's issue — April 9th — will be digital-only, available for free, of course, on memphisflyer.com. We'll still have a "cover story," plus all of our regular columns and features — maybe even a few more, since we won't be constrained by a page limit. You'll just have to read us on your computer or hand-held device. There is also a handy map on the website that tells you where you can get a copy of the paper on the weeks we do publish in print.
As I mentioned in this space last week, the current health crisis has put a dent in the Flyer's revenue, as it has for most of our regular advertisers. Cutting back on print costs is one way we hope to be able to weather the storm until this horrific disease gets put back into its box.
How long will that be? Nobody really knows. But what we do know for certain is that the more aggressively all of us socially isolate, the sooner all of us will be able to get back to some sort of normal life. I want you to read the opening paragraph of a Washington Post story that came out Saturday:
"When historians tally up the many missteps policymakers have made in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the senseless and unscientific push for the general public to avoid wearing masks should be near the top. The evidence not only fails to support the push, it also contradicts it."
I urge you to read the rest of it, if you can. The bottom line of the story is that all of us should be wearing masks when we go out into public spaces. Not so much because masks will protect us (though they do at some level), but because wearing masks protects others.
This disease, COVID-19, has a particularly devious design: Up to 80 percent of those who get it won't show symptoms. Meaning, you might have it. I might have it. And we will never know it unless we're tested. Since testing is still not easily available or simple, millions of us could (and do) have it and never know. Meaning many of us are walking around unknowingly infecting others. To put it more bluntly: Many of us are potential killers.
If we wear masks, we're protecting others — and ourselves. We're aggressively slowing the spread. The more of us who wear masks, the more acceptable the practice will become. And, as the article points out, wearing masks doesn't mean using personal protective equipment that should be saved for medical personnel. The latest thinking is that anything that covers your nose and mouth will help — a scarf, a bandana, a cut-up T-shirt, a bra cup, a homemade mask with Tony Allen's face on it.
So let's do it, Memphis. We're the city of innovators and inventors and one-of-a-kind artists and iconoclasts and weirdos. Let's be the city that stops this evil crud faster than any other. I want to see clever, colorful, provocative, Memphis AF masks out there. I want to see mask-making co-ops fire up. It's a perfect side-hustle for these times. Don't go to Home Depot or Kroger or Cash Saver (where more Flyer print copies are distributed than anywhere else) or CVS (where Flyers are also available) or anywhere there's a crowd, without a mask.
And lest you think this is just cranky Bruce going stir-crazy (which is certainly possible), you should know that officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are right now considering altering their official guidance to encourage people to take measures to cover their faces, so let's get ahead of that curve. If we wait for the president or our governor to lead us, we'll never catch up. It's DIY Memphis.
And, another thing: This "six feet apart" social distancing thing? It's meant to apply for when we go out into the aforementioned public spaces. It's not a guideline for backyard gatherings or pandemic porch parties or corona cocktail hour. This is serious stuff, and we'll all have to restrain our impulses for instant gratification for a while. I know it's hard, but we can do it. It's not like you're being sent to 'Nam for a year to fight the 'Cong. If we don't do it, we'll be stuck in our houses for a lot longer — and you'll know more people who get sick. You'll know more people who will die.
Stay home as much as possible. Wear a mask if you go out into public gathering spaces. See you next week at memphisflyer.com.